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Another Career Changer

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
Hey, Everyone.

First time here and posting. I've looked high and low for serious forums like this and I'm lad I found ChefTalk.com

Anyway, as is the case with most posts here, I'm changing careers also. I've been working for a little over 23 years in the computer industry and I've reached a point where: 1-I'm not happy with it anymore at all, 2-I've noticed over the past couple of years that the only thing that calmed me down and made me happy was cooking.

I've done a lot of research about the life of a chef and I'm aware of how hard it is. But coming from the IT field and having to work many a time for 12 to 16 (sometimes 18) hours a day I'm used to it.

I also realized something in a conversation with my oldest newphew. He was going to study game programming but then told me one day he changed his mind. He wanted to become an architect so he could design and build tangible things that people would notice and he could take pride in by pointing it out and saying "I designed that". It made sense to me because, at my last job, I was noticed only when things went bad. A lot of times it was due to issues out of my control (software updates, Internet provider went down, etc).

However, with cooking (which will not always go right, I'm aware of that), at least I can look out from the kitchen and see people enjoy (hopefully) the results of my hard labor. I can be more creative. Also, I love to travel and learn from other cultures (I'm half American-English, half Puerto Rican). My futures plans are to travel to Spain (and other parts of Europe), learn their cooking techniques, and hopefully open my own Spanish-European restaurant.

But that's a long way off. In the mean-time, I hope to be inspired and learn from others. This is a large and very interactive community and I'm looking forward to joining it.

Thanks (and I apologize in advance if my initial post is too long):lol:
post #2 of 12
Welcome to the board.

Im in the same board.

IT career changed blah blah blah.........

Where arebouts are you going to school and where in the country do you live?
post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 
I'm in Florida. I can't afford the local Culinary Institute so I'm going to one of the local community colleges. Their program is "sponsered" by Walt Disney World Culinary Program (at least that's the lettering on the building). According to the counselor, the courses are accepted at Johnson & Wales (the culinary intitutes weren't). It's nice to know I can go to a high culinary institute if I decide to do so.

Where are you? Have you selected a school yet?
post #4 of 12
So my story in a nut shell.

I was living in at my house in PA and was going to go to the culinary program at the community college their. They gave me a hard tiem and since I still had to work i was only going to beable to take it a semester at a time. so finally i got into but the admissions chic told me im now on the wiating list and have 5 people ahead of me. well i started looking else were and I looked more into NYC and NY schools (didnt finad anything good in jersey.) and it worked out to where i could go to my first palce i wanted to go which is Art Instutite of NYC. I could have gone to the other culinary schools in the area but I wanted a school that just wasnt a name but I wanted a school with great teachers and etc.... plus i knew were it was since i used to work down there (downtown manhattan). So I moved back in with my parents on Li. buttoned up the house and I still work in NJ as I have been and Im going to school both full time.

Im mid way threw my second quarter for my culinary certificate. Im also going to go and get my pastry cert becuase it has always been a passion of mine.

the fact that you can transfer your credites is great.
post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 
Sorry to hear the school gave you a hard time. The community college where I'm going to has been very helpful. My main concern was the financial part. I'm on my own with this (trying to get financial assistance) and the CC is less than half of what the Culinary Institute costs. I've also heard conflicting stories about the Culinary Institute and where their students end up working (usually just a chain like Red Lobster and such).

I'm actually going for two AS degrees; Culinary and Restaurant Management. I think it will better my chances of getting a good job at a nice restaurant, hopefully 3 stars and then to a 4 as I get more experience. After about a year I'm hoping to get a good job in Seattle, then possibly Spain/Europe if all goes well. If not, I'll stay in the US.

I've also been reading the blogs of 4 students going to the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) in Hyde Park, New York, on Epicurious.com. Sounds like it's hard there, but their job outlook/prospects seem to be very good.
post #6 of 12
I'm very good at being a wet blanket, so I'll try and throw in some silver linings while I'm at it.

Like any industry, you're going to have to be patient before you see the fruits of your labour or be able to exert any sort of creativity. When you're working as a line cook on a busy dinner rush you probably won't have much time to look up from what you're going and appreciate whether the customers are enjoying your food (although I do occasionally sneak a peek later on in the night when I'm just starting to clean up and occasionally need to walk past the dining room). Also, when the chits come flying and the chef wants things out, you gotta bust a hump and get things out fast and good.

You also expressed your desire to own a restaurant, and in recent days I've learned the sort of difficulties that one runs into when running the line during dinner service... which is why I wholly recommend you try getting a part time job while schooling so you can both earn a little money on the side and get some experience so you're not wet behind the ears when you leave culinary school.

Although I'm not exactly a career switcher (I plan to earn some good money first before I turn myself over to the dark side), I can certainly tell you that I had the exact same pipe dreams as you two did before I started my initiation in the industry and there's going to be the extremes between pain, joy, victory, defeat, drunkeness, and sobriety (okay, nix that last one)... there will be times when you feel so bombarded by orders that you just want to throw food out on the pass, there will be times that stress will make you do unspeakably evil things that make you hang your head in absolute shame, there will be times when you want to throw pans around and really pummel your coworkers or management and times when you feel like you're invincible and on top of the world... I've felt all those things in just two years and that is just the tip of the iceberg of what I will go through later on in my life if I choose to continue.

On the bright side, I still love food, I still cook a lot at home and for friends (but realize that it is very different from working in a busy kitchen), I enjoy exploring new techniques and ingredients, and most of all I want to continue in the industry and really pursue excellence which, in the end is something I can live with and be happy about... in my opinion the restaurant industry is like a very addictive drug and I can't get enough (until my bones grow old and my muscles turn into jelly).
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 
Yep, I know...no job is perfect. Part of when I was thinking what to do when I realized I didn't like working in the IT industry anymore was looking towards retirement. I feel that, working in the culinary field, I'll have more fun when I "retire" than I would if I had stayed with computers.

Living in Central Florida I see a lot of "retired" people working at McDonalds, the local grocery store bagging groceries, or just walking around with nothing to do (the last one I think is the worse). While it makes me sad to think about those people, I wonder what they used to do in their lifes that they still have to work, but at such remedial, non-satisfying jobs. As my own life has progressed it hit me that, since I haven't been able to save up for retirement, I was heading in the same direction.

It would be nice for my overall plans to progress as I hope, but if they don't, at least I'll have more fun and feel more fulfilled than I would if I continue in IT. Also, in this industry (IT), the older you are, the less "value" you have (you can see such postings and forums at techrepublic.com). I've noticed that in the culinary field, the older you are, the more value your experience has. This was a comment I heard on a show called "After Hours" with Chef Daniel Boulud on a HD channel.

Let's face it. Now-a-days, no one can fully retire. But you can enjoy "the golden years" more if you're doing something you love. :)
post #8 of 12
Well, welcome to the nuthouse. Whatever happens I'm sure it'll be an interesting ride, which is really what life is about anyways, right?
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 
Looking forward to being one of the "nuts". :bounce:

post #10 of 12
While I never pursued a career in computers or related fields, if I wasnt cooking, I would be in front of a computer.

Best of luck to all the "Chefs-to-be" here.
post #11 of 12
Welcome! and good luck!
Although i am glad that people want to join our noble profession, and i am not saying that this will apply directly to you, i am sometimes worried that the sudden surge in"FOOD PORN" eg glossy mags,reality tv and celebrity chefs some what hide the fact that this is a LONG HARD JOB!
What we never see behind those stories is the long hard hours and sacrifices that have to be made. forget family gatherings,holidays and nights out with your friends. you are now there to provide for such occasions not be part of them. You will hardly ever see the morning again(unless you work breakfasts yuk! or your coming home from another big night out with the rest of your fellow linesmen!) you will be to tired from tthe night before and need your rest for the next night. your skin will become a funny shade of grey due to the fact that you now only ever see electric lights and when your outdoors the sun is in bed! your hands and feet will become strangers to you.. your feet will become flat on the bottom and swollen on the top and your hands will be burnt and bruised beyond belief, but take solace in the fact that you will soon be able to remove food from boiling water with out flinching or burning yourself!
Unfortunately many of us will never recieve the glowing recognition of a celebrity chef, even in our own neighbourhoods in this day and age any recognition is slim, let alone having our own restaruants and cook books to match!
In saying all of this, i am a chef and am proud of it! i wouldn't have it any other way if you can thrive in a business like this you can survive anything! and every now and then the perfect meal will go out to a great customer and you know then that its all worth it!

So for all you students out there if you can stick with it go for it because it's a nice feeling to know that not everyone CAN........and everybody needs to eat......
Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.

Lateley we've been getting more ROLL than ROCK......
Bernie Taupin
Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.

Lateley we've been getting more ROLL than ROCK......
Bernie Taupin
post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 
Hey, Lisa.

Thanks for the "heads-up". I'm actually looking forward to the hard work (I wonder if that makes me a bit of a masochist?). I do not want to be on TV (too camera shy), but I love the idea of the camaraderie and real team work and I work better at night. I discovered the latter after working as a software suppor tech and ended up with the "graveyard" shift.

I'm glad to see an actual chef has taken them time to spell out the reality of this industry. TV cooks make it look so easy when it really isn't. I'm pretty sure there are a lot of prep hours involved for each show before they start filming.

I was able to work in a small cooking school for a while doing setup work. I pre-measured the ingredients into cups, set them out along with the utensils the customers would use, and also had to make sure everything was within their reach at their stations. Why did I quit, you may ask (and you may). I wasn't learning anything. And after staying for a couple of classes, I didn't think it was much of a school. Customers would come, mix everything as per the recipes, and start cooking. The "instructors" would not give tips on any techniques, why use certain utensils, where to get them, etc. For me, I could stay home and do that. Classes were an average of $45 per person and did include all the ingredients necessary to complete the meal. Each station had a different task/meal to prepare ranging from appertisers to entrees. I guess it was more of a social gathering than learning thing. No alchohol was sold, but customers were allowed to bring their own beer or wine.

I just saw the very funny Richard Jenni (R.I.P.) on Comedy Central. One of his "topics" during his routine was talking about TV chefs. I quote: "They make it look so easy. 'Hello, everyone. Today we will be cooking food you will never be able to duplicate, using utensils you've never heard of, nor will you be able to afford, in a kitchen bigger than your house.'" Funny man.

"Be a simple kind of man. Do something you love and understand."
Lynard Skynard

Scarred about the change ...excited about the change ...anxious to start the change...moving with the flow of my life.

(Man, I need a drink! :beer: )

ElQuicken :cool:
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