Things To Consider Before Becoming A Chef

However, what we don’t realize is that the path to becoming a chef, and indeed the life of a chef, is not one that is easy. While they need to go to culinary school to learn the basics of their art, they also need to apprentice under an expert for some time, and very slowly gain their name in the industry. Usually, chefs start working in a kitchen as line cooks with their cook shirts and skull caps on, or if they have no experience whatsoever, as dishwashers, and slowly make their way up the ladder. It is long hours and very hard work, and practically no other life than the one they spend in the kitchen. Of course, it is a vocation that demands a lot of respect and is awe inspiring.

While there are both positive and negative aspects of becoming a chef, it is always best to consider every part of it, before you make a decision regarding your career path, so that you know that you are making the right choice, that suits you.

Here are some of the things you should know and think about before making that all-important decision about a career in the culinary arts:

You need to attend culinary school – Although experience can get you somewhere in the world of culinary arts, it is essential that you have a degree from a recognized culinary school, if you want to get into greater things, such as working in an up-scale restaurant or hotel. However, it is widely agreed within the industry that high-end businesses usually consider only those candidates who have both a degree in the culinary arts as well as the required experience. So, it is a long path to take if you choose this field.

It is physically demanding – Being a chef is a very physically demanding job, where you will be working on your feet for long hours (between 8 and 12 hours a day depending on how busy the restaurant is). In addition, it requires carrying heavy weights such as pots and pans, bags of food etc. You will be working in a hot and steamy environment that can be very crowded and busy, with people always running about. Getting proper meals on time will also not be possible, since you will most likely have to eat on the go, and make do with a snack rather than a full meal.

It is stressful – Working in a busy commercial kitchen can be a very stressful job, especially during busy times when order tickets keep coming at a fast pace. If you are a person who cannot handle stress well, then this is not a job for you, because then you will be putting the people around you in a stressful situation as well.

No social life – Working as a chef means that you will need to bid adieu to your own personal social life. Weekends and holidays are some of the busiest times for a restaurant, so you will definitely be working on these days. You will hardly get a chance to spend these holidays with your own family and friends. Usually the only off-time you may have is when your family and friends are at work, so having an active social life is not something that a chef does.

The pay isn’t that good – Depending on your experience and expertise your pay will defer a great deal. However, it must be said that most starters in the industry will not get a high paycheck, and you will need to work your way up the ladder and gain a lot of experience and knowledge before you can demand a considerable pay from an employer.

Experience – Your level of experience will defer greatly depending on where you work. Whether you are working in banquets, catering, fast food or fine dining, and will depend on what type of dishes you will be making at these places. Working in a range of different restaurants during your training period will give you experience in a wide variety of food preparations, but it is always best to decide on what type you like, and stick to it.

Freedom to be creative – Being a chef means that you will need to create your own dishes, and there is a lot of freedom you get to try your own thing. You can change recipes, ratios, flavors, and try out new exciting dishes which will be signature to you.

Bonding with your team – Being successful in a kitchen environment is a team effort, and as a Chef you can really bond with your team and team mates, working as one well-oiled machine. Whether you are the head chef wearing your chef coat and hat, the sous chef or a line chef wearing your skull cap, you are all a part of one team endeavoring to achieve a goal.

Recognition – Being a professional chef means that you can gain recognition for your work, even though it may take some time and a lot of hard work to achieve the kind of status you are looking for. In addition, it gives you the opportunity to travel around the world, and work in various different countries and learn new cuisines and techniques.

As you can see there are many positives and negatives to working as a chef, and all these should be considered before you make a decision to go into that field. It is certainly not a vocation for everyone, but those who do succeed in the field of culinary arts have gone on to do great things and gain huge recognition around the world.

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Fine Dining Etiquette For Servers

Servers and waiters who work in such fine dining restaurants are generally attired in very elegant uniforms together with high quality designer server aprons. Even bussers and other lower end staff wear waist aprons and uniforms that adhere to a set standard, and create this aura of sophistication that is synonymous with this type of restaurant. It is not only the uniforms, but the mannerisms, attitudes and personalities of the staff, as well as the décor and style of the restaurant, that exudes the exclusivity of such businesses.

To work successfully in a fine dining restaurant, servers need to develop the following personal qualities:

Politeness – They should be friendly and polite, setting the tone of the guest experience from the time they enter the restaurant. Guests should be given special attention, and making eye contact when speaking to them is one of the best ways of showing the guest that they are giving them the attention they deserve. Being helpful and courteous at all times is essential.
Patience – When dealing with customers in a high-end restaurant, servers should never rush them just because they may have other tables to wait on, but should be patient with their customers and give them ample time to decide on what they want. Giving them privacy to decide on their choices is a good start, and the server can always check back with them after some time to take their order.
Knowledge – The staff are representatives of the restaurant and its brand, and as such are expected to be highly knowledgeable with regard to the menu, the ingredients and the way in which each dish is prepared. They will also require training on allergens so that they can inform their customers accordingly.
Responsiveness – Being available whenever your guest needs you, without being intrusive, is an important characteristic of an experienced server in a high-quality restaurant.
Efficiency – Being timely in your work is essential in providing an efficient service to guests. Guests should never be kept waiting, and although this can be difficult when serving several tables at once, it will be easier with experience.

The aspect of fine dining has many rules that need to be followed, and it is an area where service staff should be highly trained on. It is not only the staff personalities and attitudes, but so much more, that creates an exceptional fine dining experience for the customer. The following are some tips of fine dining etiquette which should be followed.

Prepare for service – All tableware, flatware and dining tables should be prepared well before the restaurant doors are open. All tableware should be inspected for breakages, chips and cleanliness, the server mise-en-place station should be prepared, tables and chairs should be cleaned and wiped down, and any mood settings such as candles etc should be prepared and lit before opening.
Table settings – Impeccable detailing should go into table settings in order to create the ambiance that you want for this type of restaurant. Setting up the tables with the right tableware, freshly laundered linen and the correct flatware and glassware is very important. Ensure that there are no fingerprints on any of the tableware.
Service etiquette – Formal dining requires a very high level of service excellence, where a server should be intuitive, observant and detail-oriented. A key element in creating a fabulous guest experience is to anticipate the needs of the guests, while still being unobtrusive.
Cutlery etiquette – Non verbal communication is very important under these circumstances, and therefore servers should be able to understand what the guest is saying to them from the way they have placed their flatware on the plate. Such cutlery etiquette helps the server to proceed with service, without interrupting the guests.
Serving wine – When it comes to fine dining, it is the servers themselves who provide wine service to the tables, and hence should be well trained in the proper steps to be taken during wine service, such as knowing how to use a wine key, bringing the items required in one go, presenting the wine, sampling, pouring and knowing not to touch the wine glasses at the table once wine service has begun.
Clearing tables – Tables should not be stacked with dishes and flatware, since it will hamper the guest’s experience at the restaurant. Servers should wait for all the guests at the table to finish their meal, and then first remove the flatware and condiments which will not be used in the next course. Clearing should be done from the guest’s right side, and servers should ensure not to stack dishes on trays when clearing. De-crumbing a table after a meal is a sign of high-quality service.
Grooming and etiquette – A server’s personal grooming, personality and behavior should be flawless and kept to the highest standard. Uniforms and server aprons should be freshly laundered, personal grooming such as hair, nails etc should be clean and neat, servers should never slouch, cross their arms or keep their hands in pockets, they should never touch a guest, should never engage in informal conversation with or near a guest, should never eat and drink where guests can see you, and should not point at or to a guest.
Type of service – There are different types of fine dining service such as French, English, Russian, American and Butler service, each with their own rules and regulations which servers are required to be knowledgeable on.

Servers working in high class restaurants should get proper training on personal grooming and etiquette and should follow through with an excellent service, that will provide customers with an exceptional and memorable dining experience, and will keep them coming back to the restaurant. Maintaining such standards is good for the business’ bottom line as well as to maintaining a good reputation in the industry.

Basic Bank Accounts Failing the Basic Needs of Consumers

The lists of bank and savings accounts that are available to most people are bewildering. A quick look at a comparison site like Moneynet or Moneyfacts will reveal thousands of different products. Unfortunately many of these accounts are not accessible for anyone with either a poor or even no credit history.

Research carried out for the National Consumer Council (NCC) reveals “that the poor pay more, or get less, for essential goods and services… having a bank account can be a gateway to other products and services, such as affordable credit and insurance”. To help counteract this problem of financial exclusion, the government has tried to initiate the introduction of basic bank accounts for the least well off. The NCC has however warned that, “the current model of basic bank accounts, introduced by government in 2000 in an attempt to enable all low-income consumers to access banking services, is not delivering.”

The new basic bank accounts were introduced as part of a wider push towards ‘universal banking’ and corresponded with the introduction of direct payment of social security benefits to bank accounts as well as the Post Office Card Account (POCA). The plan was that these accounts would also help their users by letting them set up direct debits to pay their utility bills, and so keep better track of their finances from week to week.

The accounts were originally designed to let people save and withdraw money, but in an effort to prevent extending any existing debts and stopping the accounts from becoming overdrawn, they don’t offer cheque books, overdrafts or other credit facilities. The accounts were intended for those with no credit history who might not meet the banks’ criteria for opening a standard current account. The accounts features typically include the ability for payments, for example pensions and benefits, to be credited direct to the account, withdrawals by plastic card through cash machines and the facility to pay bills by direct debit.

The problems experienced seem to be partly because the accounts do not always help those with a small weekly income to deal with the unpredictable gaps which can occur in wages, benefits or spending. Automated monthly direct debit payments for goods and services can prove of little use to many on low weekly based incomes. Those paid on a week by week basis, expressed a preference for weekly cash based, rather than monthly direct debit, budgeting options and felt that bank accounts with direct debit facilities would not provide them any advantages. By using cash instead of a bank account, they found they could juggle payments easier, and avoid punitive additional bank charges if they did not have the funds to hand, to cover an outgoing debit payment.

Another problem experienced was that the holders of these basic accounts are also liable to be those on low incomes, with low (if any) savings and are more likely to be in arrears paying their household bills than those without them. This vulnerable group are less likely than most to be able to deal with unexpected additional expenditure, such as an unforeseen bill for home repairs, but without recourse to any credit facilities, they may be forced into resorting to high interest loans to cover temporary setbacks.

The NCC found that “people on low incomes who use accounts to manage their money are more likely to be in arrears with household bills. They are also more likely to have outstanding credit commitments, partly because they have wider access to credit”, than those without accounts.

The government has set a target of halving the number of households which do not have access to a bank account by 2006. The banks state that they currently face a lack of demand, however more than two million applications, in excess of the government’s expected take-up, for the POCAs have been made. The banks are claiming that reaching the targets will be difficult, as they are being impeded by various barriers to opening basic bank accounts, such as the identification requirements in money laundering rules. Some of those on low incomes may not possess either a full driving license or full passport, and so find difficulties setting up new financial accounts. The banking industry has also been widely criticised for failing to actively promote basic bank accounts and, sometimes, for actually discouraging people from opening them.

The NCC proposed that basic bank accounts need to be more flexible. Suggestions to make the bank accounts meet the needs of consumers included offering weekly, rather than monthly, direct debit facilities where payments are only triggered if the money is available in the account, occasional payment holidays, and small free ‘buffer zone’ overdrafts.

Whether the lack of interest is due to the banks, the government, or the product itself, something needs to be done if there is to be an increase in the take-up rates. Half of those surveyed by the NCC felt they do not really need an account. An even more damning indictment of the current basic bank accounts was that a similar proportion of account holders preferred to withdraw all their income, rather than leave it in the account, and then manage it as cash. An inclusion policy may be a laudable idea, but it is no use if people do not want to be included, and it should not disadvantage those it is meant to help.