We chatted with acclaimed celebrity chef Robert Irvine about how he got his start in the restaurant industry and what advice he has for those looking to start a restaurant career.
1. What was your first restaurant job?
I was a part time dishwasher in the Red Lion Inn in Wiltshire England.
2. Why did you choose a career in the restaurant industry?
It was in a high school Home Economics class. The very first time I saw the egg set in a Quiche Lorraine, that I made with my own hands, I knew I wanted to be a chef. However, it wasn’t a career aspiration for a particular industry. It was a creative aspiration towards an art form.
3. What advice do you have for students and people just entering the restaurant/foodservice industry?
Practice your craft incessantly and always looks for ways to learn. If your tasks/job begins to become boring then you are not challenging yourself enough. Young people are attracted to this job because of the supposed glamour, not realizing that a lot of it involves repetitious boring tasks (ever peeled 100+ pounds of potatoes), however new techniques are discovered and honed during these rote moments that have the potential to change the entire industry. Always be looking to innovate. Even in the most simplistic things.
4. What advice do you have for people looking to achieve success in the restaurant sector?
Aside from simply working hard and learning everything you can:
- · Find the person in the kitchen who seems to know how everything works (hint: they might not be the chef) and become their shadow.
- · Learn to network in culinary community without getting too involved in the “chef lifestyle.”
- · Figure out how to navigate the FOH/BOH politics that exist in every restaurant without getting caught up in the drama.
- · Show up 15 minutes early and don’t leave until told to go.
- · Move fast and keep your head on a swivel.
5. What specific qualities/skills does it take to be successful in the restaurant industry?
An unrelenting desire to win regardless of the fact that your odds of success are narrow. This, however, doesn’t mean being stubborn and unwilling to change. People confuse conviction as needing to be set in their ways. Stubborn and inflexible people don’t last long in this business. Things change too quickly.
6. 88% of restaurant employees are proud to work in the restaurant industry. What makes you most proud to be a chef and what is your favorite part about working in restaurants?
Teamwork! People rarely put into perspective how many working parts have to come together to make a dinner service work. And to see it in action, it looks like complete chaos, but it’s some of the most rewarding chaos when it’s all said and done.