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Looking at Career Change - Advice?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

I've been watching Food Network.  How do I win Chopped?

 

Just kidding. LOL

 

I'm 42 and considering culinary school and a possible career change.  I've owned my own business (a very small IT consulting company) for the last 13 years, and might be able to count on this as a potential source of residual income down the road.

 

I looked at Le Cordon Bleu, however, it kind of feels like a franchise.  I'm seriously considering CIA, and there's also Johnson & Wales in Denver (I live in Colorado right now).  I'm sure there are plenty of other schools as well.

 

My biggest problem is I don't know what I want to be when I grow up, LOL.  I just know that I love to cook.  I want to be able to walk into a kitchen, see what's there and make something incredible.  I think this will take three things:  1. Natural talent, 2. Education, 3. Experience.

 

I believe I have natural talent - I've always been able to just "throw something together" and make something pretty good.

 

Assuming the financial part can work out, the plan that is forming in my head is something like this:

 

1. Map out a "wish list" plan (e.g. "I'll enroll at CIA in Fall of 2014.  To pay for that, I'll do x and y".  etc.)

2. Get a job in the kitchen at a restaurant where I like the food.  Doesn't have to be fancy.

 

That's the big plan so far.  I figure I have to have some sort of long-term goal, so step 1 gives me something to work towards.  Step 2 gives me some real-world experience (which CIA and some other schools require) and it also shows me whether or not I really want to do this.  I think it will also help me determine what I would and would not want to do in a kitchen.

 

What other things can I think about now?

What other steps should I consider?

 

Would a degree from CIA, LCB or J&W (or wherever) really help?

CIA seems to be top-notch.  Will training there really make a difference (I know they have externships, etc.)?

 

Any advice you could give would be greatly appreciated.

 

Thanks!!

post #2 of 16

I've only been on this forum for a month and a half or so, but this topic has already been beaten to death. Search forum topics an you'll find plenty. Two articles you should read:

 

http://www.scribd.com/doc/112033847/50-things-they-never-told-you-about-being-a-chef

 

http://ruhlman.com/2010/09/so-you-wanna-be-a-chef%E2%80%94-by-bourdain-2/

 

. . . and then do a stage at a restaurant for at least 2 weeks, 10 hours a day - for free. You're 42. You want to make $10-12 bucks an hour for the next three years working 10-12 hours a day?

 

I'm not even a chef nor have I ever been one, but I play one on the internet.

post #3 of 16

J&W is a really nice school.   Guys that can't get into the CIA go there and do very well. (I went to the CIA.)  If you can get a mortgage (or a second mortgage) on your home, look into either school.  On the other hand ... look into the Jr./Community Colleges in your area.  Usually the price is right and the schooling is good enough for government work.  You can see what it's like on the cheap. 

post #4 of 16

You have to realize you'll be making a ton of sacrifices going into this industry, especially in the beginning. You'll be making minimum wage or slightly above, working long hours, working hours that other people get to enjoy (nights, weekends, holidays), your social life will be going to crap, etc. In this industry starting at a young age is beneficial, so you will get that 'bias' because of your age. Only through experience and how you handle yourself during service will you be able to redeem yourself. You will need that passion and dedication for food to prove yourself.

 

Culinary school is a great way to learn things through an academic process, but especially in this industry... it's nothing compared to the school of hard knocks. I have yet to meet a graduate from CIA that can hold up to a minimum wage illegal immigrant who can cook circles around them during a busy dinner service, but that's just me. Realize that going through culinary school won't be an automatic seal of approval by your peers in a kitchen, but how reliable and efficient you are will far surpass that.

'A fool can't act the wise, but the wise can act a fool...' - Kweli

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'A fool can't act the wise, but the wise can act a fool...' - Kweli

Reply
post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 

Jake - Yeah, I had read some of the other threads, but everything I found was "I'm in High School and looking for a college.', etc.  I did take a look at those two links, by the way. VERY informative and really have made me think this through a lot more.

 

Iceman - I'm thinking about that, too.  The problem is if I'm going to spend the money (it's not like J&W is cheap), I'd rather go to CIA as it seems to have the best reputation.

 

Junglist - I really appreciate your input.  Money isn't really going to be that big of an issue (most likely), so I'm not too concerned about making $10 or $12 per hour.  The hours, though, are an issue.  I'm probably going to get married before I attend school, and I don't want to start off a marriage working 90 hours per week.  Regarding the "seal of approval", I know exactly what you're talking about.  I work in the IT industry and I used to teach Microsoft and Cisco certification classes.  Your typical MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) spent about $10k on classes or a bit more... and about $1k on exams.  They'd expect to get a lot of respect because of the cert, and that just didn't happen.  It DID however, give them a HUGE advantage over other entry-level applicants and helped them skip a couple of steps on their way up the ladder.  It also gave them a really, really good foundation from which to begin building their careers and they learned their positions a lot quicker and got promoted faster because the had a solid pool of academic and conceptual knowledge.  Now, take those certs and combine them with real-world experience, and you generally had a rock star in your computer room.

 

My hope is that going to CIA (or wherever) would put me in that same position.  I'd expect an illegal immigrant who's been cooking for a few years to cook circles around me.  However, I'd expect to get to their same level of performance in a shorter period of time because I've learned the correct techniques and skills.

 

Is that a pipe dream, or is that a fairly realistic expectation?


Edited by jchornsey - 4/3/13 at 11:09am
post #6 of 16

JC,

 

I did the opposite of what you are doing I started out in the kitchen and now work in IT. Here is my two cents.

 

What you see on tv is not what really happens it is a hard life and you will be away from your family (I am sure you are smart enough to figure that out but it is worth mentioning). Do you enjoy having weekends free? Do you enjoy having evenings free? Maybe because you have your own company it is more demanding but I bet you have a great control over when you work then you would if you were working 12-14 hrs a day at say Alinea.

 

Listen don't go to CIA or Johnson and wales I really feel you would be making a huge mistake. Attending the CIA is an amazing experience but it is totally unnecessary. I attended and graduated from the school and it was amazing. You need to work a minimum of one year in a hard core restaurant, bakeshop, catering company and see what it is all about. Then you will have a better idea of what you want to do.

 

Cordon blue is a great school and please don't think for one minute that the CIA is not a franchise it is and it is just a lot more expensive. My bias against attending culinary school (the big ones) is the cost. I truly do not believe a $60,000 education is required to be a cook which is what you come out of CIA or any school as. Becoming a chef takes years of hard work and growth. You have to learn to run a crew, run a business so that it is profitable, learn to schedule, hire fire. All you get out of culinary school is a cooks repetoire and if you are truly passionate about being a cook you don't need to spend $60 K to do it.

 

Hope that helps. Happy to discuss this more with you.

Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
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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)
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post #7 of 16
Thread Starter 

NIcko,

 

Hey.. .thanks for the reply, I really appreciate it.

 

I'm not that worried about the business end.  I've been running a business for years with employees and I've managed people, hired and fired people, scheduled people, controlled costs, etc.  Of course, having said that, I know that I need the knowledge and the experience specific to this industry and would never pretend I know how to run a restaurant.

 

I've been doing a lot of reading over the last few days and I'm really rethinking my goals here.  I don't know if I want to cook professionally.  But, I absolutely love to cook.  I'm passionate about it and love feeding people and seeing them react.

 

I don't know if I want to own my own restaurant, although I've thought about it.

 

Let's scale back a bit on this.  Rather than "I want to become a chef"... how about something more like:

 

1. I want to know how much leavening to reduce or flour to add when baking at high altitudes and why.

2. I want to know why that guy on "Chopped" knew his dish needed more acid and that squeezing an orange was the best choice.

3. I want to know why the person who created this recipe online knew that blending cumin, scallions, brown sugar and oil would create this flavor.

4. I want to know why lamb was a better choice than pork for this particular dish.

5. I want to know that this spice or that herb is the perfect rub for this protein, or this seasoning makes the flavors in this vegetable really pop.

6. I want to know why I need to use a hook instead of a paddle on my KitchenAid mixer or why I use a paddle instead of the whisk attachment.

 

I understand experience is the key to everything, but you have to start with knowledge.  I mean, on #2 above, the guy knew to use an orange because he's done it 1,000 times and learned that lemon didn't add the right flavor... but knowing that an acid of some sort was required... well, that's something he was taught.

 

I can make great food... I just don't even know where to begin on that kind of stuff.  And this is where a structured education, I think, provides that foundational knowledge.

 

Thoughts?

post #8 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by jchornsey View Post

Jake - Yeah, I had read some of the other threads, but everything I found was "I'm in High School and looking for a college.', etc.  I did take a look at those two links, by the way. VERY informative and really have made me think this through a lot more.

 

Is that a pipe dream, or is that a fairly realistic expectation?

I don't usually post personal info publicly on any forum, but here goes.  I don't know how much you know, so if I repeat things you already know, sorry.

 

I'm older than you, and also considered a career change into food service. My wife went to the Cordon Bleu in London, and we both consider ourselves handy in the kitchen. My background is in design, and have been involved in designing restaurants and hospitality (hotels, resorts), I love food and it's preparation and have been doing it seriously for over 12 years, so going into the culinary world seemed like a natural fit.

 

I knew a guy at our farmers market woked in a Tom Colicchio restaurant as a line cook, and asked him if he could get me in the door. He did, and I staged there for free for three weeks. I gave them 10 hours the first day (most of it watching the line work), and then worked between 6-8 hours a day, 5 days a week. I learned a lot. However, what made the biggest impression to me was that it's a young man's profession. All of them spent at minimum three years before getting on the line to actually cook, let alone become the exec chef or the guy calling out the orders and running the kitchen. I was the oldest person there, and the head chef was 34. They all worked 10-12 hours a day, and those two links I posted pretty much summed up my experience. It is very, very hard work, with no free time, for a small return on investment. If I were 30 I'd give it a go, but I realized that the dream of owning and running a restaurant for profit was at minimum 5-7 years away, if I could find investors, and I don't even know the business side of it. I can't afford that and don't know if my body can take it. I really admire guys that do it for a living.

 

Many of them went to culinary school, some did not, but every one of them emphasized that hard work and determination is what gets you through to the next level. Guys would spend 2 years as a prep cook before even getting an opportunity to get on the line, and culinary school grads usually put in 6 months to a year before getting a shot - although they start right away on the garde manger station (salads, cold apps, etc.). You pick up knowledge and put it in your bag of tricks along the way.

 

I started doing really simple things, but toward the end they let me do more extensive prep because of my knowledge and knife skill level (I took one guy by surprise when I sliced the tops of baby fennel into paper thin garnishes)- and asking the right questions. Like "how much color do you want on this roux?" Also, remembering ingredients when they rattle them off to you, and seasoning something to their liking. Everyday I was given more complex tasks. Maybe it was because I was relatively fast with my knife.

 

In the end, if you study like hell and think like a chef in your own kitchen(which is totally different than a commercial kitchen), based on my experience, you could probably skip culinary school, but you'd have to home school yourself in traditional techniques while working as a prep cook and listen and learn hard and fast while there. Try emailing restaurants, stopping by kitchens after lunch and before dinner service, and ask to speak to the chef in charge if you can stage. If you listen, work hard, and take direction well, they might offer you a job.

 

Also, If you are financially stable, and have no need to save for retirement or have kids to put through college, then by all means, go for it. Unless you have some kind of safety net, I'd think long and hard about it.

 

And by the way, I live in NYC, and am telling you things I've repeated to myself for over a month since I interned at the kitchen.

 

Sorry for the long post.

post #9 of 16
Thread Starter 

Jake - Please don't apologize.  Great reply!!!!

 

I'm trying to be very realistic about what my goals are and what I really want to do.  Your response is exactly what I'm looking for.

post #10 of 16

Jake, that is an awesome post you really nailed it. I am 44 years old and I could not go back to standing for 12-14 hours a day 6-7 days a week.What I will say is there are so many areas of cooking you can go into and it does not have to be a kitchen like Kraft (Tom C's place). 

 

One part that lost me though is when you said "Think like a chef in your home kitchen". I just don't see how that is possible. To me thinking like a chef runs something like this.

 

  • Party of 30 tonight do we have enough duck breast
  • Dishwasher is out, two cooks who can prep salads for the party
  • Need to submit payroll
  • Did I order enough salmon for Sat party.

 

That is what I think about when I remember back on my days running a kitchen with 25+ cooks under me. Certainly agree with everything you said but I don't think it is realistic to say think like a chef in home kitchen. I may be mis-understanding what you meant by that.

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 #11 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by jchornsey View Post

NIcko,

 

Hey.. .thanks for the reply, I really appreciate it.

 

I'm not that worried about the business end.  I've been running a business for years with employees and I've managed people, hired and fired people, scheduled people, controlled costs, etc.  Of course, having said that, I know that I need the knowledge and the experience specific to this industry and would never pretend I know how to run a restaurant.

 

I've been doing a lot of reading over the last few days and I'm really rethinking my goals here.  I don't know if I want to cook professionally.  But, I absolutely love to cook.  I'm passionate about it and love feeding people and seeing them react.

 

I don't know if I want to own my own restaurant, although I've thought about it.

 

Let's scale back a bit on this.  Rather than "I want to become a chef"... how about something more like:

 

1. I want to know how much leavening to reduce or flour to add when baking at high altitudes and why.

2. I want to know why that guy on "Chopped" knew his dish needed more acid and that squeezing an orange was the best choice.

3. I want to know why the person who created this recipe online knew that blending cumin, scallions, brown sugar and oil would create this flavor.

4. I want to know why lamb was a better choice than pork for this particular dish.

5. I want to know that this spice or that herb is the perfect rub for this protein, or this seasoning makes the flavors in this vegetable really pop.

6. I want to know why I need to use a hook instead of a paddle on my KitchenAid mixer or why I use a paddle instead of the whisk attachment.

 

I understand experience is the key to everything, but you have to start with knowledge.  I mean, on #2 above, the guy knew to use an orange because he's done it 1,000 times and learned that lemon didn't add the right flavor... but knowing that an acid of some sort was required... well, that's something he was taught.

 

I can make great food... I just don't even know where to begin on that kind of stuff.  And this is where a structured education, I think, provides that foundational knowledge.

 

Thoughts?

 

 

Well that changes everything. If you can take the time off and have the cash then I would totally go to the CIA it would be an amazing experience and you would not have the pressure of a lot of the students who were there because that was their intended lively hood. Any of the schools you mentioned would be great Le Cordon Bleu, CIA, J&W.

 

It still would be great if you went and worked somewhere even for a week to get a taste of it.

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 #12 of 16
Thread Starter 

Jake -

 

I had posted that long one earlier, but it was moderated, so it took a while to show up.

 

Your earlier post and the two links really got me thinking, so I did a lot more reading, and I kind of came to the same conclusion you did.  I'm probably too old for this as a career.  Your follow up really makes a TON of sense, too.  This is one of the nice things about being in my 40's... I'm not as quick to make rash decisions as I once was.  And, I (sometimes) take advice from others. LOL.  Sounds like you just recently had to give up the dream.  Doesn't get easier to do that.

 

Nicko -

 

I was actually already thinking about finding work in a local kitchen to see how things really work.  I worked in a kitchen at a Red Lobster when I was in my early 20's, but didn't do any real cooking - I ended up bartending because drinking was more of a passion than cooking back then, LOL.  There are a couple of nice restaurants in my area, but I was even thinking about hitting a Texas Roadhouse or some other midscale chain.

 

I'm assuming that knife skills are learned at culinary school, too?  I mean, I can chop stuff, but not paper thin baby fennel.  And I've looked online, but in my mind, it's a lot like playing guitar - yes, you can teach yourself the chord shapes, but it takes an instructor to show you your wrist is bent wrong and your strum pattern isn't right.  The big difference is that I never cut a finger off learning to play guitar.  :)

post #13 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicko View Post

 

One part that lost me though is when you said "Think like a chef in your home kitchen". I just don't see how that is possible. To me thinking like a chef runs something like this.

 

  • Party of 30 tonight do we have enough duck breast
  • Dishwasher is out, two cooks who can prep salads for the party
  • Need to submit payroll
  • Did I order enough salmon for Sat party.

 

That is what I think about when I remember back on my days running a kitchen with 25+ cooks under me. Certainly agree with everything you said but I don't think it is realistic to say think like a chef in home kitchen. I may be mis-understanding what you meant by that.

Yes. Let me clarify.

 

What I learned is that it's a business, and you produce a product. I mean I knew that but experiencing it is different than imagining it.  That's what I wanted to learn. I took what I learned into my own kitchen and try to price dishes and how to prepare them for 100, not just 4-8, so in the back of my mind, I make the distinction between the two. How would I prep this, how would I price it, order fire, etc.  As far as the business side, I try to think of how my wife and I interact in the kitchen. Who does what, who assists who, and how would I do that for 80-100 covers? Sometimes she runs the show and I assist. We work well together preparing food but I know that can't be expected in commercial kitchens. There are personalities and levels of skill to consider, like anything else. I've already developed a number of dishes/ menu's based on this.

 

I've also managed staff, and had to be proactive and on top of things in running a project or business, so I use those things in my kitchen. Label, set up lists and methods, processes that allow me to be creative and have food for the week - even though one of my favorites is "what do we have in the fridge and pantry, and what kind of Michelin three star meal can we create?"

 

I know it's not exactly the same, but it's a mind set. It changed drastically when I worked in the Tom C kitchen - even if it was only for three weeks (I'm a fast learner. It wasn't Kraft, btw). I still need more knowledge, but it's on the business side, I think, and considered taking restaurant management course, which runs about a third the cost of culinary school.

 

I thought about posting a thread about my predicament. I have experience in conceptualizing, and am confident about being able to fill a niche and provide a good product. There is so much to owning and operating a restaurant. I think I need to find a partner with this experience because I can't be proactive about something when I don't know it's coming. I don't know if I can invest that kind of time and money now. It's a big risk.

 

A really big one at this stage of my life.

post #14 of 16

This is a great discussion and I know from the hundreds of questions we get about career changing it will be really useful information to others in the same situation. Really appreciate your candor and sharing. JC I hope you keep us posted on what you end up doing. Incidentally have either of you seen our "A day in the life of an American Culinary Student" online journal? Way back in the early 2000's before blogs I had this idea for someone to keep a journal while they attended culinary school. The student Logan Worley was a career changer and he did a pretty decent job of tracking the day to day. If you want to check it out it is here: http://www.cheftalk.com/a/a-day-in-the-life-of-an-american-culinary-student-blog

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 #15 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by jchornsey View Post

NIcko,

 

Hey.. .thanks for the reply, I really appreciate it.

 

I'm not that worried about the business end.  I've been running a business for years with employees and I've managed people, hired and fired people, scheduled people, controlled costs, etc.  Of course, having said that, I know that I need the knowledge and the experience specific to this industry and would never pretend I know how to run a restaurant.

 

I've been doing a lot of reading over the last few days and I'm really rethinking my goals here.  I don't know if I want to cook professionally.  But, I absolutely love to cook.  I'm passionate about it and love feeding people and seeing them react.

 

I don't know if I want to own my own restaurant, although I've thought about it.

 

Let's scale back a bit on this.  Rather than "I want to become a chef"... how about something more like:

 

1. I want to know how much leavening to reduce or flour to add when baking at high altitudes and why.

2. I want to know why that guy on "Chopped" knew his dish needed more acid and that squeezing an orange was the best choice.

3. I want to know why the person who created this recipe online knew that blending cumin, scallions, brown sugar and oil would create this flavor.

4. I want to know why lamb was a better choice than pork for this particular dish.

5. I want to know that this spice or that herb is the perfect rub for this protein, or this seasoning makes the flavors in this vegetable really pop.

6. I want to know why I need to use a hook instead of a paddle on my KitchenAid mixer or why I use a paddle instead of the whisk attachment.

 

I understand experience is the key to everything, but you have to start with knowledge.  I mean, on #2 above, the guy knew to use an orange because he's done it 1,000 times and learned that lemon didn't add the right flavor... but knowing that an acid of some sort was required... well, that's something he was taught.

 

I can make great food... I just don't even know where to begin on that kind of stuff.  And this is where a structured education, I think, provides that foundational knowledge.

 

 

You don't need school for this.

 

You could teach yourself all this in your spare time and save a ton of money.  Buy some books, buy some equipment, buy some ingredients.  Get to work.  What you are wanting to learn is how to be a good knowledgeable cook, and maybe how to serve the best food at dinner parties.  That does not require a career change or a $50K/2 year investment.

 

Want to get good knife skils?  Buy some good knives.  Learn how to take care of them and how to keep them sharp.  Watch some videos demonstrating the various cuts.  Buy a sack of onions and bruinoise them all up.  Take the diced up onions to a local soup kitchen or other food service charity.  Buy another sack of onions and do it again.  Do this every day for 6 weeks.  You'll be amazing at dicing onions.  And you'll be ten times better than anyone just out of culinary school.

 

Buy some good cook books.  Mastering the Art of French Cooking is a solid start.  I also like "The Cook's Book" for learning technique.  Buy the ingredients and make the dishes.  When you make a mistake, see what went wrong, go back and read some more, and make it again.  When you make it right, make it again and see what went right.

 

Want to really amp it up?  Hire a personal chef to cook for you, and be his or her sous chef.  Let them know ahead of time you are wanting to learn as well as eat well.  Or pay an ex chef to spend a few hours each week in the kitchen with you.  Theres a retired chef around here that gives cooking classes focused on cooking at home, and his prices are far less than culinary school.  Check out his website:  http://www.mykitchenwv.com/    There might be someone near you who does something like this.

 

Spend two years doing things like this, just in your spare time, and you will be a far better cook than any recent culinary school grad.  The key to really understanding what you are doing in a kitchen is experience.  And you just won't get the amount of experience in school that you will by doing it over and over and over again in your own kitchen.  Culinary school will teach you the skills needed to start off in a commercial kitchen;  thats a ton of info you don't really have any interest in....sanitation, food cost, trim cost, etc..    And you're actual cooking "practice" is a lot less than you might think.

 

So my point is that if you took that $50K you could spend it far more efficiently in becoming a good cook than by going to culinary school.  Hell, you could remodel your kitchen and outfit it with commercial grade equipment and still do all the stuff I suggest, and not hit 50K.  And you won't have to quit your job, move, or any of that other stuff.  And you will eat like a king!

post #16 of 16
Thread Starter 

Jake - great points you made about thinking like a chef.  Honestly?  I'm not interested.  And, WV, like you said - trim costs?  Couldn't care less.

 

WV - That is some fantastic advice.  I'll start looking into that stuff immediately... I know that I learn better with instruction and structure, so I'll see what I can find in the area as well as looking at online resources.  I especially like the idea of donating the food.  As I was thinking about self-teaching, one of my concerns was what I would do with all of the food I made.  I'm a little ashamed that I didn't think of donating it to a soup kitchen.

 

I know this is an entirely different thread, but regarding knives... I've got a set of Calphalon Katana knives.  I'm assuming those are good enough?  If I wanted to buy knives that last me the rest of my life (if those exist), where do I look?

 

Guys, I can't tell you how much I appreciate your input.  Not only have you given me some really good ideas to look into, WV... but Jake & Nicko, you guys really helped me to think this process through.

 

I still think I'm going to look for some local kitchen work, just to solidify my thinking.  I'll also start looking into community colleges and see if there are some local cooking classes.

 

Seriously, guys... this was fantastic.  I'll keep you posted as things progress.

 

Thanks for taking an interest and your time! 

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