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My Chef Journey and Obstacles !

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

Hi Chefs of Cheftalk, I really wanted to share my story of wanting to become a Chef and hope you pros out there with the mind of a Chef can give me some advice :)


When I first graduated from High School back in 2006 in Canada, I told my family that I want to be a Chef and go to a Culinary Arts School. But obviously, old fashioned parents have denied this dream of mine and I had walk down the path of studying Accounting which my family considered as having a proper job and bright future... Before moving on, I think it's important for you guys to understand a little bit of my background. Coming from a traditional Chinese family and the only son in the family, expectation levels were high, especially when you are sent out of the country and have a chance to study abroad. So considering my family's perspective of rejecting me to become a Chef may be reasonable, at least in some people's view and to be honest, I was powerless facing my family, maybe it's the amount of respect I had to give to my parents as they have really worked hard to give me this opportunity to study abroad so I ended up spending 4 years finishing my accounting degree at the university where all 4 years' of tuition was relied on student loan. (So basically, I paid for my own university education..)


So after graduating it's time to repay my loans. After heading back to Hong Kong, my dad offered to pay off all my student loan first and I'll repay him back without interest. So of course, that was the way to go to save myself from paying interest. Then I started working as an accountant and pay off my debt owed to my dad. Finally, debt is all cleared and I believe I have saved enough to really start walking down the path of being a Chef.


Throughout the years, I have tried to use my off-time from work as much as possible to try and sharpen my kitchen skills, but a lot of people tell me, this will never be enough for you to work in the kitchen and told me to face reality. Seriously? Most people around me think of this Chef idea of mine as a joke, cause they think why would you want to give up the things you have now and go work in a kitchen or in their mind "hell". And my reply it's simply, "because i know it will make my life happier, it will make me happier with my life." The common responses I get is "Is Happiness more important or Money (Reality)?"... Hell with it, happiness is more important to me and who knows me better than myself, Happiness is the generator of my motivation, I know this is who I am. 


Thanks for reading about what I had to say, so now comes my deepest concern, I'm 28 now without a proper culinary education, I have a thorough understanding of how working in a kitchen would be like by reading books and watching cooking related shows/documentaries, I have confidence that my kitchen skills will allow me to take on the entry role of a professional kitchen, to be honest, if it means I have to wash dishes or be on chopping/preping duties for a good while before being able to actually do some cooking, I am ready to do that, but in reality, would professional kitchens hire an individual without a culinary background like me ? 


Besides doing regular cooking training, reading cookbooks, sharpening basic kitchen skills, what else do you guys suggest to really prep myself to get an entry level role in a professional kitchen ? 


Considering the limited amount of time I have and the location I'm at, starting fresh at the culinary school doesn't seem to be a feasible plan. It maybe possible that I do it part time, but is it absolutely necessary? 


Making such a decision took me a while, as in the Chinese culture, I know tons and tons of judging from family, relatives and friends will be bombarded at me ! Had to get my mind ready for that..


Hoping to get some comments from everyone :chef:

post #2 of 8

Welcome to ChefTalk Kosie88.


Firstly, know that you are not alone.


I admire your attitude and that of your parents to instill in you the facts of life.

Here on ChefTalk you will come to find many people in your same situation.


However much you may think the idea of becoming a Chef will enhance your happiness be assured that the road will be long and full of detours.

Your parents want the best for you and hope that you will find a career that will help you get ahead in life monetarily speaking.



The best advice for you right now would be to get an entry level job in a restaurant part time while you keep your accounting day job.

(You didn't say whether you are working now or not......I just assumed you were.)


Reading books and watching cooking shows will not give you the experience you would get in a real life kitchen.

post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 

Thank you so much Ross.


Yes I'm still working at my regular job now, I know I couldn't just let go of my job, be all selfish and irresponsible cause I want to fulfill my dream :(


I totally understand their concern and what they hope for me, and sure they are definitely thinking about that, being monetarily sustainable and maintain a realistic sense for life. 


Thanks for the advice, I will look into that if that's possible ! 

post #4 of 8

Kosie88, Welcome to Cheftalk! I was your age when I started in this business. I didn't take the cooking path at first. I was a high voltage tech with General electric. I got a one way ticket to Hawaii so I wouldn't know anyone and have to succeed on my own. I started as a Catering steward, head steward then to restaurant manager. I moved to Washington state and worked as a Restaurant Mgr, Food and bev in Hotels and then club manager in private clubs. When I got to be club mgr I had to fire a few chefs. I decided I had more passion for cooking and quality of food than anyone I tried to hire as a chef. I decided to jump in myself and do both cooking and managing the private club. I would hire prep people and then work the line with them at service. I would take off my suite jacket and cook, then put my jacket back on and walk the dining room to meet and talk with customers. Needless to say I had to be on the fast track to everything. The success of and the build of this business depended on my ability to have the right plan. I found out fast I was real good at what I did, but, I didn't have the luxury of learning at a snails pace. I was self taught and did thing with just a large amount of passion. I did this in a few private clubs, Restaurants, Coliseums, and other food services over the years. When I look back at what drove me to succeed in this business I have only one answer. Passion for food, quality and a great knowledge and feel for giving customers what they wanted. I worked with many people that went to work and "left it there" when they left. I always worked, then read cook books on my off time to learn as much as I could about what I didn't know. When your self taught your teacher needs to learn at the some time as you do. Although it was a lot of work and in some cases putting myself out there to fail, I wouldn't change a thing. It's never to late to follow your dream. You may have to fight to get it, but, in the end you will be the winner. When you have a passion for something it's not work, it's a labor of love, self pride and a great sense achievement.........Good luck........Chef Bill

post #5 of 8

Hi Kosie88. Welcome to Chef Talk. 


I absolutely agree with @Chefross . Take your time as you are still young yet and get a part time job once or twice a week in the evenings to get a feel for what this industry is all about. You do not have any skill nor experience walking into the commercial kitchens so expect to be given a dishwashing/prep job as that is the starting point for all of us. 


If you do decide that this is the next path to take in life for you then the accounting degree is going to come in handy. Especially when it comes to the number crunching and paperwork all chef's have to do. So you are actually ahead of the game on that.


Keep practicing at home. When you decide this is your path make sure you get your chef kit together so you can practice at home with the proper equipment. 


Other than that, everything that @Chefross has said is right on the money.


I wish you all the best :D

post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 

@Chefross & @Fablesable 


Thank you so much for you guys' great advice! I started to look into some part time kitchen job in Hong Kong and there seems to be a lot of them available! 


Gotta admit that I was too blindsided by my own emotions, definitely wasn't thinking it thoroughly!


Anyhow, I'll be going to my 1st part-time Kitchen job this up coming weekend at Zahrabel ! Really excited to get into the REAL Kitchen and get a feel of it ! :bounce:

post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 

@ChefBillyB , It was great to have a chance to know your journey to becoming a Chef! I do believe that to learn and get good at something, you gotta throw yourself at it completely! 


I really admire your commitment and passion for being able to make that decision! Salute to that! :thumb: Your experience gave me great motivation to keep on fighting for what I truly want for life ! :peace:

post #8 of 8
Originally Posted by Kosie88 View Post

@ChefBillyB , It was great to have a chance to know your journey to becoming a Chef! I do believe that to learn and get good at something, you gotta throw yourself at it completely! 


I really admire your commitment and passion for being able to make that decision! Salute to that! :thumb: Your experience gave me great motivation to keep on fighting for what I truly want for life ! :peace:


  • Kosie88 Stick with it and it will happen. If you talk with 100 chefs you will get 100 different stories. If you talk with 100 accountants you will get the same story. This is a journey that will take many twists and turns. You will wonder why you even tried to follow this path. Be better, and try to be the best you can be everyday. My journey working for other people ended 17 years after it started. I worked in over 20 food services that gave me the knowledge and confidence to start my own business. After working in those place I started my own Food service management corp and catering company. Your adventure will take you down many roads. You will learn from each experience and grow from that experience. Don't spend to much time going through the motions, make sure you are growing and on the right path to achieving your goals. I wish you well, I hope you get a chance to follow your dream. Remember, there will be days when you will question your decision on following this path. In my case during my career what I thought was the lowest part of my journey was really a stepping stone to obtaining and succeeding in my own business. I always use the Golf practicing analogy when training to my employees. I tell them most people take out the 7 iron to practice. The reason is, it's one of the easier clubs to use and make us look good. I tell them to venture out of your comfort zone and use all the clubs in the bag as to be proficient in all of them. Don't spend a lot of time doing want you already know. Learn, practice and be the best you can be at everything........The best.......Chef Bill

Edited by ChefBillyB - 8/28/16 at 9:26am
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