Sadiq Qazilbash is 2nd Cook at the upscale Waterfront Restaurant in Prince Rupert’s Crest Hotel, where he also works double duty as a part-time supervisor on the evening shift in the kitchen. He attributes much of his success so far to the time he spent as a cook at a family-owned steak-and-pizza restaurant in Richmond, BC.
“People who haven’t worked at a busy mom-and-pop restaurant just don’t have the same hustle,” says Qazilbash, who values the education that a formal cooking school can provide, yet thinks there’s no substitute for frontline experience. “In the Richmond job,” he recalls, “the other cook and I developed a real rhythm, so when I walked into the Crest, which is a busy, busy kitchen, I slipped right into it.”
Getting a job at the Crest Hotel wasn’t a snap, however. Qazilbash had moved his wife and kids to Prince Rupert to be closer to his wife’s family, but despite submitting several resumes, he couldn’t find work other than as a plumber’s helper. He had been working for six months when the Crest’s executive chef, Willy Beaudry, called to offer him the job of 3rd Cook. Feeling loyal to his employer, Qazilbash turned Beaudry down, only to get laid off soon afterward. When Beaudry called again in 2008, Qazilbash jumped at the opportunity.
After eight months of doing prep work and manning the appetizer station, he was promoted to 2nd Cook. “I work three stations on the evening shift: appetizers, burgers and the meat station, which means steak and chicken and all the starches. I’m also the night-time supervisor, make sure the lines are prepped and the dishwashers are doing their job. I supervise the 3rd Cooks and the 2nd Cooks, and if the servers have problems, they come to me.”
While he admits that working until nearly midnight is a challenge when you have young children, Qazilbash thrives on the fact that Chef Beaudry believes he possesses leadership skills worth developing. For his part, he has done his best to grow professionally, pursuing accreditation through the Professional Cook program. Thanks to an online pilot project through Camosun College in Victoria, Qazilbash completed Professional Cook levels 1 and 2. “I was supposed to go for my Red Seal, but it’s a six-week program in Victoria. The college was going to pay airfare and tuition, but I have two little ones so that will have to wait. I would like to do it eventually.”
Qazilbash thrives on the multitasking aspect of his position, making sure everyone is working and getting the job done, and he is not afraid of hard work, even taking on a part-time janitorial job in the kitchen to make extra money. To a degree, he says, he becomes transformed when he goes to work. “I am a different man in the kitchen. In real life, I’m very laid back, but in the kitchen my personality changes. I’m more demanding, I show more hustle, I really get into it. I like the ‘kitchen Sadiq.’ If someone doesn’t know what they want to do, I say, try working in a kitchen. It keeps you on your toes, and you learn as you go along.”
“Tourism is great. It’s exciting, never boring,” says Qazilbash. He likes being in the centre of the action, and in Prince Rupert, he says, “the Crest is the place to go.” The menu changes often, guest chefs come through and show him new techniques, and the open kitchen allows him to interact with guests. “Customers walk by and say, ‘That was a very nice dinner.’ It’s really satisfying to hear someone say that.”