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Taking first head chef job at 23?

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

I have been cooking professionally for 3 years and am currently the sous chef of a small bistro with 40 seats.  My head chef is thinking about quitting and moving to a new restaurant in a few months; he asked if I wanted to go with him, I said I didn't know yet.  Should I try and become the head chef at 23?


I need some serious advice.  Thanks.

post #2 of 14

When I was 23, I'd probably leap at the chance to take that job, but that would have been the wrong decision for me. Some things to consider:


Leadership: It's is one of those things that people generally need good deal of experience and practice with. Aside from inexperience, you might face additional challenges just because you're so young. eg The bitter vets not wanting to be bossed around be some f'ing kid.


Business: You at least gotta know how to food cost, read a p&l, your states labor laws...


Culinary: Most cooks would recommend that you spend a few more years as a journeyman in order to broaden your horizons.

post #3 of 14

I had a friend in your position recently. He was my sous chef at the time. He stayed, but didn't get the job. Now he works under a guy that has no idea what hes doing.

post #4 of 14
I would personally go with your chef.
post #5 of 14
 My head chef is thinking about quitting and moving to a new restaurant in a few months; he asked if I wanted to go with him, I said I didn't know yet. 


He is politely hinting that you should not stick around.   There is a reason why he wants to leave.   He's just trying to be professional and not throw it out there until he is gone.


Go with him - put in your notice the same day - it might wake up the owner to the mistakes their making.


Oh and never ever give more than 2 weeks notice - you're life will become Hell if you do.  I have another post around here that gets into the details that I learned the hard way.



"Plus, this method makes you look like a complete lunatic. If you care about that sort of thing".  - Dave Arnold





"Plus, this method makes you look like a complete lunatic. If you care about that sort of thing".  - Dave Arnold


post #6 of 14
Thread Starter 
I've been in this situation before, I could just hint that I don't want to be the chef. I make good money compared to other restaurants. By the way, there is only myself and the chef at one time and another cook on the weekends.
post #7 of 14

Has this chef given you all his tools and knowledge? if not, go with him and extract as much as you can to benefit yourself when you do take a head chef job somewhere, you'll be much better off, if he's bringing you along correctly, IMO.

post #8 of 14

i found the learning curve in my career was the chef at a restaurant could only teach you as much as the restaurant could.  if you work under a chef of a pub then your will learn only that. squirrelRJ hit it on the head again.  extract as much as you can from him.  when the learning stops it is time to move on. 


"if you could snatch the pebbles from my hand it is time for you to go grasshopper" 

post #9 of 14

Ex. Chef at 23? I think you would be kidding yourself and doing yourself a great injustice. You know one way (where you are working now) My first Ex, job was at 30 I would not have attempted it before. Cooking is only a % of what you must know.  Purchasing, labor managment relations, food cost control, menu planning, Every station in kitchen., kitchen layout and design, This is a partial list. Good Luck

post #10 of 14
My first response is that you are too inexperienced, but there are guys who have earned stars in their mid twenties. Only you know if you are ready. Also only you know what kind of life you want. I have a family now and a less creative more lucrative/stable job. I thank god that I ran my own scratch creative kitchen before I was "ready" because I dont have 90hrs to put to it now. and dont kid yourself 90hrs is what it takes if you aren't ready
post #11 of 14

I was in this position at 24 , but also had only 3 years of exp.

To be honest , I was not ready but a lot of good came from it.


40 tables seems manageable. Depending on the volume. If those 40 tables get snap turned over every night and you are doing over 100 covers ...don't

If you are reasonably slow , I'd do it.

If you plan on leaving anytime soon (2-5 year) don't expect to necessarily hop over to being sous or exc at a bigger , nicer place. Just because you ran a 40 seat place doesn't mean Michelin star restaurants are sitting on the curb waiting for your portfolio. I guess what I'm saying is stay grounded.


What I got out of it was good practice for later. People are saying you need more experience , but this is experience and it's an experience.

I got to create dishes and specials , fix things on the menu , order , organize , manage. It was honestly a lot of fun at first. Showing up to work and playing Thomas Keller for the night. It was also cool to have on my resume.

Just don't expect to show up to work and just work. It's all on you now. The success and the failures. The services where everyone is thrilled and wants to pull you out of the kitchen to thank you , and the services where the customers want to throw the plate at you.


My place was a smaller Mom and Pop style place with 15 indoor tables and 50 outdoor. During the slow months I worked things. Dishes , knife cuts , ideas , organization

Then summer came and we were slammed to death night and day. I wasn't ready.

I didn't exactly know how to order (I hadn't been to school at this point)

I didn't know exactly how to prep (for that amount)

It was hard to make specials when you're so overwhelmed with taking care of the menu.


Know your staff. I had a great sous chef. But we were grossly understaffed. 3 guys doing 100+ a night was brutal.

I also ended up hating , hating , HATING the front of house manager. Such an idiot. anyway

Think of EVERYTHING. Top to bottom , but when you are running the show it's now your job to think of everything.

post #12 of 14
Yep I am head chef at 24 now but I have 10 years experience working since 14 years old would newer consider coming on that caind of position after 3 years Belive me I'm 10 years in and it is still big huge step I have made lots of sacrifice ... Do 10 years more than u can think bout that .... All the best in future no Mather what u chose hope u make right decision....
post #13 of 14

Im 23, and I was recently double promoted.

In February I was sous, and by April I was the Chef
I have been cooking for 9 years now, starting in casual kitchens throughout high school until I did 2 years of culinary school..now ive been in fine dining for 5 years.
In a way i lucked out, and was in the right place, right time

but also hard work goes a long way!! 
Back in January, if you had suggested to me to become head chef, I quickly would've said F*** NOO. I had plenty of warning that I would become sous, and i prepared. but my chef leaving shorlty after was a shock, and Id be lying if I said it was an easy learning experience
But I love it. The restaurant Gods thru everything they had at me, and things went alright considering! 

Im passionate, attentative, and believe Im a true leader. 

I would like to suggest, that it doesnt hurt to try. You can do a month, 2 months give it your best shot, and if its too much, or your un happy, then just be prepared to give your notice. 

For some situations, like mine i know that if i threatened (which be prepared to follow through!)  I know they would adjust our terms, or do their best to keep me. which maybe is the winning outcome.

Good luck, work hard, listen, and get to know your staff. their success is your success! dont always be in a rush to get home, be present, and dont bitch about the long hours. its the position.

post #14 of 14

Cooking is like love.
It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.
-Harriet Van Horne

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