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make a career out of cooking

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

I'm curious on peoples opinions on making cooking their career. And seeking advice on ways to succeed and have a fun career with it. I've worked in kitchens for a few years now and have worked my way up to being a line cook. Lately i've been thinking instead of continuing in college (university not culinary) I should just focus on cooking. I'm good at it, I already have experience in it and I really enjoy learning everything. I love the team aspect and making it through the rush. I'm happy when people like my food and I think it would be awesome to help decide what goes on a menu. And honestly college is expensive and I don't really know what to do.

 

so i have a few questions if anyone would like to answer any. and really im just curious about how you made it, things you wish you'd done differently, things you did well, expectations to have etc?

 

 

 

 

1)  Signs of bad work places? Signs of a good workplace?

 

I recently had a few interviews and one restaurant said they might have me do a working interview if it wasn't busy, and it'd take maybe an hour. Well for my working interview I was thrown into the dinner rush. I ran the fryer which was easy enough, but no one really gave me any instruction/training. I thought it was strange they didn't call out tickets and the chef didn't talk to me  until I asked when I could go (2.5 hrs later). Then he said he was gonna have me stay until closing, and I had the job. I decided not to take the job, because I thought it was kind of unprofessional. Is that common? or was I right in thinking it may not be a good place to work? What else do you look for?

 

I decided to take a job a small Italian place. The chef there was super enthusiastic. He was really happy he got to design the menu and said he loved to teach, which made me want to work for him. He said he looks to hire people with passion and works on having a well rounded crew. So i'm hoping it's as good as it sounds. 

 

2) Would culinary school be beneficial?

I've been considering doing the culinary program at my local tech school for extra credentials. I was thinking since I already know how to work in a restaurant, it could be beneficial. 

My other plan was to apply at places that make food i'm most interested in, and learn that way. Do you think I have less of a shot of getting a good job, because I didn't go to college? Or do you think culinary school is a waste of money?

 

I've heard of apprentices but i have no idea how to get one. 

 

3) At any point does the pay get better or start to get benefits?

 

I'm most intimidated by the idea of burning out.  Never having a weekend off and 60 hr work weeks. Or never making it and being 40 and making $12/hr. 

 

Have you every worked at a place with some weekends off? Or vacation time? Made a menu? What kind of places pay well? I don't really care about making a ton of money, I just want to be stable. I'm pretty low maintenance. Pay my bills and have a little extra, is that achievable?

 

 

4) How do you deal with stress? When you're in the weeds how do you stay calm.. do you destress after work? 

 

5) I've been thinking in a way to avoid late nights, that I could get really good at breakfast. And apply at a breakfast joint. I think I might enjoy subjecting to early mornings instead of late nights. 

 

Are there any pros/cons to working breakfast vs lunch vs dinner?

 

6) Is there anywhere you would move to get good experience?

 

7)What types of jobs have you had? What kind are available? IE; working on ships, cruises, casino, personal chef, traveling chef, institute etc.

post #2 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by e360 View Post

 

1)  Signs of bad work places? Signs of a good workplace?

 

2) Would culinary school be beneficial?

 

3) At any point does the pay get better or start to get benefits?

 

I'm most intimidated by the idea of burning out.  Never having a weekend off and 60 hr work weeks. Or never making it and being 40 and making $12/hr. 

 

Have you every worked at a place with some weekends off? Or vacation time? Made a menu? What kind of places pay well? I don't really care about making a ton of money, I just want to be stable. I'm pretty low maintenance. Pay my bills and have a little extra, is that achievable?

 

 

4) How do you deal with stress? When you're in the weeds how do you stay calm.. do you destress after work? 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Being able to decide if the restaurant is a good or bad workplace can take time. Start by looking at little things, do they follow proper sanitation guidelines? Does the kitchen have quick turnover? Do the workers seem stressed when chef is around? 

As for as making a career, I would say that a good workplace would be any kitchen that works mostly from scratch, and has an executive chef/sous chef as opposed to just a kitchen manager.  Working in a kitchen with a sous and chef will allow for potential growth into either of those positions. 

 

2.  Culinary school can be beneficial, but it is usually expensive.  I attended culinary school and I am glad because it gave me a lot of kitchen confidence, but I was not challenged at all and I know that I could have eventually learned everything while working at various jobs.  If you don't go to culinary school, make sure you READ BOOKS, magazines, etc.  Some chefs/kitchens will greatly appreciate a worker who has attended culinary school, but if you can cook fast, clean, and consistently, most chefs wont care. 

 

3. Pay depends a LOT on the establishment.  Most places won't offer benefits unless you are under salary (AKA sous chef, chef).  Hotels and resorts may be an exception.  Generally speaking, hotels and resorts is where the "big money" is at.. sick days, vacation days, breaks...

 

4.  During rush I wipe down my cutting board between EVERY item that I make.  It doesn't take more than 2 seconds and it allows me to catch my breath.  I was once told "your cutting board looks like the inside of your head". If my space is clean, I can think clean. 

post #3 of 15

3) At any point does the pay get better or start to get benefits?

 

QUOTE:

I'm most intimidated by the idea of burning out.  Never having a weekend off and 60 hr work weeks. Or never making it and being 40 and making $12/hr. 

 

Have you every worked at a place with some weekends off? Or vacation time? Made a menu? What kind of places pay well? I don't really care about making a ton of money, I just want to be stable. I'm pretty low maintenance. Pay my bills and have a little extra, is that achievable?

 

 

4) How do you deal with stress? When you're in the weeds how do you stay calm.. do you destress after work? 

 

5) I've been thinking in a way to avoid late nights, that I could get really good at breakfast. And apply at a breakfast joint. I think I might enjoy subjecting to early mornings instead of late nights. 

 

Are there any pros/cons to working breakfast vs lunch vs dinner?

 

6) Is there anywhere you would move to get good experience?

 

7)What types of jobs have you had? What kind are available? IE; working on ships, cruises, casino, personal chef, traveling chef, institute etc.

 

 

 

Welcome to Cheftalk...

 

The pay will get better as you climb up the ladder but know the Chef makes lousy wages with the hours to salary pay ratio.

 

You may need to re-think your goals if you are already intimidated by the concept of long hours and no weekends, holidays, etc....

There are alternatives to working on a line with regards to hours. Hospitals, colleges, corporate, all have a niche where you may have off holidays and weekends.

 

Stress comes with any job not just working with food. It is how you handle it that counts. Getting enough sleep, eating right, avoiding bad habits will all help with dealing with stress.

 

As far as what shifts are concerned, if you want to stay in fine dining, then you'll be working the night shifts. If you are happy simply prepping and cooking then perhaps breakfast and lunches are the way to go.

 

You mentioned going to a technical college for their culinary program. I think sometimes they are better over a culinary college per se.

One, they cost less, and two you'll get real hands on experiences.

You mentioned not being shown how to use the french fryer at the working interview. School will teach you everything you'd need to know about that plus so much more. There are some things that you will never learn through experience but may in school, and go on to use the knowledge later.....Good luck

post #4 of 15
Just my 2 cents.

Say you decide to just go the on the job training (school of hard knocks) route.
I would advise to continue to take a few classes here and there and complete your degree.
You have already started and should you decide to go corporate you will have a leg up on those applicants without one.
The worst feeling is shoulda coulda woulda if down the road you discover this is not the life for you and you are 40 years old and find yourself sitting in a lecture hall full of 20 year olds.

mimi
post #5 of 15

Been a chef is all my life love what you do and if you can make a career outer it do it but make sure you are getting pay well at the end of the day you cant just work for the rest of your life for 12hr that's crazy, Here in Canada a chef gets top dollar. You should start looking for another job.

 

Good Day All, 

post #6 of 15

I was in the Air Force 22 years and food service at least half my career. This is where I developed a passion for cooking and this was not from simple and substandard batch cooking the military has a reputation for.

 

Here at my base I work at in Alaska, we have young troops that go on a program for a week to a civilian restaurant and they can't believe how busy and fast-paced it is, not to mention drug and alcohol problems with many civilian cooks and chefs and they don't realize how easy it is in a military dining hall until we send them out

 

As for money, I think the civilian world is just downright crappy in 90% of the areas in terms of pay. Head cooks and chefs are expected to work for just a few more scraps than a janitor or housekeeper! Cooking is NOT low grade cheap labor if you are well-trained to prepare any kind of entrée or pastry! This is why strongly recommend the public sector state and federal service to cook. They pay anywhere from $15 to $30 an hour, depending on your paygrade, longevity, and where you live. Plus, you get occasional overtime, but 40 hours a week is adequate

post #7 of 15
Are there people on this forum really in this crazy industry for the money though? I would be surprised.

people working those state and government food service jobs probably would not ever read forums like these...
post #8 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by rndmchef View Post

Are there people on this forum really in this crazy industry for the money though? I would be surprised.

people working those state and government food service jobs probably would not ever read forums like these...

 

We wouldn't, we would?  That's kind of a loaded statement!!!!  Granted, I started off in the fine dining world but now I do jail foodservice and I know many others just like me.  Why did we switch?  For a better lifestyle and/or a much better rate of pay.  I left the restaurant business soon after my daughter was born.  I didn't want to be like so many of my other buddies who missed so much of their kid's childhood.  Yes, I made a sacrifice.  I chose my family over the restaurant world.  So I would be careful about making assumptions about those of us in the those state and government foodservice jobs!!!

post #9 of 15
"Are there people on this forum really in this crazy industry for the money though? I would be surprised"


Why yes there are people in this crazy industry for the money. I am one of them. I realized many years ago than you cant eat, pay rent, or support a family with just passion.

Also you can buy nice things with money.



My kids got it detailed for me for Father's Day. I wondered why they insisted I take the bmw that day since it's a it's a bother getting it out of the garage. I thought the bow was a nice touch.
post #10 of 15
Been paying my rent quite nicely for twelve years... could I make more money doing something else? Maybe. Would I work in restos for free? Hell no!
post #11 of 15

@e360 ,

Not sure what level of college you're in or what type of major you would be working towards.

I can tell you that there are quite a few majors that will triple or quadruple your life time compensation than this industry. They will also provide you with a regular schedule and normal free time.

IT, Engineering, Biology, Marketing, Economics,  Human Resources, etc. 

  Yes college is expensive, but no where near the cost incurred by the long hours and the toll on the body.

Just sayin

If your passion is food, a food biologist could be very interesting.

FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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post #12 of 15

Long Long hours aching feet and back. Missing most birthdays and holidays with my family. Wages that almost never met my ability to contribute to a successful profitable operation. Employees that never wanted to work together. Back stabbing cooks that were only out for themselves. Broken promises and dreams that never materialized. Looking back I could have don't just about anything else in my life. I worked in every position in every kind of food service thinkable. After working in over 25 food services and owning my own, I would do it again in a heartbeat. This is the only business I worked in that gave me a large sense and feel of accomplishment.  If I could make 80k doing something I hate, I would take 40K doing the job I love. The job we have doesn't have to last a lifetime. The job we what could be had if a person is willing to work hard and give up somethings in the short term. Life would be wasted if we didn't have a chance to work a job that we were able to express our passion for what we love to do. 

post #13 of 15

@ChefBillyB ,

I had always felt the exact same way about my career.  

For years, I've always heard about the passion that drives us. I sometimes felt that this was the only industry that had an understanding for passion. So much so, it almost validated

all the ( abuse ) for lack of a nicer word.

  It wasn't until I semi-retired, that I diversified my efforts and invested into other professions. I can now see that there is so much more in the world to observe. All jobs that aren't in our field

are bad. Jobs, just for money.

   I meet people, young and old, who have just as much passion for what they do as I had in the food world.

      There are good and bad jobs in every field. I have learned that other fields can be just as rewarding and allow you to enjoy your accomplishments.

Don't take me wrong, I would have not done it any other way, then the way I did. But I also enjoy seeing my children really enjoy what they are doing.

  It may be that I'm getting pretty old, but my decision making now a days does not include all the clutter that it used to in food.

Again, just my old 2 cents.

FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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post #14 of 15

Here's an option. It's not for everyone, but I like it. Cook offshore.

 

-You get to make your own menu everyday, whatever's in the fridge or freezer, make whatever you want. No one is going to tell you what to cook or how to cook it.

 

-You'll make 5 times what you make on land. But you'll be working 84 to 105 hours a week and you'll be trapped on a boat or rig for weeks without a break.

 

-You'll get lots of time off. You'll work for 4 weeks straight, you'll save tons of money. They pay for food and someone does your laundry. You spend no money on the boat. And then you'll have 2 or three weeks to travel if you wish. I just got back from South America for three months. I asked for the time off, and my company said, "Go man. Have fun."

 

-You'll get lots of experience. Making your own menu and putting in grocery orders for 50 to 80 people will teach you a lot about the food business.

 

-It's easy to outdo everyone. There are tons of slugs working as cooks offshore. Some of them can't boil water. You'll be boss in no time of you can cook. I was a mere home cook and foodie when I started. I had never worked in a restaurant. And after 2 months on a dive ship, I was the man in charge. If you watch Food network and Hell's kitchen, then you already know more than the other idiots cooking offshore.They have no clue about a beschemel or a mirepoix or a roux. 

 

It's not for everyone. It's for men, really. Most companies won't even hire women because it's usually drama. And not because I'm disparaging the women, it causes drama with 50 men on a boat. And many men can't hack it. If you can't be away from your wife for 4 weeks at a time, then don't go offshore. 

 

It's not anything I meant to get into. I had a midlife catastrophe and had to find something new. I liked cooking and went for a job offshore. But I find myself digging it usually. I really like that I don't have to cook someone else's menu or recipes. I just cook whatever I want. But it gets stormy sometimes and the boat rocks around and all your pots slide around, and being trapped in that boat-jail can get rough. But then I think about my next trip overseas with all the cash I'm saving, and then I feel better. :)

post #15 of 15

Panini's QUOTE;

 

I had always felt the exact same way about my career.  

For years, I've always heard about the passion that drives us. I sometimes felt that this was the only industry that had an understanding for passion. So much so, it almost validated

all the ( abuse ) for lack of a nicer word.

  It wasn't until I semi-retired, that I diversified my efforts and invested into other professions. I can now see that there is so much more in the world to observe. All jobs that aren't in our field

are bad. Jobs, just for money.

   I meet people, young and old, who have just as much passion for what they do as I had in the food world.

      There are good and bad jobs in every field. I have learned that other fields can be just as rewarding and allow you to enjoy your accomplishments.

Don't take me wrong, I would have not done it any other way, then the way I did. But I also enjoy seeing my children really enjoy what they are doing.

  It may be that I'm getting pretty old, but my decision making now a days does not include all the clutter that it used to in food.

Again, just my old 2 cents.

 

 

 

As for passion, it is a tricky word. It comes and goes, depending on the day and workload for some people.

It's difficult to be passionate 12-14 hours a day, 6 days for weeks on end.

 

It's defined by Webster as an "uncontrollable intense emotion."

 

My nephew is a theoretical physicist and a candidate for his doctoral coming up real soon. He's worked at the quantum excellerator in Sweden.

He reads Hawkins and understand it. HE is quite passionate and wants to teach.

 

I know of a few people not in the food business that have passion for what they do and you can surely tell.

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