Best advice I can give you is to get your feet wet as early as you can. If i could do anything again, I'd start working in restaurants then. You will in all likeliness start as a dishwasher or busboy. Those jobs are the ones that will really make you wonder if you REALLY want to be a chef or not. You also will preferably have made your bones and have that stage of your career behind you by the time you're 20.
"I love to cook its fun and awesome." There's a line that scares everyone. There is nothing fun about working in a restaurant. It's work. It's HARD work for lousy pay. Attending culinary school will be the worst financial decision you'll ever make. The CIA will cost you at least $18,000 a semester, and when you graduate you'll be VERY lucky if you're making $12/hr. And if you do manage that, you'll probably living in a area with an insane living cost. Will potential employers be impressed with the fact you're a graduate of the CIA or Le Cordon Blue? Mildly... A graduate of a prestigious school, with am impressive internship and 2 years of work experience. Yes! It's just like any other industry in that sense. And the fact that an entry level line cook is considered a low position in society will not change that at all. Culinary arts program at your local community college? Hell no!
Friends and connections? Maybe, but a kitchen is an system that will fight you out if you don't fit. Your social life will suffer. Think about it. While all your friends are out having a good time, you're suddenly one of the people who make it possible. So how are you out having a good time when busy making sure other people are having a good evening? You schedule will not improve over time, being that you will simply have more and more responsibilities. And let's be serious, you're in the business of making DINNER! So why would your schedule EVER have you not working evenings? I'll tell you why I'm a chef. I'm an outcast. I don't really have friends anyways. What the hell is wrong with my personality that makes it so? I couldn't even tell you. All I do know is that people love my food. And THAT is and always will be the closest to feeling normal i will EVER experience. And I will continue to come home with cuts, bruises, mild burns, aches, minor injuries, all on a nightly basis, ironically, to feel like a human being. Working in a busy kitchen for a while will teach you how ironic that statement is. Being a cook on some days will make most people feel like a worthless insect.
Wanna cook because it's fun an awesome? Don't make it your job. Buy some books, throw some dinner parties and barbecues. Don't think you fit the modern image of professionalism? Maybe are pretty darn convinced that you'll fail at a career at EVERYTHING else? In that case, do some research. Find the best restaurants in your area, apply, harass, and extort until you get a job doing ANYTHING. You want your resume to say something impressive, not applebees, no chillies, not T.G.F*@&-ducks.
oh and read this... it's from another thread on THIS VERY FORUM. Wanna be a chef? Start by making it a habit to be MUCH more resourceful.
*edit, sorry. link dead. i'll find and post a new one when i can.
Edited by pcieluck - 7/8/11 at 1:06am