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Novice With Questions

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I have a few questions regarding the Culinary Arts field. Let me start out by introducing myself and explaining my situation.

My name is Anthony Garcia, I'm 18 and live in southern California and plan to have my G.E.D. by the end of this year. I just recently (summer 05) started thinking about going into the Culinary field of work, but then realized I know almost nothing about it. I read a few of the other threads asking questions about being a Chef/cook but I still can't find the answers I'm looking for. From what I understand being a Chef requires alot of hardwork, dedication, knowledge and experience. I have no experience aside from a few attempted eggplant parmagina and steak and potatoes. Anyway here are my questions.

Where should I start? I saw a few people suggesting a summer job in a kitchen to see what I'm really getting into, if so where and how?
What did you have to know to get through Culinary school? I saw some people bring up Chemistry, which I was never taught in High School. Also do you have to take general ed at all the schools?
Is it too late for me to start? I'm 18 and have no real cooking skills. I wasn't really raised around cooks either :p, a same ol' same ol' thing.

Advice and opinions greatly appreciated. Thank you!
post #2 of 12
i personally feel that school is overkill.. they can teach you the basics.. but cant teach you how to be a good worker.. you can learn everything you need to thru hands on experience... it may take a lil longer.. and you will have to work a lil harder then a school grad.. for gnerally less pay.. but in the long run i think the knowledge you gain is much more sacred..

it depends really on what sort of chef do you want to be? corporate? small family place? ethnic/classical cuisine? if you want to work for a corporate situation then yes.. i suggest school..

if you want to do it for the art.. or in a more creative environ... then i suggest you go to your local chef.. stress to him that you want to learn from him and offer to start by dishwashing or prepping.. from there its osmosis.. soak it up like a bowl of grapenuts and never look back... within a few years you will be amazed by what you have learnt..

as for the school requirements.. you will have to talk to school graduates.. i did my training the old fashioned way.. i earned it.. i didnt pay for it..
post #3 of 12
Warchef, I really take offense at that statement. I went to culinary school and to imply that my form of education is any less valuable than yours is total BS. I have been in this business since I was 8 years old (parents owned a restaurant) and had years of experience before I decided to attend school. I did so to round out my education, to give me experience in a wide range of cuisines and to give me a chance to study under numerous good chefs. After school, I went right back to "line dogging" it for few years before, then, taking on my first "chef's" job. The experience I gained in culinary school, being exposed to so many different cuisines and chefs would have taken me years to learn in "the real world".

There are many different routes to becoming a chef; on the job training, culinary schooling, apprenticing, etc. Each as valuable as the next, each with their own pros and cons. Each can produce great chefs, and boneheaded chefs. It's not about the type of training but what one takes away from their training.
post #4 of 12
While I agree that it isn't cool to toally dog on culinary school, I think it's kind of silly to go to culinary school unless you've already been in the trade for a while and are looking to broaded your horizons (or prospects).

Getting a foot in the door is easy. Just apply to be a dishwasher somewhere. Be enthusiastic, and let the chef know that you want to learn how to cook. (I usually take my sweet time with promoting someone, but I'll let them tool around on the line during slow periods, under strict supervision.)

But... yeah. For the most part, being a cook or a chef is sort of a crappy job. It has fulfilling aspects, but for the most part it's long, dirty shifts with low pay and no benefits. If you're itching to blow $20,000 on an education, go to business school.
post #5 of 12
it wasnt my intention to dog a culinary school.. or any of you who went to one.. i apologize...
post #6 of 12
Geeezzzzz !! In reply, Get to work as soon as you can, Make your main intention to do the best you can, Ask any and all questions that come to your mind, Apply all the answers that you receive, Don't let anyones opinion get in your way, Do what YOU think is right and do it from your soul, forget about what you first asked about, It is already in your past, Move forward like a freight train and never look back. Hold to your ideas and apply them like it is the last thing you will ever do in this life. LISTEN, HEAR, APPLY LIKE YOU OWNED IT IN THE FIRST PLACE. Be your own from this day forward................:chef: I want to work with you ...........
One time a guy pulled a knife on me. I could tell it wasn't a professional job; it had butter on it.- Rodney Dangerfield -

'We're ALL amateurs; It's just that some of us are more professional about it than others'. - George Carlin
One time a guy pulled a knife on me. I could tell it wasn't a professional job; it had butter on it.- Rodney Dangerfield -

'We're ALL amateurs; It's just that some of us are more professional about it than others'. - George Carlin
post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 
thanks facon :D
one more question though, where should i start at? like, a classy resturaunt or what?
post #8 of 12
in my resume building process i took jobs at places that would help me in the long run... i wasnt always concerned about getting the .50 an hour more... i looked for the places i could learn from... but i did also take turns at places that werent so ' hi falutin" in order to work on various aspects of my career... such as high volume short order in an effort to work on my speed.. in addition i did take some baking/pastry jobs so i could be well rounded in that regard..

again.. please dont take my comments about school the wrong way.. i in no way meant to diminish culinary schooling.. if you do go to school the statistics say in your career you will make 20-30% more then an unschooled chef... where as no schooling can be a many year process if you are not dedicated enough to study on your own time..

look for a place that prepares foods from the basest of states... you dont want a place that serves frozen cryovac fish and steaks and tops them with already prepared sauces... look for the places that you can learn to butcher at.. and make your sauces from scratch.. youd be surprised of the places that resort to such labor/time saving tricks..yet they still rank high in the general publics ideals of a "good" restaurant..

pay attention to any local culinary events... "taste of..." or gala events... also read the past reviews of your area.. also talk to other peopel you know in this field.. im sure some of your friends have worked at various places in your area..

you may also not realize the importance of corporate fast food joints.. but those places have very strict training policies... which help build discipline, and a strong foundation for your eventual training of other cooks...

remember.. being a chef isnt about cooking the perfect food.. its also business.. dealing with purveyors.. food cost.. labor costs.. sanitation and food handling.. look for any place you can learn from... soak it up and move on..

id say the only thing i would change would be the fact that in my transient wanderlust of my youth i had to many jobs... i was cocky and would think there was nothing i could learn from a place so i would move on... eventually all of my employers would look at my resume and say " you have no longevity".. its often hard to explain.. but im my case it would amount to moving to an area, securing a job.. with in a year movin to a higher posistion.. then leaving the area.. eventually that will come back to haunt you..
post #9 of 12
Warchef, I am kind of in the same boat. Lots of experience, not many places with much longevity. One of the joys of this business is that they need chefs and cooks everywhere. I used my career as a chance to see many places. I also wanted to experience as many different things as possible. Though I find that it can be helpful in many ways it can be difficult to explain this to potential employers who might be looking for someone with more staying power.
post #10 of 12
Heh, that's because you got a $50,000 education for $10,000. Some people get a $10,000 education for $50,000. :D
post #11 of 12
I have this idea that the perfect chef would skip culinary school and get certified in heating/cooling repair, as well as basic electronics. Then they'd work at a bakery for a while, as well as a butcher shop. Then line cook it up for a while.

Then when they interviewed they could not only have the food aspect down, but they could fix all of the crap that breaks down in the kitchen on a regular basis. (Like an owner wouldn't pay top wage for an Exec. Chef who could fix the walk-in.)
post #12 of 12

DING DING! Back to the corners dudes...

OK, it's going to sound kind of offbeat but apply at one of the National Park Concessions. Like Xanterra (pronounced: Zan terra)

They don't pay much, but they offer housing and cheap meals. Most important they offer training. Safety and sanitation training...basic kitchen skills. Important: ask questions.

You'll get a basic idea as to the workings of a large commercial kitchen.

Plus you get to work in a beautiful National Park.

They are always hiring. They are always understaffed. You get the early hire people who hire on and can't cut it, don't realize it's not one big vacation and have to actually work, fired for "too much partying" reasons. (which could be incredibly dangerous around geysers and boiling hot pools)
Then you get the people who really want to learn.

It was rough. It was grueling, but I miss it.

You might also want to try hiring on at a seasonal resort. Start at disher. Work your way up.

I have to put my 2 cents in about a commercial cookery school. Having a degree is good for some applications. Depends on where you want to go with it. In Australia they require it. I so wish I was 18 again and had the options you have.

BUT, it's expensive and you have to have serious drive and dedication. I've looked into schools, but realized that they can't teach me anything that I've not already done or can't get out of a book if I need to.

On the other hand, I learned 'food' from my grandmother. Basic Iowa fare.

The food industry is a very passionate industry. It's not just flipping burgers if you want to excell.

It's also not just a job. You have to dig deep for this one. The intuitive nature of it, the imagination, artistic aspect of it can't be taught in a school.

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