advice on starting my culinary career

Joined Jul 23, 2015
Moving this over here on advice by @rbrad. sorry if you've seen it already.

I'm going to start with some background; My name is James, 17 years of age, and ready to move somewhere else next year. Currently employed at a bar & grill (Grizzly's - line cook) and a small Italian Caffe (Va Bene - saute cook). I've been thinking about college, as most American high school seniors do so. But i realized that I truly love cooking, the culinary arts, presenting an amazing plate - it's an amazing feeling. I have taken my youthfulness into consideration, how I may change my mind in a month or so and completely change my career choice, go to uni, etc. But almost the past year I've been set on cooking. Someday making it in a fine dining kitchen, as a sous chef, or even executive chef.

Now - - I ask for you advice / opinion. Should I pursue a smaller culinary school (not Le Cordon Bleu)? Just jump right into the field full-time? Seek an apprenticeship? Any thoughts are greatly appreciated. As for the location, I definitely want your input. I have an older sister who will move essentially anywhere we agree upon. Also a contact in Leipzig, Germany - I've been learning the language just in case.

The world is an open book - - I want to discover it.
Joined Jun 9, 2015
Don't go to school. University is a pyramid scheme these days. Go to work in a restaurant and practice, read, watch on your days off. 

work at a really hardcore place (Michelin stars) for a few months or year , then take an easy job for a few months to practice what you have learned from the hardcore places, even your mistakes at Michelin levels will seem like awesome to some lower end places. when you feel like your confident enough at basic knife and pallet skills then ONLY WORK IN GOOD RESTAURANTS. Only work in restaurants that you have eaten at and actually like the food, nothing kills a good cook like a bad menu. change frequently to help you learn about food and technique. when you have the money go and EAT, can not stress this enough, you must EAT to be any good at cooking. TASTE TASTE TASTE. Don't buy expensive knives, get sharp ones (my boys use Shuns, i use a bunch of Kiwi's, and one nice pairing knife).

everyone will fail at some point, just learn from that mistake. I`m getting on a bit and have held positions from dishwasher to owner,  Keep your eye on the prize of running your own restaurant and don't stop eating! well done and good luck !
Joined Jul 23, 2015
When you say change frequently, are you referring to my tastes? And thanks for the advice! Makes it feel like more of a concrete possibility.


Staff member
Joined Jun 11, 2001
Jump right in.   You are the kind of person any chef would love to hire.

Make the world your own culinary school.  I would search for a place which does their own stocks to start, move to hotels and clubs, on and off site catering, then a more modern restaurant.  Something like that.
Joined Jun 9, 2015
change restaurant. new menu , new team, new agenda. by switching you learn all the personal skills it takes to be a Chef, being good at cooking makes you a good cook, being good at personal skills makes you a Chef. It also teaches you new technique as in every kitchen there is at least one cook that does something faster and better, take that and move on and be THAT cook. but EAT EAT EAT and ONLY work in good restaurants, bad places teach you bad technique.
Joined Jun 27, 2012

I totally agree with what @akat has advised (except one thing... try not to job hop unless there is a very good reason like the sanitary conditions and/or a hostile chef who never teaches you anything ) leave on good terms with every job "I have really learned a lot from you but there has been an offer from another chef teaching my kinda food"...

Yes get your feet wet and move on when you find another place closer to your desired goals (forgot about that...set some reachable goals and strive to put them to bed within a certain time frame)

The real reason I am posting is to urge you to take at least one community college class (the basics like math and English and maybe something fun like dominos or whatever) every semester.

Don't worry... you will find the time (even just a work at your own pace internet class from a quality web college or university) and once those hours start piling up choose classes that are needed for a degree.

A degree in something is always a powerful tool when and if you get tired of the crazy hours and mostly low income generated by a job in the hospitality industry.

Like landing a job as a F&B director at a huge hotel chain or maybe Director of Sales at a very successful catering company.

Will get off my "mom's are allowed to give advice to virtual strangers" soapbox now.

Good luck on your matter where it leads.

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Joined May 7, 2012
If i could go back to 17. I would move to NYC, Chicago, or sanfran and send out letters to all the Michelin star rated places until I got something. 18 months per restaurant seems to be standard. That gives you 9 years experience at 6 different Michelin stared places by the time you're 26. I dont see a way in the world you would be a fantastic cook at that point.
Joined Nov 27, 2012
My advice would be pretty similar to all of the above, but then again different. If you can manage it land a job somewhere stable were the staff is willing to hold your hand as you take your first steps, build some fundations. After 2 or 3 years of that call up that german contact and get traveling, do anything pastry, breakfast, dishes. Knock on any door that will take you in get to know the world get sharp. By the age of 26-28 you will be sick of traveling, then choose someplace to settle down and apply what you have learned. I'll let you know the next step when I know what it is.
Joined Jul 23, 2015
hey I know this thread is pretty aged but I've had some developments.

first off, I've moved to Leipzig this past month. I'll be taking an intensive German course his school year while working at restaurant - Stelzenhaus. I will then be a part of the apprenticeship program (cooking in a restaurant/going to school). pretty pumped needless to say. also, while I am doing some research on what restaurant to work at for the apprenticeship, suggestions are welcome! I've looked into FALCO, a two Michelin starred place. why not try :chef: there is also a one star restaurant, and several Michelin "guide" places. but if there are other places let me know please!

anyway I'm on vacation right now and would like some restaurant recommendations! I will be in; Lyon and Paris, France. Barcelona and Madrid, Spain. Lisbon and Porto, Portugal. seriously want to try some exceptional food, some new cuisines and most importantly, have a full tummy :level:

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