I finished 80 hours of internship hours at Uchiko, a highly regarded restaurant in Austin. In addition, it’s among the most highly regarded restaurants in the Southwest US. I’m glad I chose Uchiko, but in retrospect it may not have been the best choice for me. And I’m glad I decided to cut my time there in half.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great place with top tier talent. The systems are excellent and their standards are high. I learned a lot and in the fullness of time, I may realize that I learned even more. But it just wasn’t me. I never quite felt like I fit the mold of the prototypical Uchiko staff member and although I love Asian food and LOVE Uchiko as a customer, it wasn’t quite my style of cooking. And I kind of knew it before starting.
Part of it was I was fairly intimidated to be among the best. And living up to the (sometimes confusing) standards was difficult. And I am too ponderous and insecure for my own good sometimes. But in retrospect I would have been more motivated had I felt the environment were more applicable to my needs and interests. But when was I going to get a chance to work with people at this level? Never. And even though I didn’t really enjoy myself, I suppose I can’t regret it either. I worked with ingredients I never would have seen otherwise. I got to experience a pressure I’ve never had before. I got some good advice on how to work more quickly, which is good for any cook. I got exposure to recipes which will be useful to me.
For future culinary students, I say go with your gut. Go to the place that excites you. Where you will be hungry to learn. Go to the place where you will impress them with your desire and inquisitiveness. And if you go somewhere and realize it isn’t right, that’s okay. Move on to the next thing. Just like Grant Achatz left Charlie Trotter’s and found The French Laundry, you will find a place to thrive.
Below: The original Uchiko-meter.
Below: One guess as to what’s in this box. Hint – you won’t see it on display at Whole Foods.
Below: Frozen balls of some kind of confection concocted by Philip Speer, the dessert/pastry mastermind of the Uchi/Uchiko enterprise.
Below: Huckleberry glass.
Below: Not sure what this is, but I cut them up.