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I need help

post #1 of 38
Thread Starter 
I know this is the professional chef's forum, but I need the help of some pro's about this.

SO.... I told my mother that I want to change directions in life. For the past two and a half years I have been going to school for a History degree, but I really hate it now. It has become obvious that I needed a change, and because cooking has been a great interest of mine, I decided to start culinary school.

I cook regularly, learn as much as I can, and enjoy it thoroughly. I am generally a motivated person but the past few years have been really bad for me. As far as cooking, I do have a small amount of experience and I strive to learn as much as possible about the subject. Its really the only thing I have passion for these days. Of course, my mother does not share my passion and thinks that my idea is foolish. She is pushing as hard as she possibly can against it, saying that she refuses to co-sign my loans or help pay for any of my schooling if I make this move. For me, it was a brutal blow, but not a fatal one. I have resolved to go, no matter what. She wasn’t impressed by my persistence as much as she was angered and discussions about the issue have reached a stand-still.

The main point of contention is that she thinks I am wasting my time, money, and effort to do something that will not yield a decent career. She thinks I need to stay on my current path no matter how miserable I am. To graduate on time, I would have to overload on courses and take summer classes and still would be one semester behind. My liberal arts experience has really left me with a bad taste in my mouth and I want to end it ASAP and change. She doesn’t see this and just thinks I am being lazy however.

Some on my family believe I am making this change just to prolong my college experience and avoid work, but quite frankly, the thing that interests me most about the school I have chosen is their internship program, a chance to get hands on and actually work. Unfortunately, no matter what I tell my mother, she hears nothing of it. I tell her I want to work, and she tells me "I'll believe it when I see it." I tell her that cooking is both my passion and my destiny and she tells me its all a bunch of malarkey.

To try and discourage me, she explains how rotten a job I am going to have. She says 'you are going to school just to be a cook at friendly's!' I have talked to many people as well as reading posts and this is not a whimsical decision. I am making it with conviction and passion. I know it may be hard, I know it may be dirty. I know I may have to work long hours peeling potatoes or de-shelling shrimp when I start. I don’t have delusions of grandeur, I am as realistic as I can be, but I still have the passion. I know the cons, but she doesn’t realize how much I have thought, researched, and even prayed about this situation.

I really want to do this and nothing can stop me, but how do I convince my mom its worthwhile? I am thinking about just telling her to leave me by myself. I love her, but this is what I need to do, even if she disapproves.

Any advice, positive or negative is appreciated.
post #2 of 38
And you think a History degree will get you somewhere better? :D

Your mom means well and she's probably concerned. Sometimes in order to let you do your own thing, you need to ease parents into it. You can take steps toward independence, for example, and get a job at a restaurant. If you haven't moved out yet, don't. Wait a bit, take your folks out to dinner once or twice, start paying for all your stuff, and then see if you can move out. Poor as you are going to be, you'll be OK.
post #3 of 38
Every human on the planet needs to consume food every day.
350 million daily food consumers in the US.
In this country, we slaughter almost a BILLION lbs a week of Cattle and Hogs.
My point is, there's tremendous opportunity working with food.

What opportunities does a History degree present?

I'm not trying to be condescending, but other than teaching history to others, what does one do with that?

Cat Man
post #4 of 38
Dude, forgive the frankness, I'm exhausted. Uh, It's time to cut the cord! My only suggstion to you would be, work six months to a year in the nearest upscale joint that'll have ya. Then decide if you want to waste your money on school. Forget your mom, she'll never sign off. And remember,until you get right w/yourself, you'll never be able to help, make happy, satisfy, or please... anybody. If you want it, you'll make it happen. Ciao.
post #5 of 38
Sad that she thinks being a chef is a bogus job. Maybe just post a list of names on the fridge and tell her to google them and see how badly they are making out. Something like: Robuchon, Savoy, Vongerichten, Colicchio, Bourdain, Trotter, Keller, Puck, Batali, Lagasse, Flay, Bras, Adria, Ripert, Dufresne, Boulud, Bastianich, Bayless, Ramsay, etc...etc...etc

Maybe then she will start to take your plans seriously
It's Good To Be The King!
It's Good To Be The King!
post #6 of 38
Do exactly as Kuan and others have suggested, work p/t in a kitchen and experience it first hand. You'll get to see what really goes on and be in a better position to make a decision and your family will see your commitment .

Because you love food and cooking, it doesn't mean you'll love working in a kitchen. That said, it also might be your calling. There's only a few ways to find out.

I believe in doing what interests you. Life is more than a paycheck, but you do need to be responsible. I've been a computer programmer, a tour manager, graphic designer and now I work in the film business doing craft service. The job is hard and dirty, but I get to make a decent living, pretty much my own boss, and I only have to work 3/4 of the year doing it.

Good luck.

PS: I just re-read your post, the part about co-signing and loans. Don't get in debt just to go to school. You can get a paid education in most lines of work. Get a job and work hard. Go to school p/t and pay for it yourself. With the time you spend in school, you probably will have worked your way up to the same job you would be starting at. I'm no expert, but I know paying off student loans on a starting wage income is not enjoyable.
post #7 of 38

from a mother

Foley, first of all, I agree with those who say start out by getting a job that allows you to cook - work for a restaurant or caterer - You could finish out this school year and work over the summer. Tjen decide whether to go back to school.

My son is a musician - wow! Talk about dreams vs making money! Show your mom you are willing to work at this. For example, my son has a job that pays the bills and also works on his music and gets gigs. You are better off with cooking because you can get jobs in that field while you are learning.

Good luck and go for your dreams - maybe the point here is to work toward supporting yourself more - don't ruin what sounds like a close relationship with your mom in the process. She will always be your biggest support no mater what it seams like now.
post #8 of 38
Also, don't forget that attaining a degree in Culinary Arts or Culinary Management doesn't mean that you have to be a chef. I love food, but found my talents and passions were more on the management side. Go to and find out what the average salary of a entry level restaurant manager is. Coming out of school making about 35k isn't a bad deal for most college graduates ya know?
If you do work while in school you will come to the table with experience on the hourly side that will improve your understanding of the flow of the business. It will make you a better manager in the long run.
Culinary Arts is such a broad degree these days. You can literally do a whole host of things.
GL, i wish you well!
Do what you do with passion....the rest will fall into place..
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  ~Rev. Run
Our Lives are not in the laps of gods, but in  the laps of our cooks.
  ~Lin Yutang
Do what you do with passion....the rest will fall into place..
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  ~Rev. Run
Our Lives are not in the laps of gods, but in  the laps of our cooks.
  ~Lin Yutang
post #9 of 38
The there's a server at the restaurant where I work with Bachelor's Degrees in History and Philosophy. Both are fascintating subjects but hardly a liscence to print money!:lol:
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
post #10 of 38
I just had this same discussion with my friend's daughter who wants to follow a different path than the one her mom has chosen for her. I told her that as long as she's driving a car bought, paid for, insured, and maintained by mom, living under mom's roof, eating her food, wearing clothes washed by her, and taking $$ from her whenever she needs $$, she's kinda stuck. I told her to get a job, start paying her own way, and prove to her mom that she's 21 AND an adult, THEN do what she wants. It's her life, not her mom's, after all. Mom got to live her life and make her own mistakes and the daughter should be afforded the same choice.

That said, don't alienate your mother. Prove you're all grown up and she should respect that- if not right away, then someday soon. The credits you've earned pursuing your degree in history won't go away. If you take some time to work in food service or even work toward a degree in culinary then decide it's not what you want, you'll still be able to return to college.

We moms mean well even if it doesn't always seem so.

Good luck.
post #11 of 38
my eldest son is graduating with an English degree and doesn't want to teach.
my middle son is graduating with a German degree from West Point.

I keep my tongue in check.
cooking with all your senses.....
cooking with all your senses.....
post #12 of 38
I'd shop around actually if I had some general education credits. You might be able to transfer some of those units so instead of two years to get an AA it might be, well, two years but you'll get to spend some more time in a kitchen instead of writing your English paper.
post #13 of 38
I know I'm going against the grain here, but finish your BA, then explore the culinary field to your hearts content.
In my years in food service, I found that the best chefs are the ones who have a good foundation in and understanding of the human condition that is provided by an solid liberal arts education. Jeremiah Towers has multiple degrees in architecture. Mark Miller is an anthropologist. Alice Waters has a BA in French Cultural Studies and a license as a Montessori instructor. Mario Batali majored in Spanish Theater and Economics. Rick Bayless did his undergraduate studies in Spanish and Latin American Culture. The ones who always remained mediocre and too vulnerable to market fluctuations are those that only know the world of kitchens and restaurants. I'm speaking GENERALLY here, so don't jump down my throat fellow CTers!
To be a successful restaurant owner or chef, you must have a solid understanding of the larger picture and the demands of the business are really broad--not just cooking a terrific meal, or 100 of them, but knowing the practical and financial aspects of the operation. Marketing, not to be confused with advertising, means understanding people and their current and historical wants and needs.
Besides, if you have the degree and don't find yourself suited for pro kitchen work, your research skills can lead to all kinds of other, even more lucrative food related careers. Food historians are very interesting people and contribute to many published books and periodicals. Food related publishing and journalism can be very satisfying as well.
There's lots of time for cooking. Don't be too seduced by the satisfaction of seeing short term results from your efforts in culinary explorations. A solid underpinning of education will give your later efforts heft and resonance that simple skills development will not.

Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!


Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

post #14 of 38
No we won't, but... :D :D

post #15 of 38
You think I need to up my dose?:o:crazy::D
Plus, I'm not really that old Kuan!

No, I only qualified that statement for all the wonderful chefs I do know who do not have degrees.

I never finished my BA either and I wish I could now. Experience and time show that "youth is often wasted on the young." How I wish now that I had the parent paid college education that I walked away from.

PS Charlie Trotter has a degree in political science. Julia Child had a BA in HISTORY from Smith.

Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!


Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

post #16 of 38
Spoken like a true food writer..."or" if he doesn't "like" the industry, he could go "back" to school. Lets be realistic, the likelihood of someone going into the food industry for the first time(with zero degrees, or ten) winding up the next Jeremiah Towers' is consonant to thinking you'll be the next Brad Pitt because you auditioned for American Idol. I just don't believe that education is the common denominator, determinant to "those chefs" success. But hey, what do I know? I'm a chef...
post #17 of 38
What, exactly, does that mean? It sounds a bit like a dismissive slur, as in "spoken like a true politician."
Is there such a thing as "food writer speak"?

I'm just suggesting that walking away from a free ride though school is not such a good thing. Also, if, with a little creativity and imagination (both requirements of good chefs), he makes a small adjustment in his field of study he could obtain a solid underpinning for a successful (not average) future in the culinary world.
For example, does Asian history and culture interest him? or Middle eastern? Understanding a region's history and culture informs and deepens a food enthusiast's perspective in a way that learning cooking techniques and recipes do not.

Let me repeat, there are many, many successful chefs that do not have LA degrees. I used to be one of them, but it wasn't until I left food service and focused on broader research and learning that my cooking developed a real point of view and deeper resonance. It also wasn't until then that I started making better money and having a life that didn't leave me completely exhausted all the time.

Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!


Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

post #18 of 38
I feel your pain, on several levels.
Foleyisgood isn’t getting a “free ride” to a Liberal Arts degree. If you read his post with a more critical eye you will find that he says his mother won’t “co-sign” his student loans. Which means, in the end, he’s still paying for his education.
Here is the thing about the Federal financial aide programs: if you are from a poor or lower income family you qualify for loans and grants. If you are from an upper middle class income family or higher you qualify for your parents to co-sign or take out loans on your behalf. Until you are 25 years of age, join the military, get married or have a dependant (child) of your own, your need for financial aide is based on your parent’s income and cooperation.
Both my brother and I have been there done that and my parents wouldn’t help at all. In fact, my mother cashed in a savings account before I turned 18 (perfectly legal for her to do as my guardian) that was funded by money my grandmother (my father’s mother) gave me as a child. She used it to remodel her house. It was supposed to be for my college.
So as you see, Foley, I “feel you” on the “my mother sucks” level. I would also offer up that those who have even a mediocre mother can not fathom what it is like to have one that is horrible. They just don’t get it. (As a side note, my mother is a compilation of every mother in every Pat Conroy novel around, egad.)
That being said, very few of even the worst mothers actually draw pentagrams on the floor and worship the devil. She’s human too and thinks she’s doing the right thing. But its probably the right thing for her, not you.
It is not as easy as one might think to “cut the apron strings” and stand on your own, especially since the federal government doesn’t recognize your ability to do so.
Actually, you can get around the issue of your parents income being the determining factor. You have to prove to the financial aide office that you are so estranged from your parents that you haven’t so much as spoken to them in over a year. My brother tried that, it didn’t work.

Oh yeah, and I was a history major. I’m still not finished, I lack two semesters of foreign language and two semesters of science with a lab. I do intend to finish, but I’ve spent the last eight years being fruitful and multiplying. I have five children and when the baby goes off to kindergarten in three years I might be able to get to those last four classes.
If I knew then what I know now, culinary school would have been where I went. Hind sight is 20/20. However, would I go back to school for a culinary degree now? Nope. I’m self-taught, and that hasn’t kept me from teaching classes in continuing education at community colleges.
My research and writing experience from all those history classes left me with the ability to research recipes and techniques for just about any dish or cuisine I need to serve a client. You’d be surprised how many people love their caterer to play a little bit of the food historian/anthropologist when discussing the menu.
For the last three years I’ve been writing a weekly food and entertaining column for a small newspaper. With the help of my publisher, I am about to launch in several other small newspapers in the state, with an eye on further expansion. And my cookbook that is coming out in the fall has a built in market of loyal readers. (I’ve actually gotten fan mail. No, I don’t have the big head.)
No degree in anything and I manage to teach, cater and write in the food industry. While no one thing is in itself a full time job, my full time job is the little demons I have spawned, I have a lot of flexibility in all that I do and the income is not insignificant.
The irony of it all is that I owe it all to my mother. Among her many stellar qualities, she was a food ****, controlling every ounce of food we had. Always nutritious, never delicious. Cold cereal for breakfast, not healthy: oatmeal with margarine (butter is only for special occasions) and liquid saccharine (sugar is bad for you). Cook with wine, what would the neighbors think? I still shudder when I see wheat germ.
Instead of intense psychotherapy I learned to cook and cook well. What does not kill you makes you stronger. Follow your dreams and desires, not somebody else’s. That doesn’t mean it will be easy.
post #19 of 38
Why don't you say what you mean. "That you don't think he should go into the industry at all" I think you need to "identify" & stop transfering your feelings onto this kid. He'll figure it out. Most of it's about the trip anyway.
post #20 of 38
Thread Starter 
Well, my mother just thinks that I am going to fail in the food industry and when I do its going to impossible for me to get back to school. The real reason she doesnt support me is because she thinks I am going to default on my school loans and she will have to pay them off.

There is no way in **** (unless its beyond my control) that I will fail.

I just cant spend the next two years of my life finishing a degree that is realling boring me just because someone wants me to. I want to be a chef.

I am going to be a chef

thats it
post #21 of 38
Thread Starter 
So, can we do a quick poll?

stay in school (pursue history or business degree)


go to culinary school (using the credits I have already, about 60)
post #22 of 38
I vote that you try working in a kitchen. See if it is really what you want. Was that one of the choices?;)
post #23 of 38
Thread Starter 
Well, I worked in a pizza kitchen, dont think that counts lol
post #24 of 38
Yeah, see if you can get a job in a kitchen.
post #25 of 38
It’s about what you want. We can all give you advice or a “if I were in your shoes” opinion. We can all also relate in some way or another. I’ve read several of your posts and you seem adamant that what you want to do is go to culinary school and be a chef, so do it.
The only person you have to look at in the mirror is you. You certainly won’t find me or anyone else here in your mirror.
If you came here for encouragement in pursuing your dream, you got it.
You are not talking about dropping out of school to take a job at Arby’s as your first step to becoming the Next Food Network Star, you are basically talking about changing your major. It doesn’t matter if it is from a B.A. to an A.A. (I understand that there are four year culinary degrees out there.)
An education is an education. Regardless of what field the degree is in, it is still a degree. And as far as defaulting on student loans, with the way deferment works both you and your mother could both be dead of old age before you default.
I find it interesting that you don’t hear more people saying “You really got to love electricity if you want to be an electrical engineer, only do it if you can’t live with out circuit boards.” Or “If your not passionate about accounting don’t commit to the field until you can ten key in your sleep, it’s a lifestyle not a job.”
I’d put money on the fact that fewer people leave the food industry for these more “respected” jobs than the reverse.
Another old adage is: we usually regret the things we didn’t do more than the things we did.
Go for it.
post #26 of 38
First, your mom means well, and wants to make sure you have a decent life.

That said, you'll have a better life if you like your job.

Cooking might be it, or it might not, and I'll echo what others have said. Get a job in a good restaurant kitchen. Even if it's cleaning pots and pans, storing the food and running errands, it doesn't matter, as long as you get to see what's really going on.

Several of my friends have been cooks and chefs, and by the time they're in their 40's you would think they had spent their lives laying the trans-continental railroad. They're pretty much shot. While they were working, they had almost no social life, since the same hours that everybody else uses to go out and have fun is "work time" for them.

I love cooking. I'm even pretty good at it. However I decided that I wanted to cook when I want to, not when the boss tells me to show up. So I do computer consulting, which pays the bills and has regular hours, and cook for friends and throw parties when I feel like it.

Having to do something you love, every day, on someone else's schedule stands a good chance of turning it in to something you hate.

Now that I've said all that, it certainly doesn't mean that "history" is your calling or that cooking isn't. Only you can really decide.

Do you have any other interests? There are jobs all over the place that you probably never heard of. No matter what you do or touch, there is someone (or a lot of "someones") on the other end making it happen.

Keep your eyes open, as you wander through life and see if there are any places or people or services that make you feel happy.

post #27 of 38
Oh, I can't resist... every day produces new history! No human being on the planet can avoid it. :D
post #28 of 38
Actually, I think having a history degree could come in very useful in the kitchen. Think of it--you'd have the knowledge of all those countries' histories at your fingertips, and the resources to find the histories of various foods and prodcution methods right there in front of you.... A combined degree could get you a job as a culinary historian, something I don't know a lot about but have heard my chef instructors mention before. Only part of that is chronicling the history of foods. You could research the history of various traditional foods and why they came to be, be put in charge of buying foods with a rich historical value....

Point is there may be a compromise point here. By doing both, you have back-up plans in place no matter what career path you choose. You might be able to appease your mother by continuing your history degree, but slip a culinary class or two into the mix, and get a part-time job cooking as a way to make some additional cash while you finish school. That way, you're getting the joy of culinary school, with the joy of making your mother happy, and the security of having a back-up plan. If history jobs don't work out, you have these skills as a cook. If being a chef doesnt work out, you always have that history degree to fall back on. Where's the bad? (besides the extra tuition, but really that's no different than taking a second minor, since you'd be taking the geneds anyway.)
post #29 of 38
I scanned a lot of the responses and there are a lot of valid points that are made. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I have a Bachelors degree and if thats not what you are planning on getting through a culinary school finish your degree no matter how painful. Find a job in a kitchen while doing that so can have some passion in your life. My dad has done quite well without a degree but emphasized the importance of one and I can see where your mom is coming from. I just started a culinary school diploma program. Best decision of my life but if something doesn't end up working out I still have a degree to put on my resume. Its terrible but thats what other professions look for and it really doesn't matter what it is in. Just my two cents.
post #30 of 38
Free Rider
Your comment is so true! Please don't misunderstand, I was not dissing having a history degree. I'm a huge fan of the subject myself. I fully comprehend how that knowledge can be applied in virtually any field. I am genuinely curious as to what sort of career one can have if they stay in history, other than teaching, of course.

I do agree with others that one should work in a kitchen before commiting to culinary school. The right person in the right environment may discover they don't need culinary school, if they have a great chef who is willing to take one under his/her wings, so to speak.

Cat Man
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