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Am I too old?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
Hi, im not sure if this was the right forum to post this in. I have always wanted to be a Chef and started off by working in a kitchen but then by having a kid I became nervous and became a Truck Driver for the pay. Now 7 years/4 kids later I hate being a driver and still have the dream of being a Chef. My question is am I too old/late to make my dream come true? I love food, I love cooking and know that it would make me happier in life. Please any comments would help me realize if my dream can come true or if it is just a dream.

post #2 of 18
Payton, you are never too old to follow your dreams!! Our lives on this earth are too short, so you should do whatever makes you happy. You probably will have to make a few sacrifices in yours and your families lives, but I am sure it will work itself all out in the end. Good luck!!
post #3 of 18
I would get a job in a nice kitchen as a prep cook or somthing, theres a big difference between dreaming of being a chef and and becoming one, the kitchen isnt for everyone. But your not too old there was about 4 or 5 people in my culinary class over 40. So your never too old.
post #4 of 18
According to Anthony Bourdain, you are too old. Of course this is just his opinoin, and he tends to be rather blunt about them.

One of my best chefs did not start cooking until he was 29. He made the career shift and would eventually become a sous chef and executive sous chef with popular Lettuce Entertain You concepts like Tru and Brasseire Jo.

The road to chefdom is a long trecherous one plagued with low pay and painful hours. Be ready to make some serious sacrifices. Best of luck though, if its what you truly enjoy, you never punch out unsatisfied.
post #5 of 18
You are NOT too old! I am 48 years old and started culinary school last October. For the first time in my life, I am exactly where I want to be, doing exactly what I want to do. How many people can say that? My only regret is that I spent two years wondering if I was "too old" before I decided age was just a number and followed my dream.
I was afraid that I would be the oldest person in school and wouldn't fit in, but I was wrong, in fact nothing could be further from the truth. There are a lot of people older than me in my class and in other classes, and the younger students accept us and we all work together learning more about what we are passionate about.
Don't let your age stop you, follow your dream.
post #6 of 18
I am 34 years old, and just started school last month. Many of my concerns were the same, untill the counselor told me on orientation day, that they just graduated a 72 yr old retired Lawyer through the school. I singed up that day!!
It's always funny until someone gets hurt, then its freakin' hilarious!
It's always funny until someone gets hurt, then its freakin' hilarious!
post #7 of 18
Age doesn't play a big part in establishing an education, but Bourdain was referring to the physical aspect of working in a busy kitchen. If you are "older" and thinking about getting a job in the kitchen of a popular (aka busy) restaurant, it might be worth watching last week's "No Reservations" to get an insiders view on what it can involve. His biggest complaint was about all the bending. The show was quite interesting.

Obviously, restaurants are not the only place to work. You can be a private chef, start your own joint, catering, etc. Good luck and go for it.

I'm 41 and started my craft service/breakfast catering almost 2 years ago. I enjoy it, but it is hard work. On Tuesday I shopped and prepped from early morning to about 10:30pm. I then went to bed and woke up a 3am, finished loading my van with coolers, brewed coffee, picked up some fresh donuts and drove 1 hour to a "field" to be ready to serve at 5:30am. After cooking for 35 crew, I breakdown my breakfast table and reset it for craft service. After lunch I pack it all up and we do a location move. I set it all up again and we finally wrap at 6:30p. Home around 8pm. Unload the coolers and shower. Today, I have a sink full of dishes and a van that still needs to be cleaned out. I'm tired, but looking forward to Monday when I get to do it all again.
post #8 of 18
A better question would be do you have the physical and mental stamina to go along with your passion? :D

Rather than pinning the decision on age, I'd look instead to how you cope in highly crowded and stressful environments, ability to take criticism and do as the chef asks, and what kind of physical shape you're in. Also consider if you can live on 9 - 14$/hr (the going rate in Seattle for cooks, will be less in most other parts of the US) for the next few years, and then 60 hour work weeks if you go the salary route. Not to mention lack of health insurance, and you probably won't see much of your family during holidays, since it's our job to provide leisure for other people.

I am a career changer as well, now past the three year mark in experience. But chefness and restaurants also run in my family, and this combined with personal hobbies and interests which line up with those of guys in their 20's means I get along fairly well with younger cooks. That is a very serious matter in a job which plays more like a team sport! Still, kitchens are all different, and some will suit better than others.

If my own experience so far is any indication, other things I would want to keep in mind would be making a plan as soon as possible and sticking to it, in terms of future goals. Provided it speaks to your soul's content, of course. Time in the long run is more critical for us than for the kids, IMO. Ex: I'm figuring on ten years myself. I know what kind of place I want to be chef-owner of at the end of that time, what kinds of places I want to work in first, and how I'd like to advance in the ranks to get both the cooking and business skills I need, but if I can't pull it off, I'll become a full time personal chef instead.

If following orders and doing the best possible job is important to you, accept that this might work against you because chefs sometimes have that artist/crafter eye which translates into contradictory instructions. Basically, the way you do something one day might be perfect, so you keep doing it that way, until suddenly out of the blue the chef starts screaming at you how it's wrong, even though they had approved the original way in the first place. I would say this and the sheer multitasking involved were/are my two biggest challenges; if you can find a way to be ok with that and not take the illogical personally, all the better. Same for coping with the frequency of needing to make do in conditions always not ideal.

If you're not already doing this, consider regular exercise which gets or keeps your back and legs in good shape. Same for slimming down, if necessary. Less pounds to carry makes for a less tiring day, and many kitchens are also cramped spaces.

Last comment about age: starting young isn't a guarantee of success either. Already in the time I've been doing it, I've seen plenty of line cooks who hit their 30's and are complete burn-outs looking to get out of kitchens for good. But for myself, there's no place I'd rather be than in a kitchen, and I like thinking about food when I'm not working. Definitely the right choice for me.

post #9 of 18
Im another one.....

Start Culianry school at 27 (last year)

Going to work in a kitchen and still in my horrible IT job.

your never too old to follow a dream as some said and i believe that if you follow your dream you will be young at heart and the "kinks" of an older body willnt be effecting you as much
post #10 of 18
I decided to look into a career change at age 53.

I always liked cooking and preparing different foods.

I felt, to be taken serious by restaurants, that I had to attend Culinary school. I looked into several and decided on one.

Meanwhile, I contacted several restaurants in the area and a Chef from a fine dining establishment offered me a prep position. I accepted and did everything asked of me. Not too long after, I was asked to work evenings helping the line cooks. Eventually, I was allowed to cook and to cover for the line-cooks' off days.

I started school 6 months later. I traveled 90 miles each way. I never missed a day nor was I ever late for a class.

My advice? If you want to do it ... do it !!!
Remember what the Dormouse said!!
Remember what the Dormouse said!!
post #11 of 18

Michael Ruhlman's book " The Reach of a Chef" talks about this same topic. Pretty much the number of career changers has grown at the CIA over the past 5 or 5 years. It's worth going Barnes and Nobles and buying this book. Also, kitchen confidentials by Bourdain.

I would also recommend getting back on your feet. You may have remembered good old times cooking in past jobs, but it might be a lot different this time around. Every kitchen and chef is different. But go for it!

Long hours from prep cooks, line cook all the way to the Chef. Working off the clock, cleaning late night after doing 300 dinners fine dinning,or 600 high volume.
post #12 of 18
Your Funny GRK. Old fart at 27. Geeez I should have to knock the dirt off just to move my old body.

post #13 of 18
I agree, in my class there are at least 6 of us out of 20 that are over the age of 40. I have been a chef since 1986 but now im specialising and so needed to go back to school to do that , good luck , its hard work and long hours but if your a truck driver you would be used to that, good luck and never lose sight of your dreams and aspirations
when life hands you lemons, make lemon gelee, lemon meringue pie, or any other dessert your heart desires
when life hands you lemons, make lemon gelee, lemon meringue pie, or any other dessert your heart desires
post #14 of 18
One student I knew was a 40 yr old CEC just going back to school to get his degree.

He blazed through all of the classes, often showing up the instructors. I know this is not directly related to the topic, I just thought about it.
post #15 of 18
Hey, Grandma Moses didn't start painting until she was in her 80's. There is a long list of succesful late starters, Ronald Reagan among them (it kills me to say it!)
post #16 of 18
I agree with everyone here. :D If you love it, then persue it.. no matter how old you think you are. If you have the guts and the passion for it, why not, right?? And besides, you won't lose anything with learning more about it.
I love my kitchen for it is where I can conjure even the weirdest recipe I can think of...
Cookware and Bakeware
I love my kitchen for it is where I can conjure even the weirdest recipe I can think of...
Cookware and Bakeware
post #17 of 18
I started a new career at 43. I have no regrets. My work is more physically challenging than my last work was.
post #18 of 18

Never too old

I have 4 kids too. You are not too late to become a chef.I would not start school myself (30 something) ,I would suggest you to work as much as you can to get more experiences in this field.
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