I have been in the same boat, i have had dinner services that were just so horrible I wanted to swear off cooking forever, i took like 5 years off from the industry and missed every second of it, i have been back in for 4 years now starting my first sous gig next week. couldnt be more excited and nervous
I have been in the industry for about 2 1/2 years now and im only 22. At this time i feel less motivated about cooking and i believe its not just because im not putting in effort but possibly also because maybe i have no specialty at what im good at. Like im only doing it because it what i know how to do most. What has kept you guys going to the point you are at now?
I've been in a similar boat at one time. I'm now 25 years old with 5 years total experience and have been sousing for the last 3 years. What made me feel disappointed at around the two year mark in my career was not feeling like I was learning or growing and being surrounded by unmotivated chefs, completely untalented line cooks and overall just a poor working environment for someone fresh faced with a great work ethic and attitude. I left that place, took a stage (uncompensated) at a very high end restaurant in the city and finally felt like I was doing what I wanted to do. I staged there a few days a week for a month and sucked up everything I possibly could. I left that stage with a new confidence, perspective and wide open eyes both technique wise and just overall insight into the kitchen. I took a line cooking job immediately after that stage and my confidence and ability showed, I was made sous within 2 weeks.
For me, the feeling I felt was not lack of motivation (that was always sky high) it was feeling like I was going nowhere fast and I'd be cooking at turn and burns the rest of my life. I made a change, took a chance and the hard work paid off.
Don't take this personally, but you say yourself you're not putting in the effort. That alone is a major red flag for me. Even when I HATED the place I was working at I absolutely did my job 110% every single shift, I did it for myself not for the place I was working for. There is no excuse for you not putting in effort as you say. I think you need to take a step back and reevaluate why you're in the kitchen to begin with. If you're "Like im only doing it because it what i know how to do most" you need to consider taking courses at a community college to get out of this industry. Just my honest 2 cents. Good Luck.
I'm not sure if this will be helpful as it may not describe everyone, just me. But to paraphrase Keller, passion is fickle- it waxes and wanes. You need more than passion to survive in this business. I don't know if it's work ethic exactly, or dedication...maybe I'm just too scared and lazy to try anything else. It comes down to the idea of being a "self starter" or internally motivated. If you're only in it for the money then you need to either make a lot of it or see your pay increase regularly. If you're only in it for the novelty of learning new things then you need to constantly be learning new things. But while we all should keep learning that's not the reality of a typical restaurant. Mostly you're cooking the same 30 dishes 300 times per week.
In the end I think it's not passion but love. Not really the "eros" kind of love- more like the love of a parent for a child. Aside from needing the paycheck I just really love to cook. Every time I cook a dish I hope to improve it or at least execute perfectly. Perfection isn't always possible but it's the goal. But like I said, it's not always the passionate kind of love. You can walk away from a passionate love, it can blow up in your face. But the kind of love for a brother or mother, that's more durable. That kind of love a choice, something you commit too because you feel it deeply. It's the bedrock below your feet. That's the kind of love you need to have for cooking. You need to realize sometimes it sucks but in the long run it's what you're on Earth to do.
Of course, maybe it's not. There's a whole big world out there to explore. Maybe this is a sign that you're not called to kitchen work. There's not a thing in the world wrong with that, either. I can't really recommend the kitchen life to anyone who has a choice. If it's not your calling then try to discover what it, while you're still young.