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Categories:Types, School Work
Published by: jacob_lee8762 on Nov 07, 2011
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My name is Jacob Lee and I am currently a culinary student at the New England Culinary Institute (NECI).

Looking back, my restaurant career started almost ten years earlier than what I would print on my resume. At the age of five some of my earliest memories came from inside the several restaurants my Mother owned. Whether it was taking out trash, sweeping kitchens, or painting and carving tabletops for allowance I always found myself somewhere close by. By the age of nine she had converted the attic of one restaurant into a bar name “Jake’s Place.” I would make virgin drinks behind the bar, and even got to play drums with the stand- in musicians some nights. It was quite a life for a boy that age in retrospect, yet at the time it seemed perfectly normal. It’s no surprise now why I’m so enamored with the entire business, one could say that it’s in my blood. Over the last seven years I have found myself on quite an impressive journey through the restaurant world. Starting at the age of fifteen, still a junior in high school, I fell into a job at one of the nicest restaurants of my hometown: a small bistro called Ferneau’s. Unbeknownst to me at the time I was learning a trade that would provide work and a joy that no other job could. Ferneau’s was comparable to a restaurant “boot-camp” for me. The staff there taught me the finer points to a fine dining restaurant experience, using my inexperience to their advantage in order to teach me proper etiquette without conflicting ideas. To suddenly start working in such a fast paced, late night environment while still attending high school was quite a shock to most classmates. However, something about the work... that rush of adrenaline that comes to you during a busy rush, kept pulling me back. After graduating high school I was still employed and working full time at Ferneau’s. Not knowing how I would pay for college, I was hesitant to choose any one field of study in traditional schools. I decided to move, work in another fine dining establishment, and think about school for a couple years. What at one time seemed like a bad decision is now a defining moment for good in my life. I began working full time at a bar and grill called Bordino’s. Bordino’s offered similar quality food to Ferneau’s, but at quadruple the volume. The sheer scale of operations was daunting at first, but I knew that if I applied the same work ethic Ferneau’s had instilled upon me nothing would go wrong. I had now been working in restaurants for about four years and new that I wanted to be in the kitchen. After picking up a job in a burrito shack only to gain some type of kitchen experience, I was finally able to make my transition from the Front of the House to the Back of the House at Bordino’s. The kitchen was grueling work, but I loved it. I started as the one man prep team for a night of 300 covers. My job included pastries, baking house breads, salad and appetizer prep, and saucier. Every day after work my head spun thinking about the countless techniques and recipes that I had just learned. Yet, I found myself cooking still every night I wasn’t working. Testing new recipes at home, cooking for loved ones, just to go back and cook again tomorrow. It wasn’t long before I realized this was much more than a job, it was a passion. Over the next two years I moved quickly up the ranks at Bordino’s; from prep cook, to garde marge, to pasta station, then finally to sauté. One thing my coworkers found interesting about my cross-

training was that all the while, I was still working in the Front of the House running the expediting window and training all new employees. I was the only employee to work in both sections of the restaurant, and I could not have had more fun. I learned looking at problems with both a front of house and back of house perspective is an invaluable tool for any restaurant employee. Though I learned much in my time at Ferneau’s and Bordino’s, there is still so much more that I have to learn. I also plan to take full advantage of the drive that I have found for this industry. During my time hear at NECI I hope to walk away with a balanced foundation of techniques and the skills necessary to make my own path in this ever changing business we find ourselves in. After NECI my only goals are to find a truly skilled chef, and continue my education through daily practice.

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