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Took some time off--advice

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

Well to start Ive been actively browsing this site for a over a year but just finally decided to setup an account! So I will keep this as direct and to the point as I can. To start I am 32 y/o with no formal culinary training i.e Culinary School. I moved to Philadelphia roughly 6 years ago. Prior to that my only cooking experience was a grill/line/fry cook at Cracker Barrel(don't laugh--I needed work) for about 2 years. One thing it did teach me though is the value of getting your ass handed to you nightly and to watch a ship sink right before your eyes. Ive had 150 cover nights so at least that was an experience needed. I then took a shot in the dark and got hired as Garde Manager/Pantry and a fairly decent fine dining restaurant in Center City. Mind you at that time I knew nothing of the industry as a whole. The original Executive Chef was there about a year and then moved to New Orleans to start a highly successful restaurant--Check him out Carrollton Market in NO Chef Jason Goodenough. He taught me a lot but after he left my growth was stagnant at best. The desire to learn/work/grow was gone--which was largely my fault as well. His sous chef who was a cocky 22 y/o kid that got burned out after 6 months and quit--although me and him had a good work relationship. With all these changes I pretty much got pigeon holed into the Garde Station and never got the chance to properly learn Saute and the other stations. Then came in a tag team Exec/Sous and to be honest they were Dbags and Im not a fan of change. Also keep in mind the place overall was managed poorly by non restaurant owners who basically just liked to show off their establishment and host there wild blow/sex parties after hours. Needless to say I was let go and I was bit jaded by my 1st run in the industry and my GF at the time was pregnant and I needed to work. So I left the industry for an office job that I honestly HATE with every fiber in my soul. Ive been out of the kitchen for about 2 1/2 years and its all I think about. My daughter is now growing up and I often think about my career daily. I don't want to waste too much more time thinking about it. I just simply didn't understand the chain of command and the way things work in the industry prior so it threw me off mentally--I took too many things personal. Now I'm past that. I had a stage recently and I was nervous as hell. My timing all off--nervous to plate,prep etc. Although they asked me if I wanted to hang out some more I declined. How do I shake the nerves? How do I properly address not cooking in 2 years or so without shooting down my chances at fair pay? I mean lets not get it confused--I'm a damn hard worker. You show what needs to get done and I do it. If I make a mistake I wont make it twice--I get it. My other issue is with no formal training sometimes I get intimidated by those that do. I debated on going to culinary school but I don't have the time nor the $ and every Chef Ive talked to thus far has said that formal training helps but isn't required and you can learn properly under the right Chef which is true. I'm ready to get this show started and any advice would be more then appreciated. Oh and one last question which has been really pulling at me. See the schedule I have at this office is sweet in terms of vacation/personal/sick days and 8:00am-4:30 pm shift--affords me a pretty nice amount of time to spend with my daughter since I'm not with the mother. Obviously I know a majority of things will fly out the door--especially the schedule. My question is how do you guys balance family/work life? I know its hard and there are occasions you miss. I just want to know if anyone has had a similar predicament which I'm sure a lot of Chefs have. So please feel free to address any of the topics I addressed. I'm in a great city with a lot of rich food history and I know this is the career path that I want. Anyone who has ever been in a similar situation please feel free to let me know.




post #2 of 4

Welcome to ChefTalk.


You're no alone................many of us have been there and done just what you are going through now.


From what I could gather (your post was hard to read as you didn't use paragraphs...), you would be best served by looking into a food service job rather then restaurant.


As a single father this would allow you to have time with your child and give you a relatively "normal" life.


Restaurant life, however the challenge will take away that normalcy.

You will work weekends and holidays and be off when everybody else is working.

You family life will change.


Only you can decide what YOU want. I do suggest however; that you consider getting a part time job in a restaurant of your choice so you can see what I'm talking about.  Good luck..  

post #3 of 4

Hello Andrew.

 I agree with Chefross, only you can decide. The idea of getting a part time job is great because that way you can see how it feels being back without abandoning the life you have now. I have taken the break from restaurant kitchens for a year, all of 2014 I was working for an agency, mainly Monday to Friday jobs, contract catering, productions kitchens and such. The hours were great, nearly every weekend off, but job satisfaction just wasn't there. I have been working as a chef for 20 years and miss the buzz of the service and comradery among like minded people. At the same time over those past 20 years I missed about every family meeting, my wife's Oxford University matriculation, birthdays, anniversaries, Valentines and you have a child as well.......Over the years i saw people who were not sure about chefing and I can say they seemed to have dreadful time of it. Don't worry about the Culinary school, enthusiasm and good attitude go a long way in our job, I have never given a position to someone over someone else because of the diploma. There are many opportunities to do with food out there you just have to find which one is right for you. I am starting a new job right now, high volume something I am not too familiar with and having jitters even after 20 years experience...Without feeling like that you never get anywhere though is what i found over the years. Good luck with whatever you decide.

post #4 of 4

The two replies before me are great.  Take that advice.  My .02 cents is spend as much time as you can with your daughter.  I have 2 very young daughters and I have somewhat of the same problem as you, only reversed.  I'm looking to leave restaurants and find a day job in the culinary field to spend as much time as I can with them.  In your case, working in a hospital, corporate dining hall, school, etc., won't give you the andrenaline rush of a busy restaurant kitchen.  But it will you get you back IN the kitchen and still be able to spend time with your family and enjoy your life!  On the other hand if you do choose the restaurant kitchen, get in at a established well run place.  And as Frankie007 said, with like minded people. It's very frustrating working with other cooks and chefs who are only at work for a paycheck.  Philly has plenty of great restaurants.  Good Luck!

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