Critic-Turned-Cook Goes Job Hunting

Critic Turned Cook follows former Seattle Post-Intelligencer food critic Leslie Kelly on her journey away from the keyboard and into the kitchen. Take it away, Leslie!



There’s nothing more depressing than trying to find a job, especially in this depressed economy. Ever since I decided to make the leap from being a food critic to working as a cook, I’ve managed to land some plum spots using my connections. Because, you know, it’s not what you know; it’s who you know.

Still, I really wanted to find a position without dangling my well-seasoned resumé as a professional eater. Fat chance, right?

I started where most cooks do: putting in my application at a fast food restaurant. And immediately started getting cold feet. As much as I admired the community-oriented business model of Seattle-based Dick’s—they pay living wages, benefits and give scholarships to college-bound employees—I couldn’t picture myself flipping burgers at one in the morning. (Heck, it’d probably take me two years before I worked into that prime shift anyway.)

I scoured Craigslist and found few jobs for which I was qualified. Dishwasher/prep cook? Maybe. Some of the listings seemed to be expecting a whole lot, while others aimed low. I thought about applying to be a "fun personality" at a café. But then I saw they wanted somebody who could "walk and chew gum at the same time, flip eggs and pancakes" and—this was the deal-breaker—get to work by six in the morning.

What’s heartening about cruising through the culinary classifieds is seeing that there are so many options for skilled cooks. It’s not all about white linen tablecloths—there are also cafés, bistros, dive bars. I've also met people who work as private chefs and others who bounce easily between kitchens.

It seems part of the draw with being a professional cook is that you can be nomadic. If Seattle’s gray skies don’t suit, then you can relocate to sunny climes. When I floated the idea of spending the winter cooking on Maui to my otherwise very supportive husband, he said: “Honey don't.”

“You're having way too much fun,” he protested.

Okay, back down to Earth. I will continue to send my slim cooking resume around, citing my experience working at Tom Douglas restaurants, at Shultzy’s, and in my ‘hood, at Betty.

Anybody want to share suggestions on how to get your foot in the kitchen door? I know I’m new to it, but I am willing to do just about anything.