Well to start off I am Aaron and I am 20 years old and a senior in college pursuing a bachelors of science degree in Biology medical sciences or Pre-med. I grew up loving science but also loving to cook, when I was a senior in high school I got a job in a kitchen as a dishwasher and the executive chef noticed I had a knack for food and cooking so he kind of took me under his wing and I became the dish washer / prep-cook. They did huge banquets weekly, a lot of times it was for 300-600 people so it was a busy kitchen and I loved it. He taught me knife techniques, cooking techniques and my interest in food grew in a major way, but my love for science and medicine grew at the same time. I took every science course available at my school. I graduated high school 2 years early and started college barely 17 years old. I was torn between science and cooking, a weird combination I know but I decided on science. My first semester of college I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease and ever since its been a tough road. If you aren't familiar with the disease its a gastrointestinal disease that affects the mouth all the way through. I know this is long and all over the place but I am about to pull it all together! 3 years later here I am, struggling with my health through college and in the back of my mind I always wondered could I be a chef and would I love it? A lot of people notice I have a sort of talent when it comes to cooking like the chef that took me under his wing noticed in me. I am 2 or 3 semesters away from having my Bachelors Degree in Biology but I have decided to stop and in August I am attending culinary school at a local community college to see if thats where my heart truly is. I also have linked Science to Cooking which isn't new for people its just new for me! Having an illness that deals with the stomach food plays a HUGE roll in how well my stomach is and what I can and cannot eat during times of 'Flares' It has been a hard few months deciding to put a halt on my love for medicine and to pursue my other love and thats food and cooking. I am excited to start and torn at the same time. Its a HUGE change completely opposite from what I am doing now but I don't wanna look back and think what could have been? Im not stopping because I have horrible grades and can't get into medical school, I have a decent shot at getting in honestly but I just don't know if its the right career choice for me. I LOVE cooking and I work at a restaurant now as a waiter and doing a bit of cooking with them and I really enjoy it. Just wondering if anyones been in this type of situation? Sorry it was so long but its a long story to get to where I am right now theres so much that plays into this whole situation that I can't leave some things out! Would be awesome to hear from you guys!
Making a big change to chase a dream.
Without knowing you personally, my immediate reaction is finish your degree! When you are done you will have a BS and many roads will open for you, if culinary is still one that attracts you, you can:
- go to work in a restaurant (OJT) as many superb chefs have done, or
- take on an apprenticeship (which combines academic as well as OJT) as many other superb chefs have, or
- go to culinary school where you will get the academics and then go to work in a restaurant
Your science degree has the potential to open up culinary opportunities that may not have crossed your mind, such as research on Crohn's disease and how food can affect it, possibly even coming up with a diet that helps people live with it.
You are young and have time.
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Hi Aaron, consider finishing school while you are still at it. If you leave, you will lose whatever momentum you have. It will be more difficult to start up again and finish your degree--you already have the lion's share of it done; you're going downhill. It may feel like it's a long way off at the moment, but, looking back, it will appear shorter and shorter; life is like that.
Additionally, if you have any aspirations of doing something that requires a degree, such as research, the people who will scrutinize and hire you are going to look for perseverance, continuity and achievement. In other words: completion & results.
Finish school first! I am also a career changer, I have a masters degree in architecture and am very happy with the decision I made to change careers. Even though my degree has absolutely nothing to do with cooking, the fact that you have a degree really matters if you ever decide you want to climb the ladder in hotels/resorts etc. If you want to run a corporate type place someday a degree is going to start becoming a necessity.
Another thing to consider is that working in kitchens is very hard work, and if you have your degree you will have many more options if you decide its not for you a few years down the line.
Its a no brainer. Stay in school and earn your degree. There is also nothing stopping you from staging in a few restaurants while you continue your studies. Look around and Im sure someone will be willing to work around your schedule, everyone loves free labor!
Have you considered getting a food science degree? It is a fantastic way to marry science and cooking. I also think it is a very exciting field to get into and the hours and pay are probably a lot better. Hope you are feeling better Crohns is not a fun thing to deal with.
Heheh, I feel like a rebel. Aaron, I'm 20 years old as well... here is what I was doing with my life:
I'm in Australia. I'm also a musician, I sing and play the piano classically and I have been doing this for several years (about 13 years to be precise). I went to a good conservatory and I did a Bachelor of Music degree for two years. I enjoyed this, but I had health issues too and soon I got burnt out and decided enough was enough, I need a break and I need a sea-change. I loved food, I loved cooking just as much as you described. So I took a year off. I am half way through my gap year. I took up a course in hospitality, it was an all-rounder course. The first six months is in general front of house duties (bartender, barista and fine dining serving). I did not do the back of house cook/chef course yet, but let me tell you, I LOVE this so much. I love waiting on tables, I love talking to customers, I love sampling good food, I love sampling wines and I love making coffee and cocktails! So many people told me not to take some time off, so many people said to me that once I leave, I will never come back.
I do enjoy the music world, and I have ever intention to return and attain my bachelor of music degree. I love both worlds and I'm trying to find a way to study in both worlds... I feel so very content at the moment, balancing my life between music and food. I do understand what people on the forum are saying though, it is a great idea to stay in school, most people drop out of school after they get a taste of full time work. I am definitely returning next year, I miss music school a great deal but I needed a break. You seem happy in school though, I didn't hate music, I also didn't hate school, I was just tired of it and I really craved a break.
Whatever it is you decide to do, I wish you all the best.
My humble advice is to finish up what you started first, get the bchlr degree, then go off to cooking.
I am 48 now and have been cooking and baking professionally since I was 17. A degree makes quite an impression on H.R. people, and will come in handy later on if you want to teach or go into food sciences
My first semester of college I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease and ever since its been a tough road. I am 2 or 3 semesters away from having my Bachelors Degree in Biology but I have decided to stop and in August I am attending culinary school at a local community college.
Its a HUGE change completely opposite from what I am doing now but I don't wanna look back and think what could have been?
I know more than one physician and a few other professionals that have had productive careers with Crohn's. There's no reason to change your career path because of that even though there may be some set backs along the way. I can teach any one that wants to cook how to be a professional cook. That's something you can learn or turn to any time in the future. Not every one can pick up a BA in Biology/Pre-med or get a slot in medical school.
At the very least finish your BA before you move on to a culinary program.
Edited by DuckFat - 5/28/12 at 5:07am
Like you, I am considering a career change. Unlike you, I am 42 years old. I decided to put off college when I was younger than you, I finally got around to finishing last year. Don't get me wrong, mine is not a sob story. The point is that once you leave... the longer you stay away, the harder it becomes to go back. What is your best case scenario? You go to culinary school and are a star student. You get hired in the finest restaurants and become a fabulous chef, make tons of cash. If you go on that track then don't delude yourself into thinking you will have time to finish school. If you don't go down that track and things don't go your way then you will be none too happy that you did not finish school. Especially when you check the help wanted section and see all the good paying jobs you COULD have gotten had you just stuck it out and finished that last 2 or 3 semesters. Heck, even in that best case scenario where you are the new golden boy of cousine, you will in the back of your mind be kicking yourself in the butt because you didn't just finish that last year and a half of college. It sucks you have to deal with an illness. If nothing else it shows you that life can be brutal for no reason at all. So saying you want to stop college to go to culinary school is like getting ready for a gunfight but only filling up half the clip. Sure it may be enough to get you by, but your going to wish you had more ammo. Besides, if you come this close to finishing college and then leave, what makes you think the same thing won't happen when you are almost finished with culinary school? Don't start a pattern like that in life. Finish what you start. Culinary school will still be there after you get your degree.
I find it truly interesting to hear that on this forum strongly advise you people to stay in school. I did something different, but where I studied, the field I studied, was full of people who took time off. Taking time off was common, having said that, I don't know if it's a cultural thing (I'm in Australia).
DuckFat, I don't know if I agree with you, I tend to think that we all have the capacity and ability to learn things - they can either be physical, creative or intellectual. There are exceptions to the rule, some people have learning disorders, other people are disabled in certain areas, making it difficult to excel in certain things (e.g. I don't think there are many deaf musicians out there), but generally speaking, anybody with enough willpower, motivation, energy can learn whatever it is they want to pursue.
Anyway, I entered the hospitality world as a true rookie, but I love and appreciate that world a lot. Not many of my classmates understand me, but I came from a world that was stressful... essays, exams and assignments were always on my mind, it was difficult to sleep on most nights. When I entered the hospitality world, I loved the pressure, I don't hate stress, but when it's always there, it can really feel like a burden. I loved the intensity and the short-lived stress - it's high pressured, but once service is over, it's so lovely to go home and collapse on the couch. I have no regrets on choosing to go down this road. Taking a year off really did wonders for me, it made me so very content and it also opened my eyes - I saw another world, a world different to the academic world.
Do whatever makes you content. If you're not sure about medical school, I don't see any harm in you taking a year off. One of my teachers always said to me (this person has a Bachelors, Masters and PhD) - "never wait for life to happen, if you want something so badly, get in there and do it, don't dream about it. If you drop out of university, then it's probably because you found something better. There are always ways for you to return to university (some people enter the place in their forties)."
Maybe I'm an idealist and a rebel by nature... I really did find contentment this year and being in this area (hospitality) feels like having a new friend.
That's a nice thought but slightly detached from reality IME. Med school is not culinary school. Any one that can write the check can go to culinary school.
Med schools have a very limited number of slots with a lot of criteria. Not every one that applies themselves or even all of those with good grades get in.
Life is just not always that idealistic but in a broader sense I do agree most can accomplish a lot when they put their mind to it.
I finished a degree that I have never used, but am still happy that I did. I have edged people out for jobs because the completion of my degree shows work ethic and the ability to complete what I started. Finish it, I am sure you will find more benefit in the long run.
It must be different in America... My friends have remarked that having a degree in the US really means something, it gives you a heightened probability to be employed. Where I am (Australia) it isn't the case. A degree does not guarantee employment, it might help, but it might not. To be a chef, it's straightforward, you complete a four year apprenticeship and sign up with the national trade school (TAFE), to get into the place you have to enroll and anybody can. I get the impression that it's a different world in the US in terms of how education/employment works.