By: Melinda Russell
One requirement of my Culinology program is to complete a summer internship at a restaurant. This summer, I fulfilled that requirement P.F. Chang’s. P.F. Chang’s is an upscale, casual dining restaurant that serves American Chinese cuisine. It gained its infamous name when Paul Fleming and Phillip Chiang founded it in 1993. The two now have over 200 restaurants in the United States and over 50 internationally. In addition to their more common dining options, P.F. Chang’s has a frozen food line to bring the P.F. Chang’s experience home. The Gluten Intolerance Group of North America has recognized the company’s variety of gluten-free options, praising them for their highly inclusive menu.
This was my first experience working in an industrial kitchen. I worked at a small tearoom the summer before, but that work environment did not even compare to the environment at P.F. Chang’s. I worked at the location in Friendswood, Texas, my hometown and where I lived for the summer. This incredible experience will be something I will never forget. I cannot say enough good things about this company. Every employee was so kind and welcoming. I worked full time for ten weeks. My schedule was generally 9-4 Tuesday through Saturday. On Friday and Saturday I stayed later and my week would turn into 45 hour weeks. I had never stood on my feet for so long before then. It was something I quickly had to get used to, which included purchasing a nice pair of Dr. Scholl’s orthotic inserts for my fashionable, non-stick shoes. Over the ten weeks I worked there I tried all of the stations on the line. I even tried my hand at the feared wok station. The industrial woks they use are unlike anything I have ever seen before. You must turn the heat source on with your knee while the wok is placed over the flame on a metal frame that allows you to easily do the flick of the wrist that is required for cooking in a wok. I also learned how to roll sushi, which takes a lot of finessing. It definitely took me awhile for the rolls to actually look tight and perfect like they serve. I think the best part of this internship was when I learned how to make the various sauces. I learned so much about flavors and what to pair different sauces with. I know this will tremendously help me in my future R&D jobs.