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A bunch of Questions for Culinary Students (Past and Present)

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

Hello!

 

I am new to this site and was referred to this forum by the General thread.

 

Basically, I am thinking of attending a Culinary School this coming fall, and I just have a list of questions here that I would like to ask those of you who have gone through, and graduated, a Culinary School.

 

I don't know if this matters or not, but the school I'm thinking about taking the Culinary course in is George Brown College that's located in downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada. If any of you have gone to the chef school here, or you just have heard some interesting things about it (good or bad), please don't hesitate to inform me any information you may have about this school.

 

Now for the questions;

 

1. What can I expect the environment to be like at Chef School? That is, is it a very stressful atmosphere to be working in? Or is there at least some aspect of "fun" involved? 

 

2. What can I expect the teachers to be like? I was at an information session earlier this month, and one of the teachers seemed really to be enjoying his job, and a career in being a chef. Obviously, the atmosphere has a certain level of professionalism to it, but I need a teacher that is involved enough to make me be the best Chef that I can be. Do they take cooking to be over-the-top serious? Or do they have some level of letting you enjoy cooking for what it is?

 

3. What can I expect my classmates to be like? Generally, do culinary students straight out of high school have some level of professionalism about doing well in the course and learning as much as they can? Or are most of them going to be idiots (class clowns)?

 

4. I need something to be passionate about. I went to University for three years after high school, took pretty much every "General Arts" course that was offered, and still was not passionate about anything. I'm at the end of my rope when it comes to finding my passion in life, and I really need the next course I'm going to take at a college to motivate me enough so that I can have immense passion in that field. How many of you culinary students (past and present), were immediately passionate about cooking during your time taking the course? How easily is it to be passionate about cooking? How many of you were not passionate about cooking while taking the course?

 

5. Dishwashing. How much dishwashing am I going to be doing? 

 

6. How much stress am I going to be under? I've read in some places that becoming a chef is one of the worst jobs to be in because the stress is almost overwhelming everyday at work. How much stress am I going to be under at Chef School? How much stress am I going to be under after becoming a Chef?

 

7. Career-wise, what can I expect, should I take the course for however many years it takes and then do an apprenticeship, after its all done? Is it one of those things where its going to be a while before I actually have a steady income? Or is it a good pay straight off the bat? How much do Chefs usually end up making? I'm not talking about TV Chefs, just ordinary Chefs that have graduated from culinary school and all that.

 

8. I have worked in my share of restaurants over my life, (always as a dishwasher - hence my concern in question 5), and in every single restaurant, the cooks are always cigarette smokers. Always! Cooking is not one of those jobs that has so much stress that I'm going to have to start smoking, is it?

 

9. Should I go to this school and realize that I want to become a Chef as a full-time career path, I want it to be fun. I'm not talking every day I wake up and am excited about going to work, but I need some sort of aspect of fun in the job if I'm going to make it into a career. Are there at least some aspects of becoming a Chef that are fun?

 

10. Is there anything else that I should know about culinary school, or becoming a Chef as a career?

 

11. During the aforementioned info session, the main teacher said that chefs travel a lot. Is this true? I would love to take cooking to Europe or elsewhere, as I find (through watching cooking shows) that the training is way more intense and way more fun on "the other side of the pond". 

 

If I have more questions, I'll just add them onto the list.

 

Any help would be greatly appreciated!


Edited by kungfulincoln - 4/28/11 at 9:40am
post #2 of 13

If you have never been in a professional kitchen I would seriously recommend you go to the nearest busy restaurant and ask if you can watch a dinner service before you spend the money on culinary school. Working in a kitchen can be very fun and rewarding, however you have to remember... you are starting at the bottom, so there will be many dishes, and everything needs to be done right now, or five minutes ago. There are no future deadlines. Fast paced, busy kitchens can cause stress for sure. But once you find your feet, it can be very much fun. I will try to get back and answer the rest of the questions in order, but def. check out a local kitchen.

post #3 of 13

   Well, I am a current culinary arts student, though not at that college.  I am studying at a local community college down here in Houston, TX.

   To me, what you put into this school is going to be what you get out of it.  I certainly can't promise you that you will find your passion thru going to this school.  I think that you tend to find that by doing what you enjoy.

   As far as classmates go, we have all sorts of skill levels in our classes.  That can make things challenging for the teachers, I think.  I didn't have much cooking experience when I started school, yet I am still learning, and hopefully, holding my own.  I don't know what your classmates will be like, as each class is different.  However, there has to be quite a bit of concentration when one is in the kitchen or someone IS going to get hurt.  That should help keep any 'class clowns' in line.

   I'd say that you are definitely going to be doing some dishes.  Ain't no one else going to wash the pots and pans that you dirty, unless you do, you know.  Either that, or there will be a lot of complaining about your actions.

   Hopefully that helps a bit.

post #4 of 13

Dishwashing should be the least of your concerns. There are far worse jobs in the  kitchen. Based on your questions and the way they are worded ,if I were you I would try something else . Sorry I am only being honest with you. Most  of the things you ask,you should know before entering school. If you love long hours, working late nights and weekiends, no holiday off, excessive heat and sweat, and tension all for $12-=15 an hour which you will get when you graduate, then ok go for it.

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...

Reply

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...

Reply
post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 

Is it really that bad? Why would anybody want to become a chef, then?

post #6 of 13

Presumably, they love to cook?

post #7 of 13

There is a difference I think, in a bad thing, and something where people give you all the truth that just may seem ugly. I see it as an idea where far too many new people fall in love with the romance of the "TV Chef/Cooking World". After watching all TV shows like there are, it looks like a great field to get into. Well ..... I guess it is, as long as you are aware of what goes with. LOL. I didn't say this first, but it's true here I think: "Be careful what you wish for, you just may get it."

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

Reply

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

Reply
post #8 of 13

Kungfulincoln !!   It's not thats it's a bad thing. It takes a special person. It is not a job, it becomes a life because it consumes a great part of your world . Many people can't cut it. It is also a challenge.

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...

Reply

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...

Reply
post #9 of 13

I'm going to answer the questions I feel the most confident in answering that will benefit you.....

 

 

 

1. What can I expect the environment to be like at Chef School? That is, is it a very stressful atmosphere to be working in? Or is there at least some aspect of "fun" involved? 

 

This, like any other course or class, is going to completely depend on the teacher, the students, and what you put into it. Are you bad at baking? Maybe pastry won't be for you. Do you hate learning about food costs and control? You probably won't like that aspect. Does your teacher just suck? It doesn't matter what you like or dislike. 

 

 

3. What can I expect my classmates to be like? Generally, do culinary students straight out of high school have some level of professionalism about doing well in the course and learning as much as they can? Or are most of them going to be idiots (class clowns)?

 

Again, this is such a wide aspect, no one could begin to answer that question.

 

4. I need something to be passionate about. I went to University for three years after high school, took pretty much every "General Arts" course that was offered, and still was not passionate about anything. I'm at the end of my rope when it comes to finding my passion in life, and I really need the next course I'm going to take at a college to motivate me enough so that I can have immense passion in that field. How many of you culinary students (past and present), were immediately passionate about cooking during your time taking the course? How easily is it to be passionate about cooking? How many of you were not passionate about cooking while taking the course?

 

I highly suggest going into a restaurant you like, asking to speak with the chef, and explain to him you are considering going to culinary school. Ask if you can work a night or two, for free. 

 

5. Dishwashing. How much dishwashing am I going to be doing? 

 

If you are really concerned about this... well, this is not the business for you.

 

6. How much stress am I going to be under? I've read in some places that becoming a chef is one of the worst jobs to be in because the stress is almost overwhelming everyday at work. How much stress am I going to be under at Chef School? How much stress am I going to be under after becoming a Chef?

 

I think sitting in a cubical is much more stressful then working in the kitchen. But that's just me. See my answer above.

 

7. Career-wise, what can I expect, should I take the course for however many years it takes and then do an apprenticeship, after its all done? Is it one of those things where its going to be a while before I actually have a steady income? Or is it a good pay straight off the bat? How much do Chefs usually end up making? I'm not talking about TV Chefs, just ordinary Chefs that have graduated from culinary school and all that.

 

Expect to work long, long hours, nights, holidays, and for not a lot of pay. This is a job you do because you love it, not because you want to be rich.

 

8. I have worked in my share of restaurants over my life, (always as a dishwasher - hence my concern in question 5), and in every single restaurant, the cooks are always cigarette smokers. Always! Cooking is not one of those jobs that has so much stress that I'm going to have to start smoking, is it?

 

I don't smoke cigarettes. I am 30, and have worked in kitchens since age 17. Practice some self control.

 

9. Should I go to this school and realize that I want to become a Chef as a full-time career path, I want it to be fun. I'm not talking every day I wake up and am excited about going to work, but I need some sort of aspect of fun in the job if I'm going to make it into a career. Are there at least some aspects of becoming a Chef that are fun?

 

I think a lot of aspects are fun. I love feeding people, and making them happy with food. Sure, scrubbing a kitchen isn't much fun at all. It sucks in fact. But I think, working on a line, being in the weeds with 100 tickets staring you in the face is fun. What do I know?

 

10. Is there anything else that I should know about culinary school, or becoming a Chef as a career?

 

You will work very hard. You will work shit hours. You will work every holiday. It will be very difficult to have friends and relationships with people with normal schedules. Its not the job for everyone. It is however, a rewarding job if you are passionate about what you do. 

 

 

 

I didn't answer the questions I felt were answered in my other answers or things I didn't think I knew enough to comment on. 

 

Again, I will highly suggest you work in a kitchen, NOT as a dishwasher, before investing in culinary school.

post #10 of 13

There is always this joy to look forward to......

 

Are you prepared to spend 40 grand on school to find out if being a chef is something you can be passionate about?

 

Can you work in 110 degree kitchen for hours on end without a break?

Can you stand on your feet for 12+ hrs at a time?

Do you like to work all weekends & holidays?

How long is it going to take you to repay 40 grand on 10-12-14 bucks an hr?

How are you going to live on that & repay your loans?

Everyone thinks that chef's have a glamorous job.... They watch too much tv.

 

I was a chef for a movie studio caterer for 6 years, all of my friends would tell me what a glamorous job I had......

 

Reality: A typical day,  I got up at 2am, got home at 7pm, sometimes I would be sleeping in a hotel room, sometimes in my own bed.....sometimes 30 days straight, no days off...

How glamorous is that?


Edited by chefbuba - 4/29/11 at 9:49pm
post #11 of 13

For #4 - eek - My passion for the field has been festering since I was 3. I haven't been to culinary school yet - but starting in a week! yay! I have read a ton about the field and talked with several different people about what to expect though.

 

I think you need a certain amount of passion to want to get into the field especially if you are considering it as a career. But I've also heard of people losing their love for cooking after doing the same thing over and over again. Is there a day or week-long class that you can take to "test" the waters so to say to see if you like culinary school?

 

Do you enjoy cooking? Read about it frequently? Talk to friends/family about it? 

 

Maybe read Kitchen Confidential?

 

I hope this helps. Best of luck :-)

 

Molly

post #12 of 13

i myself want to be a chef. Not everyone smokes, you just have to be responsible about it; if you don't want to smoke, don't do it.

I feel a recipe is only a theme, which an intelligent cook can play each time with a variation.
Madam Benoit
 
Reply
I feel a recipe is only a theme, which an intelligent cook can play each time with a variation.
Madam Benoit
 
Reply
post #13 of 13

I have been a line cook for 4 years. Not long enough to say I can do anything and everything in the culinary world. But I have worked jobs that pay min. wage, I worked around 60 hours a week, at least twice a month. I learned every single line in the kitchen and worked them all in one night on $6,000 dinner rushes. I chose to become a Chef the hard way, I am not going to culinary school. You will hate every job you get for the first 5-10 years you get out of culinary school. You will be doing dishes, all the time, scrubbing out mop rooms, walls, floors, trash cans, etc. Being a chef is more than just cooking, its being a leader, its dealing with $26,000 dollars in profit, keeping  none of it to pay the bills and stay open, making sure that every customer is going to be pleased with every dish you send out of the kitchen. There is no sugar coating this. This job will be almost impossible on most nights. Work a line in a corporate kitchen before you go to culinary school. Understand the pressure before you're $40,000 in debt.

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