After having recently quit my job as a Chef at a resort in The Daintree Rainforest, I told myself that, that was it. The final straw. I was done with the long days and the rush. Feeding over a hundred people in the space of a few hours. The lifestyle no longer appealed to me as it did when I first started out. I started working in a kitchen when I was 17, I’m 24 now so that’s a good few years under my belt. And although the restaurants I have worked in aren’t your Michelin starred kitchens, ran by the likes of Marco Pierre-White or Gordon Ramsay, I still picked up an immense amount of knowledge in each establishment I’ve worked in. Whether it was the high-end restaurants I’ve worked in or even the not so high-end ones as well as the takeaways, they all offered a varied amount of experience. Now it’s not so much that I no longer enjoy cooking which I do, in fact, I am currently working towards creating a cookbook, picking up recipes as I travel around South-East Asia by next year. It is more the work itself. It’s not easy working in a kitchen and to be a good Chef or Cook, you have to be on the ball. You have to pour your heart and soul into what you’re doing otherwise you are just wasting your time. And for most working in this business, they aspire to one day have a place of their own, an establishment with their name’s finely written on the wall and menus. It’s something that I thought I wanted and maybe will want again in the future but for now, no. I wanted to work on something else. Yet I knew I had to go back to the kitchen one way or another. I’ve seen some travellers struggling to find work or find work that pays well and here I am, in Alice Springs, the Red Centre of Australia, working as a Chef or Cook or whatever you wanna call it, at the best bar/restaurant this little town has to offer. A job I acquired 2 days after arriving. Here are just a few insights on my experiences working in Australia.
Be a good Cook and a great member of the team.
Having kitchen experience puts you into a job straight away once you arrive. That’s just a fact but being a good cook makes all the difference. Even more so, If you know how to gel with the team then your life will be a breeze. Of course, it depends on the places you go for jobs, for example, it took me a week to get a job in Melbourne applying at only high-end/popular restaurants and once hired a sponsorship was on the table straight away. The money wasn’t great but a pay rise was on the table depending on how I performed within that month. I left the job after a week as 110% was required for me to be a good cook there and would have impeded my travels. I found another job a few days later. It was the same when I worked at The Beach House in Cape Tribulation and the same thing is happening now as with my job in Alice Springs. Knowing my way around a kitchen combined with my can-do, will-do attitude, it has made me a desirable asset to any establishment as well as putting me in a position of dominance over other would be candidates. If I wanted to, a sponsorship is achievable with ease. (Until the government changes the laws next year, I advise people serious about getting sponsorships to research this thoroughly) So if like me, you have that knowledge in the kitchen and have that can-do, will-do attitude, then you will have no problem finding and keeping a job in Australia.
Networking would be a piece of cake.
You build a pretty quick bond with people when working in a kitchen, especially if you are willing to push yourself to help in times of need. It’s safe to say that you all have to work together otherwise it won’t work and if you let yourself, you can make friends with your staff pretty quickly. Not to mention the after-work drinking sessions which are just an inevitable part of the hospitality lifestyle. There’s the old hospitality saying “You gotta be a little bit crazy to work in this industry” and crazy people bond together like super glue. More likely than not, there will be somebody who knows somebody that can cater for your other, non-work related needs. If I had stayed in the job I had in Melbourne, I would have had the chance to go and meet other Chefs and the chance to work and learn in other popular restaurants due to the prestige of the restaurant I worked in. I had the opportunity to meet and party at a mansion with the locals at Cow Bay in The Daintree Rainforest, as I always made one of the would be locals a special lunch every day. Now in Alice Springs, I have the opportunity to meet lots of different musicians as the establishment I work in have live performers on a regular basis. As well as this, if you work for a good place, where the managers or owners are passionate about what they do, more people will come and these people will most likely come back thus increasing your chance to create a network of people whether for social or business reasons. Working in the hospitality business is the best way to get to know your area and meet the locals. I know this from experience.
You can keep moving.
Don’t fancy staying in Sydney for 6 months? You don’t have to. The job you applied for isn’t what you thought it could be? Then leave. Your opportunity as a cook is multiplied by a thousand in Australia. There’s an abundance of restaurants and for some reason, there aren’t many chefs or cooks here, therefore, anyone will take who they can get. That being said, if you are a liability and will cause more harm than good, they won’t hesitate to get rid of you on the spot, however, if you are a model employee who knows how to get around a professional kitchen, you will be treated like gold as they are extremely hard to come by. With this knowledge you know that you can just keep moving as everywhere you go you will most likely get hired, and if you like the place you’re working in be nice to your current employer. (I advise you to be) Let them know far in advance when you plan on leaving. That way they will have more of an incentive to have you working back in their place whenever you’re back in town. Makes life even easier. You can travel all over Australia and experience a different city whenever your hearts desire without the worry of finance as you know you are most likely to get a job in this industry as they are constantly looking for workers.
Advice to the (young(er)) people out there.
Get a job in the kitchen just to get experience. You don’t have to make it your life but it will certainly help you if you decide to go travelling. It’s a skilled job that isn’t difficult to get good at, nor do you necessarily need qualifications to do it. All you need is common sense, urgency and willingness to learn and you’re already on your way to become a cook. This entry is focused on Australia but it is applicable all over the world. You can work and travel anywhere in the world with this skill and as a Chef, it is encouraged for you to travel as it expands your skill set and knowledge. To those that don’t know, working in a kitchen and being a Chef is more than just cooking. It’s about being able to handle pressure, solve problems and keep focused. All the while trying to stay sane by focusing on your goals and balancing your personal life. I know it’s not for everyone but then again, neither is travelling.
But be warned. When your employers see that you are an asset, some may see this as an opportunity to take advantage. Do not let them. You need to stand your ground and make sure you are being treated properly and getting the right amount of money for your skill set, otherwise things will get difficult. Also make sure that you’re job does not impede on your travels and your next move unless you have found a place that you can truly see yourself committing to for more than just a few months.