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Considering Culiary School

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 

I have worked in IT (computers) for 22 years now and was laid off in 2010.  I started my own consulting/contracting business that has managed to keep food on the table and a roof over my head for the past 18-20 months.  But I am spent and done.  Even my last few years of corporate life were some of the least rewarding times of my life.

 

So I was considering going to culinary school.  Cooking has always been a passion.  When I close my eyes and think what would I do if I won the lottery I always see owning a "Nice Restaurant".  So I am considering going to Culinary school at getting a job in a kitchen at least loving what I do rather than hating waking up in the morning.

 

Maybe the 20+ years as an analyst is making me to anal but I am researching allot of different things right now and wanted to reach out to the chef community for some advice and answers to questions that I am sure the culinary schools will have canned answers that are not 100% accurate to.

 

To start is there ay Chefs here that are in the Southern/Central Ontario region of Canada that are willing to share there knowledge or are there any of you that have made a similar transition in your life?

post #2 of 27

Hello Derrick,

 

I feel you brother on changing careers. In 2011 during the 9/11 era I was a retail loss prevention manager. To make a long story short I lost my job because many stores closed down.  I couldn't get another lp job if my life depended on it. Now before I continue I will say I didn't attend culinary school.  What got me where I am today is passion. At the same time I continue to seek every thing and any thing that has to do something with food.  I have many cook books through out my home. I watch many tv shows.  Again passion first and school next. Like you I wish I could attend a credited school.  I emphasize on credited. You have schools like CIA or Cordon Bleu which comes with a price, but well known if your a good student.  Then you have schools like The arts schools which always starts off with the name of the city. It's a chain.  I just had a friend graduate from WAshington DC school of fine arts. Not as credited as some would think.  At the sametime he is questioning his career choice. AS an ITyou have to have some smarts ;). So with that said you would be able to pay attention to detail.  With me, I was the one copying the recipes for my mother as we watched old shows of the one and only Julia Childs.  The only thing with me was that i came from a poor family. Got older and went into the military. Cooking wasn't glorified as it is today.  It's like when the show COPS came out. Every one wanted to be a police officer.  Owning a restaurant can be rewarding.  It's does come with a lot of responsibilities.  I've opened a few restaurants knowing the legal, physical, and operational parts.  I'm about to be interviewed for a neighborhood restaurant. Very popular with the community. They are opening another location.  Why am I telling you this is because the owner is a computer science graduate form Chicago.  She gave computer software programming a shot, and now she is a restaurant owner.

So I hope this helped you. Oh yea I started off as a dishwasher and told the chef I was tired of washing his dishes.

 

www.cheesetique.com

 

www.facebook/myittybittykitchen

 

Never compromise quality.

 

post #3 of 27

There are many threads about this topic, please look them up.

 

I strongly suggest--no I insist, on getting a job in the kitchen first, school later.

 

Pay for cooks sucks--big time.  For Chefs, it may sound great, but you are working a minimum of 80hrs/wk.

 

Hope this helps

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #4 of 27
Thread Starter 

thanks for the welcoming messages Bill and Foodpump.

 

Yes foodpump I had read previous posts and am capable of utilizing the search feature of most sites (22 years as an IT Analayst).  My post was not asking specific questions or for anyone to validate my decision.  I asked for people who were in my geographic area or had made similar career changes to post up.  Why?  Well I wanted to connect with them to conduct a reverse interview and have certain questions I have answered and get feedback from those that have gone before me.

 

And I can not wait for my work week to be cut back to 80 hours a week.  It will be a welcome break. ;-)

post #5 of 27

Derrick,

 

I am in the middle of changing career fields, and going back to college.  Thankfully, I had planned on this and with that bit of foresight I decided to apprentice under a chef, under whom I've been learning for the last three years when I wasn't busy at my job with the military.  I too, was an analyst, and did a lot of IT related jobs...so I understand where you're coming from and your researching the living daylights out of this before jumping in.  I've spent a lot of time doing that as well.  As for going to culinary school, it's a great thing if you want to sink the money into it.  My chef told me that although he went to culinary school, it's just as good of training to work in a kitchen and apprentice under a chef.  Which is what I ended up doing.  I wish you the best of luck as you venture into this, and am always up for a chat if you'd like.

 

Regards,

 

Paul

post #6 of 27

There seems to be a few IT people out there that have moved into food services.  I too, worked at an IT company and was laid off in 2010 with a nice severance package.  This gave me the time (couple of months) to think about what I wanted to do with my life.  Jump back into the corporate world (I worked in Purchasing) or pursue a passion of mine.  I came to the decision that life was too short to dislike what I do so I did go to school.  Upon graduation, I started looking for work and got a job working at a catering company in Toronto.  I'm very happy and even though the work is hard and the hours are long, it doesn't feel like work and I don't hate getting up in the morning (even on those 6:30-7:00 am start times).  We about to head into the Christmas season our most busy period which is scary, but exciting too.

Now the money is not great and you will need to decide if you can live on what you will be making.  I would also recommend having a good long think about this step.  Working in a professional kitchen is not the same as working at home.  The pace is quicker, you will be expected to work on several things at once and amount of food is larger.  Also can you body take standing for over 9 hours a day, lifting heavy items and knowing you will get injurer (I've had burns and minor cuts so far). 

I hope to hear more about your decision.

 

post #7 of 27
Thread Starter 

Thanks CinnamonGirl.  i am sending you a PM as you seem to be everything I am looking to learn from.  Involved in IT industry and left in similar geographic area.

 

As for some of your points.  They are well noted and I am not going in completely blind.  When in College I was approached by an friend in regards to buying a restaurant franchise with them.  We proceeded to buy it and I spent a year working for the corporate offices opening new franchises and training the staff in the new stores.  Then our store was opened which I proceeded to run as per our agreement.  Unfortunately partnerships with friends never seem to go as planned and as they put up most of the money and I only had a small percentage we parted ways with them buying me out.

 

The concept was not ideal or directly transferable to what I am after today, but it give me allot of insight into the restaurant business, 14 hour days, $1200.00/hour dinner rushes, Paper costs food costs, labour and having to worry about student staff as a baby sitter, parent and guidance counselor.

post #8 of 27

Hi Derrick,

 

I would encourage you to keep your discussion in this thread and not PM Cinnamon girl as I think it is very useful for people.

 

I did the exact reverse of what you are doing I was in the culinary field since I was a teen and left to go into IT. CinnamonGirl is right on it is a very tough business and you will work way more hours than you ever did in IT and make less than half for a long time. I would really encourage you to think long and hard about this. A lot of people "love to cook" and are very "passionate" about it but being a chef in the restaurant industry really means so much more.You have to love being a chef, running a kitchen, devoting your whole life to it. I think Andre Soltner the Chef/Owner of Lutece in New York said it best. Upon retiring he told an interviewer that he and his wife gave their life for the restaurant.

 

If you are truly passionate about getting into the culinary field be sure to explore the many different facets of it. One area that I think works out very well for chefs is teaching. You can give private cooking lessons or eventually work at a vocational school. It is very rewarding, has benefits, and the hours are reasonable.

 

 

Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
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Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
Reply
post #9 of 27
Thread Starter 

Thanks Nicko.

 

I only wanted to move it off the main channel for CG's comfort.

 

The qustions I was wondering about was starting pay comming out of school in the Toronto area.  The type of work she was doing versus what she was expecting to be doing.  And did she attend one of the College programs (i.e. George Brown, Humber) or a private Culinary School.

 

i think the hours are relative.  Through my IT career I must have been unfortunate to land the crappy jobs or something. 

 

Worked for a division of Magna where the expectation was you were at your desk before the Director arrived at 7:30 and still there when he left at 6:30pm.  The plat ran 5 days a week 24 hours a day.  Which meant that any changes or updates could only be done when production was down which was Saturday Night and Sunday so that meant working most weekends.  Also supporting a 24 hour plant meant being on call 7x24 and so even after 12 hour days you were disturbed at home 5-6 times a week.

 

Then there was the CBC.  24 hour tv station.  Not as bad as Magna but equally as challenging.

 

I can not count how many times with the old Woolworth Corp. that I would go in Sunday night to role out a new project/System and still be there Thursday morning only managing to gram 30 minute naps here and there for days.

 

Oh and to add insult to injury all those positions where salaried where no overtime was paid.  EVER

 

So maybe I was unlucky in my 22 years of IT and maybe this is why I feel so burnt out now.  But I think I get long hours.

post #10 of 27

Derrick,

 

When I thought about about going into the culinary field, I never thought I could work on the line at a restaurant, never mind running one.  The pace alone would do me in.  I agree with Nicko about exploring other areas of the business, teaching, private lessons, catering, working for an institution (hotels, corp kitchens, hospitals...etc).  You will get better paid and benefits.

I'm working with cooks who have been in the culinary field for almost 20 years and I can see the toll this job has done on their bodies.  You're starting out older and will need to work smarter not to hurt yourself and to keep up with the young bucks in the kitchen.

Out of school, your starting hourly salary will be around $10.00 to $14.00.  Working 6, 9 hour days a week, that's $540 to $756 a week before taxes.  I can take the cut in pay because my husband has a very good job, but I'm making more than half of what I making at my previous job.

Have a look at several job websites to see what's out there:  Hospitalityserve.com, All Chef Jobs in Canada (wowjobs.ca)

 

I don't mean to sound so disparaging.  I've landed a job at a good place, I like my Chef, I like my co-workers and I'm learning lots.  I hope the same for you.

post #11 of 27
Thread Starter 

No you do not sound disparaging and these are the things I need to hear. 

 

I had already planned on food related work, my only thought was out of school it would be wise to do 2-3 years in a kitchen to gain valuable experience.  The type of kitchen and environment to be determined I guess.  One thing about being in a smaller community is many of the dining establishments we have tend to be smaller sized.  I am sure this means lower pay but also means not as busy based on plates served but I am sure that also means less staff in the kitchen doing more jobs.  We have several restaurants here in town that only open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 4-9.  From what I am hearing from everyone that is calling me old  lol.gif these places might be a good starting point.  I could possibly still maintain some of my better customers (the ones that pay their bills on time) the other days of the week.

 

Teaching is something I love and have taught College level technology and certification programs in the past.   Teaching Culinary skills is something that would really appeal to me 2-5 years out but I still feel that I would need at least 2 years in a kitchen or catering environment to at least consider myself credible to teach others.

 

Although I can not work for free I do understand a pay cut.  We have been fortunate that my wife has stayed home for the past 18 years raising our girls.  She went back to work full time last month so a reduction in my pay is offset by her now having income.  So if nothing else we should be able to maintain the status quo.

 

As you can see this is all very fluid right now.  I am gathering information from as many sources as possible. to ensure I make the right choices. 

 

Hell for the 18k culinary school is going to cost me I could put in some pretty nice appliances in my own kitchen and learn on my own.

post #12 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Derrick Young View Post

...Hell for the 18k culinary school is going to cost me I could put in some pretty nice appliances in my own kitchen and learn on my own.

You are not wrong!
 

 

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #13 of 27

Derrick,

 

I think you should ditch culinary school I am no longer a fan of it. You can learn everything they teach you and more working for a good chef and choosing the right library. I also think you should consider something other than working a hot line which is fun when your young but later in life it just gets hot and tiring. The pay cut is going to be the biggest hit for you no question about it.

 

Lastly, have a long hard talk with your wife and make sure she is ok with you being gone just about every eveing, every weekend and many holidays. The light went on for me about the restaurant biz when I called a good friend of mine who was working as a chef at Opri Land on Christmas morning. His wife said I just missed him. He watched the girls open their presents and then went to work. I guess my point is Derrick that this decision is going to have a huge impact on your family so make sure you are all on board and on the same page.

 

Nicko

Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
Reply
Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
Reply
post #14 of 27

This is a great article from one of our long time members Pete. Outstanding chef, worked at all the high end places. What is he doing now? Manages a food service program for the Wisconsin correctional facilities. 

 

http://www.cheftalk.com/a/confessions-of-a-quot-sell-out-quot-chef

 

 

Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
Reply
Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
Reply
post #15 of 27

Amen Paul,

 

I couldn't agree more.

post #16 of 27

Hello,

 

There were many times that I wished I went to culinary school. As I grew older and wiser I'm glad I started off as a dishwasher.  I know friends that are still paying back their loans.  Start creating a network Darrick because as unfair as it may sound it's who you know.  There's many resources out there that can teach you the in and outs.  The business can be cut throat. Expect to be sent home early when you are hourly.  This happens when the business is slow.  Do your homework. Ask questions when it comes to when they are slow.  There were many times I was asked to go home because there were no hours. When I finally reached supervisor status. Asking employees to go home was the hardest part of my job. Don't allow me to scare you, but as long as you have passion you will go far.

post #17 of 27

Derrick you seem like a very smart person, but for every person I ever met that said they had a passion for cooking and never saw again after two weeks I would not have to work at all,but I believe in dreams and If your dream is the culinary field then make it work. I am one of those guys that didn't go to culinary school and I found fate on my side and got the jobs that I wanted not the jobs that would have me. I worked for some heavy hitters in the hospitality industry and I always enjoyed it. Of corse the places I worked at, I couldn't afford to eat at  but sometimes you feel like a rock star working in these places, but my paycheck always kept me grounded somehow. I was extremely lucky in my career, but I was truly focused also. I have had wine over a hundred years old, cooked for Julia Child at a James Beard foundation dinner, rockstars, actors, former presidents, there is nothing like it. When you can make magic out of a few ingredients and be complimented it truley is gratifying. I know It can be done, I hope you want it enough to have done the same, because no one can take it away from you, no matter how small the paycheck is. whether you want a small restuarant or to be a master chef, do what you need to do to get there. It is hard but isn't everything hard to someone. It really is an industry that can be truley magical.

post #18 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rekonball View Post

 I know It can be done, I hope you want it enough to have done the same, because no one can take it away from you, no matter how small the paycheck is. whether you want a small restuarant or to be a master chef, do what you need to do to get there. It is hard but isn't everything hard to someone. It really is an industry that can be truley magical.



I think when you are married and have a family it is more than just what "you" want. You have to make sure that it is also what your family wants. For me family comes first and if your passion and drive are pushing to work 80 hours a week and your never home then that in my opinion is the wrong decision.

 

Don't get me wrong Derrick I had a great time working in the field, but what I am saying is count the cost. 

 

Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
Reply
Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
Reply
post #19 of 27
Thread Starter 

I understand what everyone is saying.  I was at the point yesterday that i had myself convinced that I was kidding myself and that this is a stupid idea and i am still feeling like that today.  All the reference to being a young persons game feed into my biggest fear when considering this.  Would I be trading my it career for one as a 44 year old dishwasher as at 44 onnbody would take me serious or give me the chance.  So I am really torn right now

 

As for family there are many factors in any Career.  Where I currently live about 2-2.5 hours north of Toronto the number of IT related jobs are about 0.  Most major business has packed up and left leaving very little industry left in the area.  So i order to continue my career I will be spending 6+ hours a day commuting in rush hour traffic.  Couple that with my hate for what I am doing was what leads me to career change thoughts.  This also puts the family in the back seat as do many career choices.  I guess it is trading one evil for another.

 

I am really struggling with the Culinary School idea at the moment though.  Doing some rough math.  18K for 34 weeks of education, then add living/travel expenses of 400 a week we are looking at about 31k in hard costs.  Now I might be able to work part time and reduce the 12k in expenses but it still seems like a hefty nut for the length of program.

post #20 of 27

Derrick, could you meet with a couple of Chefs in your area to get a better idea of the work environment in your area.  They may give you some insight as to what is available in your area.  Maybe you don't have to go to culinary school.  

As for the age thing, I'm older and I do have a harder time keeping up with the younger folk at work.  Nature of the beast I guess.  But what you can bring to the table is a work ethic, be dependable, have a willingness to do anything (in a day I can bounce between:  working mains/savory, desserts, appetizers, shopping, delivery and dish washing) and learn quickly.  This goes a long way with an employer. 

I have a good idea of the school you're looking at, by the amount and school weeks you mentioned.  The program is good, but because each campus an owned franchised and it is taught slightly different based on the owner's/instructors strengths.  Do your diligent. 

 

post #21 of 27

Bill and Derek, I too felt the pain in 2010 when there was a downfall in the economy and it was difficult to meet the quota in my IT role.

Where I am now sounds quite distant to everyone else is in this conversation.

I'm part of a team in a cooking school in Melbourne www.frontcookingschool.com.au, so I'm not sure if my feedback about chefs in my area are of any relevance.

The economic downfall was quite delayed in Australia (just as everything else is!) but it did eventually arrive, and everyone cut back on spending naturally.

18+ months on-wards, I think we are at the start of the cycle when everything picks up again, and people will be saying in 3-4 years from now;

"I wish I had an opportunity to start up a business 4 years ago"

 

We're all part of a repeating cycle, it's about knowing when to make the move.

 

post #22 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicko View Post



I think when you are married and have a family it is more than just what "you" want. You have to make sure that it is also what your family wants. For me family comes first and if your passion and drive are pushing to work 80 hours a week and your never home then that in my opinion is the wrong decision.

 

Don't get me wrong Derrick I had a great time working in the field, but what I am saying is count the cost. 

 

Yes my family is first, when my wife started a family I had peaked as far as pay and benefits(so I thought) I got out for a little bit that alowed our family to grow. I knew a lot of people who were working 80 hours a week never saw they're family and I didn't want to be like them, so I built elevators for a while and made more money than I ever thought I could as a chef, unless you are an executive chef in a fine hotel or something,but no more money means no more jobs, and I have come back to my first profession. One of the  chef that I worked for at a very high end hotel, he was never home and was alway at work. I got out made some money and  even though I was doing well I needed more for my family and I chose to leave it behind at that time. Even though I would like to make the same money as before in the elevator industry, I do find myself just a little happier doing something I love and have always loved to do.   

 

 

post #23 of 27

Lol I like you saying you're too anal and spelling too wrong and allot also wrong... you're doing fine biggrin.gif. Quite funny reading your post, I've been working in IT for a fairly long time myself and am asking myself exactly the same questions...really want to dump it and get on to something more "human". I've started a cooking website for the fun but am thinking of taking things a bit further in some direction or other. The beauty of the food industry is that there are so many different outlets... ok so being a top chef is like being the king but even the peasants get to have their fun in the cooking world and can one day become king...unlike the real world crazy.gif

post #24 of 27

I think culinary school has it's pro's and con's. It opens a lot of doors on the one hand, but on the other it's broad and you don't specialize in one thing for any length of time. You get basic skills and techniques based on classical cooking and it takes a while to get any return on culinary school financially because you start at the bottom of the rung. The hours are just as bad or worse than most other fields and the pay is not that commensurate. You can usually find a job during hard times and never go hungry. It's a labor of love for the first five or ten years, but then the payoff of accolades and instant gratification for making something someone enjoys right away starts to grey. I would recommend specializing in something and doing it really well. There's a computer guy in Chicago making brisket for the last nine months and he's happy and packed every day. I went to CIA and did fine dining for years and all that and I got into artisan baking and although I made less, I was much happier and didn't learn it in culinary school. It depends on what you want. You know what you don't want to do. That's a start.

post #25 of 27

I wanted to go to culinary school instead of college, but my parents didn't allow it.   So I've been doing the IT thing for 22 years, and it's been really good to me.    My kids are in college now, and I started a little food based business on the side that I have found to be really interesting.   I rent space in a commercial kitchen,  and have taken a handful of classes over the past couple of years that have given me some basics I really need.  I've met quite a few chefs, and have determined that I don't want to work in a restaurant kitchen - the lifestyle would be bad for me.   Plus, I don't think I can stand on my feet for that many hours any more.     Is there any way you can do something similar, without going 'all or nothing'?   For what it's worth, I am pretty pleased with my success, and anticipate at least 100% growth for next year.   But I can't live on it, yet.  But, I have my IT job, so this is kind of like a really great hobby that makes me money.     

post #26 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by edward View Post

I think culinary school has it's pro's and con's. It opens a lot of doors on the one hand, but on the other it's broad and you don't specialize in one thing for any length of time. You get basic skills and techniques based on classical cooking and it takes a while to get any return on culinary school financially because you start at the bottom of the rung. The hours are just as bad or worse than most other fields and the pay is not that commensurate. You can usually find a job during hard times and never go hungry. It's a labor of love for the first five or ten years, but then the payoff of accolades and instant gratification for making something someone enjoys right away starts to grey. I would recommend specializing in something and doing it really well. There's a computer guy in Chicago making brisket for the last nine months and he's happy and packed every day. I went to CIA and did fine dining for years and all that and I got into artisan baking and although I made less, I was much happier and didn't learn it in culinary school. It depends on what you want. You know what you don't want to do. That's a start.

 

Good point Edward, the process of elimination is often a good way to decide what you want to do, but what if you have so many things you want to do??!

Running a culinary school is very tricky because very few people think of cooking schools. The average person learns cooking at home from their parents and only when it flares up their passion for food do they look to pursue this path - which is often eliminated in the above-mentioned process!!!

I've spoken to so many people and have received so much feedback that people generally would love to learn to cook superbly, but never dedicate their time to it.

One of the most popular ways we get new students in our classes is after they've sampled food from our Bistro.

This way, people see it, taste it, smell it or feel the texture and it triggers their desire to want to learn it.

 

A two pronged approach may be necessary to make a successful Culinary School.

What is everyone's thoughts on this?
 

 

post #27 of 27

After 25 years in sales, I enrolled in Culinary school.  Best decision I ever made.  There are so many opportunities in the industry right now.  You can take your culinary knowledge and use it in so many ways. As an older chef to be, I recommend doing a "stage" or internship when you start school to experience the many different types of kitchens out there ie hotel vs resaurant vs catering, etc.  good luck and go with your intstincts.

 

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