A chef's job is not easy. While the drama from TV shows such as "My Kitchen Rules" or Masterchef does not dominate in commercial kitchens across the country, working in a kitchen is hard, physical work. To get to the point of running your own kitchen as Chef de Cuisine or possibly even Chef Owner takes a long time.
The initial path can be varied. Some start out at culinary school such as Le Cordon Bleu or the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), others grow through a standard apprenticeship, a few will even come in as talented amateur. Common to all is that their first job in a kitchen is at the bottom end of the food chain. Preparing ingredients, dicing 10 kilos of onions, peeling and cutting 20 kilos of potatoes are rites of passage that every chef has gone through. Moving from Commis Chef to Chef de Partie or Station Chef can be a matter of time in a small kitchen. To achieve such a role in a Michelin-starred kitchen, one that chefs often aspire to, takes more than just time.
Committed young chefs stage. Similar to the European journeyman in trades such as carpentry and blacksmithing, they set out to work in other cultures, under other chefs. Usually after completion of their apprenticeship or degree at a culinary school, these chefs apply for a stage at restaurants with well-known and respected chefs. However, in contrast to other trades, chefs don't normally receive more than food and board.
Stage - unpaid internship when a cook works briefly, for free, in another chef's kitchen to learn and be exposed to new techniques and cuisines. Originates from the French word "stagiaire" meaning trainee, apprentice or intern. The French term commis is often used interchangeably with the aforementioned terms. The individual completing this activity is referred to as a stage (pronounced "stazhje"; IPA: /sta.ʒjɛ:ʁ/), stagiaire, commis or volontaire.
Stages don't do it for the money. They do it to learn. Specifically to learn new cultures, new approaches to food. Travelling to work under different chefs provides them with a different view on their work. It opens their eyes to new ideas. It also establishes relationships that last a lifetime. Working 12 hour shifts in an unknown country with another stage next to you all the time builds and cements bonds.
“When you send a young cook to Rome for three or six months, they’re absolutely transformed. [ It's the kind of thing where they're ] learning the food sensibility of another culture. It opens your eyes, it enriches you.” - Chez Panisse General Manager Jennifer Sherman, also a former Chez Panisse cook.
This is usually only feasible for young chefs with no attachments and little or no commitments. Quite often, it is also a one-way ticket. A young chef hops from stage to stage, and is suddenly offered an unexpected job as a Station Chef at a good restaurant. Once entrenched in a good job and a good working environment, that chef is unlikely to return to their city of origin.
There is also the side of continued education and enrichment. Established chefs find it hard to do travel for education, even though most dearly want to. Younger chefs with debts from attending culinary school are also hard pressed to take three to six months off at no pay. For them, they have to cut into their personal time off to get exposure to what is happening elsewhere, how the culinary world in other cities and countries is evolving.
This is the core idea behind Flugente. We set out to create an opportunity for chefs in Brisbane to get exposure to the best and brightest chefs from around the world. They can cook next to these chefs for a week, see what they are doing differently, get to know them in depth and be inspired by their work. As a bonus, we deliver some of the greatest food from around the world to the doorsteps of Brisbane. We make seats available for dinners that are nearly impossible to book in the cities these global superstar chefs come from. Our hope is that this inspires people in Brisbane to think beyond meat and three veg, to treasure the existing great restaurants in Brisbane and to push those that are less than stellar to up their game.
We want to give more reasons to the young up-and-coming chefs in Brisbane to stay here, to grow our burgeoning laneway food scene, to expand the affordable quality restaurants. We want to work with the culinary industry to provide opportunities for these chefs to build their own place, hang out their shingle and show us what they can do.
And we don't just want to do it for the chefs. We believe that ongoing education by learning from the best in the world is just as important for the front-of house, the general manager and the service staff, those people that can make or break the experience of eating at a restaurant. To this end expect some of the best sommeliers and general managers in the restaurant world to find their way to Brisbane as well, to be quizzed on what makes them so good by their local brethren.
There is more where this came from. In the short time since we started this endeavour, we have been inundated with ideas on what we could do. Keep it coming ! We will try hard to make as much of it happen as we can.
We look forward to welcoming you to our first dinner !