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Hard question about working in this industry...

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Hey guys my name is Mat, I have a question. My parents had high aspirations for me and I went off to college and graduated in may. I am 24 years old and I started a little late and had some financial trouble paying for school by myself. I recently broke all their dreams when I said I wanted to cook. They wanted me to go to law school. Mom has been really supportive, my stepfather has not. One day before class I decided to do a quick internet search and I found a culinary school that was in Pittsburgh PA. I made all the plans to go to school and I moved here on the intention of going to PCI. PCI is a le cordon Bleu culinary school and I was going to complete the diploma program and hope that I could break into food service. I went job hunting last week and into this week. I have come up against a problem. My student loan did not process as planned and now I am in a financial bind to find enough time and energy to pay my rent and bills as well as attend school. I know this is getting long and seems like a weird question but last week I sat down with a chef in a really nice place downtown that had been named in the top ten. He was looking for a grill cook and I basically was wasting his time because I am not qualified or experienced enough to work that line. I have four years of experience expediting and running, and I really thought that maybe he would be ready to move up his garde manger and fit me into that position... but no dice. During our conversation he seconded the opinions that I had heard elsewhere, that I should just bypass culinary school and find an entry level position and work my way up. Today I had an interview with a chef in an un-rated no stars kitchen he said that he is trying to take it to the next level and he needs better people to do it with, his current employees never plate the same dish twice and can't follow directions. He said he is looking for someone that he can train and teach to be his lead line cook, he recently fired his fry cook and his wife who is acting as his sous chef would much rather be doing pastries. Long story short I got the job and he wants to start me on the fryer next week and wants to train me to eventually move up to leading his line. remember that the only experience I have is expediting and helping out in the kitchen when I was needed. I saw two articles that he was featured in and places he worked about were in.
My real question to you guys is should I train under this guy and forget culinary school? I have no delusions that after 15 months and an externship that I will be a chef or that I will be in any position to run a kitchen. I mean basically I would get a diploma that said I have met the schools requirements which will likely get me hired into garde manger positions anyway right? Either way I am nervous as **** I have never worked a hot line before, my dream is to cook and to someday run a kitchen, it is all I want to do. If I mess up because I don't have the experience I am job hunting again. if he isn't the real deal then I didn't go to school because of some joker. if I go to school I could be spending money needlessly while missing a huge opportunity if this guy is for real.

Thanks for reading all of this, and I really look forward to any advice or opinions you guys could offer.
post #2 of 19
Take the job for a year, get out of the financial hole first. Then think about spending more on schools. You can learn(and earn) more in one day of practical experience then you can 4 weeks in any school.
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post #3 of 19
I would take the job and if needed work extra hours off the clock to learn the Chefs way of doing things. When I was starting out I worked my shift 5am to 5pm in the restaurant. The GM/Chef told me if you want to learn anything stop up to his office from 5 to 10 pm ( on my own time). If you really love this kind of work it doesn't matter how many hours a day you work while yout learning. This will also show the Chef you are the real deal. The Chef is giving you a chance at a job that you really arn't qualified for , take the ball and run with it.....Don't look at it as a job, look at it as a learning experience........Good Luck...Bill
post #4 of 19
Take the job and gain some experience. Learn if cooking is really right for you. Plus you'll gain skills and knowledge that will help your culinary school career, if you decide to attend in the future. I am a proponent of culinary schooling, but only if you have realistic expectations of what it can do for you, which you seem to understand. You don't get out of school and become a chef. I like culinary school because it exposes you to a lot in a short period of time. You study all the cooking techniques. You study pastries and baking. Often you learn banquets and even breakfast cooking. Out in the "real" world it would take years and years to gain that much knowledge in so many aspects of the kitchen. I am also a realist and know that school can also give you a skewed vision of the cooking world, so "real world" experience is great also. You will hear people say culinary school is the only way to go, and you'll hear people say that school is bogus and the only real experience is real life experience. I have known great chefs that have taken each path. Personally, I think the best approach is combination of the 2, entering school with some decent experience behind you and then upon graduating, spending a few more years cooking and "paying your dues" before taking any kind of management job.
post #5 of 19
As others have said, take the job. If you are in a financial hole now, you will be in one after you graduate. Actually, even further.

It's good that someone is willing to train you so take advantage of that. Work hard and after you pick up some experience, if your goal is to get into some of top 10 restaurants in the area you referred to in your post, then see if you can stage with them later on (6 months to a year from now).

It may not lead to full time work but you get your foot in the door, gain experience, and help a chef out with "free labor."

As someone who works at a culinary school, when you tell your admissions advisor your plan, they will try to guilt you into starting school and tell you how much you need the degree. Be polite but be firm and good luck.

*on a side note, can you create more paragraphs next time you type out a long post? I was winded after reading it.
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post #6 of 19
Take the job. Culinary school will still be there as an option in a year or two. I was in the business for 10 years before I decided to go to culinary school and that was 25 years ago. I still have at least 10 more years of work in me, probably more. You are 24, you have plenty of time to decide on culinary school.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #7 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thanks everyone for the advice

I am a little nervous about the fact that this is it... I am finally going into a kitchen and I am going on a hot line. Someone said that I am not qualified and I know that is the truth, which is why I am nervous as all get out. I really want to do well. I have wanted to work in a kitchen since I was a kid and now I finally am and I feel like I am unprepared...

Could anyone give me any advice as to what I should do and since I have never worked a fryer maybe a few hints there too?
post #8 of 19
DONT DEEP FRY ANYTHING OVER 350 DEGREES. Keep your work area neat and clean; always be set up with everything you need before service. Dont get flustered and dont scream and carry on. Be nice to fellow employees, they will help you. . The fry station is just about easiest station the rest are much harder. Never say ''I cant". :D
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post #9 of 19
It doesn't matter if you are "qualified" or not. Someone believes enough in you to give you responsibility and train you. Unless the chef/owner said this, it doesn't matter. And if he did, he has strange hiring practices.

Here's the thing: Everyone makes mistakes in life. When you do...learn from them.

Good Luck.
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post #10 of 19
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the encouragement, I have been on here reading all day, and reading al kinds of stuff and trying to mentally prepare myself for wednesday.

any other hints and advice?

I am always willing to learn and I love to get advice from the people who have been in kitchen, growing up I always listened to the stories from from older relatives and stuff like that and I learned at a young age to find the person with the most experience and watch and listen. so any advice and things like that are truly welcomed and appreciated.
post #11 of 19
Good advice all around.
I would like to address one aspect that hasn't previously been discussed.

Even if this turns out to be less than what you had hoped, it's still experience.
If all you learn there is what not to do next time, you've still learned something.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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post #12 of 19
Thread Starter 
Good point, and thanks for the advice, I just for the first time in my life am far from family and friends and I know this is weird but I guess its part of growing up, there is this feeling that if I mess up its all over. any other time in my life I could have just moved back into my parents house or what have you. I just graduated college and I am in the real world now, and frankly this is not the picture that was painted for me when they were telling me about my degree.
post #13 of 19
Welcome to the real world. You have also just graduated in one of the worst economic times over the past 25 years.

You said in your first post in regards to mom and step-dad, "I recently broke their dreams..."

That comment drives me batty because I have encountered these types of parents throughout my 7 years of doing what I do for a living.

Once you start living for yourself, you will be in a much better place. Your step-dad sounds like a major A-hole. It's good your mom is supportive though. I can tell you that I have dealt with Ivy League college graduates that are now in culinary school so your situation is fairly common.

So did you cancel your application for PCI yet? How is the job going for you? Lastly, keep us posted on how it all turns out.
See the truth about the culinary education industry at www.culinaryschooladviser.com 
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post #14 of 19
Thread Starter 
Well dad is a little bit of an a-hole, he just wanted "better" for me... whatever that means.

I am the first in my family to go to college, and while I have never been rich or pampered I am smart. I got into a very nice school based on grades and an academic scholarship, I started screwing off because I could do the assignment the night before and get a B. Well as time went on I hated college more and more and I was inconvenienced by homework and papers, I wanted to read and learn but not to have to answer to anyone...

I have lived in the real world but I recently came to the conclusion that college education or not, at no time in school did they ever tell me how to read a gas bill, or electric bill or things like that. I had an apartment but I paid the landlord and everything else was included. I just never had this much responsibility. I could always ask my mom for help if I ever had an emergency situation but to do so would be to prove my dad right, I "should have never gone to pittsburgh"

So I didn't cancel yet, I am looking into a place called bidwell training academy, they are much cheaper and they start in september, I am going to train under this chef until school time and decide whether I should go or I should stay under him.

My first night is tomorrow. I am a little nervous because he isn't bringing me in early to see prep or to get ready for anything I am coming in and service will likely start around 5:30. I am working a fryer which I was told is easy but I haven't done it before so tomorrow could be awesome it could be terrible, I am hoping for a good night though.
post #15 of 19
For-Profit College: Costly Lesson - CBS News

Never heard of Bidwell but it looks fine. Mostly hands on which is good and should be cheaper than PCI. Course work wise, it seems to cover the basic and some advanced skills but not much beyond those in the kitchen.

The only thing to look into is the time spent in the kitchens and the chefs experience.

Also, go to some restaurants you would want to work at, grab a seat at the bar on a slow night. Order some food and a beer and make conversation with the staff. I do this to make contacts for students but you could do the same and possibly ask for advice on schools or for work opportunities.
See the truth about the culinary education industry at www.culinaryschooladviser.com 
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post #16 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thanks

That is really cool, Thanks for the advice, I really appreciate the knowledge here, you guys are awesome!
post #17 of 19
To all who plan on culinary schools. The first goal of the school like any other business is to show a Profit everythiung else is secondary and down. If they tell you they are non profit dont believe them. The non profit statement is strictly for tax purposes.( I am not talking community colleges only independent culinary schools.):D:lol:
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post #18 of 19

Pro

If you want to cook, cook. I've worked with Culinary graduates who could cook, and some who could not. I've also worked with very talented people who did not go to school. If you want to go into management or exec positions with a large company or hotel, then Culinary school will have benefits. If you want to own or operate your own business, then gain experience, learn as much as you can from many different sources, and...go to business school.:suprise::lips::suprise:
post #19 of 19

asdasda


Edited by LBGChris - 5/1/14 at 11:39am
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