Take Away: “Working the lemonade stand taught me logistics regarding prepping food in large quantity. Even at that age, I enjoyed doing the math to figure out how many gallons we could make with each case of lemons. Doing that kind of math comes in handy today.”
Bodenheimer is both the mixologist and owner of two New Orleans stalwarts, Cure and Cane & Table. Back in college, his summer job was with the popular Texas Hill Country spot, Hudson's on the Bend. But he didn’t work in the restaurant; he peddled its line of gourmet sauces by setting up tastings in grocery stores around Austin.
Take Away: “I realized two things: I love talking to total strangers when I have something to talk about, and I loved the challenge of trying to sell a non-essential item to people. Both have served me incredibly well through my career."
The Things You Want the Most Take the Hardest Work: Jamie Bissonnette"I had the worst summer job ever,” claimed Bissonnette, a James Beard Award-winning chef whose Boston spots include Little Donkey and Toro. “When I was 13, I wanted a pocket knife that cost $80 dollars at the hardware store," he said. "My parent’s friends owned the store, so they had me work for a week, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (with a 10-minute hourly break) on the roof, spreading tar."
As you might guess, "tarring a roof in August sucks," Bissonette explained. But the work paid off—briefly. "At the end of the week, I was paid with the knife. That knife was stolen two weeks later.”
Take Away: “I learned that you have to work hard for the thing you want in life," he said, looking back now. "And never take what you have earned for granted, because you can lose it all in the blink of an eye.”
Engaging All the Senses in an Experience Heightens It for Patrons: Kelly FieldsFor the chef at Willa Jean in New Orleans, some summer jobs were more conventional than others. "I had a little hustle cutting all my neighbors' grass," she said. "It was a teaching moment of just how important aroma is to an experience." Even today, she said, the smell of cut grass is incredibly evocative of that time. (Scent is closely tied to memory.) Still, Fields said, "I think the hardest job I ever had was picking olives during harvest in New Zealand.”
Take Aways: Fields said she learned to "make that extra-sensory connection with guests in the restaurant—make sure they can smell the breads and the pastries, the food that’s being cooked. Connecting counts.” Not to mention that “Learning the physical effort required for one damn olive really taught me to not take a single item for granted in life.”
Find the Part of the Business That's Right for You: Suzanne GoinOne of southern California’s most iconic chefs, Goin is in the Beard Who’s Who of Food & Beverage professionals and operates Lucques, A.O.C., and Tavern in Los Angeles.
Her beginnings were much humbler. During college she worked at the original California Pizza Kitchen in Beverly Hills, Calif. “I learned all about front of house—I was a host—and fussy customers."
Take Away: “Lesson learned: Some people are meant to be sellers. Not me. I want to be in the kitchen, creating the food—not in the front, where you have to sell it.”
Find a Job That Keeps You on Your Toes: Ben Daitz
In Worcester, Mass., in the ‘90s, Daitz—chef and co-founder of Num Pang Kitchen in New York—was working in a mail-order recreational vehicle-parts warehouse. There was no air conditioning. “We had to pick up the orders at a printer and race around the massive warehouse, filling these orders sweating bullets all day,” said Daitz. “It was the grittiest summer job I ever had—minimum wage, manual labor, the whole package.”
Take Away: “After that job, I knew I never again wanted to get stuck working in a monotonous situation like that, where the job is just the same thing, day in and day out. Instead, I wound up in one of the most dynamic industries there is. No two days are the same for a restaurant owner—always a new task to tackle, or problem to solve. Definitely keeps me on my toes."