did u read up on the other threads on this forum?
also one of the things that has helped me (a career changer) is working at a restaurant.
agreed, I am not getting paid for the staging gig and sometimes it can be menial, dirty and thankless work, I am learning so much that I have virtually dropped my plan to persue the schooling for now.
since you are beginning afresh, try starting out in a kitchen / restaurant to find out if the field is cut out for your (or vice versa). and do remember long hours, weekend and night work with the possibility of giving up night life on the weekends for a few years till you settle down.
in the mean time, depending on where you are in the country (or where you want to be) and the type of cuisine that you want to persue, start applying to colleges / universities. formal education doesn't hurt and can get you up to speed with basics.
i fell into good company at this forum during my search for culinary schools (discussions can be found in http://www.cheftalkcafe.com/forums/s...ad.php?t=14556
you can find out about the research I did on chicagoland schools and the opinions of some of the members who pitched in with their ideas. if you have further specific questions, feel free to pm me