Another culinary n00b here :) ...

Discussion in 'General Culinary School Discussions' started by redsonya, Jul 7, 2004.

  1. redsonya

    redsonya

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    Greetings!

    Great forum you guys have here! This is part of what I posted in the Welcome forum, then I realized later my questions may be best answered here.

    I'm a 33 year old, female, ex-Network Admin who wants to change careers to culinary, and I must say, I'm a bit discouraged by all the "I love my job even though the pay and the hours suck" posts lol! I was hoping to find an enjoyable career that could pay in the $30-$40k range, and the few salary searches I did show sous chefs in that range. Is this not the case? I figured the salary figure was relative to where your restaurant was located anyway.

    I noticed on kuan's thread today that graduates might expect to attain sous-chef level too quickly. I don't aspire to be the next Emeril because I'm certainly not an ambitious person, but I would like to be making in the 30's in a year or two after graduating. Is that unrealistic?

    I'm going to go ahead and give culinary a try and am in the process of enrolling in a culinary arts degree program at a community college here in Charlotte. I hope to get a pretty good idea if I'll like it or not by the end of the first semester. Do you guys think so?

    Thanks!

    RedSonya
     
  2. jim berman

    jim berman

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    "30's in a year or two after graduating. Is that unrealistic?"

    Probably. I am sure others will chime in with their input. However, I gotta tell ya', that 30K might be a few years down the road, either when you move into a management position or hit a LARGE (i.e. big $) operation. Getting your degree is a good start, but your real earnng potential will be (excuse the cliche) where the 'rubber hits the road.'
    And, unfortunately, the threads regarding the hours, starting pay, etc aren't false. You will really have to put in some 'sweat equity' just to move up a rung.
    Don't be discouraged. You left one career in pursuit of something better. Better does not always mean more money. All the best to you. Keep us posted.
     
  3. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    I think 30k in two years is realistic, but as always, there are tradeoffs.

    You can...

    1) Get an executive chef position right out of culinary school

    Unrealistic, but it's been known to happen. Your chances of succeeding at that position are slim. You need the experience. Plain and simple.

    2) Sous chef position right out of school.

    More realistic and your chances of succeeding are better if you do it in a smaller environment where the "sous chef" is the only other person in the kitchen other than the chef/owner.

    Other options include going to work for Maggiano's little Italy or other similiar chains. You spend a coupla weeks at corporate HQ and spend a day working a shift at each position. Just like McDonald's. Not a good way to learn how to cook.

    3) Line cooking 60 hours a week. Two jobs.

    Most realistic. Five nights a week plus a coupla shifts thrown in at the local bakery or coffeeshop.

    I think the final options is best. If you can get yourself into a lower volume nice restaurant with a real cool chef you can really learn a lot. I think everyone who wants to advance to the executive chef level should work in a bakery. It really teaches you a lot. Don't forget to get involved in your local chef network. It's never too early to start.
     
  4. roelof

    roelof

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    I live in South Florida, and the restaurant I work at line cooks make on average 25,000/YR working 40 hours a week.
     
  5. alynch

    alynch

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    I went to college in Miami and was working there til last year. I made more money as a waiter and bartender then I ever did as a line cook and it was no where near $25,000. But after I graduated I got offers from several major hotel chains to get into their management training programs. Started at $22k and the only place now is to go up.
     
  6. roelof

    roelof

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    How much did you make if it was nowhere near 25?
     
  7. redsonya

    redsonya

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    Thanks for the replies all!

    @kuan: Did you mean for Option 3 (the one about working 5 nights plus a shift at a bake shop) that I should try that without bothering with culinary school?

    I've been thinking I might head towards being a Pastry Chef because of my art background...I've seen some incredible cakes and confections in my research! But, the nearest affordable school I've found with a baking and pastry degree is about two hours away. Hmm, I'll have to ponder that a bit more...
     
  8. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    $25k is $12/hr. Not too hard to get. Experienced line cooks in urban areas get anywhere between $11 and $15. Bear in mind you have to be in a city to do this though. During the busy season it's not hard to rack up 50 hours a week.

    Red, it all depends. IMO, they way I did it was the best. I worked under a lot of chefs and in hotels for quite a bit. I was lucky to learn from some of the best in the business. I also became involved in my local chefs' associations and took continuing education classes. It's not any more difficult than going to culinary school and holding a part time job at the same time. You just save a bit of cash by learning but not getting any college credit for taking classes. I'd say my culinary knowledge is at least equal to an Associates in culinary arts.

    You just have to find your own path.

    Kuan
     
  9. flash

    flash

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    ..wassup....I began as a Chef...second profession: Student working on BA in Religious Studies. Thrid Profession: combining the two--what the **** else would a chef do?

    25,000 no problem after grad. from almost any Cul. School. However, sometimes one needs to go to the money. If you are willling to be mobile, and set up temp. residency to earn money and experience I would suggest Vegas (just don't friggin' gamble of course)--plenty of comps. going around any way if you know how to work it and besides you'll be working a lot so all the better to save save save. Kuan is right bout big cities, but not SF--very high rent, very low pay (they pay more in Napa 45 min north of the city with 1/3 of the living expense), but if you can hang and schmooze, you MIGHT get yourself the deal of a lifetime. I have worked in a lot of diff. states (really only about 6) but the best deal was NC: good wages, reasonable cost of living, I had free bennies and at the time gas was cheap--I just couldn't stand the humidity with heat index in the summer.


    good luck...if you're doing what you love, there is no way you can lose; food first/life later. (i know i know, maybe a little hardcore....but oh well).


    ...and might i just add, "I love you man!!!"

    :D
     
  10. sirlan

    sirlan

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    Hey -- are you considering CPCC? J&W should be opening up in the fall and would probably be a better school (although more expensive). I plan on taking classes there if they offer any on nights/weekends. Oh, J&W will also offer a baking and pastry arts degree.
    One semester may or may not be long enough to decide if you like it. It all depends on the classes I'm sure. You could always get a part time job in a kitchen or bakery and see how the industry really is.
     
  11. greg

    greg

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    CPCC, last I heard (1995), is a good program. Not to knock J&W (I'm a J&W grad), but CPCC is much less expensive. So, if money is a concern, check out CPCC and see what you think. If not, go with what Sirlan says and wait for J&W.
     
  12. sirlan

    sirlan

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    You're right. CPCC would definitely be cheaper and should be considered. Of the schools I know of here that offer culinary degrees, it might be her best option if cost is a priority. I just wanted to make sure she knew about J&W opening.
     
  13. redsonya

    redsonya

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    I had checked prices on J&W as well as the Art Institute Of Charlotte a couple months ago, but both are out of my price range. $40,000 for an Associates at the Art Institute, and (I think) about $40,000 for 2 years at J&W if I'm interpreting this page correctly: http://www.jwu.edu/sfs/fee_nc.htm ($19,182 per year?) Compared with CPCC's 2 year degrees at around $3,000 for in state.

    I think I'm going to check to see if any local bakeries will hire n00bs, but I'm going to wait a couple more months and enjoy this time off while it lasts. :D I've had a small taste of kitchen work...I worked the grill at McDonald's back around 1990 while college (the first time, heh), and actually had fun fixing things, but I'm guessing fast food is an entity all it's own.