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James Daves.
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Sushi Chef at The Wicked Tuna

I am a seasoned sushi chef with many years of experience. Customers praise my work and management often compare me to the best they have worked with. I love every aspect of being a sushi chef. There’s a catch.. I’m Caucasian and have the hardest time putting my foot in the door to prove my skills. Couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “oh we hired an Asian guy” most recently a chef I trained in sushi got hired over me because he is an “Asian guy” I love sushi and don’t want to do anything else. Times are rough but I keep calling and filling out apps

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over 4 years ago
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Lori H.
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Hi James, I believe the first thing you may want to consider is getting a job anywhere temporarily until you find “your” restaurant. All the things you are going to read is meant to help you. I’m not implying anything about you personally or implying anything wrong or negative about different cultures. I completely understand how you feel, like you’ve been discriminated against. I have felt the same thing until..... I learned that sometimes it seems like discrimination but in fact it’s not. The best thing I did for myself was to learn how to properly assess the situation, understand and accept the results, and keep moving forward without feeling negativity or rejection. In order to accomplish this I had to look at all the variables in my profession. From my personal experience in working with chefs, it seems chefs may need to look at the many variables presented in the restaurant industry as well. Some variables that one may want to consider are...

  1. What is the character of restaurant one is applying at...
  2. If one is educated and experienced in a specific culinary cultural but was not raised in that culture then how should one present themselves...
  3. Is one educated in that particular culture enough...
  4. Is one being realistic about being able to conform to a restaurant of a specific culture different from their own ...
  5. Who will be patronizing the restaurant...
  6. What is ones chances of landing the position.... Example: Maybe there is a restaurant that specializes in Greek food. They need a cook. An oriental raised in an oriental culture, a hispanic raised in a hispanic culture and a greek raised in a greek culture apply for the position, who do you think will be favored? Who do you think will be more educated in greek recipes? Who do you think will be more knowledgeable about the patrons that will frequent the restaurant? This is the reality of different cultural restaurant businesses. One may call it discrimination but in fact it’s what the interviewer sees as ‘the best person for the job’. The greek may have less experience in cooking in a restaurant kitchen but the greek knows greek cooking and greek culture. It is a specialty restaurant. Also, you may want to consider not looking at decisions in a discriminatory way when it comes to special cultural establishments. It has been my experience that one is more successful when one looks at things from the interviewers point of view. Sometimes it can be hard but try to put yourself in the shoes of the interviewer and look at the restaurant from the perspective that you own it and ask yourself who would you need to hire for the position. If you are able to do this, not saying you can’t, you might not feel like you’ve been rejected or discriminated against and if you see other candidates you may understand why you weren’t chosen. One is not rejected, they are simply not chosen because someone else fits the position better in the mind of the interviewer and only the interviewer knows what their restaurant needs are. Some companies may hire a less experienced person because they may conform easier than maybe someone who is set in their ways due to experience. Someone with experience may expect to be compensated more and the restaurant may not be in a position to compensate that much. I’m sure you know, attitude and character has a lot to do with landing a desired position. One needs to really examine oneself and that can be very challenging for some. People perceive differently and the interviewers perception is key during the interview process. How you are perceived can be a determining factor as to whether or not you land the position. Some examples of attitudes are...
  7. If one has a cocky attitude/character, not meaning rude, just cocky, the interviewer may interpret that attitude as ‘I’m what this company needs’ or ‘look! I have the credentials to make this company successful and you NEED to hire me’. That can possibly be perceived as the interviewee thinks they are better than the owner or manager, they know more than anybody else, they will be demanding and hard to work with, they will expect everyone to conform to their way of thinking and doing things, they are a pompous person, they think they are a gift to the industry, etc.
  8. If one is humble with the attitude that they are genuinely wanting to work for a company to successfully build up clientele, they have a desire to help customers have the best dining experience, they want their presentation and flavor to be the best anyone has experienced, they are teachable but know their stuff, they are submissive to management and the needs and expectation of the clientele as well as having leadership qualities and they are excited about their career and will be a positive asset to the restaurant then that person could be perceived as a good candidate for the open position but one has to understand that they still may not land the job.
  9. If one is unsure of themselves it could be perceived as an insecure attitude/character, then the perception may be they are weak, no leadership qualities, not dependable, have no self control, will not be able to handle stress, etc.
  10. If one has a complacent attitude/character then they maybe perceived as the type of person who will not try any harder, be too laid back and uncaring about the company and clientele needs, etc. Also, the restaurant industry is usually inspected by the health department on a regular basis. One may need to consider ones appearance and hygiene especially their hands. Also, one may need to look at whether or not it would be better to relocate. If one limits themself to a specific area, there may not be particular positions available. Always include a professional resume with references when you have a specific education and qualifications. Utilize the internet. You might be surprised how many restaurants look on INDEED, JOBCASE, MYJOBHELPER, GLASSDOOR, ZIPRECRUITER, etc. and there might be a chef website you can utilize. Don’t think about how many times you where not chosen. Instead think about all the places you can apply. Stay optimistic. Positive attitudes and thoughts always successful. You never know when a restaurant you previously interviewed with might call you because the person they did hire may not have been able to handle the position. Always, thank the interviewer for their time and consideration of you for the position. This gives a seared memory of you. James, your career path is a specialty path that can be narrow and realizing this may help you in everything. One last thought. You may want to consider opening your own sushi bar. You may be surprised at what you could possibly wake up inside yourself that you never realized was there. I know I’ve said a lot and I hope I’ve helped in some way. Best wishes for you and your endeavors.
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John Huang
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Head Of Community at Jobcase

That is some beautiful work. I have to believe that talent will overcome the discrimination that you are facing once you find the right restaurant. Definitely share these great pictures of your work to the hiring managers. Like Albert, I believe you have great skills that will get you a job. Don't stop believing in yourself and just know that all rough patches eventually end.

By the way I see you are from Murrells Inlet. I'm originally from Marion!

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Albert Kao
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Associate Director, Product Management at Jobcase | Wharton MBA

That sushi looks great! Hang in there

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