This classic form of training lives on across the world for new and seasoned chefs alike.
Launching a career as a chef requires a bit more than studying in a classroom and hoping the skills will transfer to a professional kitchen. Like many highly skill-based trades, the culinary world provides the opportunity to work under the observation of a professional chef in what is known as a stage.
The word stage comes from the French stagiaire—implying an apprenticeship or intern in training. A chef stages at a restaurant for free in exchange for direct access to some of the world’s top chefs and kitchens.
While staging is open to all, it traditionally attracts a few specific groups:
- Students right out of culinary school
- Culinary professionals who work in other parts of the restaurant looking to expand their careers
- Experienced chefs hoping to study with a specific restaurant or country for international inspiration
During the stage, the student has the opportunity to watch the executive chef in action as well as absorb new skills and industry tips from the team. In many cases, the stage itself focuses on the simpler tasks in the kitchen, such as preparing herbs and chopping vegetables.
Ideally, the hosting chefs will see the stage as a mentorship opportunity. Both new and lifelong chefs can take this opportunity to absorb new styles of cooking, new tactics of guiding a kitchen, and build up a network for future work.
Staging at a country club or resort is a popular choice for many new chefs, particularly due to the diverse menus and focus on member customization. Staging chefs can also learn from a wide variety of serving styles—from large banquets to small wine dinners.
Due to its lack of pay, the stage has come up against some criticism, but the tradition lives on as a popular way for chefs old and new to collaborate and grow.