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Is 25 to old to start cooking professionally?

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 

I am 25 years old and am considering attending culinary school in NYC. I have been cooking in a kitchen for the past 4 months and have really enjoyed it for the most part. I am the type of person that if I am going to do something I am going to strive to be the best I can possibly be in that respective field. I have read various comments in blogs and articles that for one to be successful in the culinary industry they should ideally start around the age of 18. Is this true?

 

I have also been accepted to a few law schools and am trying to decide which path to take. Cooking is a true passion of mine which has made this decision extremely difficult. Thanks for any thoughts or advice. 

post #2 of 28
That's a bunch of B.S.. I started culinary school two years ago (graduating on monday). I'm 34 years old and run circles around 18 and 19 year old interns we get.
Just enjoy what you're doing and you'll do just fine.
post #3 of 28
Thread Starter 

Thanks! But to chefs consider age when hiring new cooks? If I were to apply for employment or stages at some of the top restaurants would I be looked over due to my age?

post #4 of 28
Depends on where you go, just like any other industry. I personally haven't run into it yet.
post #5 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by jfresch View Post

I have also been accepted to a few law schools and am trying to decide which path to take. Cooking is a true passion of mine which has made this decision extremely difficult. Thanks for any thoughts or advice. 

 

There are a lot of big names out there that career changed late in life. eg Rick Bayless

 

 

I'll tell you this, even though it sounds really cynical. For most people, cooking makes a better hobby then it does a job.

 

4 months is still honeymoon phase. It's still novel for you. Also, give it at least a year before you commit to going to culinary school. Also you might consider skipping the school part. Culinary School student loan debt is not worth having.

post #6 of 28

Here's my take on it.  During my tenure, I've worked with 2 kinds of cooks.  One cooks because he/she absolutely loves cooking, creating, cleaning, hard work and high stress environments.  The other only works in a kitchen because he/she needs a job, and may have some restaurant experience so that's their easiest go-to job.  If you've been accepted to law school, you've obviously got a good head on your shoulders.  But remember, if you choose a culinary career you will be underpaid, under-appreciated, overworked and you're going to get a few scars and callouses. If you attend culinary school, the debt will astound you, and it's going to be hard to pay off on the salary you'll make straight out of school.  Down the road however, your degree may help to secure better jobs, but only after you've worked and had some experience.  A close friend of mine recently went and got his degree from the CIA at age 53 after cooking for most of his life.  According to him, he learned a few things, or at least new terms for things he already knew...and he's not better off than he was.  Now he's just got another monthly bill to pay.  I do understand what you mean; if you do something, you want to commit to it and charge at it 150%.  That's respectable, but be sure you could really do it for the rest of your life before you have a 6-figure student loan debt.

 

So is 25 too old? H3ll no.  Most employers look for experience solely.  I once fired a 23-yr old Johnson & Wales graduate and hired a 55-yr old cook that'd never even graduated from community college.  Best decision I ever made.  The guy breaks his back for me and asks for more.  He's on time, constantly cleans everything and doesn't complain when we get orders 10 minutes before closing time.  The Johnson & Wales kid was fired after he threw a 12" french knife down the line because a server asked for an extra plate with an entree.

 

Work in the industry for a while before you decide on school.  In a lot of cases, the work experience will be more beneficial to you.  Read a lot of cookbooks, reach out and talk to chefs on this forum and others.  Just learn, then make your decision.

post #7 of 28

25 is not a bad age to start. Just know that your life will be a lot better financially and physically if you go to law school. Cooking for a living can be extremely satisfying, but it takes a certain person. If you are okay with working long hours late into the night just to be able to scrounge enough cash to pay the rent while you listen to servers complain because they only made $300 off your back breaking work that night then cooking might be for you. If you can work through serious burns and cuts during the rush of a 300 cover night and still be able to scrub every piece of equipment down to a shine at the end of the night all while knowing you have to be back to run a brunch in 6 hours then maybe this is for you. Not trying to sound cynical, because this is my life and I wouldn't change a damn thing about it. I'm just saying that cooking for a living is not really a glamorous life style. It is true blue collar work.

post #8 of 28

Also keep in mind, you can cook with a law degree, you cant practice law with a culinary degree. I've only been at this a short while compared to some but I've seen a lot of people that are there because they already know how to do it and compared to them you'll stand out just fine
 

post #9 of 28

Some pro chefs and restaurant owners started in their 40s.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply
post #10 of 28
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all of the advice. I hate being stuck in between two options. I could start culinary school in June or Law School in September.

post #11 of 28

I was an architect and was on my way to a very successful career but just hated my job so I quit and went to culinary school 4 years ago (at age 30).  I now work in a kitchen for a chef that just won a james beard award this week, love my job, and don't regret my career change in the slightest.  So I would have to vote no, its never too late.


Edited by Twyst - 5/11/12 at 2:42pm
post #12 of 28

I would go law school.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply
post #13 of 28

I work ith a Chef who also won  Zach Bell from Palm Beach

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply
post #14 of 28

No age is "too old" so long as you have the strength and energy to do what's required.  Having started at 38 myself, I can keep up just fine but it is exhausting for sure.  My biggest hurdle seems to be the knowledge/experience gap I have with co-workers ten or fifteen years younger than me.  It's humbling in a lot of ways, but if you have the right attitude it's also motivating.

post #15 of 28

25 is so young, you are definately not too old. I started at 40 , I am now 50 and own my own resturant , I look forward to going to work everyday. I love being able to experiment and create, I love the pressure, deadlines and challenges . It is hard work, long hours and a lot of pressure at times but also is very rewarding. Follow your heart and do what you think you will love......or......do both !

post #16 of 28

in my opinion...court is not as fun as a kitchen. you are obviously down for a little hard work so either one could suit you. but i'd rather read a cookbook than a book on law anyday.

 

only the strong survive in the kitchen. i could not imagine a lawyer calling you a P**** and then saying you take it in the A**. in the kitchen, you are a soldier. complaining is an invitation for ridicule, and enduring physical pain and bodily harm is regarded highly and with much respect. there are no recesses in the kitchen. and as far as rules, they vary by kitchens. it is one of the few careers that will get you high on adrenaline and endorphins, and then depress the hell out of you in the same hour. you will get hurt and probably suffer mental breakdowns and you won't be able to sleep because of the stress and the salary does not hold a candle to what successful lawyers make. if you have a family than they will have to deal with your endless hours or suffer from them. you work too much. you don't get paid nearly enough. you will leave some nights feeling like you are at the end of your rope...other nights like you just took on the world, and won. kitchens don't have HR departments, or desks with cushy chairs, or quiet spots where you can reflect on the nights work. you work your effin face off. you work with sweat in your eyes until you don't have the time, energy, or will to even wipe your face. you will dehydrate during a busy service. no maybe's. you will not even have time to drink water, a basic human necessity. then you go home, struggle to sleep as you mull and stew over that night's service, and then go back and do it again. physical pain is to be ignored. you WILL work harder than everyone else around you, and you will still have to listen to them complain about how hard they work...get used to it. i'm sure lawyering is tough too. i wouldn't know. i don't have time to watch those shows on TV and i can't experience it first hand because im always at work. honestly, cooking food for a living is the best and worst thing i've ever decided to do.

 

BUT at the end of a night that flowed like water. a night where every cook, although beaten down and tired and demoralized, knows that he owned it. nothing better in the world. one thing is for sure: cooking will make a man out of you. 

post #17 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Twyst View Post

I was an architect and was on my way to a very successful career but just hated my job so I quit and went to culinary school 4 years ago (at age 30).  I now work in a kitchen for a chef that just won a james beard award this week, love my job, and don't regret my career change in the slightest.  So I would have to vote no, its never too late.

You work for Paul Qui?

post #18 of 28

No, Im working in another region right now and am only currently in austin to visit.   Uchi/uchiko are on my short list of places Im going to try to get into when I move home permanently  in 8 months though.

 

 

 

I think paul is actually working in houston a lot right now with the new uchi there according to the people I know who work at uchiko.


Edited by Twyst - 6/3/12 at 10:45am
post #19 of 28

if you choose to be a cook rather than a lawyer you wont be called a duchebag as often

post #20 of 28

I started a month after I turned 25. Nearly 2 years later, I'm about to go to the CIA in San Antonio, and the restaurant I'm currently at has offered me the kitchen upon graduation. It's not too old, just know what you want to take from the work and go after it. Decide your goals and do everything you can to make them happen. Hard work is the only thing that pays off in this profession, that's the first thing I learned. 

post #21 of 28

double

post #22 of 28

25 can't be "too old" ... I'm 31 and just started on cold side/ GM. I guess we all need to start somewhere, I think its just a matter of being in the right kitchen. A great kitchen will have helpful cooks who like to teach. I've learned a LOT this way. 

 

Since I started cooking professionally, I feel a certain 'weight' removed. Its a charged environment of organized chaos and eccentric personalities ...I feel its a thing of beauty at times, lol (and of pure evil others, but thats part of the fun).

 

If you're going into law primarily for financial/ stable reasons, you'll definitely regret not at least testing yourself as a cook at 25. 

post #23 of 28

If you have the intellect and financial ability go to the best university with a culinary arts program you can find. Since your talking about law school I'm guessing you are at least very close to already having your BA and can afford school.

Working for fun and working to pay the bills are two very different things. I used to have a prep cook that was an auto executive and made over 200K a year for many years. He didn't need the pay check. It's hard not to notice the Chef's that never went to school and made it big. Every one loves an under dog like Jamie Oliver.  While I'm sure we can each find select examples to prove a point more than a few of the Chef's that made it big with out going to culinary school school came from pretty wealthy families and have solid college educations. Batali bombed out of cooking school partying like a rock star but IIR he is a Rutgers grad.

Rick Bayless spent several years at UMich picking up his PhD. Do you know who his dad was?

Others like Booby Flay that dropped out of high school just got lucky and found themselves in the right place at the right time. He found some one else to cover his culinary tuition. We could go on about select individuals but the value of an education should never be over looked IMO.

Now if your a very successful Chef you just might make more than a Barrister. The odds are stacked against you and the simple truth is the median salary for a lawyer is a lot higher than the median salary for a Chef.

But 25 is not even close to being too late.

Stick with law school you just might be able to afford your own restaurant in the future. It's not impossible to have your cake and eat it too.

Best of luck with what ever path you choose.

 

 

 

Dave 

I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
Reply
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
Reply
post #24 of 28

If you like making $10-$12 an hour and working 60-70 hours a week.  Go right ahead! After 10 years of experience you'll make okay money.

post #25 of 28

If it's what you want to do, your age won't hold you back at all. It's hard work, long hours, typically mediocre pay, and it's competitive to rise within the ranks, but it's fun.

post #26 of 28
I hope not, I'm 30! I couldn't have seen myself taking any schooling serious in my late teens or early 20s. I think you just sometimes know deep down and you have to do what makes you happy. Good luck.
post #27 of 28

No way! I'm 22 and i only started learning cooking last January, 1 wise thing i can say to people is never listen to others, do what you feel is right in your own heart not what others say you can and cannot do, age doesn't matter only if you have ever did exactly what you wanted even if you didn't stick to it will you be happy. Too many listen to others these days and we are not taught to understand anything, i am pretty much confused every day about things because i am always learning, life will always be met with confusion but you have to ask questions, some things might not be answered but not everything has to be because if you find the answers your heart is searching for there will be no need to be unhappy with the answers you have. Still... the answers you get in life won't always be what you wanted but maybe... they are exactly what you needed to hear to become the person you need to be, i know life has stopped giving me the answers what i want to only hear but it is giving me what i need to hear (even if i might not listen most of the time and struggle search for what's in my own heart). Go for it even if there is people out there who try to say this and that isn't for you remember they need to keep their opinions to themselves because it is just a matter of opinion but too many will write you off before you can prove them wrong to make you feel like you can't do it, do the opposite of what they think and do it anyway because it's not your life they should be happy to it's theirs. I know it's hard right now (believe me I'm often tearing my hair out) but one day someone, some where will give you that chance you just have to find it, good luck!.

 

P.S

Never ask others about their opinions of what you want to do because as i said everyone has different opinions, only yours matters to yourself when it comes to your own heart, people will only fill your heart with doubt with some vague answers, some people think it is too old because they are too scared of aging, instead of looking to others write everything down of what your good at, what your not and as you learn keep track of what's your best, but whatever your not good at don't try to change it for others just to seem like "changing positively" some thing you just are not the best at and  i think too many people ask too much of others. Never let anyone tell you work can't be fun ether, that is total crap it can be only if you make it so, people only say that because they couldn't be bothered to try hard enough, i want something fun too and i don't care when people say works not meant to be fun, if you find cooking fun then do it, honestly all i mostly see in this post is reasons to put you down and not to do it, i rarely ask anyone what they think.


Edited by emmbai90 - 5/7/13 at 4:21pm
post #28 of 28

Depends what kind of cooking you want to do, but I've gotta say it takes a hell of a lot more than just passion to make it in this industry, and to make all the sacrifices worthwhile. If you're not 100% (which it seems you aren't) go to law school first. You can always come back to cooking, but it could be tough the other way around.

 

 

 

Quote:
"It’s not about passion. Passion is something that we tend to overemphasize, that we certainly place too much importance on. Passion ebbs and flows. To me, it’s about desire. If you have constant, unwavering desire to be a cook, then you’ll be a great cook. If it’s only about passion, sometimes you’ll be good and sometimes you won’t. You’ve got to come in every day with a strong desire. With passion, if you see the first asparagus of the springtime and you become passionate about it, so much the better, but three weeks later, when you’ve seen that asparagus every day now, passions have subsided. What’s going to make you treat the asparagus the same? It’s the desire."
-Thomas Keller

 


PS

I wish I had a dollar for every time I read a thread that was either 'am I too old to start cooking' or 'should I abandon my 9-5 career and start cooking'. 

PPS

I also wish I had a dollar for every career changer or late starter I worked with that lasted less than 3 months.


Edited by Guts - 5/7/13 at 11:08pm
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