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Choosing a path within the culinary / food world... help?

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

First off, let me apologize if this is in the wrong place or if there is a thread that I missed with some of the answers I might be looking for. I'm relatively new here.


I fell into quick-service food jobs in my youth and worked my way up to management team back home in Chicago. I recently got a job (here in Arizona where I now live) in a quick service drive through restaurant that has no indoor seating and thus passes that savings on to the customers through  fine-dining quality, fresh, organic ingredients at a reasonable price. It's a brand new business concept and start up and I'm getting in on the ground level, working with a great chef that cooked at some amazing restaurants and got Michelin star recognition at some of them. The experience and opportunity alone is amazing.


The last year or so I've really discovered my love for cooking and baking and it just feels right, not only because I enjoy it, but I thrive in a very organized, militant environment (like a well-run kitchen). That said, I am really daunted by the idea of working 90 to 100 hours a week for years like most chefs do. However, I realize that there may be other options besides "restaurant chef" within the culinary world where I'd be able to work in the field that I enjoy, but also have a bit more balance to my life, and I'm wondering what those might be. I'm not against hard work and I don't mean to offend anyone or insinuate that I want to achieve something without paying my dues, I'm just looking for some guidance.


Thank you for reading and I appreciate any feedback.

post #2 of 4

well Mairead….


so if I read it properly, you work at a fine dining drive through? 

that indeed does sound like a total new concept to me…..


starting from the ground level up is always good, as others will confirm here.

so basically you answered your own question.

most of us worked their way up from ground level until we got the experience build-up with time…..THEN we could move on into other restaurant kitchen jobs as prep cook, line cook, sous, chef.

when you start with the (much needed) basics, that will serve you for life.

learn to use knives properly , learn  to clean, learn the haccp rules, learn how a kitchen runs…. what written and unwritten rules there are in that particular place.


if your workplace is really fine dining, and you come from quick service….then there still is much to learn to get to the fine dining level.

if you feel at home in this kind of kitchen then you simply will get there where you want to be, not going to come easy and indeed hard work and long days.

I would not say 90 hours etc because YOU are no chef……. there is only one chef in the kitchen , and that is the person who is the dirigent of the concert, so to speak.


I would definitely advise you to just try it out for a while to see if you really like it, because its a totally different beastie from quick service!!

but…..welcome aboard and ask anything you want to know here!! we're friendly helpful people most of the time...

post #3 of 4
Thread Starter 

Thanks so much for responding, Soesje!


My wording was a bit wonky in my original post. I'm sorry for that.


Basically, I know I want to work with food somehow, but I'm not aware of all the different jobs that fall into that industry aside from chef, which I'm not sure is for me. It sounds very intense! I love the job I have now (quick-service drive-thru, fine-dining quality ingredients for salads / wraps / some breakfast items), but want to ensure a better future for myself as well and was considering culinary school. I guess my question is, before I spend any money on a culinary program are there other careers where I could work with or around or has something to do with food, and if so, what are they? (Aside from the ones we have already brought up, maybe nutritionist or restaurant management?)


Any insight is really appreciated as I'm not quite sure what I'm looking for. And sorry again if these questions sound stupid.

post #4 of 4

mairead, it's good you are asking.

and that is not stupid :)  so ask away.


why not think about trying to get a stage to get your foot into the door of a food place and just try it out for yourself.

personally I don't think you need a culinary program perse (especially not since in your country they are ridiculously expensive).

it sure helps but then you would have to be sure to have a GOOD one, there are too many bad schools who just want your money and don't give a damn.

so be warned.

do some research on the web, and trust your gut feelings….. sounds weird for the latter but it works.

when you come across something that instantly gets your enthusiasm, you're on the right track.


what counts is to be passionate about food and if you go to a restaurant with that attitude to talk to them, can't imagine they would not want to take you on as say, helping hand to start with ….

have some basic produce/ tools knowledge.


if you are going for management then its much easier but you won't get to handle food (at least not in my country where usually we have no restaurant managers just owners/ patrons mostly.)

it's a good thing to try things out at home and read as much as you can get your hands on, try things you like and educate yourself.

it's what I did, and from there I started education and kitchen working.


being a chef indeed is not for everyone and its something that you grow into.

if you want not the long hours then surely think again, you will be on your legs 10 hours a day at best.

unless you work in catering, sandwich shop and the like which usually have more normal times. 

you don't look (in your avatar) like you're old enough yet to have kids / partner so that makes it easier too.

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