Earlier this year, the Eat Out Food School launched with its first intake of students. To ensure the students are fully prepared for everything working in a busy, productive kitchen entails, they are all required to gain practical, hands-on experience in a restaurant kitchen. One of the chefs who stepped up to show the Eat Out Food School students the ropes is Christi Semczyszyn, the head chef at Tjing Tjing and its sister restaurants. And, boy, are our students learning a lot! We were so inspired by everything she’s teaching them, we asked Christi to share her knowledge with everyone who is interested in starting their culinary journeys in 2021. Here’s what she had to say.
Being a chef takes long hours and hard work. What advice would you give on how to maintain a positive attitude and perspective when facing adversity?
It’s definitely a difficult thing to balance, and it’s taken me a really long time to put some kind of boundaries in place, but it’s crucial. Keep work and personal life separate, make sure you’ve got a reasonable amount of downtime, make sure you’re eating properly, nap, and try and get your body moving outside of work (walk, hike, run, swim, dance).
What has it been like working with the Eat Out Food School students?
We absolutely love the students we’ve been allocated. They all learn and grow at different paces, but they’re such superstars.
What makes the fine-dining restaurant industry different to any other part of the industry?
It’s so competitive. You have the chance to create something special, but try not to get influenced by what others are doing. Pick your style, values and what experience you want for customers, and stick to it. Keep coming back to your core values and remember why you’re doing it.
Do you have any message specifically for females who want to join the restaurant industry?
Don’t take their sh**. When a supplier calls you “sweetheart” or you get a weird vibe from co-workers or peers, speak up. You need to be assertive and steadfast in your values. But don’t lose what makes women in the industry special.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Bit of a weird one, but “fake it till you make it” worked for me. I didn’t fit into the head chef role naturally, but if you think, “what would a head chef do in this situation?” you eventually start to act like one!
How do you balance work and life, particularly motherhood and being a chef?
Learn how to delegate. I’m a perfectionist, but when you’ve got a kid, you realise you need to be able to hand some things over to others, or you’ll miss out on things that are more important. Keep your mothering instinct in the workplace and your boss personality at home, but don’t confuse the two roles.
What do you look for in a potential staff member?
The ability to follow instructions exactly as they were given, keep your space tidy, and speed.
What is your top kitchen tip?
Keep asking questions until you understand exactly what’s expected of you.
Do you have any tips for anyone applying for a job in the restaurant industry?
Experience and a great attitude are the main things I look out for. If you’re willing to be a sponge and take on as much work as you need to in order to learn as much as possible, you’ll get very far.
What can always be found in your fridge and/or pantry?
Sushi rice, spring onions and soy sauce.
What made you want to become a chef?
Watching people enjoy food I’ve made. Once I started working with food, I realised there’s nothing else I can possibly do.
How did you find your style?
Eating, reading, playing and recreating.