Stages – The Best Way to Gain Experience Blog by Frank Davie

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 28th July 2016

Months upon months of hard (ish) work. The blisters on my feet are becoming painful to walk on and I don’t think the cuts on my fingers can take another grain of salt, or squeeze of lemon juice. Time for a holiday? I think not. As much as I yearn to be on a beach somewhere under a 30 degrees celsius sun, I find myself on a train headed into the Highlands of Scotland where the names of the quaint towns and small villages slowly start to become like something you might find in a Lord of the Rings movie. This is my week off, and I intend to remain focused on my goal to learn in this world of cooking.

My destination at the end of this daunting journey into the unknown will take me into the hands of David Barnett, head chef at The Torridon, a hotel shrouded in the deep thicket of the Scottish Highlands with a real edge on rural fine dining. A seven-day stage in the three rosette restaurant will reveal to me the practice and standards of the kitchen that chef Barnett has upheld since 2013.

En route to Inverness in the Highlands of Scotland

The kitchen, accompanied by an acre of its own herbs, vegetables and fruit, will certainly be the best food environment I will ever have stepped into in my life. The hotel also boasts its own livestock, with pigs and cows also contributing to the restaurant’s motif of fresh produce. The excitement and fear are equally as dominant.

As I whiz past yet another looming mountain and dark loch, my mind is constantly churning the thought that this might be a bad idea. That I, with my puny experience in this form of dining, am going to embarrass myself, and waste valuable holiday time in the process. It’s my own determination and passion for this industry that keeps me rooted to my seat on this train and focused on my one goal, to learn.

As much as I am nervous, this will undoubtedly be a fantastic learning experience. Sure, I might not learn much in the form of cooking, but it will teach me the standards of a three rosette kitchen, how they operate and I’ll meet a handful of other chefs that share the same food-orientated vision as me. The best way to survive in this industry is to gain experience and learn. And the best way to do that is to work.

Stages grant chefs access to other kitchens, concepts and ideas that wouldn’t otherwise have been found sitting at home, and at the cost of only time. And the rewards are not exclusively experience in the kitchen, but also life experience. They are an extremely efficient method of travel. There can’t be a restaurant in the world that would turn away a passionate chef looking to gain experience by working for FREE for a day or a week. So the possibilities are endless, staging can take you anywhere.

Have an extra day of this week? Why not contact your closest Michelin-starred restaurant and ask them if you can work for free in their kitchen for a day. Have a holiday coming up? Why not spend five of the seven days in America or Australia? International stages are something that I can only yearn to do in the future, but to be able to explore the cuisine of another country is incredibly valuable to any chef.  Starting out, traveling 200 miles into the North of Scotland is certain to give me an insight into a slightly different lifestyle, and this alone is worth it. It’s a simple case of picking the restaurants you want to work in and contacting them.

A blog from an erratically ambitious chef with one foot in the hospitality industry and the other desperately trying to run away. You can read more of Frank's blog posts here

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 28th July 2016

Stages – The Best Way to Gain Experience Blog by Frank Davie