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A Big Decision

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

I'm new to the forums here, so if I posted this somewhere I shouldn't have, please don't hurt me. I really need the advice of some professional chefs on this one. Here Goes Everything:

A few months ago, I talked with my mother on the phone while I was on my lunch break working as an elevator constructor. I opened up to her and told her of my passion to cook, which began developing when I took over the cooking duties at home while my wife went to school in the evenings. I have become especially fond of baking and preparing baked goods. I thought at first that she would tell me to get outta here and that changing professions at 27 is crazy. I was wrong. She encouraged me more than anyone at the time and told me to go for it. She told me to be happy doing what I did for a living and that if I wanted to bail on my job, I should. Now, mind you, I have a job that currently pays around $25 an hour with decent benefits. I had been trying to get the job for years because I knew I could make good money and change my family's then rough situation (I'm married with A son who is five and a daughter who is three.). The job could not have come at a better time and I took it, only to discover that although I had the job and was financially stable, I was not happy still. Flash forward two years and I get to the point where I begin to serioulsy think of cooking professionally. I tell my mother who, as always , made me feel like I could accomplish anything.

I still couldn't fathom leaving a job that provided such stability, but I really wanted to be happy every day of the week. The conversation I had with my Mom stayed with me and made me look forward to going to school someday. When my Mom passed away in July, I realaized that the conversation was still deeply imbedded in me. When she died, my Mom was a happy woman. After a nasty divorce with my Dad some years ago, she basically had to start all over again. Even though at times she really struggled, she had accomplished quite a few of her own personal goals and was in a comfortable place when she died. I admire her more than anyone else on Earth for that. That was such a lesson to me.No matter what you have or what you don't have, lead a happy and fulfilling life. Don't just live for the weekends. Enjoy what you do in life. Whith the money she left me, I have decided to possibly attend L'Acandamit Cusine in Maryland (which I'm told is a very good school) in LESS THAN ONE MONTH!! I just figure, what better way to use the money she left me so that I could do what she did, see happines and fulfillingness in life. The tricky part, is that I still have a household to try to maintain and with going to school in the morning and afternoon, I'd have to most likely settle for a low paying job in the evening to supplement the money I have saved up for house expenses while I'm at school.

I pretty much have a plan, I guess what I want to know from you guys is, is it worth it? Is it worth leaving my job and it's money and dealing with a wife who has more doubts than belief. Is it worth almost going broke living off of my mom's smll ingheritance to go to this school. Is there a better school in the area? Before you ask, yes I love cooking and I would love to do that for a living for the rest of my life. I dread going to work every morning and have been on the verge of quitting more and more latley. I just don't want to do it anymore. I daydream of going to cooking school all day. I know it may be easy to some, but what would you do in THIS situation? I just want to be able to eventually get a job in a kitchen that will teach me to be a bteer cook and one day, a chef and provide enough money to help my wife comfortably raise two kids. Is this possible? Thanks to everyon reading this. It's the longest post of my life...
post #2 of 9
Before you do anything rash, I would suggest that you DO NOT leave your current job and get a part time job in a bake shop or restaurant first.
Stick with the job and see if it suits you, see if the grass is really greener then decide to go to school.
Keep in mind that school for a month is not really all that much. You could go for years and still have a lot to learn.
I'm in this crazy business for 22 years now and I make a little more hourly than you (keep in mind that is based on a 40 hour salary- which I am afraid is really closer to 50-60 hours a week.) With not so good benefits which is also something to consider especially with kids, and a meagar retirement plan, most places offer none of these.
Cooking professionally will involve everything your current job (I am assuming it is a nine to fiver) is not. If you are a parent you most likely will not see your kids all that much or your wife as you will be working every weekend and holiday as well as long hours.
But then again once it is in your blood it burns, I can't imagine doing anything else.

A lot to think about HUH?
One benefit is you will always have somethign to eat.:)
Good luck, I wish you the best.
Fluctuat nec mergitur
Fluctuat nec mergitur
post #3 of 9
Sounds like you've already made your decision. You'll probably here from both sides .
Just two concerns for me.
I can't believe you can be that sure that this is something you want to do with the rest of your life.
The other is family support. It take a major commitment from a partner to adjust to this type of lively hood.
Wish you all the luck though.
As an elder in the biz, I would probably tell you to take an LOA from where you are now, and go get an entry level position anywhere and suppliment your low income with your saved funds. See if you even like it.
post #4 of 9
GO FOR IT!! But always have a back up plan in case things go sour.:crazy:
post #5 of 9
Definitely go to school- If you don't, you'll always regret it. Don't make any concrete plans to leave your job. It's going to support your family, and that's your main priority. Once you finish school, find something part-time. This will accomplish two things:
-It will give you a taste for what this biz is really like, but also
-it will ADD ON to the hours you currently work, which is most likely what is going to happen, should you decide to take the plunge. Be prepared to make next to no money for the first few years. You're still young, so all of this should be okay, since you're still keeping your paying job.

Given your wife's current opinion, she may really object to you being home less, in which case, this new career may not work for you. On the other hand, she may see a positive change in you, and then begin to support your idea.

Don't count on earning anything like $25/hr for many years to come. You have to really pay your dues in blood, sweat, and tears (literally).

If it doesn't work out, at least you will have gone to school and enriched your life with that.
post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 
Wow. Thank you guys for all the honesty and concern. I want to clear a few things up:
-If I go to go school, I cannot keep my current job. School will require me to attend class while I'm suppose to be at work. I also can't take a leave of absence from my job. Unfortunatley, it dosen't work that way.

-As far as wanting to cook for the rest of my life, sure I'd love to make a decent living doing something I love. I learned over the past few years working at my current job that you can't put a price on happiness. Sure I could stay there and make a bundle of money, but I'm only 27 and so you're talking about working a job you hate for another 27 YEARS!!! There's no way you could pay me enough money to endure that. It's a very stressful job and it's desgned much like culinary: if you're into it and love it, you will most likely succeed but if you're not into it, you're wasting your time.I'm positive I love to cook. I'm positive I want to change my profession. I'm positive that I'm willing to try and see if cooking professionally is what I want to do with my life. I just don't see the point in further investing years of my life into something that, in the end , I would look back on and say "what a waste of time". I learned life's too short for that. My Mom died when she was 52, which is still relativley young. If I live another 25 years, I want them to be the best yet by acheving meaningful goals and loving what I do for a living.

- I know the pay will be a drastic difference and I'd be lying to you if I told you that that wasn't my biggest concern. i know that making a lot of money in cooking is a ways off to me right now but I figure I'd better do it while I'm still young. The school I'm going to offers job placement in one of the finest restaurants(Vidalia, Butterfield 9, Galileo), catering companies, or hotels(Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton) in the D.C. area. You're pretty much guaranteed a job when you complete school (I'm still not saying that it's going to pay much.) My finances are fine at this point. I planned to pay on my rent, my car note, my children's schooling in advance for a year and a half (class is for eight months) while I go to school (that should make my wife feel better about it.). I'm more concerned with making out ok after school is over. I figure if I can make $14-$15 an hour, maybe a bit less, I should be ok. I just don't know if that's totally unrealistic. I'm planning on calling the school in a bit when they open and talking to someone about getting in.
post #7 of 9
Here is my suggestion as someone who is in a similar situation. I am a bit older than you (35) and in an industry that I do not enjoy. I have wanted to cook since I was 22, but never had the guts to leave a job that paid very, very well...I got comfortable, but was never happy.

I talked to my wife about going to school and she supported my decision. I, however, do not have any kids to think about right now, so you have a lot more responsibility than I do. What I did BEFORE GOING TO SCHOOL was to get a job at a local place doing "whatever" in the kitchen. I was hired to do dishes on the weekend. I kept my day job and worked in this restaurant on Saturday and Sunday. This way, I would always have the income I needed, and could explore if this was the right thing for me or not without having to sacrifice too much (other than my weekend time). After a few months of washing dishes, I knew that I truly loved being in the kitchen (remember, it is different working in a professional kitchen vs. cooking at home). After I gave it a test run, I enrolled in culinary school to learn the basics. I needed to leave my kitchen job but I kept my day job while in school...I found a school that offered a night program that I could attend...this way, I have a steady income from my day job while going to school. I would recommend that you find a school that offers a similar night program. Remember, the school you go to does not matter all that much...it is what your TAKE from the school that matters. You can be a grad of CIA, but if you cant produce what you learned in a pragmatic way, then you wasted a bunch of money to have a piece of paper that says CIA Graduate. Employers care little about where you learned, and care mostly about what you know and what you can DO. Most schools will be able to teach you the basics and it is up to you to take those basics and apply them.

If you have to leave your current job, which supports your wife and 2 kids, to go to school, you need to find a different school, IMHO.
post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 
So then, I guess I ask the question: What's the difference if my Finances are going to be taken care of while going to school when I graduate, wish to take job in the culinary field, and will have to ultimatley leave my day job to work in a kitchen. I'm assumining, Goose, when you graduate from school, you will pursue a job in the culinary industry and have to leave your day job to pursue it (I'm just assuming here, but you probably need sleep somewhere during the day:lol:. Not only that, but if you got your certification, wouldn't want to go with a carreer that you would enjoy doing rather than keeping the one you hate just for the sake of more money? Isn't that what it's all about? I understand that chefs aren't generally overly-wealthy people and that a carreer here starts with modest pay. I just feel like a door has opened for me to make it happen, something that I thought I would never be able to make happen. It seems like the response I'm getting is that it would be tough to make it on a beginner's salary after school is out. My family will be well taken care of while I'm in school witht he money I have saved up. It's just that I'd have to bail on the job that I can't stomach anymore.
post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 
That's pretty much what I planned on doing. At l'academie de cusine, there is an externship program that pays while you are finishing up school and immediate job placement afterwards. That's why attending this school makes so much sense to me.
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