Photo Courtesy: DC Central Kitchen
Now, let me preface this by saying I’m a Texan. And I’m no suburbanite, either; I’m a truck-driving, two-stepping, queso-eating Austin local, and I’ve got a lot of pride for homegrown cuisine.
Austin food goes beyond that cheesy queso; it includes tender brisket at Lambert’s, bison tacos covered in spicy DoÃ±a salsa at Tacodeli, and sizzling cerveza fajitas at Polvo’s. Austin is a city that takes its dining seriously, and if you’re thinking about starting a cooking career in this town, you’ll need to be ready for big flavor and hard work.
Starting from scratch in Austin’s culinary scene
Sure, culinary arts schools in Texas can get you started in a cooking career. You learn things you’ll need like knife skills, food safety, and how to make a killer bÃ©arnaise sauce. But if you think you can waltz from the graduation stage to an executive chef post at Vespaio, you’ve obviously been sampling too much of the cooking wine.
If you’re really ready to make a culinary career out of your love of food, you’ll have to combine your culinary training with some old fashioned experience. Take these tips to heart as you begin to think about training in the field:
1. Get a high school diploma if you don’t have one already. Not all cooking jobs require it, but most culinary programs do, and hiring managers are likely to prefer it.
2. If you’re in high school, focus on classes in art and science in addition to Home Ec — you’ll need creativity and precision in addition to basic cooking skills.
3. Work hard to gain experience. You might not be able to waltz into Hudson’s on the Bend and expect a job as a saucier, but you certainly can come in and work as a bus boy or line cook, particularly if you’re working for cheap and willing to pick up extra shifts.
4. Take on a mentor. It could be a teacher at culinary school or the pastry chef at Restaurant Jezebel, but a little unofficial guidance can only help you.
Above all, don’t forget why you want this job for life. Make up your own recipes; compete in chili cook-offs and save your tips to blow on sake-marinated salmon roe at Uchi. When you love working with food, the long days and late nights are all worth it for that transcendent moment on a plate.
About the Author:
Janis Beem writes about culinary schools in Texas and across the country from her home in Austin, TX. Her favorite foods are butternut squash soup and roasted kale chips.