Wanted: Restaurant Skills


As many of you know, I’m a lawyer. I have absolutely no experience working in a restaurant at any capacity. I’ve not chopped a single vegetable, fired a pan, plated a dish or anything else in the kitchen. I’ve never taken an order, filled a water glass, or bussed a table. Hell, I never even worked at a fast food joint. When it comes to restaurant operations, I’m a complete dilettante.

Yet lately, I’ve started to think that I could open a restaurant. Yeah, maybe just a sandwich or burger joint, but I’ve thought of it nonetheless (and no, it’s not a serious fantasy, should my wife or any of my law partners read this).

I realized, however, that it is mighty arrogant of me to think I could actually open my own place when I don’t have a goddamn clue of what it takes to run a restaurant. But I’d like to change that, with some help.

I’m announcing today that I’m offering up my services to work the line in a real restaurant, to flip burgers, to prep for the day’s service. I got your brunoise right here, buddy. I’ll wait tables, wash dishes, or throw together a tasty mojito. Oh, I’ll screw it up, of course, and your customers may suffer, but I want to see how incompetent I’ll be. And how stupid I’ll look, as I don’t even have the right kind of shoes to work in a kitchen.

Oh, and I’ll write about it, for sure.

So, who’s bold (or stupid) enough to give me a chance? Anyone? Hello?


15 Responses to Wanted: Restaurant Skills

  1. crystal says:

    Maybe you should start a food truck? My husband has been talking about a breakfast truck of some sort…

  2. Varmint says:

    OK, I have one offer so far from a Raleigh restaurant. Anyone else?

  3. Nelson Head says:

    I started this barbecue compnay when I was 50 so you too can get it going if you really have the heart to do it.
    I suggest you first go to your favorite place and ask the owner if you can help host (be a greeter if nothing else) every night from 5 to close. Do that for a minimum of three months. You’ll learn a lot about how a restaurant really functions – its systems, people, and pressure points.
    More importantly, you’ll learn whether your family has the heart for your getting into this business. It is everything people say it is – all consuming. But for those of us who love it, what a great life.
    Nelson Head
    Dixie Bones
    Woodbridge, VA

  4. Pam says:

    Oh this is going to be fun! I know you’ll love it, no matter what you’re doing. I have always told hubby I’d love to open a small restaurant, country cooking, one day.

    I actually bartended in a place back home in Dodge City that served food until the dancing started around 9:00 or so. Their cook randomly quit and they asked me to take over! (The owners drank a lot 😉 I’d never had a lick of experience other than working McD’s (I was only 22) but I managed pretty well! (Helped that the patrons drank a lot too!) It was a ton of fun.

  5. Varmint says:

    I just heard from a second restaurant. Wow, there are some suckers out there. Seriously, though, both places are quite reputable and busy, so I’d be able to wreak a lot of havoc quite quickly.

  6. Robert says:

    I waited tables for a few years. Then I got a job in journalism. Six years later I went through a culinary program (nights). A couple of years later, still thinking about cooking professionally, I found a chef kind enough to let me come in and do prep and help out on the line. It took me two nights in that restaurant to fall back in love with reporting and editing.

    I wish you the very best.

  7. burgeoningfoodie says:

    What are the odds that someone can video this adn turn it into a video documentary? As opposed to just a blog update? Could be fun. Also, this could be a serious venture for you down the road when you retire or if one of your children decides they would want to go into the restaurant business, you would have some first hand knowledge to impart. Just another way of thinking about it.

  8. MB says:

    Walk down to Chubby’s and see if you can help out there. Let me know and I’ll bring one of your partners and her husband and we’ll cheer you on.

  9. Varmint says:

    I’ve received a handful of wonderful offers and must now decide among them. I won’t be doing this until at least August, and I also have to decide (along with the restaurant) whether or not to announce where it will be before I work there. Stay tuned!

  10. Scott B says:

    Every person needs to work in the restaurant industry, for at least a summer as a busboy if nothing else. I was a busboy, then a waiter at my country club while in high school, then again at a crab house in Annapolis while in graduate school. To experience the work, hustle, and effort of everyone at a restaurant on a busy Saturday night after the big game (or the sailboat show, in Annapolis), will forever change your outlook. People who treat the waitstaff as servants quickly reveal they never did such work.
    Good luck, Dean. I’m sure you will find many owners who will take you up on your free offer. You are doing this for free, yes ?:)

  11. Colin says:

    This is brilliant and I wish you the best of luck. Bring Band-aids and burn cream you will probably need them. Not to knock your knife skills. I look forward to reading what you’re doing. A lot more people should think like this. Especially before opening restaurants!

  12. Dean Ogan says:

    Rocky Top Hospitality would welcome you to come into our restaurants. Our multiple concept company allows many opportunities to choose from. Baking at Twisted Fork, scratch cooking at any of our restaurants including the Red Room on Glenwood South. Maybe spend a day at our brewery, The Mash House. If you are indeed very bold, perhaps challenge yourself behind the bar at one of our downtown locations on a busy weekend. All these opportunities would give you insight behind the scenes. Please let us know if you’re still brave enough to endure this challenge. We think it would be a lot of fun to work with you.

  13. marync says:

    For all of your readers who “dream” about opening a restaurant………stop watching the Food Network. There is nothing “romantic” about working 14 hours a day 7 days a week in a blast oven hot kitchen with hard quarry tile floors. Sounds like fun to you, now? That is the reality of it. Like any professionals, the real chefs who have done their time and have become TV personalities make it look easy. Would you take a ballet class and call yourself a ballerina? Of course not. So why do people take a cooking class, decide to open a restaurant and then feel like they have the right to call themselves “chef”. Get real, get some experience. And not just one day, but try a whole month, in the south, in the summer………no options to quit once you have started. Then tell me you want to open a restaurant.
    And………remember, unless you are filthy wealthy, and need a tax writeoff, you will need an investor who is, cuz you are gonna need about $100,000 a year or more in operating capital. Expect to lose that amount or more each year for the first 5 years of operation. And that is AFTER you have put $500,000 or more into taking your design dreams of the “perfect” little burger joint to fruition. Plan to give up any personal family time or a life outside of the restaurant. Dinner home with your family? Fuhgetaboutit! Unless they come and eat at your restaurant and you have 5 minutes to stop by their table and acknowledge them, your kids will forget who you are and your spouse will find a way to occupy their time with their own interests because you will never be around.

    Still want to open a restaurant? You need professional help, as in a psychiatrist. Or a bona fide, restaurant consultant who knows how to design and run a restaurant with real systems of operations that actually work.

    Just sign me………….lonely chef’s wife.

    PS….you are gonna need more than “luck”.

  14. Varmint says:

    I’ve been told hundreds of times that I should open my own restaurant. Every time that I hear that, my response is, “Why would I want to work twice as hard and make a fraction of the money?” I’ve never seriously entertained notions of opening a place, and this endeavor is designed in part to nip in the bud any quasi-fantasies I might have. And it will be an interesting story, of course.

  15. marync says:

    Add this to your fantasy:

    It is a lovely summer evening as the red glow of sunset falls across the horizon. You are feeling on top of the world in your crisp chef whites as you glance across the crowded dining room of your, yes YOUR restaurant. Happy, gleeful sounds of satisfied guests waft towards you like the scent of honeysuckle on a summer morning. You notice a line is beginning to form at the hostess station as your front of the house manager makes her way to you announcing that “we are now on an hour wait for tables”.

    As you head back to the kitchen, your head cook notifies you that you are one dishwasher short as Jules is a ‘no call, no show’. You don’t blink an eye, you’ve made it through a busy Friday night one dishwasher short before. It isn’t long until your grill man is screaming to high heaven because he just burned himself on the steam table, a quick glance tells you he is on his way to the Urgent Care. You step up and get his position covered as you see a blotch of bright red out of the corner of your eye and see your pantry cook grap a cloth and wrap it around her finger. As you access the situation, it is clear that she is also on her way to Urgent Care.
    Somemore shuffling of crew and you are back on track. But wait! The ice machine just went out……….as you get your kitchen manager’s attention, the bartender comes to the door of the kitchen to announce your Positouch system just went down!
    Crisis mode is inacted…….deep breaths aren’t working, a full feeling of panic escalates into a panic attack as your kitchen staff is not only in the weeds with a 45 minute cook time, but your happy and gleeful guests have transversed into an angry mob looking for comps to make up for the servers screwing up their orders, their food coming out cold and no ice in their drinks!

    Wait, wait! Can it get worse? Oh, no! Here comes the ABC Board inspectors looking to do a full liquor inventory audit!!! As you head out to the bar with the inspectors, who is that you see in the dining room trying to be inconspicuous? Is it? No it couldn’t be? Not the anonymous restaurant critic for the big city newspaper…..but yes, it is. As he grills your newest server on the preparation and ingredients of your specials, you see him fall apart like a cheap pair of socks as a self appreciating grin spreads across the face of restaurant critic.

    Welcome to the restaurant business, my friend.

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