My First Crack at Restaurant Work

Job hunting can be tough. However, I learned there is always a way to achieve your goal. During my first year university enrollment, I had learned that one of the mandatory requirements in order to graduate was to work a minimum of 1600 hours within the hospitality industry.

Sounded reasonable, but of course there was going to be a catch. Students were forbidden to work during the school year unless you agreed to a volunteer program on campus which included working in the hotel’s kitchen, the restaurant’s front of house or the hotel’s front office. We were already required to complete 40 hours of volunteer work on campus, so for most students, working for free wasn’t an option. No job assistance was offered which presented challenges for foreign students who were just trying to get accustomed to a new place.

So imagine having an entire class of 150 students competing for similar jobs. I needed a different strategy. First I wanted to complete my 40 hours as soon as possible and therefore I chose the kitchen. The executive chef informed all kitchen volunteers that working in the kitchen was strictly voluntary and no student could be hired in the future. Because of bad experiences in the past, the chef no longer permitted students. I wanted to learn more than just some knife skills and prep work; I was going to prove to the chef and the entire kitchen that my passion for food was enough to hire me.

I completed the 40 hours in three weeks and requested to work there. I was rejected, but I offered to work for free as I knew whatever hours I logged, they would be counted towards the 1600 hours. Unlike many students who thought I was crazy, I didn’t care because I loved every minute of it and I felt I had formed a special bond with the kitchen guys. It was the last week of May when the first school year was coming to an end and the chef pulled me to the side and offered me an official kitchen job.

After 270 hours of volunteer work, I earned a third cook position. I was thrilled about the position as well as finding out from the program director that all the hours would be counted because it was within the hospitality campus. I worked hard to earn the position and knew afterwards anything was possible when you put your heart and mind to it.

I ended up working there for three years and I can safely say that it was one of the best learning experiences of my life.

Photograph by: rick

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