or Connect
ChefTalk.com › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Culinary Students › General Culinary School Discussions › Looking to become a chef - advice needed
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Looking to become a chef - advice needed

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

Hi everyone. Signed up to the forums for a little advice. I'm currently finishing up my Honours Bachelor's Degree in Computing. I hate it but have been able to grind through 4 years, including one placement year, and will hopefully come out the end of a tunnel with a good degree. 

 

For the past year or 2 I have wanted to study cooking, learn about the industry and advanced cooking techniques. I have no experience in the industry at all. The only cooking experience I have is producing meals at home for myself, family and friends. Cooking is probably the one thing in my life I have always enjoyed doing since I started at the age of 16 ( I am now 21). I find my self spending hours of my spare time looking at 100s of different recipes, watching cooking shows, watching youtube videos of chopping techniques, different ways to cook certain foods etc. This stuff really interests, and I think it is something I am passionate about, and with more experience, I could grow to love. 

 

The kind of advice I am looking for is where is the best place to start. Unfortunately the last 4 years of my life seem like a waste, gaining a degree in something that has nothing to do with the field I am really interested in. I have some experience in customer services but not much. 

 

I have applied for entrance into the City and Guilds Level 2 Proffesional Cookery diploma at my local college for the following academic year. Is this a good start? Or would it be best for me to look to getting a job in a restaurant, bar or cafe first? I'm completely willing to start at cleaning dishes just to get a taste of how kitchens are run and the job each chef has. The only knowledge I really have of professional kitchens are from shows like Hell's Kitchen, so I want to see first hand of what the environment is really like. 

 

And before people begin to fire questions on whether I have really looked into what it takes to become a chef, the answer is yes. I know being a chef has enormous time restrictions, having to work in a stressful environment with constant strict deadlines, not being able to take any days off, no holidays, probably not good pay; however, I think it is completely worth it to do something you truly love to do, how many people can say that? How many people say they are in a job they really love? I don't know if this is definitely something I will absolutely adore, but the only way to find out is to try it, right? 

 

Sorry for waffling a bit. Any adice would be greatly appreciated. 

 

Thanks

post #2 of 8

Hey, Welcome. 

 

You are not alone many people face what you are facing so no worries. As a former long time chef who then went into computing here is my advice.

 

Work in a restaurant first. Get a really good handle for the business. While I loved cooking and started in the business at a very young age I had little time for anything else. Eventually the 60,70,80,90 hour weeks caught up with me and I was terribly burnt out. I had no idea what it meant to have a weekend off or hang out with friends on a holiday. 

 

 

 

Quote:
And before people begin to fire questions on whether I have really looked into what it takes to become a chef, the answer is yes. I know being a chef has enormous time restrictions, having to work in a stressful environment with constant strict deadlines, not being able to take any days off, no holidays, probably not good pay; however, I think it is completely worth it to do something you truly love to do, how many people can say that? How many people say they are in a job they really love? I don't know if this is definitely something I will absolutely adore, but the only way to find out is to try it, right?

 

 

While I agree with what you say it really is a different thing to say it after doing it and being in the business for many years. It gets old after a while really old. I often did not date seriously because I had no time. Think long and hard about how it will impact your family because that is one thing a lot of people miss. It is fine if your ok with it (I was) but it was difficult on the family never seeing you. The clincher for me leaving the business was all of my married colleagues being in the business and never being at home with their kids or wife for dinner.

 

Most importantly don't get caught in the trap of just fine dining or restaurants. I truly regret that I did not consider other avenues when I was in the business like food trucks, small cafe, fast food concepts. All I thought about was the big expensive places and never thought outside that. There are a million things you can do with food.

 

Hope that helps.

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 #3 of 8
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the reply. It's just tough to get in the industry for starters. I never see jobs like dish washers, or prep chefs advertised. So I thought maybe educating myself a bit before going into restaurants and cafes, something to beef out my CV. There's no point in handing your CV full of computer techy stuff for a job in a kitchen, or preparing sandwiches etc. 

 

Of course. I have a long term girlfriend and I fully intend to start a family in my late 20s. I would be absolutely delighted to cook in a regular restaurant/bar or prepare food in a cafe, and then maybe go on to start my own place up. Fine dining is definitely not the only thing I'm interested in. I would just love to do anything involving food to be honest. 

post #4 of 8

I have to kindly disagree with you unless things have changed drastically from when I was in the business. There are nothing but jobs in the food industry so I am not sure I understand your statement that it is tough to get into. Find 5 restaurants you want to work at and then simply go and ask for the chef and tell him your story. I bet you will have a job at the end of the day.

 

A few more thoughts that will help you better understand how to consider other avenues. A good friend and long time member of ChefTalk  spent years working in the Chicago fine dining scene years. Later he moved to Wisconsin and is now a regional manager of the kitchens for the prison systems. Not very glamorous like working at Alinea but he is home every night with his family and he has weekends off. He even wrote a great article about it called Confessions of a Sellout Chef.  I encourage you to read it. 

 

In addition to that many many ChefTalk.com members who were chefs for years went into teaching. As you plan keep in mind it is a burn out business so you need to flex as you make your way through the business. Also remember when thinking long term your knees really do start to bother you when you hit your forties. :) 

 

Great discussion thanks for posting.

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 8
Thread Starter 

Nice article, thanks for posting But it does lead you to believe that you can't be a chef and have a family at the same time. 

post #6 of 8
been a chef for 5 years love going to work on daily basis... have great benefits a awesome family and a beautiful wife and plenty of play on the way up (girls like guys who cook). with that said I would never change a thing and as I approach my 40's I have no complaints on my body yet... of course I grew up around chefs that paid there time at the gym and today I find that to be very beneficial as well (girls like guys with nice bodies that can cook shirtless). but don't take my word. enjoy your way to your goal and have fun doing it...I know I did
post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by irockpoker View Post

been a chef for 5 years love going to work on daily basis... have great benefits a awesome family and a beautiful wife and plenty of play on the way up (girls like guys who cook). with that said I would never change a thing and as I approach my 40's I have no complaints on my body yet... of course I grew up around chefs that paid there time at the gym and today I find that to be very beneficial as well (girls like guys with nice bodies that can cook shirtless). but don't take my word. enjoy your way to your goal and have fun doing it...I know I did

Hi. Could you please tell me how you went about getting to where to you are now? What were the first steps you took? 

 

Also, would you mind telling me what position you are at, and what kind of restaurant it is? How many hours would you say you put in a week? 

 

Did you always know you wanted to cook for a living?

 

Sorry for all the questions, just very interested.

post #8 of 8
after helping out a buddy in high school in the kitchen I decided to take a year off of collage to stay behind the spatula. After attending a 2 year culinary arts program to receive a certificate I then moved to a great friend of the family's restaurant with great pay no benefits decent hours along with bar tending Friday nights at the local bowling alley. After 5 years of this working the whole line and opening up for the Chef on Saturdays to making homemade soups myself, I decide to venture to the city for something more upscale and more volume. From here I went to several restaurants even taking a 3 year break eventually landing a Sous Chef job through my sister in a independent living center. Did this for 5 years till the ladies of the kitchen gradually caught up to me. 4 years later we are still together. From here I was unemployed for a little over 1 year and was certain I didn't want to do the restaurant thing anymore. After being suggested to work at Wegmans (huge grocery chain) and not understanding what they could do for me, I decided to give it a try. Here I had to start at the bottom and even part time. 3 years later I see myself retiring here. I get vacation every year and benefits and a consistent rising salary that seems endless. The best decision ever made and I owe it all to Melissa Mason and her mom.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
ChefTalk.com › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Culinary Students › General Culinary School Discussions › Looking to become a chef - advice needed