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I Need Help With My Career Path

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
I'm a 17 year old high school student, and I am entering my senior year in two weeks. My grades are not great, actually they are pretty poor, but I will be graduating in May. I've always had this passion for cook & food ever since I was little. I watch a ton of cooking shows, read up on recipes, etc. and I cook for my family a lot (2-4 meals a week).

Here's my problem, I have no experience in an actual kitchen at all. I would try an get a job in a kitchen now but my parents said they want me to focus on my senior year to make sure I pass and that I can get a job in May when I graduate. I am see sawing back an forth between the idea of keeping my options open and going to a Community College for 2 years and getting an Associates degree while working in a kitchen, then after the 2 years I would decide if I want to go to Culinary School. My other train of thought is to just jump straight into Culinary school after I graduate, even though I have no experience.

I live near West Palm Beach Florida so I have a few good Culinary schools near me, Florida Culinary Institute in WPB, Johnson & Whales in Miami, and The Art Institue of Ft. Lauderdale. I'm not sure what it takes to get into one of these schools, do they factor in your high school GPA at all? I have looked into scheduling a Tour of Florida Culinary Institute some time in the near future.

I would like to stay in South East Florida, which I feel is a pretty nice area Culinary wise. I'm within 60 minutes of West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Ft. Lauderdale, and Miami.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!
post #2 of 20
Yo. Do some part time courses at FCI see how you like it. Get job in restaurant and see if you can get credit for work study. You need to check
with guidance con.Also most high schools have programs where you can take college courses for credits. But as far as florida education system is concern its sinks. So get out as fast as you can to get real education.
post #3 of 20
Your parents make a great point.

If it was me, and this is only my opinion:

I would focuss on my senior year and graduate.( extreamely important to graduate high school, take it from someone who didn't)

Then go to community college while I worked for 2 years in three or four different resteraunts all different styles to see if it was something I would want to do for a career. Then make a dissision on whether or not to continue my education in the culinary field.

Why did I suggest to work at 3-4 different places, you may ask?
All places are different, it will give you a better idea of what it is you want to do, there alot a different aspects and styles of this bussiness. there is Catering, fine dining, corperate, diners, and ect...

If I may make another suggestion/opinion: Take some kind of course on learning how to focuss your mind this summer or find a book that will teach you some skills on focussing your mind it will help you in school and in this feild( This field can be very stressfull if you are unaware how to controll your thoughts). If you had a hard time in high school, I'm sure college is a little harder.
When I stop loving what I do, I will do something else: Clint Eastwood http://NewDreamCatering.comCharleston, SC
When I stop loving what I do, I will do something else: Clint Eastwood http://NewDreamCatering.comCharleston, SC
post #4 of 20
Well first off yes get your highschool diploma or if for whatever reason if you need to your GED. Now right now i am on the line at a decent place that cooks the food i like to cook finally so i am happy about that. Now what i would suggest you do on your senior year is concentrate on your studies and then half way through the year of school if all seems to be going well and you can see light at the end of the tunnel get a job for after school hours in a place close by as a dishwasher and bust your *** in the dishpit. Make sure you show interest to the cooks working there that you have a interest in their trade and moving up and that you are not some kid waiting to go to college. And then they might move you up slowly but surely

I was sorta just like you i got caught up in all these schools and degrees and diploma programs to choose from. When i just said to myself one day screw it i am just going to keep doing what i have been doing and thats working at the bottom and maybe someday one of these places would notice me and teach me and give me a chance so now i just read a ton of books about food and technique and go in everyday and do what i love.

Now i am not saying do not get a education in culinary arts school someday what i am saying is you want to be a cook right? so just dive in and work your way up man. **** its not like a culinary degree bumps your hourly pay up 20 bucks lol. I make the same amount as the guy next to me working on the line that did go. That guy is a ******* btw when they were moving me up to the kitchen that guy wouldn't teach me anything about cooking or give tips or anything it was the other two cooks that taught me what i know so far they been on the line for 10+ years. I guess the culinary graduate is bitter that i know some of what he knows and its costing him 500 bucks a month for that knowledge on a 11 bucks a hour pay.

Also if you are having trouble with highschool classes now man you might have trouble even going through the general ed stuff to make your degree not saying you couldn't hack it but there are diffrent ways of going about this is all i am saying you could do what i did or you could go through a apprenticeship. Or you could go to your local community college and go through their culinary diploma program and save LOAAADDSSS of money and get a good culinary education thats prob what i will be doing just to show more interest in my trade on my resume. So to end this now by saying experience over paper get experience in this field before paper.

PS. learn some Spanish it comes in handy sometimes lol
post #5 of 20
I agree with alot of what has been said by previous posters. The high school diploma is important and not having one can hold you back so definately make that your first priority. Once you graduate you have lots of time to explore what path you want to take. A summer job in a kitchen might be a good idea. If your parents have their hearts set on you going to college, check out their programs. Many community colleges offer culinary courses which will earn you a diploma or certificate. As the previous poster mention it costs alot less than other cooking schools. I'm going to community college and taking culinary management. It's a two year course that will prepare me to work as a cook, a baker or a resterant manager and the whole two years with my books, knives and uniform included will cost me under $6,000 compared to the sometimes $20,000+ that some culinary schools charge. I am sure there is some prestiege associated with many of the better known schools however to get your feet wet a community college is a good option. You have to follow your heart. My sister let my Dad push her into taking accounting and she tried it but she never really liked it. She ended up dropping out of college. You have to do what will make you happy. When your parents see you happy and passionate about your career choice they will be happy for you and proud of you.
post #6 of 20
maybe check out an Acf(American Culinary Federarion) apprenticeship. You live in a good area that has some big resorts that might offer them. Check the Boaca Ration and The breakers. Im sure there other big resorts near to there just where my school sent alot of externs so im kind of familiar with them. Also check out the Acf's website. Also i agree with everyone else and make sure you graduate high school. Some schools do look at gpa some done it shouldn't be a huge factor though.
post #7 of 20
Thread Starter 
Thanks a lot for all the responses guys. You make great point...

I looked up the degrees my local Community College offers and one is indeed an Associates in Culinary Art or Management. So that is a pretty good thing to know, but I got a question.

When I go to get a job as 21 or 22 year old, how big is the difference between an associates from a CC compared to a associate's from a top 20 Culinary School? Would the guy with the degree from a well known Culinary School end up having a much better career, the same, or only a little bit better? Obviously it also depends on how hard you work, lucky breaks, etc. but I'm asking just in general terms.

A part of me is also intrigued about getting a Bachelors, and starting up my own restaurant one day. But I guess I'm getting ahead of my self, I still got a lot of time until I have ot make that desicion. Also, 4 years of school at a big Culinary School is going to cost a very large amount of money I assume.
post #8 of 20
Well, for me I don't even like hiring those who go to school for culinary arts. ( How many people did I just piss off :suprise: ) But thats just me and the experiences I've had from graduates. I don't care what school you go to. When your at an interview I expect people to be willing to learn, not think they know everything, be respectfull. I can get a good feel from people when interviewing them.

It realy is going to come down to how you represent yourself during that short time of the interview process.

The chefs and I that I know, would rather have a kid who is willing to take notes and learn then one who is unteachable and thinks their a chef because of a piece of paper.

I hate to be the one to break the news to some of you, but a piece of paper does not make you a chef.You are not a chef untill you run a successfull kitchen for some period of time, no matter what your head tells you. Had to say it, ooops my bad!!!!!

Now this is all just my opinions and experiences.
If it don't apply let it fly.
When I stop loving what I do, I will do something else: Clint Eastwood http://NewDreamCatering.comCharleston, SC
When I stop loving what I do, I will do something else: Clint Eastwood http://NewDreamCatering.comCharleston, SC
post #9 of 20
I am a culinary student and no you did not piss me off, but I do not think that all culinary students are cocky and think they know everything. I think the people that act like that were like that before they even went to culinary school. I have to go to school with people that act this way and think they know everything but it's pretty much because they have always had a high opinion of themselves. I for one have come to realize that I am not going to learn it all at school, I need some experience in a "real kitchen."

That's pretty much how it goes with everything, I went to basic training but that doesn't necessarily mean I'm going to know what to do when I have bullets flying past me in Iraq, it's a totally different situation. I respect your opinion, I just wanted to let you know that there is at least one culinary student that wants to learn and doesn't have a problem starting at the bottom after graduation day. I don't really need to work, I am doing this because I truly enjoy it. :chef:
post #10 of 20
I totally agree Susan. I am also a student and even after I finish school I hope to never stop learning. I think anyone, even with years of experience, who thinks they know everything is mostly short-changing themselves.
post #11 of 20

Work in a restaurant!

I agree with your parents and many of those who responded--you should finish your senior year of high school.

But you should definately work in a restaurant before you decide to go to culinary school. Fact: the majority of those who attend culinary school aren't in foodservice 5 years after graduation. The truth is, restaurant work is grueling. You make very little money, usually don't have benefits, and it often takes years to advance to better positions in the foodservice industry. A culinary degree doesn't always assure advancement or higher pay.

I am a chef of 20+ years and love what I do. However, watching the food channel and loving to cook at home is a far cry from working in the industry. Please, please consider taking some time to work in a restaurant before you/your parents spend a lot of money on a culinary school.

And study Spanish. Speak it fluently.
GOOD luck to you!!! :chef:
post #12 of 20
Check and see if the local CC program is ACF accredited. If it is, check it out. Ask to see where their grads are at. If they are in good places and it seems that the CC has a good reputation, go for it. Plus your degree will probably transfer some or all of your credits if you decide you want a Bachelors. But first graduate from High School and if grades permit, and I do not mean just passing, get a part time job in some type of restaurant, even fast food. They will teach you some valuable skills.
post #13 of 20
Although I am neither a professional chef, nor am I a "student" in the Culinary Arts, my experiences out in the other "real world" may lend credence to the other's comments.

There is no substitute for a high school diploma.

A GED is all well and good, but does not show the non-stop/continuous tenacity to finish a "project" (your education). If you quit (or fail) high school, only to take a second (or third/fourth/fifth) try to pass the basics, I'm sorry, but your determination to succeed just isn;t showing as well as it could.

Lesson from this? If you can financially afford it, do *NOT* jeopardize your chances to gradute from high school by getting side tracked in a time consuming job until you have that little piece of paper firmly in your grubby little mitts...

A few (12 to 20) hours a week in a restaurant would keep you in gas money (maybe), and if you let the owner know right up front that it is critical that you graduate, s/he may grant you a little bit more lattitude in scheduling and expectations. You show committment, and most decent employers will appreciate a hard worker, and will reciprocate with understanding if you need some flexibility.

This train of thought progresses toward earning an Associates Degree or Certificate from a Community College. You've shown that you have what it takes to buckle down and complete another "project".

Take that one step further in being awarded a Bachelor's degree. You've now proven that you were able to complete a four year program/project, without throwing your hands up and screaming, "I QUIT!!!"

This sort of endurance rates highly with the Human Resources types out there in the cruel world, and shows that you are a person of determination.

Should you elect to, and if asked why you have taken the Community College avenue of education, you may wish to explain that it seemed the most economical manner in which to earn an understanding of the culinary world, and to prepare you for further education.

Point being there, that you need to appear sincere in you quest for greater and further knowledge. If you are not learning, you are dying...
I might be suffering from CDO.
It is just like OCD, except the letters are in alphabetical order.
Just as they should be...
I might be suffering from CDO.
It is just like OCD, except the letters are in alphabetical order.
Just as they should be...
post #14 of 20
Blazen37 which community college did you find in Florida that offers culinary arts. The reason I ask is because i would like go to culinary school in Florida as well but i do not want to pay a lot of money to do it. Right now I am living in New Hampshire but I will be moving back to Florida hopefully very soon. Also where is the school located I grew up in the Ft. Lauderdale area so I know the area well. I also have family in West Palm so i know that area to.

Yeah definitely get your high school diploma. Thanks in advance for your help.
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To view Chef Todd Mohr's daily video blog click the link below:
post #15 of 20
my advice to you would be to focus on graduating highschool and then

take some time off. travel, take a few classes in different things you are interested in and most importantly get a bunch of different jobs that seem fun or in the direction of what you want to do.

I'm really an advocate of every kid taking a year or two off after highschool. Truth is, I've been wishy washy most of my life. I got pressured into going to college after highschool. I wanted to go to culinary or art school but they were more than my mom was willing to pay and it was discouraged. I went for criminal justice and never finished that degree. Who was I at age 18/19 years comparison to who I am now at 25...
A lot of maturing and self discovery happens in your early twenties.
You have to do what YOU want to do first and foremost. After that know that you have to do something that you have interest in. I've had a lot of jobs and they ALL have downfalls or stressful spots. so it's really important to find something you don't mind learning and keeping up with for the rest of your life.
sometimes a career may not be for you..maybe you'll wind up working for the post office or fed ex and be completely happy with it...everybody is different but getting back to the point at hand.

Take some time off and explore different options.
good luck!
post #16 of 20
One thing to keep in mind regarding community colleges: they are significantly less expensive for legal residents of their locale. Once you find a school in Florida, contact them and find out what their requirements are for residency. My advice would be to move down there and work during that period while you are establishing residency. In addition to cheaper schooling, you'll get some valuable work experience.
Anulos qui animum ostendunt omnes gestemus!
Anulos qui animum ostendunt omnes gestemus!
post #17 of 20
Greetings to all,

Here are a couple of personal thoughts for you. Finish school then definitely go work at a restaurant first. Get a feel or a taste for a commercial restaurant operation. Even though you have a passion and love of food and cooking, you may not like reality of a commercial kitchen. But also understand that not all food operations are created equal! I have worked for really good chefs and I have also worked for chefs that were not even good cooks! I recommend a family style restaurant where they actually still prepare food from scratch. You will always be able to learn how to thaw and brown pre-prepared items! The salad department would be a good place or really just about anywhere, including the dish room. All you have to do is get your foot in the door and believe in yourself!

Understand that most restaurants have a set menu and once you get your mind wrapped around the fact that most menu items are repetitive in nature. You will always have to prep for the same five salads EVERY DAY. You have to make sure you have enough of every ingredient for every dish on the set menu EVERY DAY. Even in a cafeteria most items are on a cycle. Every Wednesday is Meatloaf, Woohoo! Your supervisor will want you to show some speed. If you have to scrub fifty pounds of potatoes, do it as quickly as you can and still clean them to the standard that they expect. Ask questions or for a demonstration. Whoever your supervisor is will show you their technique for doing the task as quickly as they can. Your speed will pick up through repetition. You will get the hang of doing this fairly quickly, I hope. Trust me, after you crack a couple cases of eggs, you will be faster than when you first started!

When working in a kitchen, keep your eyes and ears open. Just because you may start in the salad area doesn’t mean you can’t listen to discussions about what they are going to do with the fresh Swordfish they just got in for today’s special. You just have to keep working!

I would highly recommend working in a restaurant before attending a culinary school. This will give you a filter for certain topics. I worked in Restaurants for three years before going to culinary school. When the teacher was talking about possible job opportunities they covered the full gamut. What they DIDN’T say was that there really isn’t that many true Saucier or Garde Manger positions available. Some of my fellow students didn’t believe me when I said that there are precious few of those jobs around.

OK, I’m rambling….

Last thoughts; I believe that the preparation of food is about 80% science and 20% inspiration and heart. Focus on the technique and not the recipe. Learn why things happen, like why the potato salad tasted great yesterday and seems flat today. Hmm.. You better learn about the properties of salt and what effects it has on all food items. Osmosis maybe?

Have fun!

Don't take my word for it! I wouldn't trust me either!
Have fun!

Don't take my word for it! I wouldn't trust me either!
post #18 of 20
Some good advice in here, but I would like to add:

Pay attention to the mistakes, your own and others, and what was done about them.
It's one thing to learn what to do when everything goes right, but quite another to learn what to do when things go wrong, how to think on your feet and adapt.

Most people, the intelligent ones anyhow, learn from their mistakes.
They learn what not to do again, and what to do if it happens again.
But not all of them learn from other people's mistakes.
I think it's a good idea to pay attention to what others are doing, right or wrong.
You miss a great learning opportunity to learn from a mistake, without going through the pain of making it yourself.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
post #19 of 20
man i just graduated cooking school this summer...the average age was probably mid 20s so you have plenty of time to decide...there are SO many well known chefs who have went out, got a university education, realized cooking is what they truly wanted to do and did is a physically demanding profession so it may be a little easier on your body if youre starting young but its also a profession that recognizes hard work and dedication more than any i have been as cheesy as it may sound if you have the passion and drive to succeed in this industry then you will...just understand that it is a very demanding profession...i would reccomend reading a few books on cooking as well...a few that pop to mind include: Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, The Making of A Chef by Michael Ruhlman, Heat by Bill Buford. It is unlike anything else you will ever do. Whatever you decide to do good luck with it!
post #20 of 20
I agree with the others regarding the importance of finishing high school. Not only would you need a high school diploma to apply to a culinary school but you would also need basic skills in math and English.

There is more to culinary school than simply taking classes in baking and food production. You would also be taking classes in nutrition, sanitation, communication, and math.

I also think that prior restaurant experience would help. Employment at a fast food franchise would be especially useful as fast food establishments make their money through high volume sales. If you can develop the skills needed to survive the hectic pace of fast food production without losing your cool, you should be able to do well in the restaurant industry.

Learning how to work with others, how to stay on task, how to meet production standards in a timely and sanitary manner are all useful skills that could help give you a solid foundation for the development of a food service career.

Best wishes!

Chef Dave
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