This is my frist post her. I have never been a person who really posted on forums and such but I came hear today to get the opinons of culinary professionals because I am getting very frustraited. This is going to be long but please bear with me.
I have two culinary degrees, one from a school in the United States and another from the school in the Uk. I have so much student loan debt that I will probably my children will probably have to finish paying off out of my estate after I pass away.
I love food, I love everything about it, but I especually love cooking it. My jouney to becoming a professional chef has not been a good one though or an easy one.
When I was attending my first culinary school, we had to complete a 3 month externship at a restaurant in order to graduate. I had two job offers for my externship. One was at a Ritz-Charlton Hotel, the other was at a small Hunting Lodge. In the end, I chose the Hunting Lodge only because when I visited with the Ritz-Charlton Hotel, the Executive Chef told me that he was going to put me in the Garde Manger kitchen and that I would have to stay there for at least a year then if a position opened up I would be able to apply for a transfer.
At the Hunting Lodge, they had a very small kitchen staff because they didnt' do very many covers a night and during service, it would be just me and the head chef in the kitchen. I thought that I would have a chance to do and see more at the hunting lodge and get to pick a head chefs brain so I took that job... That was my first mistake. The head chef of this hunting lodge thought that they were hiring me so that he could train me and then I could replace because they could pay me less. So he didn't show me a damn thing... wouldn't answer any of my questions. I was just like a nurse in a operating room, he would say "give me this... or get me that....." and that was my job the gofer as I use to joke. The thing is... he then got mad at the owners and quit..... So guess who got pushed into the roll..... me. Here I was still technically a culinary student running a kitchen at an upscale hunting lodge. When I say running, I mean I had come up with a new menu everyday, order supplies and be there to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner. Again, it wasn't busy, it was almost like being a private chef. Some nights I might only cook dinner for a couple, I think the most I ever did was 15 people. and they came as part of two groups.... But stayed because they were very happy with me, the owner loved me because I was doing the job for peanuts and everyone was happy with the food I was making. I didn't know enough to know that I should get out of there.
Finally I did leave that job to go back to culinary collge in the UK. That College in the UK was when I first started getting my rude awakening. .. Passed the course but just.... and that was with me not working, doing nothing but studying. So I grauated and was recruited by a very nice 5 star hotel right out of college, one that had a great reputation for great food. This was the year that everyone first realize that there was a problem with the economy. So.... the restauraunt was short staffed and they had "cheapened" up their food. And I had no training, no introduction. I was just thrown in .... If i messed something up, I wasn't told the proper way to do it, I was just never asked to do it again. If I was asked if I knew how to do something..... and I said No..... then I never got to do it, no showing me how or even letting me watch. I stuggled at this job as a resort..... I was finally laied off. I went to work next a small restaurant in the same town as the hotel. I was the second chef, covered the head chefs days off and cooked all main course items. I had one other chef helping me who die d veg, starters and desserts. The most we ever did here was 40 covers... as I was only working main course on Sunday and Monday nights.... the head chefs nights off. Other times, I worked starts, veg, and desserts my self. I actually did good at this job, the owners really liked me, and told me constantly that I did a good job. Then.. the head chef made it known tha the wanted to leave.... so they hired a very well known local chef who had actually been a sous chef at a Mechelin star restaurant. He was hired while I was there to work with the head chef and take over once he left. The think is.... they didn't really need me during this time period so the owners moved me to the hotel that they owned and I worked in the kitchen there. It was pretty much the same situation as the other Hotel, only three chefs working, doing weddings and other groups of over 250 people. The food was crap which is why so few chefs were even able to do it. And again.... I struggled, pretty much had me just platting deserts and even washing dishes.
Finally I left there..... and went to yet another Hotel. When I started, the head chef had just quit.... So the Old Head Chef (before him) had come in just to keep them going. He really liked me and put me on main courses. I did that for about 4 or 5 months until they hired a new Head Chef. He let me stay there unti one night things went really bad during a busy service. Now I will admit when I make a mistake but this problem was mainly him not me. We were so buisy that I was working mains, a nother chef was working starts, one doing paistry and the head chef was working the pass and plating. We got so busy that he told me just to keep putting the orders on tha the would get and plate the items when he needed them. So I did, the problem was, he would grave the wrong steaks... plate well dones that were the person asked for mediums. stuff like that. Plus, he would pull down the tickets once an order went because he and all of use where in the weeds. At some point in all of it... I got lost and went to look at the tickets to see where I was at. But he hadn't been taking down the tickets when he was sending orders. I asked him three times to tell me where we were at and got no responce.... so i guessed and just put what I thought I needed on. We ended up being two steaks short...... Of course it was all my fault.... and that was the end of me doing main courses..... after 5 months that ended it. It really hurt my confidence and I feel like my am regressing now. I quit that job and just last month started at another small restaurant. But this restaurant is actually pretty busy. Prep and all I am fine but when service comes.....I get so confussed now so easily.... At this current job, I am expected to cook and plate all starters and plate all main courses as well. There is a floater who helps me by doing veg and who can also help me with starters when I need to. But I get so confused and up the weeds so easily, much easier than I ded when I was the number 2 chef at the other restaurant. I think a lot of it has to do with confidence because I am at a fase now where if I mess something up, I just go into a downward spiral, I get where I just can't do anything because my confidence fails me.
I really like the job I have now but I am afraid I am about to be let go... and rightfully so. I am starting to question my career choice for the first time since I began this journey. I love food though so I still want to do something with food. When I was younger I use to do a lot of history writing. Some of my work has even been quoted in a few small time history books and I have had several historical articles appear in small town news papers that tied into a local historical event. At the moment I am even working on a novel. So I think I might actually make a good food writer. I have a good palette, knowledge of cooking techniques, termanology ect. But I have no idea who to get into that.
So basically I have had to finally admit that it is me, that maybe I am just not cut out for restaurant work after my 5 years of trying, I really haven't gotten anyware and now I have less confidence in myself than when I began. So I think I might would like to try to do somehting else with my two culinary degrees but am just not sure what to try and how to start.
I was wondering if anybody had any idea's on what else I can do with my degrees, what other jobs can do in food besides kitchen work? I would really appreciate any advice or insight.