Becoming a professional cook?

Joined Jan 28, 2018
Hello everyone. I am 20 years old and I have to choose a career path.I started cooking as a hobby at 16 years old and I started thinking about going to culinary school but in the end I didn't. Now I have started thinking about it a lot more but when I went online and started researching about this career path everything I could fing was about how horrible the industry is and I got discouraged. I am not worried about the long hours or if it is difficult, my biggest problem is if I would be able to balance my journey of becoming the greatest cook I can be with my personal life. In the end I chose to start studying and sit my college exam in a year and a half but every time I grab my chefs knife to cook dinner I am thinking if I am making the wrong choice and if in ten years I wouldn't like to be just a home cook.
Thanks for reading and I hope you can share your opinion.
Joined Jan 28, 2018
Well my other choice for which I am a lot less passionate but which I like is programming. My problem is that I love to cook but what holds me back is what I will have to sacrifice to become a great cook.If I became a programmer I would still have to sacrifice some of my personal time but its different compared to all your personal time.And if I chose to become a professional cook I wouldn't want to do it half heartedly either.
What else would you like to do with your life?
Joined Oct 31, 2012
You are already making assumptions about a business you have no experience in. Go apply for a job at the best restaurant you can find. Ask to speak to the chef or owner. They might offer you a dishwashing job or prep cook. That's how everyone starts.
Then go to another quality restaurant. Do the same thing. Keep doing this until you have a job.
They will want to know three things. "I will show up on time, every time. I will work really hard to do my best. I will do what I am told, the way I am told."
Keep working in restaurants for a year. Then decide what you want to do based on your experiences.
You can cook great food at home by studying cookbooks, watching videos, buying great ingredients and practicing.
You can work in many restaurants without cooking great food.
You can only decide with experience. If it means that much to you, go make it happen.
Joined Feb 8, 2009
As long as you make the right career choices you'll be fine. The nightmare is when things don't work out well and career goals go tumbling down. People could lose valuable time learning and building their resume. This happens a lot in this business and a person needs to stay focused on the end goal.

The other nightmare happens when you graduate Culinary school and find out you'll be making $10 an hour. You'll think you should get more but that's not going to happen. This is a business you have to pay your dues, build a work resume and also accumulate respect of others. Knowledge is King, people talking good about you helps immensely. Build a career in this business takes skill and a certain amount of luck. Being at the right place at the right time.

When I started in this business I got a low level job as a catering steward. I learned fast and became head steward within a few months. I then became a Restaurant Manager and worked throughout the industry and became a Chef many years later. I look back at my career and only see a few miss steps. These were when I worked for Corp owned companies where I couldn't apply my own creativity and skill to better the business. otherwise after working in and owning 25 Food services I enjoyed my journey.

You will only succeed in this business if you really want it. The journey will/could be real hard moving through the ranks. Moving through the ranks is like being at the wrong end of the stick everyday. You feel like you're being beaten down and have to struggle to get up all the time. You will work for some Chefs that are good with Culinary skills but may lack in Management skills. They are more doers than anything else. These are the Chefs to avoid. They will get things done anyway possible. Your blood and tears will be wasted on these Chefs, they'll be out for themselves and leave you in the dust. You want to work for people who keep their word, "promises made Promises kept".

The end game is either being Chef or owner. At this point in your career you will have made it through all the twists and turns and hardships. You will have learned what to do and what not to do. You and only you can pick how you want to manage people. I would suggest being a Chefs Chef. A Chefs Chef is a person that the industry and other Chefs look up to. They are the real deal with a lot of Culinary knowledge and manage skills. They walk the talk and are humble. At the end of the day and what made me love this business was the sense of achievement and self-satisfaction I got from it........Good Luck........ChefBillyB
Joined May 4, 2016
I think it's important to note that this industry is not limited to restaurants. It's such a large industry with so much to offer anyone who has a passion for hospitality and cooking. Outside of the restaurant life, there's catering, private/personal chef work, freelancing, food writing, food styling, corporate chef work and many more options. Some of these you can manage your schedule and some are a 9-5. But more important than passion is drive. Passion ebs and floods, it's your own drive that keeps you disciplined enough to do what's necessary to be your best. If you're already cooking at home and have a general understanding of technique, you're already headed in the right direction. You would be surprised of the number of people who enter the top culinary schools without any kitchen experience. And even top culinary graduates find themselves at entry level positions in a new kitchen. That's okay. And it's okay to make mistakes. Just don't make the same mistake twice. I would rather hire someone that is inexperienced but shows up to work on time, with the right tools, a good attitude, and is well kept. You can teach most anyone a set of skills. It's much harder to break bad habits.

This is all very good advice. But, take it for just that. If you want to do this, then do it. You will figure it out along the way.

Good luck!
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Joined Mar 1, 2017
If you can do anything else, do anything else. If you have a shot at being a programmer, take it! That is easily a six figure a year job with benefits in an industry that is not going away anytime soon. You can always get your cooking fix on the side cooking for friends and family or maybe doing a modest catering business or even opening your own place with all the extra money you make as a programmer. :)

I'm going to tell you the same thing that I have told everyone else your age who has come to me for a job and/or advice over the last 4 decades......a passion for cooking is never enough. This is a life that does not work well at all with families, spouses, children, friends or social lives. This is an profession that has one of the highest substance abuse and divorce rates of any profession and there is a very good reason for that.

While you're making between $10 and maybe $14 an hour and working 80 hours a week for the first 10 years of your career, you could've been making 10 times that much as a programmer with a life, a family, cars, toys, benefits, trips etc.

But, the dilemma here is that you can't really know until you know. I agree with the others, get a job in the best restaurant you can and work there for a year. You'll start at the bottom washing dishes, mopping floors, taking out the garbage, cleaning bathrooms and after a few months, if you show that you are a hard worker and have some aptitude, they may let you do some prep. In that time, you can get to know what this life is truly like. If you have a good chef, he/she can give you some very good advice and you can see first hand what your life may be like after 10-15 years in the business.

Good luck. :)
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