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How Working at an Olive Garden Can Make You a Great Chef One Day

Top chefs share stories about how terrible summer jobs—from handling crying kids on a Florida amusement park ride to working in a dental lab—taught skills they needed to conquer the restaurant world.
Photographer: Jeffery Patrick

Everyone has a summer job story to tell.

Especially, it seems, people in the restaurant business. They didn’t all spend teenage summers honing skills in the food industry—there was a lawn-mowing gig, even stints at a dental office. But for these chefs, restaurateurs, and bartenders, important lessons were learned at the most basic, seemingly unrelated jobs.  Whether toiling as a hostess at a California Pizza Kitchen or as a worker running bumper boats at a Florida amusement park while Jimmy Buffet played on repeat, each of these pros learned valuable lessons they still carry, making even the grossest of those tasks worth doing.