Nov 082014
 

Ferran Adria and Tony Bourdaine each have a brand. So do you.

In case you haven’t heard yet, you have a brand. You began building it the first time you accepted a job in a kitchen and added to it every time you moved on.

Perhaps you accepted jobs in professional environments under demanding chefs who were not always kind but gave you a rigor which guarantees your next employers or investors the combination of focus and skill they need.

Or you began work in busy locations with high demands on organizational skills and strategies and continued to ascend the ladder of responsibility while you added management and crisis solutions to your tool chest.

Brands are individual. The more common word would be reputation, but you have a brand by the time you take your third or fourth job. If you are wise you have followed your best skill set to achieve and maintain your brand, most likely forgoing selling out early. Smart, I say, because you’re your brand is the cornerstone of your career, your satisfaction and your life including your success in the future.

Building and caring for your brand means giving thought to where you are going next before you have to go there and having the long view toward your final goal. It means making choices, sometimes difficult. At some time you will decide or it will be decided for you whether your brand is that of a detail oriented hotel chef or as a master of food for a small audience. If you are a grand manager and organizer but aspire to a cuisine that will put your name in lights, you need to realize that the two career directions are probably mutually exclusive. Choose one.

Some brands – bad boy chef or media monster – tend to come with karma or crafty planning, but there is always an element of fate in anyone’s career path. And, of course, there are undesirable brands such as the screamer or the coke head, but that’s  not really what we’re talking about here. We are talking about the reputation you want to project.

Most of the time your brand will not be a theme like Asian or Latino, but it can be, just as it can be comfort or modernist cuisine, although many people who begin in a tightly defined theme desire to expand at some time.

Maintaining your brand demands choices of location and title. If your goal is to be in fine dining and there are no chefs positions in the area where you want to be, then your concessions are going to have to include decisions to relocate to places where the positions you need for your profile are available, take a subordinate position where you want to be or lower your expectations.

I am opposed to the last option. I have seen too many chefs sacrifice their futures because they have a relationship requiring more free time, want to live where housing costs less, or value compensation and title over reputation. By the time we speak a few years later their chances of returning to the arena they originally chose are extremely limited. I find it a pity that some people give up something they have worked so long to develop. The industry is unforgiving.

In other words, keeping your profile and your future desirability not only requires choices but may require sacrifices. Life gets in the way of career, and I would be the last person to suggest that family – children, sick parents, just family in general – is less important than career. It’s not.

The good news, however, is that you only need about ten years to set your reputation in stone, then you can generally choose or open your own location. What you do during that period will, I promise pay off or exact payment. I am tempted to say It’s your choice, but the fact is that you have to make it your choice. Life is tough, but most of the time you can bend it to your desires.

Dec 122012
 

Just when I think I have wagged every finger about every bad decision and misconception someone comes along to remind me that there are more out there.

An acquaintance assures me that if I just meet his friend, who has been the manager of a café with lackluster reviews for the past five years, that I will see her potential and find her the back door to a better job and a better future.

I assure him that I cannot. I am in fact nothing but the extension of my clients’ desires and needs, and the fact is that my clients do not want someone with potential rather than  a proven history of activity in their segment of the industry – whether that is fine dining or high volume chain operation or bakery quality control. In other words, they don’t want someone who thinks or knows they can do it. They want someone who has done it.

My friend’s friend would, I believe, be very  happy to “take a step back” and use her skills in a better environment but at a lower position. Again, this is something I cannot do. My clients, on the whole, want someone who is working their way up not in quality but in title, not someone who has reached a higher goal in some other branch of the industry.

There are some rules to getting to where you are going. I have written them in different form before, but let’s make them clear.

1)      You have more options early in your career than you do once you have set a path.

2)      You choose the kind of place you want to work in at the start or, let me say it again, early. If you want to be in high end dining or high paying volume quality restaurants, that’s where you need to take your first jobs. You need to stay in that environment.

3)      You can’t throw in  your lot with a corner café and expect to be taken on, even as a server, in a Michelin restaurant. It doesn’t work that way.

4)      If you are trying to ratchet up your career,  few recruiters will be interested in you, as they will have to make a “sale” to a client of a product (that commodity would be you) they cannot really trust, since you have no history in the area to which  you aspire. ). I have learned the hard way that this brings grief to me and generally to both employer and employee. I suspect that most recruiters will agree.

5)      Exception: If you are very young and want to work your way up from a pretty subordinate job, you have a fair chance. Recruiters don’t figure into the algorithm, but they don’t need to.  Everyone loves puppies and is willing to train them more than they love and are willing to train unknown older dogs. There may be some begging involved, but it has been done.

6)      Employers generally want someone “on the way up”, not someone who has been up and is trying the catch him or herself on the way down then turn around.

7)      Where you start your career geographically is also important.

8)      Leaving a more desirable segment of the industry often means you will not be able to return.

To you this means? Obviously early choices are very important. That the biblical concept of “straight and narrow” also counts in restaurants. Why?

The pervasive rigor necessary in all high end properties can’t just be picked up – it has to be in muscle memory.  Employers suspect, generally correctly, that someone in a more casual or smaller environment than theirs will not have developed the habits and  “moves  required to fit in with the flow or their kitchen or dining room.

The good news is, as usual, that the culinary industry is a field where rules and generalizations apply, but only mostly. There are not a lot of exceptions but enough of them to make it worthwhile trying to get into a better niche. (Assuming that you think it is better. There are a lot of high end chefs and managers who back out to  open that neighborhood cafe and live happily ever after.)

People do transcend barriers between job types from time to time, so there’s no reason not to put a little effort into it.  I’ve even done it successfully a couple of times (but more times extremely unsuccessfully).  Those with a gift, a great temperament can and do manage to change their trajectory, but the effort will be yours. Go Craigslist, Monster, back door hopping. You can’t expect a recruiter to work for you (Remember – we work for the client) Nobody else can retool your career. It’s not their job. You are the beneficiary, so you need to do the work.

Given that, the obvious best strategy is starting out in the industry neighborhood where you want to end up.

Good Luck to you.

Nov 072012
 

This is for the few of you who have the good fortune to work in the best kitchens and are disheartened.

I’ve had a run of very desirable jobs recently including openings in Orange County, New York and the Bay Area. All of these require background in high discipline kitchens, which means by definition high visibility, quality and usually celebrity locations.

The result of  my outreach for candidates has been the usual dreaded flood of “could have beens”, that is chefs who started out in in the most respected kitchens and then left them early in their careers. The classic resume shows half a year at some place like Daniel, perhaps a couple of years at one of Joe Bastianich’s kitchens or Cyrus, then a move to a less known hotel  kitchen, possibly a restaurant popular outside of the white hot fires of New York, Chicago or San Francisco, then a choice for something perhaps off shore, but not on the general radar,  or possibly  industrial food service,  a retirement home, a school kitchen, an Embassy  Suites restaurant. These chefs because they have once been in the best kitchens now feel they  have the background to give them entry to a Michelin or some five diamond property. They couldn’t be more wrong.

They started with a full bag of chips, and they cashed them in too early. The thing about top level dining is that it demands top level focus and top level discipline. The word for that is “rigor”. Careers are like knives – they have to stay sharp. If you leave them dull to long, they lose that original edge. You can re-sharpen knives. Careers are much more difficult.

I understand why these chefs did this – the next step offered more money, a better title, promises of more freedom. That’s easy enough – the price for sticking in the top level of the industry is a longer path to fulfillment. You will not be a sous chef in five years. Your opinion will not be asked or even tolerated before you have been involved for at least seven or eight. By bailing on the demands and lack of early rewards chefs prove that they are better than the kitchens suppose them to be. Or maybe not.

Some rethink their priorities. Perhaps fiancés or partners insist on more attention. Some young chefs do not have the patience for the nit picking and hard standards of the top kitchens, and if that is the case, they should not be there. The top kitchens cull their staff by not promoting those who do not stand up to what some consider abuse. For them to leave is not only appropriate, it is intelligent. There are a lot of satisfying places to work in the A- down leagues.

For the rest, however, leaving them wastes an investment of time and energy, because you can only trade on the credibility those restaurants lend you for limited time. Once you are out of the loop, it expires.  There are back doors to be sure – old colleagues who stayed the course and are willing to pull you back in to their openings in a subordinate level or just the occasional accident, but they are iffy.

There is nothing wrong with bailing from the top.  Working in less demanding and more approachable locations is a pragmatic and appropriate choice. For one thing there are more people willing to spend their money there, and the rewards can be great. But starting at the top and then turning away generally means losing some of the value your energies created.

Anyone who has left the upper echelon did so for a reason. Not everyone can succeed in them. Those who left need to remember that reason and determine where their best options within the available jobs lie. Being the best food service director is better than struggling to stay above water as a hopeful subordinate in the Michelin leagues. Those still in the arena, however, will do well to think hard on the long range opportunities they may sacrifice by taking the more comfortable or flattering route.

What if fine dining is not what you really feel you want to do? Consider this: I have the privilege of knowing some of the chefs in top chain and food corporation positions, all earning well into the six figures. None of the kitchens or products they oversee require exceptional culinary rigor, but the chefs all have long careers in demanding, will recognized restaurants and occasionally celebrity status, because the corporations who have hired them require that their leaders are infinitely better qualified than their products require.  Nobody who ever accepted a better salary or a better title at a less demanding location gets these plum positions. Think about it.

Good luck to you all.

Jun 072011
 

Obama’s resounding campaign slogan, YES YOU CAN, wasn’t exactly original. If you occasionally watch Univision any of the Latino television stations,  you might know that it was the watch word for one of the early reality contest shows, in which a group of winsome Latino youth vied brutally and melodramatically for a place in a telenovella.  “Si, Se Puede” was written on walls, chanted and shouted at every opportunity.

It is also reminiscent of the beliefs of the seventies and eighties, may they rest in peace, which suggested that you can, just because you are you and definitely special, use passion, paper clips and chewing gum to “Follow your Bliss”, a thoroughly misunderstood statement by Joseph Campbell, one of the smartest men who ever graced Public Television.

Campbell, who meant that you should do what you like in a rational framework – possibly as a hobby -tried to explain what he meant on numerous occasions, but nobody listened, as they were all, greedy as we Americans are for the easy path, following their bliss and have their way.   I see a lot of this widely misinterpreted “Follow your bliss” line of career and business decision making.

I received a call yesterday from a woman who had left a job “in finance” five years  ago to become a caterer, trusting on her initiative and belief in her own intelligence. Five years later she isn’t making the cut and wants a job directing a catering firm.  On my assurance that I unfortunately couldn’t do that, she accused me of damaging her project by “dispiriting” her, taking the wind out of her sails. She didn’t want to be “disheartened” after getting a head of steam up to conquer the world. Apparently my job in all this was to cheer her on to glory.

It’s not the first time this has happened:  When I told a woman living with five children in Arizona that I could never find a job for her which would allow her to support them with her background (her skills merited a bit over minimum wage at that time), I learned that Oprah said everything was possible, if you just put your mind to it. Well, that’s good to know, isn’t it?

The Mind over Job Market thought process rarely bears fruit. True, there are a few people who achieve  fame and glory through a combination of ignorance, arrogance and purest self- deception, plus the media’s greed for anything that looks like a saleable story. Today’s New York Times article about ex bankers having instant success in the gluten free bakery business against all odds is proof, as is San Francisco’s annual chocolate salon, where something less than a hundred instant chocolatiers, some producing extremely good product, prove that you don’t need a lifetime training as a chocolatier to have a business. (But not proving that you can keep it running for ten years..they follow the first innovators like Michael Ricchiuti and Joseph Schmidt, who got there first with entirely different sets of rock solid trade and business acumen and are not going to cede their market.)

Of course you should approach a job search with a positive attitude.  Undermining your efforts with undue pessimism will handicap your search.  But overestimating the value of what you bring to the market will bring little. Understanding who will appreciate your background but not waste your skills is key to a successful career.

Positive attitude and realistic  goals are not mutually exclusive.  They are the golden combination for a successful career curve.

Skills, training, provenance and experience are the basis of moving forward. The best of the best in the field, whether Michael Anthony or Jacques Pepin or Thomas Keller, spent many years working on the requirements of the job. They did not achieve their success on the basis of a positive attitude.  With the current job market including a fair number of people with solid to golden provenance, any self-made caterer or chocolatier faces very stiff competition in a supply and demand market. If your background lacks the substance sought by employers, no amount of self-delusion and motivational thinking will place your resume on the interview pile.

The belief that it can is called “magical thinking”,  the mindset that you can make something true because you think or say it is so. It’s a bit like clapping your hands and saying “I believe in fairies.” It does not work.

So: Stay upbeat in your career pursuits, but set yourself reasonable goals. Use setbacks to calibrate your expectorations, and stay grounded. Follow your passion or your bliss with the clear understanding that it will not happen without an  investment of time and learning under other professionals.

Most of all, listen.  People (me) taking the time to tell you why they cannot deal with you rather than shining sunshine up your skirt are, among other things, honest.   You don’t have to accept their opinions, but the slightest intelligence requires taking them into consideration before discarding them. They do not mean to be mean or dispiriting. They are just telling you the truth as it applies to them and their place between you and a vast industry. It is not their job to be your advocate,  your  emotional support or your cheerleader.

As for my caller, I truly wish her luck. She is going to need it.

Jan 282011
 

Career Goal: Top Chef Contestant/Media Star

If the culinary graduates or young cooks verging on sous chefs ten years ago had their eye on the five star wine country bijou or NY/SF Celebrity restaurant, an alarming number of today’s upcoming  cheflings have media ambition. Questions: “Can you get me on the Food Channel?”,  “Who do I speak to at Top Chef”?  Answers: A) Only if they happen to ask me to find you (which they have) and B) There is an annual competition and application process   Look it up on the Net. Join their Facebook pages.

Gordon Ramsay, a chef once known in Britain for bringing the refined manners of the soccer field to the world of fire, steel and boiling liquids, set the tone the second season of Hell’s Kitchen by proclaiming that a pretty girl in her early twenties was the image of the perfect chef, thus throwing oil on the burning ambition of thousands to make it to the top by shortcut. It is the only ten minutes of Hell’s kitchen I have ever watched, and my stomach went into a knot considering the consequences. My stomach was right. He changed the cook world forever.

Most if not all of the winners of Top Chef seem to have done quite well. The exposure it provides is invaluable not only for luring diners but for attracting investors, and the contestants are pre-selected for their backgrounds and abilities, so you would expect them to thrive.

Hell’s Kitchen winners  don’t appear to have the same success. A number of them are teaching rather than working in restaurants (not that teaching is undesirable, but it’s a curious thing).  Some are private chefs, some “consultants”. You can look all this up on the web.  That’s logical.  Unlike Top Chef contestants most were, of course, not seasoned chefs on entering the program, so it would be hard for them to take up their career again where they left off for the show – some however did – rather than try to get as much out of their time investment in the show while they can, and they appear to be doing well.

Of the rest of the graduates of both shows, some  appear to have new connections to and futures in media, quite a few from Hell’s Kitchen are working as private chefs for the Glitterati, and a few are missing in action or not meeting expectations. It’s a bit better across the board than one would expect from the general culinary population, with a few extraordinary opportunities thrown in.  A few of  course have shot themselves in the foot by showing their dark side to the world in general, and the introduction, “HI, I was on top chef,” is to most of the hiring public somewhat of a turnoff, but on the whole, if you have the opportunity and it suits you, why not? It could be fun, and it has definite financial benefits for some.

Actually  there are a few answers to “Why not”, but they are not conclusive. For one thing, being involved in the shows is time consuming and interrupts a normal culinary career. Your contract will restrict some of the things you can do or reveal afterwards, and you may have to interrupt your next positions to return for one or a series of episodes. For another, the temptation to let an interlude go to your head puts you in peril of being wooed by the wrong people or bungling opportunities you might have had later, but there’s  an app for that: Common Sense.

Most importantly, there aren’t nearly as many slots as there are aspiring cooks and chefs who are just biding their time in restaurants waiting to hit the pixeled screen. It’s kind of like sitting on a Hollywood soda fountain stool waiting to be discovered like Lana Turna.

The disconnect between the desire to be a television star and the industry of cooking is that it confuses two objectives.  Cooking, for which one attends culinary school, is a trade requiring endless skill and knowledge in addition to talent. Even though cooking schools correctly offer media training, they are not acting schools. You are extremely unlikely to get to television via the kitchen, and getting into media may only be a short term boon. In short, your odds at TV from cooking absolutely stink.  I think therefor, and I’ve been wrong often enough, that getting to media should be an option, not plan A.

Plan A should be becoming a great chef. I spoke with a number of the now top national television chefs before they had their shows, and their goal at that time was not to be in pictures. It was to be great chefs with great restaurants.   Being that (along with having a strong PR firm and much more)  is what got them their media exposure. Of course getting to the Food Network or on NPR requires much more, but the foundation of their success is their identity as chefs, which they continue to be. If you have an opportunity to speak to employees of chefs like Emeril Lagasse or Wolfgang Puck, you hear not hero worship but professional respect.

I have spoken to a number of thoroughly qualified chefs over the years who have quit their day jobs and were preparing pilots for their own shows. Not many are on television.  There are a few who have launched Web shows and thousands on You Tube, but does that equate to a culinary media career? That is not a redundant question. I don’t know.

What does this mean for you? I suppose whatever you want it to. Being good- no, excellent –  at what you do can get you to the media, so concentrate on being good before being famous. Your long term chances of being satisfied and successful are greater outside the media than in it, but somebody who puts it all on one number always wins the high stakes. So: If you want to get into media, pursue it. If media approaches you, listen and consider it. (I am at this point), but don’t start a culinary career with the long term intention of baiting and switching to become the next couch potato chef darling. If you want to be in pictures, go to acting school. It’s the easier path. Otherwise, carry on.

Some of the culinary schools are reportedly recruiting candidates with the lure of a career in culinary television. That is like a 4 year college promising a career as Senator. Some will certainly get there, but it’s a bizarre and unfulfillable claim. If a school dangles food shows in front of you, you, you’ll do well to keep looking.  (Media training, however, is a good idea, no matter where you take your education.)

Before you decide to embark on a television chef career, Google the contestants of the shows to see what they are doing now. Whatever you do, if you are a young culinary job hunter and think your future lies in bright lights, don’t tell anyone in an interview. It makes the hair on the back of their necks stand on end.

Nov 292010
 

How to make sure that you don’t miss out on opportunities even if you move around:

I am frustrated. I am looking for a chef for a large organization, and I know the perfect candidate, but I can’t fine him. He’s disappeared from the face of the earth. I have his phone number, but he’s moved. His mail bounces, and research, even paid research services only bring up his last place of employment, now closed. I know he’s not dead, because someone I know saw him a couple of months ago. Pity. He’d like to hear about this, but I’ve given up chasing him down.

My lost chef could have kept himself  available pretty easily, as can you. Obviously you are not always in search mode – you shouldn’t be – but it would be nice if the ad firm looking for a spokes-chef for their product could find you again. Life is full of bizarre opportunities which you can’t enjoy unless they can reach you. Not all of them are jobs – I was once subcontracted to find a chef as the face of milk. The fees they offered were about $1500/day. Do you want to miss that?

You, or course, are in constant motion, and information globalization apparently makes people foolish enough to leave their information out in the open a target for every kind of scumbucket telemarker or spyware spewing spamscamers, so you are hardly going to show your number on the web or in the yellow pages. Still, it’s nice to be available, and there are ways to do it.

1) Get Google Voice: This super nifty – something Dick Tracy and 007 couldn’t have imagined, and it’s free. Google’s gift is surprisingly unknown so far. You can have a free, permanent phone number anywhere that will forward to your regular phone and allow you to pick up messages on the Internet. (Plus International calling rates for .02 a minute!) When you move from San Diego to Vermont, you merely change the forwarding number with Google voice. What makes it neater: You can pick up your google messages on your computer screen.
2) Don’t change your cell phone number. Long distance doesn’t cost what it used to be.

3) Carry your number with you. It’s a bad idea to rely on a company cell phone, but if you do and move, consider getting your own and transferring your current residential number to that phone.

4) Get a permanent Email address at Gmail or through Hotmail. Use your name in some form, if you can. (chefjoedokes@ joe-dokes-chef@, dokesjoe@.. you get the picture). You can forward them to your regular address, which may change from time to time. This is your business and career address.

5) Keep a blog with your name and a contact form on itIt doesn’t have to be huge. As a matter of fact, it probably shouldn’t be. There are plenty of free options for blogs – you do not need a web site of your own, since Word Press and others offer free space on their servers. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but you can put up your pictures, make notes about things you do in your daily job. Most importantly, you can put up a contact form on it. This may sound intimidating, but the new blogging software is pretty intuitive.

6) Have a website. For about $10 a year you can secure your own Domain with a name like chefjoedokes.com and put up a small, free web site which should include your name and a contact link (using your professional Email rather than your private one). A serious site costs as little as $3 a month. Some come with free email, but that should not replace your permanent Google or Hotmail address.

7) Your own business cards. You probably have a card from your company, but a second card of your own with your Google Voice number, your permanent contact Email and as much or as little information as you wish will give people something to find you with. Consider it a trail of crumbs in the forest. Is should be professionally printed and be easy to read and scan. The art of cards is getting as much necessary information as possible in very little space, so don’t worry about being cute or catchy. You can use a logo, but your picture in whites will help people remember you just as well. We have found and love Red Dog Graphics in San Francisco (who also sets up cards) but there are many good and relatively affordable printers. Once you have them, distribute them liberally.

8) Rethink social networking. Whatever you think of Twitter or Myspace, can be a useful contact tool. Of course people seeking you on these sites will also see any tracks you leave behind (as will people like me, who may feel a little less motivated to contact you after seeing the pictures of your last vodka and marshmallow coed wrestling orgy). The best place to put up a professional profile  seems to be LinkedIn, which allows other users to send you a message without revealing your phone or email information.

You don’t have to put up more than your name and profession, if you don’t want to. You decide how much. You needn’t socialize or network, but the page serves as a touchpoint for those who are looking for you. Even if you don’t want to be found, all you have to do is delete the occasional unwelcome message. Your personal information never appears.

Finally, it’s always courteous to update the people on your mailing lists when you change jobs, phone numbers or email addresses. It’s in your best interest for people you trust to be able to find you.

Oct 112010
 

Location, Location, Location

From the thousands of resumes I received requesting some form of relocation, I may have been able to do less than half a dozen. Florida Chef says,  “I am looking for a job in New York.”  Alabama Casino Chef wants to be in a “high end restaurant in San Francisco.” New York chef says, “I have just moved to Miami and I am seeking a position in a top club or hotel.” Houston says, “My wife has been relocated to Los Angeles, where I will be seeking a position in a fine dining restaurant.”

None of this is going to happen.  “Don’t come,” I tell the chef from Ohio. He comes. Two years later he still doesn’t have a job.  He’s wondering what’s wrong with me, or why San Francisco doesn’t recognize his talents, and he wonders why he followed a woman he met on vacation and gave up his truly wonderful position in Akron.

This I know about culinary careers: Where you’ve been is where you’re going. You enter a community and it takes you with it. That community can be geographic, or it can be cultural. There are no shortcuts.

Geographically there are three or four main markets in the country. San Francisco happens to be one of them, New York and Chicago take up slots two and three and the fourth is up for grabs. These are or consider themselves to be more expensive, more competitive and more demanding kitchens in the tightest job markets.  That’s because eager young cooks vie for positions in their kitchens and struggle to keep them. You cannot rise to the top in any of these markets without rising through their ranks.  That is, you can’t start off comfortable and hope to have a chance of attacking the citadel. It just don’t happen that way.

As for cultural communities, the top tier kitchens are a nation unto itself in which everyone knows everyone.  The discipline and rigor of most of them are well beyond just any good restaurant, and they are inbred for just that reason. They all carry invisible  passports and visas (worked at French laundry, Worked for Daniel Hum) which allow their holders  a fair degree of free range but make it harder to get in from less demanding locations than getting a green card holding a Kalashnikoff chanting “death to the infidel.”

If you want to be part of this, you have to start early. These communities expect more from their cooks and have compensation in a bizarre cowboy camaraderie, where the in crowd supports the in crowd, and outsiders need to prove themselves.  Anyone who moves to Atlanta or Cleveland because the boyfriend or family is there with the plans of becoming a chef then coming to New York is foolish. It works the other way around. You earn your wings in the rough spots then retire to wonderful restaurants in the peripheries of the country.

But: The industry respects curiosity and young ambition. Chefs can’t move without being recruited, but cooks and sous chefs can. If you are stuck in Riverside and have a dream of working in Beverly Hills someday, someday should probably be now. The earlier in your career you move, the better. If you are determined to get out of small towns or a place in the middle,  don’t wait until your children are grown. Don’t wait until you have children. Move while you are independent, return to the peripheries and the middle when you have proven yourself and need good schools.

Sous chefs and cooks from elsewhere are always interesting. From New York, From Washington, Boston, Philadelphia or the Middle West (which is recognized for a fine work ethic, whether that’s true or not). It takes some pluck, and you can’t expect anyone to pay your expenses, but it’s worth it.

There are, of course, other communities in which migration is common. National chains, hotel groups, organizations like Relais and Chateaux properties exchange and send employees at all levels among their various locations.

Otherwise, employers are rightfully reluctant to hire outside the community. They have far less insight into the person’s skills and character.  They have no way of knowing if the kitchen the person worked at was consistent or if the food was spotty, and there’s enough evidence that a lot of rolling stones just tumbled off a bar stool.  The local candidate always has the first shot at a job, and there are always more than one of them.

There’s a moral somewhere here, and it’s this:  Plan your career early and don’t waiver. Have your middle age crisis early.  Choose the kind and location of restaurant you want to work in and pursue it doggedly. Don’t decide you want to move from an Indian Casino to a big city fine dining facility. It won’t happen. Don’t follow your heart or a woman you recently met to a place where you won’t get a job. Don’t quit your job because you want to work in Hawaii. Make your career decisions as a young person, then suffer to fulfill them. Part of your portfolio is your own terroir – where you grew, the soil you grew in. You can transplant easily while you are still green, but later no. The good spots in the good places are rewards not easily  won.