Saturday, January 6, 2007

My Restaurant Resume

(I've noticed that this post gets the most hits on my statcounter because so many people are writing a restaurant resume. If you are looking for tips on how to make your resume look professional and stand out, go to the this webpage. My advice is that perspective employers want to know about two things; any training that you have and about your experience. If all you have is a high school diploma, well, that's okay. Just put that on there so they know you have your diploma, but if you can think of any other training- a seminar at your church about how to work with the elderly, a seminar at your last job during an employee meeting about food presentation or table side cooking, a food safety course you took for your last job, a customer service lecture, whatever- just put it down. If you have no experience, then put down any volunteer work. Explain at the bottom of your resume or in your cover letter that although you have no restaurant experience, that you are dependable and that you are eager to learn. The fact is that there is high turnover in the restaurant world, and sometimes the hiring manager is so desperate that they'll hire someone with no experience hoping that you'll learn fast. If you've never stayed at one job for very long, then you should explain why (ie the jobs that you worked at were in low volume restaurants and the tips were not substantial, etc). One word of advice- NEVER, NEVER talk negatively about former employers or coworkers. It just makes it sound like YOU are difficult to work with. Don't say that you left your last job because the executive chef was a jerk (come on. They're ALL jerks sometimes). Say that you enjoyed certain aspects of your last position, but that you are interested in a change because you didn't feel that it was the "right fit" for you. You should emphasize that you are looking for the "right fit" for you in a "long term" position. Again, sometimes the hiring manager is so desperate that they don't care that you've never stayed longer than three months at any one place. At least you're trained. Don't talk about the negatives. Emphasize the positives (I show up on time. I dependably show up for work as scheduled. etc etc). I suppose the best place to give this big push is in a cover letter rather than in the body of the resume itself. Assume that the person reading your resume or interviewing you WANTS to hire you, but you need to give him reasons why so that he when he approaches the general manager, he can justify wanting to hire you. On your resume, in my opinion, they don't care if you roller blade and collect stamps, but if you want to put down your hobbies at the end, that is kind of the traditional thing to do, so go ahead. It's possible that the hiring manager may also enjoy bird watching or whatever, and maybe that will help you. If you've been in the restaurant business for a while, then you know how hard it is. If you are a newbie and looking to get your first job, then I want to warn you. It's late nights and your schedule is always different. You can make some money, but it's a lot of work. I will tell you the Monday through Friday 9 to 5 is easier. But if you really want to do this, best of luck, and I hope you get the job you want...).

My waitressing career started when I worked for Marriott Foods and ARA at the age of 18 working banquets when I was in college. My next job was at a Chinese restaurant called the Peking. The best food I ate there was not on the menu. It was when the owners had a Chinese New Year party, and I was invited. The owner/chef made the most amazing food I had ever eaten. I guess the good stuff was not reserved for customers. I spent a summer at home, and got a job working for Griggs, which wasn't bad (except that I was working full time and taking General Microbiology and Anatomy & Physiology during the same Summer session and they both have labs). Griggs probably does make some of the best flat, red enchiladas out there (don't forget the fried egg on top). That year I also worked at a pub as holiday help when I was home for Christmas.

Then when I got into grad school in the big city in the early 90's, I got my fancy shmancy job in a fine dining restaurant that, in it's hayday, was really something special (from what I've heard, it's changed a lot, and not for the better). It was called Vargo's, and it was here that I learned what the restaurant industry is really about. I waited on Louie Anderson, and President Bush (the older not the younger) came in while I was working, but they gave him to the top waiter. I was one of only four waitresses who ever worked the dining room while I was there (it was an almost all male staff). There were three executive chefs that came and went; the first was not great, the second was fantastic but ran the kitchen cost up so far they couldn't afford him, and the third was good but crazy. The first one eventually was rehired. He wasn't the best, but he could keep food cost down. The sous chef was there the entire time. I wonder if he's still there. Vargo's really was a neat place to go to because it overlooked a few green, lush acres with a "lake" and trees and a small "river" with two bridges, a gazebo, swans, and peacocks, and the azaleas were gorgeous when they were all in bloom. It was a beautiful place to have a wedding. Too bad the least talented chef was the chef for most of my stint there. He actually had "salmon bella" on the menu. I'll never get that dish. Don't people realize it sounds like salmonella?

I also moonlighted at the Houston Racquet Club which had a great Swedish chef. It was actually a much nicer environment, and the food was better, but the money was not as good. It was cool to see how wealthy people do up a party. One of the fanciest dinners was for about fifty people with five courses where a dinner bell was rang and all the fancy, shiny plate covers where removed at the same time. The food manager was really nice. He let me tend bar. He sort of looked like Weird Al, but with a heavy New York accent. He wound up taking a job at a resort in Austin. I hope he's doing well.

I will say that there is a lot of drama in fine dining. I once was screamed at by the manager for telling a customer we were out of hot tea on a night where we were so busy it's a miracle any food got out at all. Everyone was running around like chickens without heads, and the manager stops to scream at me for what seemed like a full minute (which is a lot of time on a night like that) in front of the entire kitchen staff near the kitchen door, and I'm sure it could be heard in the dining room. That's not the only drama. Don't get me started on the drugs, the parties, the soap opera dating, the philandering matre d' who just couldn't keep his... well, you get the picture.

I had a great idea for a screenplay about the world in a fine dining kitchen, and of course, someone else got that idea and actually did it. Vargo's had waiters and kitchen staff from Iran, Nigeria, Mexico, South America, Cuba, Austria, Germany (East and West), Ireland, and we even had a former Miss District of Columbia work in the party room, and a former pro baseball play tended bar in the lounge (he played pro ball in the 70's before they got paid millions). Everyone had a story. Maybe someday I will write that screenplay. I know it's been done and redone, but mine would... nah. I'll never write that screenplay.

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