Learning on the Job: How I became a Chef at 19 years old

One of the most recommended ways to learn something is to actually just learn on the job. There are a couple of things that you should do that will make the learning experience much more successful, and also a lot of reasons why it is so effective.

Take me for example.

When I was 19 years old, one of the many things that I wanted to learn was how to cook. I tried to teach myself through cook books, books on gastronomy, but no matter how hard I tried, the progress I made was slow and boring. So I started to brainstorm, and I came up with a brilliant idea. The fastest way to get good at cooking is by learning from the best in the world.

And so, I thought to myself, “What kind of cuisine do I want to learn the most?”. And it came down to either french or italian food, and so I googled, “Best French Restaurant in LA”. Another secret to getting any job you want is to say that you will work for free. I do not know how many different restaurants I emailed, but I went through the pages on google and emailed each restaurant, and I was really lucky with the next fact.

My top choice got back to me and offered that I could try working for them. I would be working for them for free of course, but the good thing was, I just wanted to learn, and I was obsessed. And holy crap, could they feel it lol.

Now you might be thinking that it is waste to tell them that you are going to work for them for free, and that you’re going to have to start making money some time. Guess what? They hired me after the first day.

Mic drop cue*

And from that experience, I not only learned the skills that are essential to not just cooking, but fine cuisine, perfection, the highest level of culinary excellence, but also team building skills, leadership skills, and so much more. The experience I gained from that restaurant was priceless. It showed me how hard I can truly work, and how tired I can truly be. I loved the job. It was endless, it was exhausting, but it was some of the most fun that I ever had.


Now here are a couple of takeaways that made my experience so successful.

  1. The People.
    I surrounded myself with people that were the best in the world at what they do. Chefs are some of the most passionate and driven people that you will ever meet, and I fitted in like glove. It felt like home.
  2. Stakes
    I gave myself risks that would push me to perform and be dedicated. Because I was now working, I was not representing something more than myself. I was representing a restaurant that was competing on a global scale, and my work would test the restaurant’s reputation.
    You better  believe that will motivate you more than a cookbook, or any other book for that reason.

These two things forced me to learn as fast as possible on the job. I went into the kitchen with absolutely no experience. I did not know how to cut things properly, I did not have a refined tongue by any means. I knew nothing about cooking. But by putting yourself under immense pressure, you force your body to perform, and you learn at such rapid rates that you will surprise yourself. I was a completely different person after a month.

It was awesome. It was amazing. And if you want to learn anything as fast as possible, surround yourself with the right people, and place some stakes. Heck, work for free if you have to.

It’s that simple,

-Sam

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