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Career advice appreciated :)

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 

Hey, everyone. I was hoping I could get some hard, no BS type answers to some questions I have. I know this is the internet, a forum, my first post and I'm a squishy target so I'm sure I'm gonna get a lot of flak, so...please forgive my candor and I'll try to keep it short. I've developed a surprising interest in cooking about 8 months ago or so after I cooked jager schnitzel (successfully) and couldn't believe food could taste that good. Now I'm throwing in all kinds of fresh herbs, different spices and trying all kinds of new techniques when cooking everything from hamburgers to chicken, pork, stir fries, the list goes on. I've even outcooked my wife (easy joke in there somewhere) and I've become the cook of the house.


I had a kid in high school and won custody over him and I thought for the past 10 years it would be best to just take any job that I can that pays. I've tried out a handful of different things with initial and long-term success, I have taken college classes for a  more technology oriented career but lately as I've gotten married and my wife is finding stable income I've been bothered by my curiosity to cook professionally. I'm highly competitive in the workplace, I've worked in a machine shop where I managed 4-5 people and I led the most successful 2 years that the very pressured, hands-on department has seen and ever will see until they decide to hire robots.


Long story short, I feel like my technology education is an interest that I seek for money while cooking is something I can do for an hour and a half when I get home from work, sweating, racing the clock a knocking things over and I don't feel like I've done much work by the end of it and I'm always pushing myself to peak the experience of eating. I also impress most people that I cook for, most of the time that I cook ( I don't make anyone eat my experiments anymore :p). So here are my questions. Again, please forgive my candor.


1. Is it *really* that hard to make good money as a chef, or are most chefs just comfortable with what they get and don't like to admit it?


2. Is the business *really* that cut-throat or do most chefs stop pushing themselves after a certain amount of time?


3.Do you often have to work Christmas, Thanksgiving and Halloween?


4.Do a lot of chefs like to build up how dreary it is being a chef to make themselves feel better about what they do?


A few other important notes. I'm 25 years old, I live in the Reno/Tahoe area and I'm mainly interested in learning French cuisine.


Thanks  for reviewing my thread :)

post #2 of 3
Hi. I saw your post and figured that I might be able to answer your questions.
1) I dont know that it's necessarily that hard to make good money but it does take serious time, dedication and career planning. I make over 200k personally but I don't know any peers that come close to that. A really successful chef will be in the 100-125k area in my experience. This takes a LONG LONG time though and most people don't have the patience for it. You will start off in the $8-9 an hour range and starve for years. I've been cooking professionally for about 22 years and it took me 10 or more years to crack the 50k mark.

2) it's not that cut throat or, if it is, you're in the wrong kitchens. Good kitchens thrive on camaraderie. Its extremely important to learn to dance with your peers. People who are cut throat and out for themselves tend to get voted off the island. I terminate a lot of good people with great skills because they are selfish and not team players. Even at the chef level, almost every chef I've come across has been extremely helpful, accommodating and willing to help out a fellow culinarian.

3) often. To start, always. As a cook, holidays will no longer exist if you're any good at your craft. Your chef will need the best players at the peak times and those times are always weekends and holidays so go ahead and write those off. As chef, you should still share the burden. I typically split holidays between chef and sous chef to make it fair for everyone. We all have families and a life outside the restaurant.

4) hard to say on the subject of dreariness. It's all what you make of it. If you surround yourself with good people who you enjoy, do work that you're proud of and possess self confidence, there's no reason for it to be dreary. I started at 18 and still enjoy every minute of it. I've been all over the world and learned things that I never thought possible but your experience will be based on whether or not your expectations are realistic (food network is not) and what you put into it.

Here's a tip that has nothing to do with your questions. I'm not the smartest or most talented person by a long shot but I've done well because of a few things that most people just don't get. Be on time. Be polite. Be a professional and never be above washing dishes or washing vegetables. Being a chef doesn't mean that you sit on mount Olympus and hand down your amazing creations from on high. It involves people skills, cleanliness, organization and dedication to your craft no matter how tedious the job. Good luck in your decision.
post #3 of 3
What a thoughtful answer @rawprawn it's too bad the op didn't care to come back and read it. I would also add that being a chef is it something you step into, you have to work yourself up through the kitchen system so be prepared to hold a number of jobs in a kitchen first from dishwasher to line cook, even culinary school grads have to go through the paces.

Alongside with holidays you can forget about your nights and weekends too. Many people I know in the culinary field don't get home before 1am. And working in a kitchen is tough work. You're on your feet the whole time, the heat is excruciating. It's not a walk in the park. If it's something you are passionate about you can work through these challenges but be certain to know that feeding your family is not the same thing as feeding a paying costumer.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."


"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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