I got my start at cooking in the Army National Guard. The Guard got called up for a forest fire and I volunteered to help (I had joined the Guard after I got out of the Army). Instead of putting me in communications (which I was trained for) they put me in a kitchen. I liked it and the mess people liked me. Afterwards I got a transfer to kitchen duty. I spent the rest of my time in the Guard cooking. While I was in, I was in high demand, other units requested me for their exercises so I spent much more time in the kitchen than a normal Guard cook. I reached the point where I was often in charge of the kitchen. However I never had any formal Army training in cooking.
After I got out I went to a culinary school. And then worked at several, managed a few, and even owned a couple restaurants. Now I no longer cook professionally, though I'm not ruling out doing it again.
I have to support what most of the people before me said - you should find a restaurant and try it out before you devote yourself to cooking. Cooking can be a highly stressful job and you have to be the type of person who can deal with that stress and hopefully thrive in it. I've seen a lot of people come into a kitchen thinking they would enjoy the job and then discovering that it was nothing like they believed it was going to be. This was more evident when I was in the Guard as we would often get people from another MOS (job) volunteer to fill empty slots in the mess staff for the 2 weeks of annual training, many of them only lasted a day - and this was institutional cooking (one meal for everyone), normal restaurant cooking can be even more stressful, I've seen a lot of new cooks fresh from school burn out quickly also. Very few of the people I went to school with lasted more than a year or two.
You might be the type of person (like myself) who enjoys being on a line and learning to take the tickets 5 or more at a time and timing the preparation of the food for those tickets so that they all come up hot and ready to be plated at the same time and then moving to the next 5 (when you're in the groove this is a wonderful feeling - I've actually been told it's fun to watch me when I'm doing it also), or you might enjoy being a prep cook and doing the back work behind the line (I also enjoy this), or maybe you'll like working as a saucier (most the kitchen I worked in this was often also the prep or line cook), or a pastry cook. But whatever you might later decide was your niche, I truly believe you'd benefit from experiencing what it was like working in a running kitchen before you committed yourself to culinary school.
Edited by Dropkick - 2/6/13 at 9:41pm