For me, cooking was a great job when I was 17-23, traveling, and partying every day. I am pushing 30 now, and feeling the repercussions of all of the above postings. My nerves are shot, and Its become crystal clear that its not for me in the long term. After 12 years of Cooking my way up to executive chef, I've finally decided to throw in the towel and switch careers. Here's why:
When you're an industry professional, chances are you will have no life outside of work. I've come to terms with that over the years. You get used to it. Im at the point where Servers messing up bills is the norm, Customers do stroll in 1 minute before close, cooks don't show up for work, and depending on where you work there is usually some kind of blowout scenario between staff about once a week. Thats just the job, it always has been, it always will be. Don't get me wrong, Just because I got used to it doesn't mean I don't hate it.
A huge problem for me is miserable co-workers, Especially red faced screaming chefs, arrogant bartenders, know-it-all "cooks" who know jack shit, having to listen to a servers story about getting drunk (or some other trivial story that I don't even find remotely interesting) day in and day out. The general toxic environment that is a by-product of long hours, low pay, heat, stress,few days off etc. It eventually creeps into your life like a disease to the point where you cant sleep, you cant even enjoy days off (if you get any) without thinking about the festering negativity at work. It's one thing I've never gotten used to, and it drives me up the wall. It's contageous. And we all know the cliche, Misery loves company.
-I miss spending weekends with my girlfriend (last day off together was 6 months ago)
-My only "vacations" are when I am unemployed or between jobs
-Have'nt seen family in years
-working many many unpaid hours
-recently diagnosed with GAD (generalized anxiety disorder), resulting in major depression, due to work
-no time with friends
-tips stolen by owners and management
the list goes on and on
You cant live a "normal" life as a cook. There are lifers out there who actually love what they do, and they are a genuine pleasure to work with, and my hat goes off to them. But, Im not one of them and my heart is no longer in cooking. Whatever passion I once had is gone, and I have nothing but contempt for the industry and the slave-drivers in it. The only way to deal with the stress it to "not care" or "not give a shit" about my job, telling myself that its only a job. But when you dont care, your work suffers, and so does the restaurant. The thing is, I'm not the only one. Most people I've worked with are actually in the same boat, but they are almost always reluctant to talk about it, especially at work.
Put simply, I would suggest to anyone who might be looking for an education or career in hospitality to consider other options. Or consider working part time first to see if it is for you.
I love great food, But I don't at all enjoy negative people, which is why I plan on saying goodbye to "the Industry"