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Leaving university to become a chef... bad move?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

   I wonder if this is ever a good move. I went to university and I majored in music, I majored there not as a performer but as a scholar, there are no jobs in music academia, wanting to become an academic is pretty much the equivalent of wanting to become a world famous chef. I never hated writing essays and researching, but I never loved it either... the long sleepless nights where I'd write papers and ponder the abstract were stressful and draining to say the least. The type of stress in that world was so difficult to live with, I never was able to find an off switch when I worked, I always was locked into assignments - essays, presentations, articles, etc. That type of mental stress was something that a loathed. When I entered culinary school, it was sort of nice to be in a different world, I never minded the long hours, it was something that I was well acquainted to in a different world. 

 

  Then again, I wonder sometimes if I am even cut out to be a chef. I have depression and the apprentice chefs tell me about their triple shifts and forty hour weeks. They are all sleep deprived and tired whenever I see them in class (I am not an apprentice). When I lose sleep with regularity, I can get very depressed ... I nearly ended up in hospital a few times from losing sleep and then subsequently getting depressed.  

 

Does anybody have any they wanted to say?

post #2 of 11

Four words:

 

Try before you buy.

 

Don't even think about going to culinary school  until you've worked at least a month in a restaurant--any job, which would includde dishes an prep--which is what you would be doing anyway after graduating from a culinary school.

...."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 #3 of 11
Thread Starter 

Food pump it must be different were you are. Here, the lowest rank in a kitchen is the kitchen hand ... next to that is the first year apprentice chef, next to that is the second year apprentice chef - and apprentice chefs do food prep and plating up food, and then they advance to actual cooking. So while you are in school, you're not washing dishes, you're cooking. I worked in a restaurant as the waitress and also the bartender ... where I am it's impossible to get a job in a kitchen unless you have experience. I'm in Australia btw. Culinary school doesn't even cost much here (about 3 hundred for a semester which is six months) - so in that sense, I am trying it before I'm buying it - culinary school is my trial. 


Edited by Tranquillo - 9/21/12 at 8:14pm
post #4 of 11

Ah, apprenticeships are different.

 

I did my 3 year apprenticeship in Switzerland, but it was a cook's apprenticeship, and when I completed I was a cook, not a Chef. The Swiss have a way of letting you know it, my "papers" proudly stated I had completed my apprentice as a cook--in the 4 national languages of Switzerland.... 

 

In any case, almost every Chef I know of insisted on a "Schnuperlehere" or a trial period of a few weeks to see if the candidate and the kitchen were compatible before an apprenticeship contract was signed.  I strongly suggest this as well, before you invest 3 years into an apprenticeship.

 

So the advice is the same, try before you buy....
 

...."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 #5 of 11

Oh, I forgot to say,

Waitressing is waitressing, bartending is bartending, and cooking is cooking.  None of these trades are the same, substitutions for another,  or interchangable.

 

Culinary school is knowledge based, which means you have to supply the experience part.  All knowledge and very little experience is imbalanced and will lead to difficulties, as will all experience and very little knowledge.

 

Get working in the kitchen to see if that is for you.

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
Reply
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #6 of 11
I'm in Minneapolis and most chefs I know went to some sort of culinary school and will tell u it's mostly garbage. Unless you goto some ridiculous higher level school( which btw requires some experience anyways) dish washing us the lowest IMO and if you have bit experienced the lowest then how do you expect to be at the top. That being said he your foot in the door, and if your lucky you will be with a group of people to be willing to get you a good feel of a kitchen. Talk to local cooks that have been in the industry for at least 5yrs + they always have something to say about the industry
post #7 of 11
I'm in Minneapolis and most chefs I know went to some sort of culinary school and will tell u it's mostly garbage. Unless you goto some ridiculous higher level school( which btw requires some experience anyways) dish washing us the lowest IMO and if you have bit experienced the lowest then how do you expect to be at the top. That being said he your foot in the door, and if your lucky you will be with a group of people to be willing to get you a good feel of a kitchen. Talk to local cooks that have been in the industry for at least 5yrs + they always have something to say about the industry
post #8 of 11

How close are you to finishing your current degree? If you are only a semester or so away, I would say finish that first, and while you are finishing that degree, try to find a part time job in a kitchen to see how you like it. If you enjoy it, and keep wanting more, then maybe it is a smart move. Either way I would say finish that degree first, so you'll always have a bail out plan if needed. As far as the sleep goes, I think that all depends on how you compartmentalize. I know cooks (myself included) that get 2-4 hr of sleep, except on off days. I also know cooks who get like 10hrs a night, even during their work week. It all depends on how you adjust I think. If you try to go out every night and have a couple beers, or go to the gym right after work or do this or do that, You will be more wound up, and then when you do get home you'll be looking for cooking videos and such on youtube. Whereas other people simply leave the restaurant, go home and straight to sleep.

 

But maybe your bouts of depression are based on not doing something you love, just maybe if you get into a kitchen and loved it, you might not care that you were only getting a few hrs of sleep a night.

 

Either way, good luck.

post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 

  The degree is five years, I have finished two years. Food pump, I know that waitressing is waitressing and cooking is cooking, but I tend to think when we have respect for other jobs and when we know what it's like, then it helps. I was talking to a few apprentice chefs last week, they all said some really negative stuff about their front of house staff and none of them worked in front of house. I told them that there are so many reasons why front of house staff can be slow - sometimes it's chatty customers, other times it's when the chefs decide to make the plates extra hot that it's very, very different to carry, sometimes it's the due to the fact that the servers can't carry three plates efficiently, other times it's because the head chef is very difficult to understand or approach, etc... I envied the kids who studied to become cooks, and so I decided to give that world a go, and when I did, it felt perfect. I get depressed because of genetics, I cannot ever help it ... it normally exacerbates itself in times of extreme stress (e.g. I once worked on a project for 9 months, lost weeks of sleep in the process and then lost a friend immediately after that time)... but I get depressed randomly as well, a lot of the time without a known trigger... The cause of it was never doing something that I loathed. Besides this, I never loathed music academia, I just didn't love it. 

 

  I found work in a kitchen, it was actually work experience, the I talked to was lovely and the food that gets pumped out of the kitchen is good so I'm looking forward to working in there. Vuman, where I am if you want to become a chef, there is a national school and it doesn't cost much to study there. It's sort of the national standard to go to that place once a week and work in another place four days a week under an approved restaurant/establishment that takes apprentice chefs. The kitchen hand position is the lowest yes, and then first year apprentice chefs, then second year apprentice chefs, etc ... you do rise up ... I know the system and the process, I'm also partly willing to give up my university studies away to start an apprenticeship.

post #10 of 11

Finish the music degree.  I don't know where you are, but once you start getting deep into great men like Bach and Beethoven, Mahler, Elgar, Barber, etc. it's like peeking into their souls.

 

I just went through Elgar's Enigma variations just for fun and OMG that is some great stuff.  It's like an examination in creative thought.

post #11 of 11

it really doesn't matter if you've studied as an apprentice or not, if your not fast enough or don't know your craft then you will only be a k hand, i'd suggest doing your first year whilst working part time as a kitchen hand for around 6 months. that way you learn your way around a kitchen in an environment thats not so stressful, after a while you'll learn how to deal with and and manage your tasks better. Things like not letting the chef run out of pans, plates or FOH's cutlery whilst keeping them topped up with everything they need during service is one of the hardest jobs in a busy kitchen. Get awesome at your job, learn your craft and you'll really rock it and enjoy your cooking!!

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