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Greetings and a Few Questions

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Hello everyone. I am a 40 year old Technical Geek that is tired of working in my chosen field. I have enjoyed cooking at home for many years and previously toyed with the idea of going to cooking schools. Once again, the urge to work in the culinary field is rearing it's head. Over the years I have worked a bit in the food industry, mostly just as a Bartender who also served food at the bar, but I also had a good relationship with the Chef and would spend time(when I had some) watching the cooks.

Well before I just keep rambling, I will get down to my questions.

I live in Tampa, Florida and have been looking at the available schools for me and it seems I have either a Community College or the Art Institute of Tampa's International Culinary program. I have done a tour at the Art Institute and was very interested in their program, but the 45K price tag is a bit much. So my question is basically, what are good options in the Tampa area for me? I have a family so local is my only choice.

Lastly, at the age of 40 I'm feeling very Old to be making a career change. I've read where it's suggested to work a year or so in a kitchen prior to schooling, but I have the feeling that if I don't get started now any delay will just make it harder due to age. I guess at 40, I'm feeling that I'm too old, and yes I know I'm not, I guess it's mostly nerves.

Thank you for reading my ramblings...
post #2 of 19

You and I are in the same boat. I, too, am a tech-geek & am considering the move to a more culinary oriented career. At 39 (40 next month), I have been wondering if this is a mid-life crisis or something. It's good to hear that there are others that are having the same doubts/concerns.

I was doing some "inspirational reading" the other day, and I found out that Paula Deen (Southern cook, on the Food channel a lot) started her restaurant/catering buisiness when she was 42. I figure if she can start that late and create an empire - then there's nothing to stop us from doing the same!

Unfortunately, I don't have any suggestions about Tampa (I'm in Charleston), but I wanted you to know that it is possible and you are not alone.

post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 

It's great to know I'm not alone, and have an actual person come forward and say so. As brothers in arms going into this situation, I hope we keep in contact with each other and share our knowledge and encourage each other. You can reach me through any of my instant messengers or email. Or we can just keep replying through this thread.

- Sumner
post #4 of 19
I actually was at a crossroads in my life tore between the technical path and the culinary route.

I (obviously) opted for culinary, but still wondered about the technical field.

Good luck to both of you
post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 
RAS you're not missing much in the Technical field. But with anything, you have to enjoy what you're doing to succeed. One thing I do notice in the Tech field vs Culinary is you need to be reading and up on bleeding edge of technology to stay fresh and viable. Skills and Knowledge you knew 2 years ago suddenly become obsolete. That and the fact is, how much real creation, blood, sweat and tears can you put into a metal box only to hand it over to the customer and have them return it a day later with corrupted Windows that was in no way but your fault. It's almost like selling a Sugar Covered Lemon and hoping nobody bites too deep.
post #6 of 19
My uncle worked as a network administrator in the IT department of a public high school here in the city. I was familiarizing myself very much with basic computer troubleshooting and network setup for student labs, but it was not what I wanted to do.

I still work on machines as a hobby, and I have a few friends that work in different levels of geeksquad. One of them also confessed that the knowledge that they have now becomes irrelevant when the next batch of college grads enters the field knowing more about current technology, and willing to do it for less money. You hit your salary cap rather early.

Things in the culinary world do not change at such fast a rate (though they do change). Great food using quality ingredients with a skilled touch is always going to taste great, it doesnt become "outdated".
post #7 of 19
Thread Starter 
And that is exactly why I am here now, floundering through the beginning stages. The Tech in me is used to Skilled Schools so I tend to gravitate towards the Culinary School, but my budget is making me seriously second guess this idea. I am a person that loves to learn everything about what he is doing, so the idea that Culinary Institute will give me a little bit more than a Community College has me unable to decide.
post #8 of 19

For me it's putting blood, sweat, and tears into an assembly line machine (I do the programming, but I'm also responsible for some maintenance and repair), only to have the worker vandelize it so that they can have an extra break.

post #9 of 19
From my personal experience, it won't. I went to a reputable school and regret not saving 25k by going to a cheaper program at a great city college program. I cannot speak for the CIA, but I know I was disgusted with the lack of rule enforcement and professionalism (but the teachers were great).

The school is going to give you a set of basic skills and knowledge to work with. This is a very basic set of starting tools, the bulk of knowledge and skills that is going to be useful to you in the future is what you acquire from working in the field. School will teach you theory, you may spend 3 hours working on one dish, actually working in a restaurant will blend that theory with practicality, when you need to produce 100 of the same dish with a 15 minute ticket on each plate.
post #10 of 19
Thread Starter 
Well.... today I took my fiance on tour at the school and when it was all done with I ended up plunking down my registration fee and applying. I have an appointment on Monday with their financial aid, at which point I'll find out how much this will actually cost me.

Now then, being who I am, as soon as I signed the application I start second guessing myself. Then I come home and read RAS's reply and go "Hurm" yet again!

So here I sit, yet again, comparing Hillsborough Community College's curriculum vs Art Institute of Tampa: International Culinary School. I do have a brother in law(Ex to be exact but I like him better than my sister :P) who is going through their Baking program and is loving it. I've talked with him at length and he's been a great source of information on how the school actually runs.

At times like this I wish I was 18 years old again, without a care in the world about the decisions I make, as I could always do something else later down the road.
post #11 of 19
Thread Starter 
Well, after much soul searching last night, and sleeping on it, I believe depending how my financial aid session goes on monday, I will attend the Culinary School. I just want to get started and get on with things, that all this second guessing I'm doing, and researching is really getting in my way. I appreciate everyones advice and help. Once I get going, I will start a blog so everyone interested in seeing how the conversion from Computer Geek to Culinary Student goes.
post #12 of 19
A W E S O M E!!! :smiles:

Now that you've decided, just stop second guessing and enjoy! I'm awating the blog.....

post #13 of 19

I wish i would have seen this thread earlier......

I am, get this.. an IT guy. fell into wwhen i was 20, short work week and decent pay.. being doing it ever sicne but I jsut worked here for the money. no real interest. it never bothered me until a few years ago when i was looking for another IT job and the comeietion was hard, people wanted to much out of you and the pay stunk. and the company that I am still working for hangs the otusorucing or department moving over your head like mistel toe..... im sure you know how it is (maybe)

Here is my story. ill try to keep it breif.....

So living in Pa with my wife (g/f at the time) I wanted a back up career. It was more of a hobby but I wanted to have something that I would enjoy. I knew the pay would stink (something to concider) but it was something and I was planning on doing both jobs to build my culinary resume to eventaully make a smooth change over.

the CC in PA i had problems with. they way the programwas and everything and I was getting married and since I was working and would be goign to school I would be using my days off and vacation time to complete a semester of school.

So after the problems with CC I went lookign around and I deceided that going to NYC for school was the best move. get a name school and learn but really pursue it when im done with school. the Art Instutue of NYC had a perfect schedule for me 3 days a week and i could stack some classes and be there al lday. didntn eed to use any vacation time.

I did that for the last year. the wife and I moved back in with my parents on Longisnad (ny) kept the house and i was commutiing to NYC for school and NJ for work and only had 1 day off a week to recoup and do home work.

I gradutated actually offically on monday. I had to do my externship spereately from the other classes but the extern required 198 hours over 11 weeks or 18 hours a week and there was no way i could do school, extern and work.

It was a great move for me personally. I should be going back to work in the culinary field at the end of the summer i hope. I got a lot going on with work, and the hosue and a few family issues and what not......

my advise. School is different from real life expereince. school will teach you the basics and stuff and how to do this and that properly. So the place you go to school might teach you this or that but its all what you make out of it. there is a lot of grat literature out there so you can learn abotu this and that and ocne you have the basics down youll be good to go.

BTW... I worked a few days at a place a buddy hooked me up with jsut to see if culinary is where i wanted to go.
post #14 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the insight. I'm glad to hear things are working out for you. I really do understand that School and Real World is different, but I'm really looking forward to picking my schools brain as much as I can while I'm there and utilizing all their resources to my advantage.
post #15 of 19
As a former culinary arts instructor in the New York school system I can tell you one thing The culinary schools are there to show a profit. if they didn't they would be out of business. The whole thing is up to the student, and you either have it in the hands or you dont. I used to tell parents to let their son or daughter work in a hotel or food service venue for a year then go on to school. This approach allows the students to see if they are going to like this field and are willing to spend the thousands of dollars for a culinary school. Oherwise why waste time or money.
post #16 of 19
excatly. i agree with Ed.

If i remember you said you chilled ina a kitchen while tending bar. so you kidna know how it is.

and learn everything you can. pick their brains pick your fellow students brains.

everyone has a different backround and different knowledge and there is always something to be learned.

if you watch top chef this past week EricRipert said something that every chef I know has said to me.

The day you stoplearning is the day your ego is too big
post #17 of 19
Thread Starter 
Just to catch everyone up to speed who was wondering... I had my financial aid appointment today and it didn't go well, so it looks like I will be doing the Community College after all. I'm a bit dissapointed, but after all as everyone has said before, it's the basics that I will be learning at school and the rest will come with time. So my chin is Up, I am debating on hitting a few of the local restaurants and try to talk to the Chefs there to see about advice and maybe a job while I look into the CC.
post #18 of 19
In what way did it go wrong? Don't mean to pry but I'll probably have a similar meeting soon an I thought it was pretty straightforward. You apply for a Federal Loan, and you get a Private Loan(Sallie Mae,Discover) to cover the other expenses.
post #19 of 19
Thread Starter 
Basically the grants and federal loans only covered about half the tuition and I didn't qualify for the private loans due to my credit. The finance person said that they have been making the qualifications stricter due to the way the economy is and that people that had qualified previously are now finding themselves not qualifying(people like me).
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