So as I’ve explained in a past post, staging is an integral part to working/finding jobs in the food service industry. There’s no escaping needing to do a stage when looking for a hands-on job. Stages are used to help determine if you’re a good fit for the company and to see if they’re a good fit for you! Unfortunately, it is all time unpaid (usually many many hours) however, they can prove to be really incredible learning experiences! As I mentioned in my post on Tuesday, I recently was having an existential crisis on where I wanted my career to go next. Did I want to look for work in restaurants and learn plating? Did I want to move more towards food management? Was my learning experience really over in the bakery or did I have more to learn?
The only way I knew to help clarify/answer any of these questions was to start applying for jobs and then spending time staging. I’ve done stages at places that are SO dirty and gross so not only do I NOT want to work there, but I also never want to eat there! Ick! At this point however, I have staged a few different places that I think are worth sharing!
My first stage was at Ribelle, a restaurant I previously reviewed and loved! I could tell that the food quality was very important to the business and all of the staff was so nice that I wanted to spend some time there and see what a typical day was.
A stage can sometimes precede an interview because when you work with someone for 5 or 6 hours, you tend to get a pretty good feeling about the type of person and worker they might be. Upon showing up, I was able to meet the staff and chat a bit about the type of work they do. Finally, I was able to get my hands dirty and help them out! I ended up shaping bagels and bread, scooping cookie dough, prepping thyme milk that would be used as a foam, supreme-ing oranges and grapefruit (this is something that can show your knife skills and attention to detail), and then assisting another pastry cook in prepping other components that they would need for that nights plating. I stayed through the beginning of service and watched them in action as the night began. The pastry cook as helped make the pizzas for order so that was pretty fun to watch! But the best part of the night was plating up different desserts for me to try! It was cool to be able to do a myriad of projects but I was surprised at how laid back the atmosphere was. My current job is so busy all of the time and I constantly multi-task which is what makes my shift fly by. While this was a really fun restaurant, I want to make sure that there’s never a moment where I’m bored or slow. I’m a worker bee and need to be kept busy all the time!
Another more recent stage was held at a place called Commonwealth Cambridge. This place was pretty cool because they weren’t only a restaurant but also a market where people can come and grab anything like sandwiches, coffee, ice cream, local meats and cheese, pretty much any kind of snacks on the run! The restaurant at night basically has a glorified ice cream bar as their dessert menu where you can mix and match different hot and cold components. I wanted to explore here to gain more experience in making ice creams but also the use my creativity to come up with new grab and go items. I went to a stage there for 3 hours where I helped decorate sugar cookies for a catering order. While I liked the staff there and the whole feel of the restaurant/market, it seemed more of a lateral move in career. And at this point, I want something to really challenge me and make me work for it!
The last stage I went to was for a restaurant called Harvest in Harvard Square. This restaurant is full of history- plenty of world renowned chefs spent some of their career there and it has a reputation that can’t be beat! Their current pastry chef, Brian Mercury, has recently been named one of the best pastry chefs in Boston so I couldn’t wait for the chance to spend some time learning from him for the night.
As soon as I arrived, I was put to work making a chocolate cremeux. I also had the opportunity to help mix and shape their house bread, prep some of their items for plating but best of all, actually plate up some desserts for order. There’s such an art to plating and it really is focused on making things beautiful as well as delicious. Here are a couple plates below!
Taza chocolate cremeux with salted caramel center and cookie base, housemade granola, homemade sea salt, malted chocolate sauce and marscapone mousse
Citrus Cheesecake with poppyseed biscotti, hibiscus marshmallows, grapefruit gel and meringue shard
Cheese plate with crostinis, bar nuts, honeycomb, vanilla mango jelly
Apple and Manchego pie- golden raisin puree, pink peppercorn soaked apple slices, manchego crisps
Harvest was such a great place to learn! I’ve decided to continue learning at Flour as my position is changing soon and I’ll be able to learn many of the other stations. But in my free time this summer, I want to practice my own plating and be really creative with things that I find at the market! Maybe I’ll even stage at places for fun just to add to my learning process. I’ll always be a student to this industry!
Thanks for sticking through this lengthy post, but I just get so nerdy and fan-girly about the food industry! Check back on Tuesday for a post about my top favorite bars in Boston! Have a great weekend!