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Career Changer, yes, another one needs advice.

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
I feel like I'm on the edge of cliff and behind me is a drooling hungry lion and 200ft below me is rough seas with waves smashing against the rocks. Do I continue to get mauled by the lion until I'm dead? Or jump?

I'm not just out of college, I'm not making $50K; I'm 30, making $100K, just bought my 1st NYC apartment, and I've never been more unhappy in my life.
So why am I so afraid to drop all these things to do something that I want?

Do I like to cook? Obviously, it's has been the most consistent enjoyment I've had in my life. Do I have commercial kitchen experience? A very, very small amount, a couple of months, doing minor prep and mostly dishes. Enough to know that the kitchen dynamic is akin to the military, but not enough experience to feel it physically and emotionally.

To anyone else who was in my position:
When you made your decision did you feel like it was the most difficult thing in the world? The idea of going from $100K to $20K a year is ... well it's really fu**ing crazy. Insane. Dumb?

Is passion the only thing that got you through it?

Thank you for any advice,
Christian
post #2 of 13
Wouldn't it be crazy to continue to live a life that you know is the source of your misery?

Also, who said you cannot work on the corporate side of the food industry? Not sure what your current work or previous education in life I often want to know more about a career changers education and current career to see if there is anything that could be beneficial to make that career change.
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post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 
:) ... I like how you put that.

I'm not working for a corporation; I've been working in the family business, in the retail furniture industry for over 6 years. My degree is a BS in Business/Marketing.
post #4 of 13
Its good that you have a BA. You know that with, or even without culinary school, you could get a job in a kitchen. However, you also may need to make a bit more than 8-12 bucks an hour.

What might be beneficial for you is to look into FCI since they are in Manhattan. Its also a short program with a good alumni network. Perhaps you can learn how to cook and start seeking out more jobs in the corporate side of the food industry (large scale catering operations, hotels, etc) so you can work in the field but not take such a hit financially.

Those are just my thoughts. Good luck.
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post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 
FCI is exactly the place I had in mind. For the way the program is setup, and after speaking with someone there they made me feel good about the possibilities once the program is done. I'm happy you're saying the same thing.

I am finding out more and more about the different types of work that's out there for the trained cook. I can't say that I'm not scared, but this looks like it might be really happening and I'm excited for the possibilities ahead.

Thanks for you advice so far.
post #6 of 13
You are welcome. I checked it out for a bit last year when I was in NYC. Seems like a good setup and program. Not cheap but it could be exactly what you need.

Lastly, keep us posted on what actually happens. A lot of people seek advice but few seem to post the end result.
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post #7 of 13
Coolcheech...I am kind of in the same boat. I am over 40, a career military officer, that while on the cusp of retirement (after 20+ years of service) want to pursue the next level of cooking. I must be crazy as well because my expertise is in IT communications, married with 4 kids; I could easily get a civilian job in the $180K+ range. Though my passion is cooking and creative arts in the woodworking arena. The nice thing is that I get a good retirement check every month to cover expenses if I chose this route.

Any thoughts about my pursuit? Should I bother with school or just continue my cooking events with friends and family and enjoy my involved hobby? I am thinking of offering my "free" service to a decent restaurant to gain some practical experience…..thoughts?
post #8 of 13
definatly there are many course which can be your career changer, but the question is do you really want it...or just wanna be what you are....
There are many proples searches Top Culinary Schools & Culinary Courses Daily...beacuse this what they want...so you have to decide want you can do best with intrest....
post #9 of 13
Volunteer your free services, and yes, most restaurant owners or chefs are thrilled with free help. You don't sound like you hate what you do so this could be a good starting point.
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post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 
I've met with some financial aid/admissions people at the school. Obviously they kissed my ***, but I still enjoyed the school and what they had to offer.

But what's been bugging me is this:

1) While I was visiting a lot chef's and restaurant's names were being thrown around, and I haven't heard of 99% of them.
Am I supposed to know these things? I don't really have an opportunity to try so-and-so's 9 course tasting menu at the place with the 5-star whatever rating, nor can I see spending $500 on dinner a reality.

and

2) French cooking/kitchen terms, I don't know them. I probably don't know more than the basic cooking techniques either.

The truth is I don't care. I don't care about celebrity chefs, I don't care about the ratings. I'll spend $500 on a camping vacation and eat ramen and granola for a week before I spend that on a dinner for 2. But still, should I brush up on my knowledge of this stuff before I enter the industry?

Not knowing the terms and techniques is something I want the school to teach me. That, I do want to know.
I'm curious to know if I should have a basic understanding of them before I start, or is being completely in the dark acceptable?

I want to learn how to make the best food and see people happy eating it. Is this the foundation for becoming a great chef? Because if it is then I'm ready.

Advice before the great leap?
post #11 of 13
1) As someone that works in admissions, I can understand where FCI reps may be coming from to entice you on coming to school. However, it seems like they were just doing their thing without really knowing what would entice you. It seems like they didn't ask enough questions. They didn't know their audience because they probably talked more than you did. Did you happen to tell them how you may want to use your education after completion?

When I meet with someone, lets say 18 year olds, they are much likelier to know people from the Food Network or Top Chef than anyone else because that is where they can get the most exposure. When it comes to alumni, Doug Sohn of Hot Dougs fame, is recognized the most because he has been featured on No Reservations while locals who may be more exposed to more fine dining would know who Shawn McClain and Mindy Segal are. They also tend to know Paul Kahan and Paul Virant and Grant Achatz (none are alumni of the school). One sells hot dogs and the other two have been James Beard winners and nominees.

Should you know them? That's up to you if you aspire to enter that world. Although, do you have to eat at a restaurant to have a general idea of who they are but there are so many sources, like this site, twitter, Time Out NY, that can get you more familiar with NYC dining.

2) It might be a good idea to pick up On Cooking or ask for advice on which books chefs would recommend (because I am no chef) and just practice at home. Do you need to? Technically no, but prep and cooking is all about repitition. The more you do it, the better you will be. If you want to get out what they only teach you, that's your choice but why limit yourself in your knowledge of being a great cook?

I hope this helps.
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post #12 of 13
I have been in your position and so answer your questions as follows:

No, because at the time I thought I was doing the right thing.

Yes. In my view, knowing what I know about the cooking industry, absolutely yes.

No, you have to be obsessed. Passion is nice but it's not passion that gets you success - it's perseverence.

As to the military officer who asks whether he should take on a kitchen or stay entertaining friends...I say definitely the latter. Military trained people - particularly those who've been in a long time - have not lasted in the kitchens I've been in and it has a lot to do with their institutionalised mindset. I don't mean to offend (I have four family members in the military), this has just been my experience.

At the end of the day, looking back on what I've done, I can honestly say the following:

- you don't need to go to school;
- you don't need to spend a lot of money to get into a kitchen;
- you will never earn much if you stay in a kitchen - you must step outside the box;
- there is very little respect between professionals in the industry;
- cooking is VERY overrated.

:talk:
post #13 of 13
Funny. If not for the fact that I rent instead of owning in Brooklyn, I could've written the exact same thing -- age, last salary, school of choice. Just visited FCI this past Thursday. The last three minutes of the tour was amazing. I regret passing on the baguette.

It's a difficult decision because it's irrational on some levels. I find myself saying things like "I'm too old to dice onions for six months, 50 hours a week" and "I'm too old to make just 25k a year." My sense is the answer is don't -- Either don't try to do it, or find a way to make it work. I don't want to be a professional onion dicer, so I'll just have to kick *** quickly at whatever I'm allowed to do. I don't want to be poor, so I'll have to find the energy and creativity in my time off to make more money on the side.

A culinary career would actually be my second skydive. In December 2007, I left a job in healthcare IT -- possibly the most high-growth job segment in the country -- because I was unhappy. Planned for time off without a position lined up (who's gonna wait 3-6 months?), the market tanked, couldn't find a job, so I started freelancing. Making less money, less unhappy, a few less luxuries, but life is more or less the same. I'm still in the same apartment paying the same rent, as is of course the benchmark of NYC living. I found a way to make it work. Don't underestimate the motivation of necessity.

All being said, I haven't sent my application in yet. Maybe we should get a beer to either talk each other into or out of it.
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