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Best Path For Someone Starting out in Culinary Arts?

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
My name is Shana from Dayton Ohio & I would love some advice on where and how to start a career in Culinary Arts. I have a few yrs of collegein Medical assisting, however, at my current job my salary exceeds that of an MA, & Its a rewarding feeling for me when I cook! Instead of jumping into another 3 yrs of schooling, what steps could I take 1st that could lead me to this career?
post #2 of 5

The best way to start is to get a part time job in a restaurant so you can experience what a restaurant is like to work in. You may find you don't like it as a job. Cooking offers many opportunities for gratification without working in a restaurant. 

post #3 of 5

there are several paths, not all of which might be practical for you.

Also you should know that the industry is NOT glamorous and is not what most people think it is. Nor is it high paying. Most of us in the industry laugh at the 15 minimum pay for unskilled fast food workers. NOT because we don't think that ALL people deserve to be above federal poverty guidelines if they work full time. 15 is FAR more than almost all line cooks make and far more than a prep cook gets paid. And those are SKILLED positions. We laugh when we hear about the "inhuman temperature" of 90 degrees in a kitchen. The temp we face in our kitchens is far higher. We empathize, but our prep cooks and line cooks and especially our washers deserve more than they do.
It is NOT what the commercials on daytime shock/talk TV shows make it appear. That being said, most of us wouldn't trade it for anything.

The very top restaurants might have an intern program or a long term "Stage". You won't be paid, but you'll learn and have a killer resume. Most people can't afford to do this, and usually you only get offered this after you've finished school

Next path is just to work in a regular kitchen for a few years. remember if you're working in a chain like crapplebees, you're not really "cooking". You're just serving premade factory food. But you'll learn how to handle "being in the weeds", attention to detail, and how to clean. All excellent for your next step.
 If you work for a small private restaurant, you will actually learn a little until you can move on to a better kitchen. Working for a hotel is also an easy way in. Easy to get hired, you'll learn a bit and you can get transferred to the better concepts within the hotel. Once you've worked for the hotel, most other hotels will know your skill set and most hotels have very advantageous job transfer rules and fringe benefits. My niece is a concierge at a 4 seasons. She can go anywhere in the world for a cheap vacation and she can transfer anywhere she wants when she decides to settle down.

For the paths below, please check out some of the reviews that are on cheftalk.

Next path. Private colleges. Pros are name recognition and placement programs. Some schools have spectacular teachers and curriculum. Cons are exorbitant fees, and what they call "placement" usually means an 8-9 dollar an hour job. Some schools have horrible teachers that will only tell you what you want to hear. They are in business to make a profit. Anyone can teach you serv-safe and how to tourne a potato, you don't need a private school.

Next path is community college. VERY cost effective. You can learn a lot. And if you're at a community college in a tourist destination town, you can probably get as good instruction as some of the best schools. And they will already have business relations with all the major hospitality companies in their area so a job will be easy.  Even if you change your mind, you'll still have a degree to fall back on.

Next path is university. same benefits as community college, but higher stakes. You'll have a degree, but you'll have higher student debt, although it still isn't bad like private schools. There will be more scholarships, more internship, more alumni that can help a student. If you get a chance, please read my review on UNLV. When you graduate from there, you'll have the entire hospitality industry willing to give you a job, and you won't be working for 8-11 dollars an hour.


GOOD LUCK, no matter which path you choose or even whether you decide to join our industry!!!!!!


post #4 of 5

If you decide to get a part time job in a restaurant make sure its the best restaurant in your area that only uses fresh ingredients. 

post #5 of 5

If you are young and have nothing holding you back I would suggest looking into apprenticeship programs. you will get the chance to travel, often they may house you, and you will learn in a restaurant setting with I would assume more emphasis on being taught. I wish I had the foresight to of gone this route in my earlier culinary career.

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