Stagiaire [stah-zhee-ERH]: An Art
A French term that essentially means “apprentice.” Stagiaires are typically not paid; if they receive a salary, it’s usually nominal. This is how the Food Lovers Companion defines the foreign noun.
The importance of a stage is astronomical in an
industry built almost completely upon experience and education. People are driven to learn and master new techniques, discover new and fascinating ingredients, satisfy personal curiosities and longings; sacrificing your personal time for no money often seems like a gift, something that you are lucky to obtain. My young introduction to the idea of a stage left me with thoughts of free labor, an event in which the chef is the only beneficiary. I was too young to foresee the priceless, unique style of education that the experience was capable of providing.
Working day in and day out in the same rut or series of motions can wear on a person, no matter how progressive the kitchen. Sometimes, simply seeing how another Chef interprets his ingredients, how he handles his equipment, and how he runs his kitchen can rejuvenate a passion for the craft and ignite a new excitement which undoubtedly increases your personal productivity. Simply being in a new kitchen, surrounded by an unfamiliar crew, seeing different styles and plating ideas. The constant fear of the unknown clashing with the sheer ecstasy of discovering something new, instantly creating a romantic moment that goes on to document a milestone in you culinary journey.
An Impressive Feat
A chef’s stages decorate his resume like a proud War vet with his badges on his chest. Each individual stage indicates a monumental event showcasing the effort that a person has set fourth. A Stage reads as a testimonial of a chefs dedication and drive, not everyone stages; Fact… But, for those who chose to, it shows that you are interested in the culinary world around you and the progression of our industry. A stage is designed to better a person and their own personal skill level, it is not something that simply you go and do, it is something that you live and experience. The skills and ideas discovered on these culinary escapades are meant to be taken back and taught to your peers, as a form of support to the evolution of foods and ideas therein.
After leaving a stage (no matter the length, or prestige) I always walk away with a sense of accomplishment and pride. While I work in kitchens, day after day, week after week, never off for more than a day or two at a time, I always embark into any culinary endeavors with all the excitement of a Child; feeding an ever growing hunger for a deeper understanding. You are only worth your weight in a kitchen and the best kinds of skill are genuinely earned.