I've heard some say that hands on experience is the best type of learning. As a Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management major here at University of Delaware, I am spending my semester in our on-campus, student run restaurant, Vita Nova. I am also happy to report, especially to my parents, that I am actually learning some valuable skills from working in the restaurant. If you're looking to go into the hospitality field, you have to be ready for all of the cooks in the kitchen.
My Vita Nova day starts at 3:10 pm exactly. After the sous chef takes attendance and we have our quick lesson about how to make cheese, or different cuts of meats and where they come from on the cow, we make our way into the kitchen to start our night.
Promptly at 3:30 pm, we start prepping for the night, even though our reservations start at 5:30 pm. I'm a natural born procrastinator, so I had some trouble with this concept the night I was sous chef. As a sous chef, you cook family dinner for your fellow classmates and professors. When I was doing sous chef prep, I didn't realize how much time it was going to take to bread 165 chicken tenders for my chicken and waffles dish. I'm not going to lie, I didn't want to see chicken for a while after that.
Though it all worked out in the end, I learned quickly that prepping and time management are two pretty important skills to have, not just in a professional kitchen. You have to be able to know what is going to take the most time and prioritize what needs to be done first.
One of the good things about working in the kitchen is that you aren't alone. Let's just say that Drake isn't the only one with a really big team. Working with and around other people is one of the major components of hospitality. Our professors drill into our heads that we are, "ladies and gentlemen, serving ladies and gentlemen." Having known most of the people in the class since freshman year definitely helps with making the work go by faster and smoother.
Communication skills are also super important when working in a professional kitchen. If you aren't communicating effectively with your partner then you are going to have a rough night that includes possibly forgetting an order or cooking a filet mignon to the wrong temperature. It also helps to communicate with the other people in the kitchen, even if it is just to see if they are doing okay or need any help.
As anyone in the hospitality industry knows, we work as you play. It's difficult having to work Wednesday thru Friday night when all your friends are at home or at the bars, but honestly I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’ve learned so many valuable skills and have had so many hands on experiences so far that I wouldn’t get anywhere else. There’s something about the atmosphere of working in this kitchen, with people I have known since freshman year, that makes the long nights all worth it.
If you ever get tired of the many places to eat on Main Street come stop by Vita Nova for lunch or dinner and let the HRIM kids show you how it's done.