Taking Center Stage

I've chopped and diced vegetables, quartered chickens and ducks, degreased veal and fish stocks, and done about everything else in between for months at the French Culinary Institute. Now it's time to take, albeit a baby step, into a professional (aka-"real world") kitchen.

I plan to do an internship this summer, but the first step is completing a "stage." That's the term we use when a person works (for free) in a chef's kitchen either as a tryout or to learn new skills.

Luckily, there are plenty of restaurants looking for interns in New York City. But my question is: Would working in a smaller kitchen for my first internship be more beneficial? Or does going to a four-star kitchen with all its name recognition mean a better learning experience for me? The smaller kitchen might give me more responsibility while the bigger place may have me peeling endless amounts of garlic.

I have one classmate interning at a Jean-Georges restaurant, and she loves the experience. Sure, she said, she's mostly doing mindless prep work (grating beets, turning artichokes), but she's learned a lot just by watching. I've had other friends interning at smaller restaurants who do everything from working the garde manager station to cooking grill meats on a busy night.

I'm not sure which route to take, but I've set up some stages and will give you guys a glimpse into my experience.

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