I’ve considering taking the culinary route and last night I started to write everything down. This long essay, essentially, is what I came up with. Please read through it and let me know what you think of my situation. I apologize if this is in the wrong forum but regardless i feel that you all could offer some great advice.
I’m feeling completely confused for what the future holds for me. I’m attending a state university now and currently have an undeclared major. I have an undying passion for food, one that extends much farther than the t.v.’s foodnetwork portrays. I enjoy school but only for the experience’s it has brought thus far; other than that, I couldn’t care less about the gen. ed. Classes that I’m forced to take to get in to a major. I’ve thought about the path I should take: continue school and get a degree in something or attend a culinary school where I could study what I love. Each of these options carry with them pros and cons that I’ve tried to weigh but I still stand confused.
Attending the university seems like a futile cause. I’ve never excelled in school but have been an extremely average student. I understand all too well that this world demands a degree in something to land a decent-paying job. I don’t need to make a lot of money in life; all I want is to be happy with what I’m doing at the end of the day and to live comfortably. As I said earlier, I have a thing for food. I’ve done the research and I understand that a chef’s life, or rather a line cook- that is what I would be working until I could open my own place or work my way up over the years, is very demanding both physically and mentally. But continuing my education in a traditional collegiate sense seems like a struggle because I hate the way students are taught. We’re forced to memorize facts and figures that mean little to nothing to me and will be forgotten as soon as finals are over. The professors don’t necessarily have a background in teaching but are rather professionals in their field of study and often don’t come equipped with the mindset or skills to pass those skills on to the student body.
I’ve thought about attending culinary school and pursuing my passion. I also have taken in to account the life style that comes with it. 50-60+ hour weeks on top of a mentally and physically draining environment is all but appealing but the caveat being I would be working in a field where I could potentially express myself through a medium that I enjoy working with and in the process making people happy with food. A lifetime of happiness paired with a lifetime of hard work compared to a “normal” lifestyle where I could afford more of a social life but sacrifice what could be my calling in life. It’s impossible for me to weigh this. I’ve done more research on what I should do that I have for my classes at school this year.
My plan thus far is to work over the summer at one or more restaurants and gain the kitchen experience. Depending on whether or not I could see myself working in a professional kitchen the rest of my life will dictate if I continue my formal education after two years or apply to the Culinary Institute of America Hyde Park. I plan on going to school for two years to obtain my associates degree. This would create a “safety-net” of sorts; if I would so choose to return to school, I would not be so far behind that it would seem too daunting a task and it would also allow me to gain the “college experience” that I do want. Also, I signed a lease on a house for next year, so that kind of roped me in to two years. I would like to attend the CIA, Hyde Park, New York because it is the country’s most prestigious culinary school. I only get one go around in this life and I feel like attending a more renowned school would offer me more life experience because in the end I could say I attended a challenging school aside from a community or technical college. I am not saying that technical schools are bad or not sufficient but rather that the CIA could offer me more than they could because of 1.) the travel- I could see much more of the country, 2.) the networking- working with top chefs and meeting countless people associated with the school’s reputation, and 3.) I want to get out of my current state.
It seems like I might have everything figured out, that once I work the summer I’ll have a good idea of whether or not it’s something I want to pursue farther or not. The problem comes in later in life. With a traditional college education I could work a regular 9-5 job and make a decent living but it COULD be mundane. With a culinary education I could do something I love but work incredibly hard for a very long time where the pay is not very good. It’s been preached at me for as long as I can remember: “Do what you love and you won’t work a day in your life.” But what if what I love entails working incredibly hard. I know, I just know, that if I can cook on a line that the a culinary life would be wonderful for me. On the other hand I enjoy, quite a bit, a leisurely lifestyle but I enjoy working hard and the sense of completion that comes with it. I am trying to weigh two separate life styles and it’s absolutely mind boggling.
My parents believe, particularly my mother, that a traditional education is the path for me. This stems from both of them working very hard, my mother in and out of restaurants as district manager and doing training for a chain back in the 80’s and 90’s. They don’t want me to work hard; they want me to have an 80k salary, 9-5, and use cooking as a hobby when I can afford to do it. This makes sense. This makes a lot of sense. The thing I have to say about this though is that I want to be happy with what I do. I want to love what I’m doing. If I don’t care about my career then I feel like it’s a complete waste of time. Sure, the job might come with benefits, a fat paycheck, and time off, but if it’s some company where I’m monitoring the expense reports of a product I don’t give a damn about then what’s the point? I can be happy when the job is over? I still have to go 40 hours a week; I still have to not enjoy it.
These points are rather extreme; I could find a job with a four-year education and be content but in the back of my mind I would always think what could be. When going out to dinner and the dish arrives at the table I would think “I could have created this dish- I could be feeding these people right now.” And, quite honestly, that is my biggest fear in life. I want to be happy with what I do, I want to actually love what I’m doing.
I do not know if I would enjoy sacrificing that much time to the kitchen. Not having a social life because of the hours, missing important dates whether it be birthdays, holidays, or spontaneous get-togethers .I enjoy these quite a bit. On the other hand I want to be able to tell people what I do with a smile on my face and a proud feeling within myself when they ask “what do you do?”
I write all this at 1:30 in the morning in the hopes that it might help organize the thoughts in my head. There is no particular structure to this “paper” and it might be outlined in quite a confusing manner but I believe that the essence of my struggle is there. But before I end this paper I’m going to write a little bit about myself. I’m 18, I’ll be 19 in January. I’ll be entering my second semester in just over a month, it’s November now. I’m rather upset that I didn’t decide to go to culinary school around my junior year of high school but instead decided that it would be a fabulous idea to be a business major. I walked in to school believing that, in this day and age, this is what is expected and what I HAVE to do as the next part in my life. I worked as a dishwasher for about a year and did some minor prep work. I was not in love with food then. I worked as a cashier and a customer service manager in a grocery store and found my passion in food during culinary classes at STEP, which is an extension of high school that offers technical career classes for students. I had always been fond of cooking, enjoying to explore with flavors, textures and plating techniques and after competing in a culinary competition I found that I craved the team work and the sense of accomplishment that came with it. I loved working with product and transforming it into something that people enjoyed, actually enjoyed eating. I love the entire process of cooking and I can only hope that once I get the real restaurant experience that it will fuel my passion even more. That it will make up for all the negatives and instead of being major problems with the career, namely the hours, that it will be just small annoyances that I have to put up with. Ideally I would like to only attend the CIA- Hyde Park for its two year program. I am completely and utterly dazed and confused.
Loans. They are evil little things. I’m also quite worried about the debt I would be accumulating over the 4 years- whether it be 2 state university and 2 culinary or 4 state. Tuition for the state university is roughly 17k a year and the CIA is roughly 25k. That is a huge amount of debt and I’m paying for everything with loans. So not much to say about that other than I don’t want to, for lack of a better word, get screwed.
Also, if I were to attend a regular university for four years I’m considering majoring in something like business administration, marketing, or something like that but also considering majoring in philosophy because the liberal arts degree offers a broad spectrum and teaches one how to think critically. There has been an explosion of philosophy majors in almost every spectrum of the work force from human resources, business, and all the way to medicine. It teaches you how to look at problems and fix them using methods that one without the background might not consider or even see. It’s versatile and quite interesting. Just my thoughts on that.
So really what I’m asking for here is your thoughts on what path I should take. In the end it is really up to me and the time in the restaurant this summer should really be the deciding factor but there is much, much, much more to take in to consideration than just that and even more than I have written here tonight. I’m sure that you can see as the paper grew longer in length that the structure and cohesiveness of the essay started to fall apart. It’s late and I apologize if the thing is rather messy and unorganized. There is order in the chaos. So, I would like to thank you if you have taken the time to read my predicament and would like to thank everyone in advance for their input and experiences as well as thoughts.
Thanks so much,
I’ve thought, quite a bit actually, about picking up and moving out to New York and working as a commis under a chef in a restaurant. It’s rather scary because I’ve considered this quite heavily. In actual execution I don’t believe it would hold up. I’ve got little money to spend on travel- I could do it however. I don’t have a job lined up or living arrangements. I do have acquaintances out there though and it could be done but it would require planning. I’m surprised, the more I think about it, how easy it could be. I mean, it would be rough, it would be really rough. I would abandon my education and I would work INCREDIBLY hard. Still it’s possible. I’ve researched on how to do it, yes there are ‘guides’ on how to move to New York and I’m almost convinced that if I could land a job as a commis or a payed stagier that I could make it. My life wouldn’t be simple. My parents would be rather upset. I don’t know how I would tell them. Maybe just get everything planned out, take what I need, and once I’m settled give them a ring and say what exactly is going on. This actually sounds appealing. If I did this I would be forced to work with my passion- restaurants are always looking for cheap labor, especially if they know that I’m willing to learn. I wouldn’t have anything holding me back from working long hours and learning everything I could. What’s your thoughts on this? It might not be the smartest decision but I’m sure it’s been done. I’m sure I could do it.
I’m passionate about food. I know what the restaurant territory demands. I’m not chasing the life of a t.v. chef. I know that the glamour of cooking is extremely exaggerated and in actual reality it is dirty, hard work. I’m kind of in love with the idea of that. It takes a special kind of person to work and be successful in a kitchen, sometimes ‘special’ means crazy.
Also! Relationships and families. I don’t know if they are viable when in the restaurant industry. The hours seem like they could get in the way and cause a lot of grievances. I want to get married but don’t want kids. I just got out of a relationship of almost 2-years and I really do want to be able to be able to have a girlfriend and a career. I don’t want to have to choose one or the other. I’m certain that it could work but the stress it could cause is rather daunting. So any advice, experience, thoughts, ideas, etc. on this topic would be appreciated.
I’m sorry, I kind of attached a few more topics after I thought I was done. Again , the order is chaotic but the message is there. Thank you so much for reading.