I think this could be a nice bull session for all us.
Basically, I got started in cooking because I was a screw up. That's why it always gives me a laugh when we've got these otherwise successful career people wanting to transition to cooking. I was on a steady academic STEM track in high school, but fell apart when I got to college. After my first two semesters ended in disaster, my dad came to me and said "Son, this isn't working. If you still want to live off my wallet, you better find a plan B." I'd always liked to cook for myself, so I figured why not. So that fall, I trundled off to trade school in my spanky new whites, networked with my class mates, and got my first real cooking job. The rest is history.
My first exposure to professional cooking, outside of being a customer, was this video tape my mom gave me when I was a kid. The school she worked at was getting rid of some old junk, and she found this video in a stack of stuff from the long defunct voc ed department. It was about all pie making in a restaurant, staring this old black guy. I figure it must have been initially shot in the 60's. I was entranced.