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Over 35 and Applied to Culinary School

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

Hello everyone,

 

I am about to start my studies in the Culinary Arts field. I am over 35 years old and changing profession. My dream is to cook: learn how to cook and persist in the career. I am not dreaming of becoming a Executive Chef in the short term and, quite honestly I want to enjoy the ride.

 

I am not searching for answers here. I am looking for some honest recommendations and advices in the different ways that this new career can take me, at my age, of course. I already consider (in fact planned) a downgrade in income.

 

It seems to me that becoming a great Chef is a matter of "being true to yourself" and not trying to reach the status of Celebrity Chef or becoming rich in a few months (or even few years) with high expectations.

 

It looks like persistence and dedication are key factors to succeed in this profession, right? Any other factors you can think to conquer happiness in such a competitive and depreciated profession?

 

About the one thing that fascinates me in this profession is the variety of options and experiences that increases the inspiration to be more and more creative with time.

 

Another thing is that I noticed that I can note start my studies with expectation of doing something, i.e. Cook in a fine Dining restaurant, when later I can realize that I may be a better person and cook in the profession by working on a food truck and be happier doing it.

 

Any comments, advices are welcome,

 

Cheers.

BrunoiseGuy.

 

post #2 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by BrunoiseGuy View Post

Another thing is that I noticed that I can note start my studies with expectation of doing something, i.e. Cook in a fine Dining restaurant, when later I can realize that I may be a better person and cook in the profession by working on a food truck and be happier doing it.

 

Any comments, advices are welcome,

 

Cheers.

BrunoiseGuy.

 

 

I am not sure what you mean in this last paragraph?  I think you are saying that you are not clear on the outcome of your path?  I am in a similar situation as yourself and to be honest, it seems that it boils down to really understanding yourself and how you function.  If working a food truck seems like a great idea (you can probably buy and license a used one for less than the cost of an education) and that's what you want to do, I say go for it.  There are fundamentals to food safety you should know about if you don't already, but you can probably just get that type of certification somewhere without a full-blown education, although the basic skills will certainly help your efficiency. 

 

People probably think I am nuts for coming back to the culinary world as a profession at my just-under-forty age class.  I have little unrealistic expectations, I know that it's hard, unforgiving and challenging work.  Oddly enough, that's what I miss so much.  After years and years of slowly growing older, inactive and unchallenged I am fortunate to have found my inspiration in food.  I know myself pretty well, I am in great (thankfully!) physical shape, (although I am not active which drives me nuts) and highly creative.  I've also had a long time to ponder exactly what I want and I know in the end will most likely be a small place where I grow and raise most of what I prepare.  I need the flexibility and situation to be creative.  This is the part where knowing myself comes into focus.  I know I won't be happy in an Applebee's or anywhere that isn't challenging that creativity.  So getting from point A to point B becomes a bit of a blur, but I know that if I follow this path it will bring me great satisfaction as a human being.  I am seriously considering just finding work wherever my family and I end up and taking it from there.  I may do a stint in school to refine and reinvigorate my skills but this is not certain yet.  And keep in mind nothing is permanent although we tend to make it so with our choices so keep an open mind to the possibilities and if you think you could be happy running a food truck you should try it and see. You might fall in love with it.  Or you might hate waking up to that every 4 am. :D
 

 

post #3 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by zoebisch View Post

 I know that it's hard, unforgiving and challenging work.  Oddly enough, that's what I miss so much.

 

There's nothing like it eh?

 

BrunoiseGuy - Read the book Heat by Bill Buford. There are many interesting culinary adventures he embarks on, one of which is a stint at Mario Batali's Babbo. And i believe Buford is somewhere in his early to mid 40s in the book. It gives you a good idea of what working in a top notch restaurant is like as an "elderly" cook.

 

As to where cooking can take you, you have a number of options -- food stylist, hotel chef, private chef, corporate chef, chef/owner of your own place, like you mentioned - food truck. As you mentioned you just need to be willing to put in time and sacrifice. From what I can tell, if you want to open your own place, it typically takes 10-15 years in the industry, though there are exceptions of course.

 

Good luck!

post #4 of 14

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by BrunoiseGuy View Post

 

It seems to me that becoming a great Chef is a matter of "being true to yourself" and not trying to reach the status of Celebrity Chef or becoming rich in a few months (or even few years) with high expectations.

 

 

 

I guess you would need to define what "being true to yourself" means in the kitchen. There are a lot of celebrities out there that can't cook, can't sing properly, can't act, etc etc.

 

Becoming a great chef starts first and foremost with a deep understanding of the basics and countless hours of practice. Which really is the same in any field. A friend of mine once told me about a friend of his (I know a friend of a friend) who took guitar lessons from Steve Vai in California many years ago before he was the guitar god he is today. He said that one morning he met for a lesson then left. Later that evening he came back and Steve Vai was still there and he spent the entire day practicing. Becoming a great anything requires dedication and discipline. Don't seek the title of chef seek to become a great cook first, a really really great cook. Then start focusing on how to run a kitchen. Great chefs know how to do both.

 

 

 

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 #5 of 14
I wouldnt worry about your age so much. You and I are in the same boat there. I am 37 and just got my first cooking job last night in fact! I went for an interview with the owner and wound up being asked by the woman who was acting as the chef if I could start right away. I wound up doing a little prep work and plating last night it was great! A slower night for them but perfect speed in the kitchen for me on my first night. They asked me back today at 4p so I am really hoping things work out. Don't let your age have anything to do with this. I worried about the same thing, I thought at 37 no one would hire me compared to all the young 18-20 year olds that have far more fire in their belly at that age than you do in your 30s. But I am very passionate about cooking and made that clear in my cover letter to the owner of the venue I am at now. Anyway I just wanted to let everyone know not to let your age play a factor in pursuing your love of anything culinary!
post #6 of 14

buy good shoes no matter what the cost.  i have been cooking for over 20 years and i spend more money on my shoes than my knives.  kitchen floors are hard and sometimes you dont move much during a day.  4-hours standing in one spot cooking or doing prep after a few years it is hard on your legs.  i

post #7 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thanks for you comment. I means a lot to me. I believe I have discovered myself in a way that for the last 20 years of professional life I had not.Try to do what I love and care to be happier. One of the things that also makes me believe that I can be happier in this field is the range of possibilities. I may decide to work on a food truck even though I may not have the steady paycheck. Whatever I decide at the end, I will be committed with the basics of the profession. Thank you again.

post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the book recommendation. I love to read and your commendation is definitely in my list. Thank you.

post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thanks a lot.

 

"Don't seek the title of chef seek to become a great cook first, a really really great cook. Then start focusing on how to run a kitchen. Great chefs know how to do both."

 

I don't think I will ever forget these words. Thank you!

post #10 of 14

Glad it helped you. Keep us posted about your journey man.

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 #11 of 14

I started culinary school two years ago at 32, so I'm almost right there with you. 

It's a scary prospect, especially the income aspect of it. I was making close to $100k a year at my peak before I got laid off from my previous job and now I make just shy of 1/5th of that. It's a definite eye opener, but you have to stick in there and learn to rearrange your finances and the thing I found is that although I no longer had the income, I was still able to afford the things I had. We didn't really have to cut out much of anything, just cut down. I've only been in the culinary field officially for five months now (started getting paid in January but have worked for free since November) and have already gained so much experience and gotten two raises (at two different jobs, one of which I no longer work at). Until a week ago, I was working two jobs, seven days a week, 65-70 hours a week for low pay, but it's all worth it because I'm now doing something I truly love doing and my stress level is nothing compared to what it used to be. Above all, I'm happy. And that's what matters the most.

Just hang in there and find your niche (for me, it's pastry) and attack it with everything you've got. You'll eventually get where you want to go.

post #12 of 14

What a nice thread!

 

I am in the same boat myself.  After 4 years of doing admin job I really find it so extremely labourious to drag myself to the train station then to work.  I am only 34 so I guess I better wake up and follow my passion.  Ive been collecting over 40 cookbooks so far and some food magazines.  I like to cook a lot..mostly marinating meats..I love the sense of thrill as to how the dish will turn out...

 

Better wake up than be sorry at 50 years old?

 

But Kind of afraid of working with cooks as they shout a lot and are harsh.  Help!

post #13 of 14
Thread Starter 

HI Baconator. Thanks for the post. I am prepared for the low pay and the consequences associated to that. But I agree with you because the more I made the more I spent and the basic stuff (Food, Health, etc) cost states the same and it is manageable. No doubt it will be something I will love to do without all the stress I had in the past. After all it will be replacing money with happiness and peace. Cheers

post #14 of 14
Thread Starter 

Yes, we are reached to follow money so hard that we forget that we are more than money in a bank account and consuming wrong stuff all the time. Sometimes it can feel that handling the pressure (that is stress, not really if you love what you do) can really be the nice song in our ears. Good luck ! Cheers!

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