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Reached the fork in the road that is turning 18, I need some advice.

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
I have been at a local restaurant for a year and a half, since the tender age of sixteen, and now I see everybody else my age going to school, and moving on with their lives, getting an education, moving out, etc. For a long time, I wanted to be a cook, I figured that if I could work my way up to a line cook as a 17 year old, why not? Granted, I work in a small kitchen, with an exceptionally tight staff, and I am given a lot of creative freedom with what I do, which I think has allowed me to grow to the point where the idea that maybe I am a decent cook managed to niggle it's way into my head. My problem is that I am insanely burnt out. I have serious doubts about whether or not I would be able to cut it in the long term- like the sous-chef says, "if it was easy, everyone would do it", add on to that the fact that I have a very bad back.

I graduated with the grades to do pretty much whatever I want to, so I have the luxury of sort of picking and choosing, but I really do love cooking, just maybe not the lifestyle (shifts till 3 am, life revolving around the kitchen). I wonder if there are other career paths within the culinary discipline that maybe aren't so physically and mentally taxing (catering, maybe?). I just want some advice, as I try to make the decision about what to do with my life. Thanks!
post #2 of 13

Time to Move On...Sorry to say, this may not b4u

"...add on to that the fact that I have a very bad back."

If you have a very bad back at your age...you need to find another career NOW before you end up like me totally disabled. I too have a "bad back" and therefore can not do the work which I would love to do. I was a waiter,
busser
, short order cook and a line cook, all of which I enjoyed to the max. If I was still physically able to do this, I would. HOWEVER, due to my bad back (osteoporosis, compression fractures etc....shrinking 4 inches in height) I am no longer able to do ANY work outside of the house.

YOU still have a chance NOT to end up like me. But it may mean that you will not be able to pursue your culinary dreams. Catering is as labour intense as the other positions in the culinary world. Even a manager FOTH can be too much as there are times you may need to fill in B.O.T.H. (in cases of
personnel
not showing up etc.) You can still be "Top Chef" in your own flat, but it is only my opinion that, for your own health now and in the future, you faced the
inevitable
and realize that this business will not be for you. Sorry if this is "tough love" but I'm just trying to be realistic. Good luck in your future...whatever it is.
Cantor Posner aka ChefBoyof Dees

"An Armed Society is a Polite Society"--Robert A Heinlein

"You either Do or Don't Do...There is no TRY" --Yodah
Reply
Cantor Posner aka ChefBoyof Dees

"An Armed Society is a Polite Society"--Robert A Heinlein

"You either Do or Don't Do...There is no TRY" --Yodah
Reply
post #3 of 13
If you have abad back, I would suggest invest and getting some prefessional help to at the least diagnose the problem and then just start strecthing and excercising.
post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
Oh, I know exactly what's wrong with my back- I have spondylolysis, and significant scar tissue buildup and muscle injury from genetics, and an old hockey injury respectively.

And thank you, the tough love is what I need right now. I just need someone honest and unbiased- a kick in the pants, I guess. And there are always other places I can cook, just maybe not for a living. Thank you!
post #5 of 13

Glad you are able to see the tough love for what it was

As I stated, I can no longer do cooking "professionally"...however as a minister (Cantor) in my congregation, I do a lot of cooking for the "potluck" (oneg) immediately after the Saturday services. The congregation is also a food bank (serving over 1500 per month) and every other week, the Rabbi's wife gives me some type of protein (chicken, ground beef...whatever as long as it is NOTunkosher, i.e. no pork etc). I then am tasked with making "something" out of it to feed about 60-100 people the following Saturday (I'm given the protein on Wednesday...and it's usually frozen). That gives me 3 days to thaw, decide what to cook, box it up (like a caterer) and bring it back to the congregation early Saturday, and leave it up to the kitchen crew to get it prepared for the meal afterwards, since I'm involved with the service. What I prepare is entirely up to me and my spousal unit. We have done so far things like a "kicken" sloppy Joe, Hawaiian Chicken onBasmati Rice), etc. So, this keeps me in the game, stretches my skills and helps out with feeding the masses. It doesn't "Pay" but there are other rewards. Hope this gives you some direction that you can use...and feel free to email me if you have any other questions. TTFN (ta ta for now) CantorShmuli...aka Chef Boy of Dee's
Cantor Posner aka ChefBoyof Dees

"An Armed Society is a Polite Society"--Robert A Heinlein

"You either Do or Don't Do...There is no TRY" --Yodah
Reply
Cantor Posner aka ChefBoyof Dees

"An Armed Society is a Polite Society"--Robert A Heinlein

"You either Do or Don't Do...There is no TRY" --Yodah
Reply
post #6 of 13
dude who cares if you have spondylolysis thats something you could get over with treatment and surgery your seriously going to let something like a back injury stop you or mold you in to what you want to do theres people out there that run marathons with one real leg and people that climb mt everest with one arm and a eyepatch. you might just need a new place to work at to bring back the spirit or if you really know that you do not like the lifestyle maybe you could be a food broker or salesman or a food scientist its better money and offers a alternative lifestyle also forgot to mention look in to being a personal chef.
post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 
That's all interesting. The only problem with my back is that there is no fixing it- surgery involves fusing vertebrae together, which would severely limit my range of motion, which I really really don't want, and excersizing to keep it strong, which I do. It's already an issue after a year and a half in the kitchen, and at my spry young age, that is worrysome. You do bring up some really interesting alternative career paths, though. I am going to do some research, thank you so much!
post #8 of 13
You may look into being a food photographer or a food writer. There are members of this message board that are involved in these fields. Foodnfoto and KYheirloomer come to mind, respectively.
post #9 of 13
I used my restaurant experience to earn a CTE (Career and Technical Education) teaching certificate for Culinary Arts in Arizona. I'm now working as a high school Culinary Arts teacher. I should mention that I'm 48 and that I also have three college degrees.

The pay isn't great but my weekends are my own. I generally work a 40-50 hour week. Since I'm not a core academic instructor, I don't have lots of papers to grade. In addition to having all school holidays off, I also have a 3 month summer vacation.

I teach two intro courses and one advanced class with two attached lab periods. I also supervise an attached student operated restaurant.

Being a Culinary Arts instructor has allowed me to combine my interest in food with my interest in teaching.

If you're interested in becoming a Culinary Arts teacher, you might consider going to college to get a teaching certificate. In Arizona, Culianry Arts falls under Family and Consumer Science Education. You'd have to check with your state department of education to learn more about what you would need to do to get a teaching certificate.
post #10 of 13
Get your BS or MS in Food Science and an AS degree in Culinary. If you are near a school that offers Culinology than do that. In our times ppl have less time and less income and food scince and product developement is a very solid field.
Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
Reply
Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
Reply
post #11 of 13
You have plenty of options in the food service industry, and not all of them even involve cooking. Your only trouble with finding the appropriate career path will be experience, and money. You may have to work as a line cook with catering as a side job for many more years before you have the customer base and reputation needed to run a catering business. Management is another avenue, but it's one that requires lots of experience both cooking and supervising. You also have to have experience to get certification, which you may or may not be interested in.
If you're not in this business for the long haul, don't even bother getting into it. If, however, you could see yourself building a career over your entire lifetime, working crappy hours, and never making quite enough money, then it might just be a rewarding career field for you.

P.S. I've never met a chef who wasn't an alcoholic. :beer:
post #12 of 13
I know where you're standing, I'm a young guy in the industry myself. I chose to stick with it. I know I must have a few nuts loose to want to do this long-term, but it makes me happy.

If the restaurant industry makes you happy, stick with it. There are plenty of options if you feel that you cannot preform as a line cook (back problems, we all get them). Food service providers is another option among others have suggested.

I love what your sous chef said by the way.

You know what you need to do.
post #13 of 13
Some of the younger people at my school got a job as a TA and continued working with the school after graduation. They help teach new students and also cater for banquet functions at the school.

This may not be the ends-all solution to your problems, but I'm sure the workload is alot less physically intensive. It will help you get experience and if you're good at it, alot of positive recommendations from the instructors.
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