I am a 52-year-old professional cook with a degree in Culinary Arts & Restaurant Management (as well as earlier B.A. and M.B.A.), and 6+ years in the field as Steward, Garde Manger, Line Cook, Pastry Chef, and Kitchen Manager. Can I heft 50# sacks of flour? Sure. And 100# tubs of sloppy, gooey hors d'oeuvre fillings. Can I run a kitchen efficiently: hiring, training, coaching, and disciplining staff (and firing when necessary); ordering, storing, and using product economically; devising new recipes and making them over and over and over (how about 30 or more times?) until they work JUST RIGHT? Can I work 80 hour weeks, on my feet the whole time? Can I pay for my own health insurance and retirement plan? AND can I do it all while putting up with rapacious owners, incompetent managers, and other deviants?
Yes (except maybe for the owner/manager bit; deviants I can handle). Am I a chef yet? ****, no. Will I ever be one? I hope so, but who knows. All I know is that there is nothing as satisfying as working with food, and working with other people who love to work with food.
Honey, you've got a LOOOOOOOOOOOOONG way to go before you can even THINK about "being" a chef. First you have to learn SKILLS -- knife skills, people skills, money skills, management skills. Cooking is the least of it (I hardly ever do at work any more, except to re-re-re-re-re...-make whatever is in development, or to fix what my staff has [rarely] messed up.) You've got to accept that jobs paying what you're worth are few and far between, and probably far distant from the place where your near-and-dear live.
If you really have that passion, no matter how short, how female, how poor, how tired you are, YOU WILL MAKE IT IN THIS INDUSTRY. Do not be discouraged. Get all the support you can. Join Women Chefs and Restaurateurs. Check out ONTHERAIL.com. Talk to every REAL chef you can. Keep the faith.
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004