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21-years-old, stuck between culinary and college, and worried.

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

Hey ChefTalkers, 

 

I've been lurking for a while now and this is my first post. I'm Melissa, 21, and I'm from Singapore. 

 

Problem

 

I already have an offer from a local diploma program, that has a degree pathway to JWU. We do 3 months in school, and a year in a rotating cycle of 1 week school + 2 weeks apprenticeship. 6 months apprenticeship in an Asian kitchen, and 6 months in a Western kitchen.

 

I deferred my place to June 2015 because I don't have the money for it yet. I'm so so lucky that I grew up in a pretty well-off family, but my parents don't support culinary school so I'm on my own here. It's not too steep - I just need to cough up about $4000 USD. 

 

I feel stuck between culinary school and college. I'm not sure if anyone's ever felt this way? It's not that I see college as some security blanket (it is, actually, in Singapore).

 

I love reading and writing with all my heart. I love the social sciences and I know I'm good at it, and I get steady feedback that I'm good at it. Before I started working, I always thought I'd become an academic. 

 

But I also love working in a professional kitchen. It's hot, greasy, and exhausting, but I keep coming back. I don't see myself opening my own restaurant, but I could def see myself teaching after working in the industry long enough. 

 

My head hurts from thinking, and I guess I just wanted a hug. I worry that if I don't take Anthony Bourdain's advice to just stick to what I know (writing in acadamese), I'll fuck up with no more chances at age 30. 

 

Backstory

 

I went to law school (it's an undergrad major in Singapore) for 3 semesters, and then dropped out exactly a year ago. Tl;dr - it was my mistake, my parents badly wanted me to do law instead of anthropology, and I was afraid they'd cut me off if I didn't. We're all cool now, they just want me to go back to college. 

 

Food Service Experience

 

I've been working since I dropped out, and have about 9 months of part-time food service experience. I'm just a trainee/minion in a casual diner, nothing fancy. 

 

Food Knowledge

 

I'm not a home cook. My mom is the head of our kitchen, and everyone stays out. I'm not completely clueless - I can make basic risotto and sear a butterflied chicken breast without fucking it up. But I def have a long way to go when it comes to training my palate and eye for presentation. 


Edited by Melissa Tsang - 11/25/14 at 2:17am
post #2 of 15
They teach you to talk like that in College?

Well written I must say.
post #3 of 15

Agreed, your dilemma post reads like a professional  resume'. Its always preferable to try to find ways to combine

your talents, skills and interests. Off the top-o-me head it sounds like you should find yourself a comm kitchen to

work out of,  work up your own recipes and test others, and write some culinary books. :) 

Since your cooking experience is minimal, perhaps you could document your journey from novice to accomplished

culinarian. Sounds interesting to me.

post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Meezenplaz View Post
 

Agreed, your dilemma post reads like a professional  resume'. Its always preferable to try to find ways to combine

your talents, skills and interests. Off the top-o-me head it sounds like you should find yourself a comm kitchen to

work out of,  work up your own recipes and test others, and write some culinary books. :) 

Since your cooking experience is minimal, perhaps you could document your journey from novice to accomplished

culinarian. Sounds interesting to me.

Writing about everything is indeed part of the plan! I really do have a special place in my heart for teaching. Whichever vocation I enter, I have a feeling I'll end up educating younger people once I reach expert level.

post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chefboyOG View Post

They teach you to talk like that in College?

Well written I must say.

I didn't mean to sound resumé-like! :3 It's just that good formatting is easier on the eye, and really facilitates communication. But thank you!

post #6 of 15

Guess what, I am Singaporean too. Male, 24.

Seriously, just go for it. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to start.

I'm in such a predicament myself. I went through the "normal route" our society expects of us. Went through college and just started working. Everyday I think about whether I should just drop everything and start from a line cook. Or go to culinary school.

Unfortunately, I do not come from a well to do family so if I go on culinary school I have to save up and can probably only attend when I am 27. Furthermore, taking up this culinary route will definitely make me poorer than my current path. Thoughts of being too old and too late in starting keeps haunting me. Am I willing to sacrifice and live this less wealthy life? What if I really have no flair for it and will only be mediocre? 

I am sure you share similar thoughts. Not to mention plenty of resistance from friends and family. It will be tough. I guess you still have the luxury of youth. I'm at the same crossroads as you, but once you decide remember to stick with it till the end. Let me know what happens to you a few months down the road.

post #7 of 15

Goodness, Melissa! I'm in a very similar position as yours. Fourth-year of law school, have one more year to go. I have been having similar days to yours, where at one place I think of studying international relations after two years, and the rest, I'm trying to find a decent apprenticeship that would let in an absolute beginner.

post #8 of 15
Thread Starter 

It's turned out well on my side, and I'll be off to culinary school (in Singapore) next month ((: with the full support of my dad. 

post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by AMouthful View Post
 

I'm trying to find a decent apprenticeship that would let in an absolute beginner.

Also I've found that walking in (off peak hours) and asking to stage is the best way to go about it!

post #10 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Melissa Tsang View Post
 

Also I've found that walking in (off peak hours) and asking to stage is the best way to go about it!

Thank you :)
I'll be trying that after I graduate, and I have no place to go.

post #11 of 15

What is it with you law school students?

 

If I had to guess, before you are realizing the full potential of your degree and enjoying the just rewards you are realizing food, socializing, the connection it has to cultures and I would bet many are studying abroad. I am going to play devils advocate here and tell you, those are sirens calling. No matter what profession you choose, unless you are well off you will need to pay the bills. That is a constraint that while ugly and harsh, and not at all connected to your dreams, very real.

 

You mentioned Anthony Bourdain - you should realize he worked his ass off in restaurants for 20+ years before he got his first break through writing and you know what, he was different. He hit the right place at the right time.

post #12 of 15

Same thing happened with me. I started college as a finance major while working in the kitchen. I dropped out after the first semester all due to the love that i had for the kitchen. With my parents wanting me to grow up with the norms of society and follow the path of a college education i chose to go to culinary school. If you go to an accredited school you will take all your normal general education classes. Really talk to your parents about the school and all the pros that it has. And dont forget to tell them your love for the industry. I hope this helps.

post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 
Update: I graduated culinary school a month ago, and am now a commis (slave; minion) at a fine Chinese restaurant :3
post #14 of 15

Congratulations on your graduation. Best of luck in your career. And thanks for coming back and updating us.

Of course, if you have any issues in the future, we all have plenty of opinions. 

post #15 of 15

i feel in such a similar way to you, food is ingrained within my family and they fully support me in following that as a career but i'm still not entirely sure. i currently work par time in a kitchen while i finish my studies at school but i'm so unsure whether i should follow the standard path and do a degree at university (i'd study international relations), go and do a qualification at a culinary institute or just continue to work in kitchens and learn as much as i go.

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