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Dreamer stuck in the Military. Advice?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
So, I haven't been able to scan over every forum on this site just yet, so hopefully I'm not repeating a topic. I've found quite a few people asking about joining the military to assist and/or continue their culinary training. I'm looking more towards the opposite.

I have been active duty for 9 years now. I was a line cook for about 2 yrs prior to entering. I thought I wanted different, but ever since joining I've dreamed of getting back in the kitchen and eventually open my very own restaurant or catering service! Alas, here I am now with a wife and children to watch out for and would never be able to find a job in the civilian sector with the security I have. So, the only thing I can look forward to is to continue with my military career and take advantage of tuition assistance and prepare for a second career after the military.

That being said, I am unable to gain the experience that someone in the civilian world can by working hard on the line. What would be a good route to secure a future in the culinary arts? Taking night classes at local colleges would be difficult due to my job and possibility of moving at any time, so I usually stick to online courses. Would an online degree in the management field from a school like LCB be worth my time and money? Then when I get out, I can utilize my GI Bill to complete my hands on items. Or am I doomed to the life of a hobbyist?

Any advice is GREATLY appreciated. I'm glad I found this site...I have a feeling I'm going to enjoy it. Cheers!
post #2 of 11

You never mentioned the branch of service, but I would bet there is a food training school. Check with your First Sergent or your personnel people to see if there is a way to cross train in to the food field. Not sure it would help on the outside as experience, maybe someone here may know that.  But I would also consider how a career change would affect your position for promotion and so on for the rest of your time.

post #3 of 11

first of all, you usually never are "stuck" somewhere.

there are always choices to have and make.

aside from that, I agree with Wlong.

 

if you have the dream and the passion, go for it!!!

post #4 of 11
Thread Starter 
I am in the Air Force. I am an aircraft tech. When I was young and joined I had a love of aircraft and wanted to get into aerospace engineering so I went this route. I did not know Id miss the kitchen so much, so when my recruiter asked if I wanted to cook I said no. Now I can crosstrain due to manning requirements. Theres special duties cookung for generals, however they are big on appearance so my chances are slim due to my tattoos...lol. Welcome to the AF... Its still something I may try for even if I dont get it.
As for being stuck, I only say that because of my drive to be able to provide for my family. The benefits I get now allow me to not have to worry about healthcare and a steady paycheck to put food on the table.
My best bet is to do what I can now to prepare for a second career. But it just makes the need for experience in the field difficult. If LCB is worth it, I can get the management classes done and maybe get stationed in AZ and do the on site courses at the scottsdale location. I guess Im just trying to get a feel from the community if the time and money to do that would actually be worth it.
post #5 of 11
I'm bias toward military retirement as I completed 29 years combined active and reserve service in the US Navy as a commissaryman and mess management specialist. You say that you're served 9 years to this point. Another 11 years and you can retire with around half pay for life.

How does the Air Force view changing your MOS? This may not be possible because you'd be going from a technical field to services (for nom-military folks, Air Force Services is the AF occupational field that covers dining halls, barracks, mortuary and recreational outlets). The only problem with AF Services is that many chow halls are contracted out, so there isn't as much opportunity to cook.

If you get out at the end of your current enlistment, stay in the Air Force Reserves (or Nation Air Guard) and earn that retirement. That's what I did. The only difference is that as an active duty retiree, you collect you retirement check as soon as you retire, Reserves don't receive their retirement until you're 60.
post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 
Yea, I can't complain about the benefits and the pension light at the end of the tunnel. I'm just trying to figure my best route to set myself up for success when I get out and hopefully get back into the kitchen. They won't let me change my job. My career is a critical manned field, so I can only go to other critical fields.
post #7 of 11

@wbillings313 hope you don't mind some tough questions. I am someone who started out in food and the left after many years. First, do you really miss the kitchen or do you just miss cooking? Big difference in my opinion. Missing the kitchen means missing the 6-7 days a week, 10-12 hours a day no weekends away from your family all the time. Yes it is exciting to work in a well run kitchen I remember the rush quite well. But, I also remember not seeing my family very much. One of the main reasons I left the kitchen was the day I called a buddy of mine a fellow chef to wish him Merry Christmas. His wife answered and said he stayed to watch the kids open their presents then had to go to the kitchen to open up for the Christmas patrons. 

 

Think long and hard and make sure your wife is in this with you otherwise you will regret it.

 

Second, what do you think you really want? Catering is very different from running a restaurant. You simply may not need a big expensive degree for what you want to dod.

 

Lastly, what about going to your mess hall and talking with the chef there? Asking if you could get some training (no pay) and work for him for after hour parties, prep etc?

 

Hope I was not too harsh but I figure your in the military and can take 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)
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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)
Reply
post #8 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Soesje View Post

first of all, you usually never are "stuck" somewhere.
there are always choices to have and make.
aside from that, I agree with Wlong.

if you have the dream and the passion, go for it!!!
I don't think you have many choices when you're stuck in the military. It's not like he can just quit and leave.
“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.”
Oscar Wilde

 

 

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“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.”
Oscar Wilde

 

 

Reply
post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 
@Nicko,
I definitely hear what you are saying. My time spent in the kitchen was one of the reasons I left to join the military. I was failing out of college because I was gladly taking extra shifts. Hell, why do classwork when you can get paid overtime to do something fun right? Lol. Well...cause otherwise you end up signing your life away.
I miss the kitchen. I still cook often. I feed everyone from friends over for dinner to cooking for squadron events. It's great. I love the satisfaction of seeing everyone enjoy my food. However, then I have to go back to work...I just want that to be my job. I miss everything about it.
As for catering...it's on the ideas list. I think that would be great too. But I believe I'd have the same issues of trying to jump into that career after 20+ yrs away from the field by the time I get out.
Also, I don't really have interest in working with our chow hall here. I've eaten the food. I've talked to people who prepare the food. I even have a really good friend that sells them their food. Let's just say...it's not the kind of culinary skills I'm looking for. I am obsessed with the whole picture. I love making great tasting food with a huge range of the best ingrediants out there. And to present it in a visually beautiful display. The chow hall is more of a "Cook lots of food cheaply and make it as universally acceptable to everyones taste". Half their food comes in precooked...which is a big reason I would never work at TGIF again.

I'm just trying to find out if anyone here who is a Chef or works in a kitchen thinks that a degree from one of these schools would help since my lack of ability to get hands on, or if my inability to get the hands on has pretty much doomed me to only halfway seeing my dream. I have no doubt that when I retire, I'm going to have to work under a Chef for a couple years to gain the experience...I just don't want that to be a cook at McDonalds. Lol.
post #10 of 11

If you are still in, use your TA (Tuition Assistance) to attend part time.
Get out and use the GI Bill.  Granted, living of an E-5's BAH allowance a real drag, but if you budget well, you can do it.


 

It is still better than being foreword deployed (multiple times) to some third world dung heap, dodging mortars and IED's, and the stench of the T.C.N. DFAC Contractors.

post #11 of 11

@wbillings313 I think given your situation an online course could help you kick start your passion. But is a management course really what you need? My gut tells me you have probably learned a ton about management from the military so is this really what you need. I would think a business degree of some sort might be a better fit. It sounds like you have the cooking skills, it also sounds like you have the management side of things, and it sounds like you are someone that is going to want to open your own place. So with that in mind a business degree seems to make more sense to me. If you are planning on running a big kitchen and being a hotel chef or large resort chef then maybe the hospitality management course would be a better fit. It really comes down to where you see yourself after you are done with the air force.

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
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