Celebrity restaurant used to mean a restaurant known for its food and service being far superior to its contemporaries. Today it also means one run by a media chef. For our purposes here, however, we mean the former: Per Se, Daniel, Gary Danko, Coi, Saizon, Alinea, Gramercy Tavern and Manresa, for instance – restaurants beyond the Twittersphere, known for perfection in their food, disciplined and demanding kitchens and professional service.
In order to work in the top tier you have to be working in the top tier. If your desire is the best, you need to start with the best. You will not get into Gramercy after an externship in a retirement home of a chain restaurant.
Very many resume objectives request placement in “top restaurants” despite the applicants’ far from top backgrounds. They will not succeed. Here’s what working for the best means:
Demanding chefs, often long hours and little input. A highly professional environment which every employee is expected to maintain. Excellent training and learning opportunities, but long periods doing the same thing. This is the stuff great chefs are made of: repetition, focus, more repetition and highly honed skills.
Expectations that you stay at a good restaurant for a long time. One year is the minimum, but the stars of the industry stand behind the greats for several, learning as much as they can.
Opportunities to meet other employees of other restaurants and build a network.
No slack. Top Tier restaurants are all about the food, perfect products, precision and the chef’s vision and not about you. If you cannot do what is required of you then you will not be retained.
It’s worth it,even taking a position below what you think you deserve. (The rule of a great career is still that the best location is worth more than a title or more pay in the long run). There are only as many top tier restaurants as there are diners to support them. That means that not everyone who starts out with the intention of opening a top fine dining restaurant will succeed or even achieve a chef de cuisine or sous chef position in one, but the skills and focus fostered in their kitchens foster open many doors.