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Life Advice and Career Change/Modification for a Sous Chef

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

So basically I've sous'ed for the last 2 and a half years at two places and have acquired quite a bit of knowledge on the management end as well as the business end. I have no formal culinary training but instead have learned on the job, from numerous internships/stages at some very high end places and from some CIA/FCI culinary textbooks with I study constantly. I like to consider myself very technically sound and I'm sure the talented people around would say so as well. I've worked extremely hard with 4 years total in the industry first starting as a dishwasher when I was 20. I'm young enough now at 24 that I feel like I can go far in this industry but I'm also starting to think about what else is out there.


I've worked 70 hours a week for a bout 3 and half years now and I think it's starting to take a toll. I still have a passion for technique and refined cooking and the motivation to get up everyday and want to do it, albeit it's getting harder and harder by the day. It's definitely more mental than physical, but perhaps just as much as a hindrance. Might be a case of too much too soon in how hard I worked in pursuit of learning where maybe I've burned myself out a little bit. Might be a case of just had enough of kitchen staff, head chef, no show dishwashers and the typical bullsh*t problems everyone faces in this industry. I think it's more so the latter.


So I've given my two week notice today and no it's not a spur of the moment decision. I've gotten to the point where the current place I'm at I have no more desire for. I have no other job lined up and I'm not worried. I have paid my rent 4 months in advance and have some money saved away. No kids, spouse or house to worry about. I'm just done.


I'm at a point where quality of life wants are starting to kick in, I want to be paid proportionate to the work that I put in. I want a weekend off. I don't want to HAVE to work when I'm sick as a dog or everything goes to hell. I want to be able to see a movie every now and again. I want a job where maybe benefits, paid time off, vacations and overtime pay are realities and not something so foreign to me that I resent people that have them, because they're the 'normal' ones, not me. I also just want to live a normal life as I see people the same age as me settling into real lifes and careers. I've skipped over that to cook and have missed so much.


I also still have the desire to be willing to give up all these things because being good at what I do consumes me. I think about menus, execution, getting faster in prep, studying technique, sharpening knives because it's my obsession. I want to do this still.


I can't talk to people outside this industry about this, they just don't get it. What it takes to get there and the amount of work that needs to be put in is something they can't even fathom. I don't know what to do. Do I want to go a take a leap of faith into NYC and Michelin level? Do I want to say f*ck and be the executive at a turn and burn and get paid a lot more and forget about all the hard work I've put in? Do I want to stay in the food industry but give up on the chef dream? Am I just tired of being a sous and ready for a change? Do I want to go to a community college and take up accounting and leave all cooking behind? Do I just need a break? Am I going to be officially DONE in a few more years in the kitchen? I have no idea what to do.


Anyone with some solid advice for a person in my shoes I would love to hear from you. It's not only a career for me it's my life.

post #2 of 4

All your points are valid, but the only person who can decide this is you.

If you want to stay in the restaurant business, perhaps a food service job would fit you best.

The hours are better and you'll have a life.

If you do some homework, you might be able to find one of those jobs that will allow you to utilize your culinary knowledge, while still maintaining a descent life.

Know that you are not alone.

Know that this industry is NOT for everyone.

If you are having these "burn-out" feelings NOW....what makes you think they'll go away with some other less stressful job?


Again, this is something only you can decide.  Best of luck.

post #3 of 4



i have been in your shoes i got my first sous chef job at 24 at a private club and the hours in the summer suck but i had sick days paid vacation and was still able to put out scratch made food and have it be very seasonal. Since i moved on from there i worked 70+ hours a week as chef at a hotel and a small restaurant where i was pulling 80+ hour work weeks and that took its toll on me really fast but i was so caught up in the feeling of running my own kitchen that i ignored the toll it took on my body and it took me a few months to stop being in pain when i woke up. Since then i have taken a job where i work less and have a quality of life but i miss the hustle and flow of working in a real kitchen not the turn and burn bar i currently work in.


MY advice if you want to continue to be a chef  would be to  search out a private country club or golf course in your area pay is always top of the market benefits are always outstanding since most are not for profit and most at least in my area close for at least one or two days a week so you get time off. You'll still work long hours and 5-6 days a week during the busy season but still can maintain a better quality of life then a regular restaurant.

post #4 of 4

Originally Posted by linecook854 View Post


Do I want to go a take a leap of faith into NYC and Michelin level?... Do I just need a break?



From what I gather after reading your post, I would say these two in reverse order.


It sounds to me like you are the type that needs new challenges and culinary growth to sustain your enthusiasm for the grind that can be the hospitality industry. Ours is a broad industry with a myriad of different personality types employed in it. Not everyone in the industry relishes in the craft aura, but I believe that you do.


Trying to locate and land a Michelin level position will probably give you a little breathing room and enough of a break before launching into the next chapter in your journey. Try it for a year. You are only 24, what's a year? At least that way you won't ever look back with wouldas, shouldas, and couldas.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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