What is a Stage?
While staging is considered to be one of the most important elements of chef education, it is not so widely broadcast in the industry and there is no official body governing it.
So, unless you’ve naturally come across the term as a chef or have done your research into the concept, you may not know exactly what a stage is. And that’s ok!
The word ‘stage’ comes from the French term ‘stagiaire’, which means trainee or apprentice. Throughout history, chefs (young and old) have taken time, either as part of their schooling or simply through a passion to excel, to work in different kitchens to experience something new. This is called ‘staging’.
Chefs stage in kitchens all over the world today and it is one of the oldest forms of education in the industry. Many of the world’s best chefs will tell you that staging was key to their development and the very best restaurants in the world accept stagiaires into their kitchen as the benefits are enormous for both restaurant and stagiaire.
When you stage in a kitchen, you take up the role of the trainee chef and assist with the day to day activities of the restaurant you are in. You become part of the team and are given tasks as any chef in the kitchen would, all under the watchful eye of the actual brigade who know how things work.
Staging is often unpaid, which gives the kitchen an extra pair of hands for free, while the stagiaire gets to learn new techniques, discover new cuisines, work with new ingredients, train under a new chef and experience a brand new kitchen.
And staging can even lead to a job.
If the timing in the kitchen is right, a stage can be a trial of sorts. Many chefs have earned full-time jobs in the kitchens they have staged in as it is a chance to impress and to show your passion.
The period of time you spend in a restaurant as a stagiaire is often up to the kitchen. Some chefs will have you in the kitchen for just the day while some will have you for the week or even the month. Some require stagiaires to stay for a minimum of three months, for example, while some even require you to stay for a year.
It is worth saying that the stage concept is not exclusive to professional kitchens. You can take a stage to learn specific skills in places such as patisseries and butchers, while hotels and catering companies will also take chefs looking to experience a different working environment.
Staging is slowly making its way back into the mainstream with even ‘The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Award’ starting their official scholarship for stagiaires in 2018.
Perhaps you like the sound of working in the pastry section of the three Michelin-starred Hof van Cleve in Belgium? Or perhaps a week at Pierre Gagnaire’s Sketch in London learning about his unique take on French cuisine? Or maybe you fancy a year out in Naples getting to grips with authentic pizza making.
The world of staging is unbelievably varied, incredibly important and unique to the industry.