Chef's Hands-On Training

There's always a chef training Plan B if you have chutzpah, imagination, and the drive to pursue a chef career come Hell's kitchen or high boiling water. Chef schools aren't for everyone, especially when cost, time, or life circumstances prevent full time study. Fortunately, the culinary world has mentors with eyes for talent and restaurant jobs that offer chef career training, paying "students" to learn on the job.

Gotham Chef Alfred Portale Shapes Chef Careers

Alfred Portale doesn't just run the perennially popular Gotham Bar and Grill. He also shapes the chef careers of the future, training at least eight of New York's current generation of chef-restaurateurs. Portale looks for culinary passion and respect for the profession, and he has a great will to motivate and reward talented workers. His own chef de cuisine, Mexican immigrant Jacinto Guadarrama, worked his way up from washing dishes through garde manger training to his current #2 chef position at Gotham. Guadarrama impressed Portale with his work ethic and will to learn.

Robert Dorsey Writes His Own Chef Career Script

If chef schools gave classes in how to become a chef, they'd fight to hire Bay Area chef-restaurateur Robert Dorsey to provide a course in Alternative Chef Training. Dorsey worked his way up from the bottom and into a career, starting as a part-time dish washer at Ramona, a respected restaurant. He was only 14, but he already dreamed of getting his chef training at a top east coast culinary institute. When fatherhood put a stop to his Plan A, Dorsey pursed his chef training hands-on, taking a series of jobs in more than two dozen San Francisco Bay Area restaurants. The method to Dorsey's culinary madness? He picked prestigious restaurants and built a stellar resume. Finally, in 2003, he made the chef's dream career move, opening his own Blackberry Bistro where an eclectic menu reflects Dorsey's wealth of culinary influences.

Lots of great chef schools can teach you how to become a chef, but the trailblazing mentors and hard working employee-students promise that hands-on alternatives can pay off in careers, too. Not convinced? Fortunately, you can supplement the restaurant path to real life chef training with courses through online schools and enjoy the best of both worlds.


  • Blackberry Bistro
  • "Cook's Night Out: Robert Dorsey," by Karola Saekel. San Francisco (CA) Chronicle (Oct 16, 2005.
  • Gotham Bar and Grill
  • "How to Spot A-Players," by Ryan Underwood. Fast Company 84 (Jul 2004).