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Anyone even remotely THINKING about a "culinary career" needs to read this...

post #1 of 63
Thread Starter 

http://ruhlman.com/2010/09/so-you-wanna-be-a-chef%E2%80%94-by-bourdain-2.html

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post #2 of 63

Hey, Pete - Thanks for the link.  I really enjoyed that, though I am kind of glad I didn't read it years ago before I went to culinary school.  I definitely fit in his category of older career changers.  But a lot of what he says, ESPECIALLY about the choices students make right out of culinary school, are very true.

post #3 of 63
Thread Starter 

I entered the "culinary arena" at 58, and am still cooking at 68, so, look out you youngsters!

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post #4 of 63

thanks for sharing the link, Pete.  I too fit into the category of "older career changers" and haven't set foot in a culinary school yet.  I'm still thinking about going but I haven't fully made the decision just yet.

OK ... where am I going?.. and WHY am I in this handbasket??
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OK ... where am I going?.. and WHY am I in this handbasket??
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post #5 of 63

Thanks, Pete....I'm an old dog back-pedalling on the slippery slope...

 

Those who can do, those who can't teach...or starve!  In my case, getting kicked up a short, rickety flight of stairs to absorb blue radiation by myself looks decidedly unappealing but I made my bed...just probably shouldn't have pissed in it... .

 

Thanks Tony...you done good!

"Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans."
Allen Saunders, 1957.
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"Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans."
Allen Saunders, 1957.
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post #6 of 63

now I'm even more unsure what to do with my life D:

post #7 of 63

The fact is that Mr. Bourdain IS a loser guys.

 

If it weren't for his writing capabilities, none of us would have ever heard of him.

 

He freely admits to his career being less than stellar. Les Halles in New York where he worked wasn't even that great a restaurant.

I've read his book Kitchen Confidential and laughed almost all through it. Like many Chefs it is a story of their own careers (mine included)

His latest book and the thread that Pete has offered wreaks of elitism. There is  jealousy, and envy  in most every profession.

Just remember Tony did not make it as a Chef but is a lot better at writing about it.

 

post #8 of 63

I read the linked article and I have to say, I was amused.  I thought it was quite humorously written and quite funny. 

post #9 of 63

I am not so sure that it is a "fact" that he is a loser. I think we know of him exactly what he wants us to know. He is frank about his tribulations with dealing with substance abuse and overcoming that monumental challenge. Further, he is well-spoken about food and culinary exploration. I am not necessarily the president of his fan club, but I think to categorically dismiss his experience may be robbing potential readers of valuable information.

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Invention, my dear friends, is ninety-three percent perspiration, six percent electricity, four percent evaporation, and two percent butterscotch ripple

My Author Page

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post #10 of 63

From what I get from this article is that the culinary world is extremely hardwork with bull pay and with no insurance and bull hours with a crappy social life. how the heck does a cook live on 12/hr for 5 years before getting promoted to a slightly higher pay yet must handle more bull? I knew that I would be getting bull pay from the start but I'm not sure if I can deal with 18$/hr when I'm 30 and with average insurance while trying to raise a family. I don't think I'm talented so I'm not sure if sheer hard sweat will be enough. My dream is to open up my own restaurant but that could just mean I'm just young and stupid.If the culinary world is this doom and gloom I'm starting to have second thoughts.......

I think I am in denial of being a dreamer  from watching foodnetwork. it seems like the people are taking a huge risk in their life with a small chance of becoming an average chef with below average pay .  Do you see a lot of 30 y/o cooks deeply regret their choice? I think I might be satisfied from just having a huge knowledge on food rather then having no social life.still might take culinary school though.

 

ps. sorry for the unorganized rant lol.

post #11 of 63

I think the article has some level of "wisdom" in it.  Look in your kitchens and look at the age of the people working in them.  Being a "line cook" is not a career destination, it's a means to an end.  Whether that "end" is in the restaurant world or elsewhere is up to the individual to determine.  There's nothing special here though -- go look at your local fast food joint and look at the ages represented.  Most of the workers are under 25, with the majority of evening shift being high schoolers.  I worked in fast food in high school, and frankly, think everyone should, but that's not where my career is supposed to end.

post #12 of 63

I just don't understand the situation at all.

 

In "My time" there were culinary "superstars" too: Child, Pepin, Martin Yan, Frugal Gourmet, etc..  True, there wasn't a devoted TV Channel, but they were popular enough, yet students weren't banging on culinary school doors back then. 

 

Why now?

 

Face it: 

(1) There's waaaaaaay to much competition for the dining dollar,

(2) no controls/standards on who opens up a place,

(3) no standards on culinary schools, 

(4) no energy exerted by Unions or schools to set up national standards for cooks,

and

(5) a public who just want cheap food.

 

Even though I've been in this biz for 25-odd years, I can still walk off to a distance and see things the way they are.  Even when I was 16 I knew I'd never get rich, would work non-sociable hours, and have physical demands on my body every day.

 

Why don't people now see this?  Why don't the financial institutions lending money acknowledge that it's at best, culinary school tuition is a lousy investment?

 

Why is Bourdain the only one who can look critically at the whole restaurant scene?  What he is doing needs to be done, but no one is following him, no one is supporting him, and the media treat him as a bad boy odd-ball. A one-off... 

 

 

Why does every media source portray a cook as a Chef with a glorious lifestyle and $100,000.00 salary? 

 

Is it guilt feelings for tipping the waiter and giving verbal complimets to the cooks?  

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #13 of 63

Couldn't think of a better profession than being a chef!

post #14 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by foodpump View Post

I just don't understand the situation at all.

 

In "My time" there were culinary "superstars" too: Child, Pepin, Martin Yan, Frugal Gourmet, etc..  True, there wasn't a devoted TV Channel, but they were popular enough, yet students weren't banging on culinary school doors back then. 

 

Why now?

 

Face it: 

(1) There's waaaaaaay to much competition for the dining dollar,

(2) no controls/standards on who opens up a place,

(3) no standards on culinary schools, 

(4) no energy exerted by Unions or schools to set up national standards for cooks,

and

(5) a public who just want cheap food.

 

Even though I've been in this biz for 25-odd years, I can still walk off to a distance and see things the way they are.  Even when I was 16 I knew I'd never get rich, would work non-sociable hours, and have physical demands on my body every day.

 

Why don't people now see this?  Why don't the financial institutions lending money acknowledge that it's at best, culinary school tuition is a lousy investment?

 

Why is Bourdain the only one who can look critically at the whole restaurant scene?  What he is doing needs to be done, but no one is following him, no one is supporting him, and the media treat him as a bad boy odd-ball. A one-off... 

 

 

Why does every media source portray a cook as a Chef with a glorious lifestyle and $100,000.00 salary? 

 

Is it guilt feelings for tipping the waiter and giving verbal complimets to the cooks?  

A peer of mine would have many issue with your statements, and I doubt that having "food police" to insure proper procedures, and to decide who stays open and who closes is not the answer.Free enterprise remember?
 

post #15 of 63

Pete ! I though I was oldest one on here, but I see we are tied. I didn't change careers however I started at 15. For a guy that started at 58, you are very knowlegable.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #16 of 63

Yup free enterprise........

 

Stand on the other side of the kitchen doors for a few years and watch "Free enterprise" at work coming into your establishement.  The prevailing attitude for customers is to get whatever you can for free, and failing that at a discount, and failing that at least "give 'em a piece of your mind". Something like 8 out of 10 restaurants don't make it in the first year, for  a variety of reasons: Under capitilized, ignorent of health/municipal codes, poor marketing, you name it.  And the public love it, for a restaurant slowly going under is bleeding itself dry--great bargains to be had before it goes under.  Failed businesses are hard on the economy, hard on the owners, hard on it's suppliers, even hard on it's ex-employees.  Everyone has sob-stories about working at "X" and didn't get paid becasue it went under--everyone: employees, suppliers, landlords.

 

The ones that make past the first and second years are invariably run by people with experience in the industry. It don't take a rocket scientist to figure it out, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why driver's licenses are mandatory, or electrician's certificates or gas fitter's tickets are required.  Meh, a 60 seat restaurant only has the capacity to kill or maim 120 guests per shift........ 

 

Go ahead with Free Enterprise, the used food equipment dealers will love you to death......

 

 

 

 

There are two ways to make an employer pay you more:

 

The first is to put a gun to his head and threaten.  This is the only tactic in the hospitality union's book--strike or else.

 

The second is to train up the employee, making them much more desirable and capable of making the business earn more. 

 

For this you need standards and qualifications, and every other manual trade has these. Going rate for plumbers is $70/hr, HVAC $80/hr, Electricians,O.K. you get the message, they have standards and benchmarks and are paid acccording to this.  Cooks have none, and the Unions are doing diddly-squat about it, and the employers keep on buying more and more convienience food and getting unexperienced people to open pouches

because they have no "real" cooks, and have shaved every penny so it is impossible to hire and pay for a "real" cook, and....... O.K. you get the message, it's a nasty cycle.

 

Someone has to hold the Culinary School's nose to the doo-doo under the couch too.  "Free enterprise" at it's best, and "Caveat emporium" too, as Mr. Bourdain so nicely points out, forking out 40-60 grand for a diploma so's you can get to earn minimum wage for the first few years isn't good.

 

Free enterprise my sweet cheeks.  Look at any media source and therse no mention of the pittfalls and current situation, only who's "top Chef".

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #17 of 63
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed Buchanan View Post

Pete ! I though I was oldest one on here, but I see we are tied. I didn't change careers however I started at 15. For a guy that started at 58, you are very knowlegable.


Ah, but like you I started my "culinary education" about the same time you did, I just "went to school" a little longer before "starting to cook professionally"!

 

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post #18 of 63

Bourdain is hardly a loser. Losers don't  get paid to travel the world and eat indigenous food. Bourdain is kind, smart, gracious and way down to earth.

He doesn't put on any airs, he is who he is. He has a beautiful wife and a sweet little girl. So he did some hard drugs for a few years, he doesn't  try to hide it, he is very open about who he was. We all go though bad spells, dark times, it is whether we get ourselves  out that counts and he did.

I think the culinary world needs Bourdain, who else can eat at The French Laundry one day and eat tacos off a truck the next. He's genuine, honest and a full fledged smart ass. He's perfect.

post #19 of 63

I am in the process of reading the book and went through this chapter already.  I am the target audience he is going after here.  I am 23, recently graduated, trying to put all the pieces together.  Instead of taking a trip to Spain or France though, I immediately started working full time for the hotel kitchen I had intern'd at.  I have no regrets with that I am doing, I have gained invaluable learning experiences at this kitchen, and I am eager to keep moving up with hotels (though it seems I may be hated among my fellow restaurant peers due to the benefits, slightly better pay, and slightly more sociable hours hotel kitchens offer).  I am confident that I can be successful and happy on the route I am in, even if I never become the next Thomas Kellar or Grant Achatz with a fortune in 3rd party branded cooking products.

post #20 of 63
Thread Starter 
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post #21 of 63

That makes me happy.  I'm 33 and (though it would never stop me) I did have a moment of pause when I toured my school of choice recently and was the oldest person there besides the Chef.  I'm stubborn as the day is long, however, and ultimately I will have what I want. 

I don't like food, I love it.  If I don't love it, I don't swallow.
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I don't like food, I love it.  If I don't love it, I don't swallow.
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post #22 of 63

Late to the game but new here, wanted to say thank you for posting this, I am a 32 year old college student who was a stay at home mom before this and it feels good to know my decision was a good one. Its the first concern I had when i talked to the program advisor. However I am not going to a culinary school and the program is actually a business associates in hospitality and food service. They are training managers, and its definitely not 50 grand for a year more like 2! When i told him I thought I was too old he gave me a business card of a women who opened a bakery local and her product is well know within a year. she found a niche and went for it. She graduated a year ago. She is 55. That's right folks. 55.


Edited by CandyCLC - 10/26/10 at 9:45pm
post #23 of 63

Quote:

Originally Posted by PeteMcCracken View Post

Here's another interesting "news flash": http://blogs.laweekly.com/squidink/food-news/le-cordon-bleu-fraud-lawsuit/



the problem is they are misleading... this is not a career where you go to school and are guaranteed even a paying job. if you manage to get paid, the pay is horrible until you get to the top. some say its not even worth it.

 

i would not pay for a school like LCB because it is ridiculous. those who are rich and do it simply for fun, i can understand... but for those who actually need a career to come out of it, i feel sorry for them. i know many that struggle financially and going to expensive culinary schools only set them further back. clearly making little over minimum wage isn't supporting their family, let alone paying off the debt from school and prior.

 

i am taking a culinary program at a community college... far cheaper, yet it still prepares you for work in a professional kitchen. it might help you get a job, but its still hard to... and anyone asking a culinary school for labor is looking to get it for free or very little pay. beyond those points, there is little reason to go to culinary school. i am still enrolled but only for restaurant management classes... i may not go back to the culinary classes. i cook professionally and i learn all i need on the job. (a lot of the culinary i learned at school is useless)

post #24 of 63

Huy Bui,

 

I think you are painting culinary school with a very wide brush.  For YOU, you learn everything you WANT to know by cooking professionally.  However, just because you don't use things you learned in culinary school, doesn't mean they don't have a place for other people. 

 

For a professional cook with a stable resume, I simply don't feel that you can learn as much on the job as you can from having many more sources of information.  If your resume is 8 pages long because of all of the different place you've worked, then you may have learned a lot from the job.  However, much of the work of a cook is to prepare the same dishes over and over again.  There's not a lot of "learning" involved once you've gotten the quality and speed objectives reached. 

 

If I were rich, 20 years younger, and weren't married with kids, I might try going to Europe and begging to work for free to get the multitude of experience, but I don't have that option.  Culinary school offers the education that I don't have the time to pick up "on the job". 

 

I'm not in culinary school and don't intend to go, but if I wanted to learn the skills they offer, they would be a choice worthy of consideration. 

post #25 of 63

hey their,

 

Very good point about having lot's of exp in many restaurant's but also doing the same thing, this is why I'm trying to develope my personal chef business of in home meal planning and dinner party services, unfortantly my market area prevents substantial growth of a personal chef in the Niagara region, perhaps I should be working in the restaurant industry after all, this way I know I'm getting security.

 

where your from

Jacob

post #26 of 63

gobblygook,

 

nice of you to argue with me based on your vast lack of experience. excuses are like assholes, everyone has one. if you want to do it, you can. this thread is about those looking for a culinary career, if you want to learn for fun, that has nothing to do with this discussion.

post #27 of 63
Thread Starter 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chefJake View Post

...Very good point about having lot's of exp in many restaurant's but also doing the same thing, this is why I'm trying to develope my personal chef business of in home meal planning and dinner party services, unfortantly my market area prevents substantial growth of a personal chef in the Niagara region, perhaps I should be working in the restaurant industry after all, this way I know I'm getting security...

With over ten years as a personal chef, I've learned that a personal chef cooks what CLIENTS want and, as such, the opportunities to "learn from experience" are limited by your clients needs and wants.

 

Similarly, working day in and day out at a typical, average restaurant will "polish your skills", but only for producing what that particular restaurant offers.

 

A "trade school", and that defines a great majority of culinary schools, should teach one how to use the typical tools to prepare and cook the typical dishes using typical techniques and processes. These "fundamentals" copy what has, over time, been proven to work but the opportunities for "professional growth are limited at best. IMHO, the typical culinary school trains one to become, with experience, a "journeyman cook", able to fairly quickly adapt to the demands of a specific kitchen to repetitively produce specific dishes rapidly and efficiently.

 

The transition to "master" or "chef" requires additional education and experience in some combination of OJT and formal training or exposure.

 

There is NO single path that will lead you to YOUR goal, only paths that are longer or shorter, easier  or more difficult, broader (to give one the flexibility of changing one's goal(s) ) or narrower (focused on achieving the desired goal). Note that ALL path lead to a "goal", stated, desired, or by happenstance, your choice!
 

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post #28 of 63

Looks like it's been awhile since anyone has responded to this but after reading AB's "opinion" on the subject, I feel it's all a moot point.

His take on the aspirations of people wanting a career in the culinary arts is a little twisted.

First off, it seems to me that he is lumping everybody into the "I want to be the next God's Gift to Chefs" catagory. Some people don't want the headache.

Some people just want to go to their local AI, or their local state college and get a degree in the culinary arts, go find a decent job, be able to pay the bills, enjoy what they're doing, and have a happy home life.

If I was 19 yrs. old again, heck yes this article would scare the crap out of me, and possibly make me re-think a career in the kitchen.

But fortunately, I'm pushing 54 yrs. old and I've got a pretty deep resume, and being a Chef ain't on there.

But here's the kicker, and why I totally disagree with his "philosophy" on age.......Being 53 yrs. old, and employed in one field or the other since I was 14, I'm mature enough to decide if I want to persue the culinary arts field.

And the fact that AB says I'm "too old" makes me that much more certain that I will obtain that career.  

post #29 of 63

Well, here's the point I think many miss on this debate...The cost of SOME culinary schools does not reflect the actual pay you will walk away with. Try living making $700 a month payments on a cooks salary. It's difficult. Very difficult. 

 

Now with that being said, certificates are also offered at some of these "expensive" schools. For example, I know AI posts the cost as well as the median salary post graduation. There isn't much of a difference between a BA degree and cert in for recent graduates. 

 

Bourdain also discredits community colleges, which I think is a shame. Sure, some will be terrible but some are fantastic. 

 

What it comes down to, in my opinion, is the financial ramifications of those that feel they NEED to spend a lot of money on a culinary degree. 

 

What I've been doing the last few months is building my site which talks about a lot of these issues. www.culinaryschooladviser.com


I believe in freedom of choice but I also believe in making responsible and well-thought decisions. 

See the truth about the culinary education industry at www.culinaryschooladviser.com 
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post #30 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by jtobin625 View Post

Well, here's the point I think many miss on this debate...The cost of SOME culinary schools does not reflect the actual pay you will walk away with. Try living making $700 a month payments on a cooks salary. It's difficult. Very difficult. 

 

Now with that being said, certificates are also offered at some of these "expensive" schools. For example, I know AI posts the cost as well as the median salary post graduation. There isn't much of a difference between a BA degree and cert in for recent graduates. 

 

Bourdain also discredits community colleges, which I think is a shame. Sure, some will be terrible but some are fantastic. 

 

What it comes down to, in my opinion, is the financial ramifications of those that feel they NEED to spend a lot of money on a culinary degree. 

 

What I've been doing the last few months is building my site which talks about a lot of these issues. www.culinaryschooladviser.com


I believe in freedom of choice but I also believe in making responsible and well-thought decisions. 


I agree with what you are saying. I think Bourdain is basically telling us his ups, and (mostly) downs of his "entry level" career, which I think a lot of was brought on himself. Heroin and coke in the kitchen? Or for that matter, anywhere?

Although I don't feel sorry for him, I'm glad he is doing well and he is clean. I just think a lot of his past misery was rearing it's ugly head in the article.

Like I said earlier, that's something a young person could get very confused by, especially when they see their heros on the Food Network having such a good time and loving what they are doing.

I don't think anyone, young or old, should be discouraged from doing what they dream, or want to do.

You, and Bourdain are very spot on when it comes to researchingt your school very carefully.

Look man, I'm just a "wannabe" chef. I am not in this business, nor do I know what goes on behind the kitchen door. I'm just looking at it from a 53 yr. olds perspective whose had a lot of ups and downs myself. It ain't rocket science, it's cookin'.  
 

 

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