Career as a chef

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by chloe23, Mar 26, 2002.

  1. chloe23

    chloe23

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    Hi, I hope this is the right place for this topic. Anyhow, I have been thinking about going into culinary industry and don't know whether it's the right choice. I hate my job right now and would like to switch my career, but don't know what yet since there's a lot of pros and cons in everything you do. I love to cook and I would really like to become a chef one day. But I don't know if I'll ever succeed as a chef. One thing that kind of deter me away from this industry is the health benefits...I heard the health benefits aren't great at all. Is that true? Or does it depend on the restaurant you work for? Another thing is that I feel like I'm too old to go into this industry. I feel that a lot of people start out as a chef really young and I won't be able to do well if I start now. I'm in my mid twenties and I feel too old to do anything else. Well, any feedback would greatly appreciated. Thanks. :)
     
  2. shawtycat

    shawtycat

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    Health benefits? What's that? :confused: I have to get that on my own. You actually know a restaurant that offers health benefits?? Lead on McDuff! :D :chef:
     
  3. chiffonade

    chiffonade

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    You have to get mighty high on the ladder to get any health benefits in the culinary industry. One way to do this is to get a job with a large corporation in their corporate dining facilities. Also, as you rise up in the field, there are more demands you can make.

    As far as being too old...You do need some measure of stamina to be on your feet all day. I often wish I came to cooking at a younger age - like right out of high school.

    In addition, don't confuse being a chef with running a restaurant. If you love to cook, try and direct your career aspirations to working for someone else in their restaurant. There are lots of people who enjoy the prestige of owning a successful restaurant who don't particularly want to put in the kitchen time. This is where you get to flex your creative muscle with much less of the financial responsibility. Make no mistake, the ownership role eats into your creative time tremendously.
     
  4. chloe23

    chloe23

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    Oh so there's no health benefits whatsoever huh? That totally stinks....Paying those health benefits on your own is really expensive! I guess that's one of the cons as a chef...
     
  5. holydiver

    holydiver

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    You can get them if you wanted to work for a chain say like macaroni grill or work in a hotel assisted living community or corporate setting. A lot of independents still do not offer them and most to only the Sous or Exec. And as far as paying them on your own you will be lucky to pay your rent and school loan.
     
  6. jim berman

    jim berman

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    Like Chiffonade said, Benefits generally are reserved for those in the corporate/health care/campus side of food service. In general, in Corporate we get medical, dental, 401k, tuition, etc however there are trade-offs, for example the creative aspect of food production.
    If med. benefits are a major concern, consider a business and industry (B&I) outfit and you will probably be offered a decent bene. package (and usually pretty good hours!)
    Good luck.
     
  7. shawtycat

    shawtycat

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    Instead of getting Aetna from Aetna, I just signed my whole family up for FamilyCare in New Jersey. Since my income as a cook is not extravagant (only made 5 grand last year cause I started mid year):D they pay for everything. No co-pay here! So sometimes the low pay is a plus. I just say "Ooohh this hurts and they set up an appt for me." One way to turn a con into a pro huh!?
     
  8. chloe23

    chloe23

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    Hey ShawtyCat,
    you said "Since my income as a cook is not extravagant (only made 5 grand last year cause I started mid year) they pay for everything. No co-pay here!"

    Now are you saying that the insurance company pay for the whole thing with no co-pay? I noticed that you live in Jersey, which is where I'm from....What insurance company do you have? Is it Aetna?
     
  9. shawtycat

    shawtycat

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    The state of New Jersey offers families within a certain income free healthcare.
    New Jersey FamilyCare

    Total coverage depends on your income, otherwise there is copay. I think mine (1 adult and 2 kids) had to be under 19 grand a year. Ive given you the website link for more info and they offer an online application.

    They cover:
    Physician services, preventive health care, emergency medical care, inpatient hospital services, outpatient hospital services, laboratory services, prescription drugs, dental services, emergency transportation, mental health services, plus many more.

    You are signed up to an HMO like Americhoice, Horizon Mercy etc. and they also offer free immunizations for kids, well visits (checkups) and one pair free eyeglasses per year. They unfortunately don't take single adults or couples with no children anymore. If you get pregnant then your specific county will handle the separate application for medicaid coverage with the same HMO and when you have your baby you and baby are just added back to the rest of the family on FamilyCare. I usually just go to my local hospital since it is so close rather than one of the docs in the HMO book. My hospital takes FamilyCare and all my specialists are in the same place, right?

    Surprised you haven't heard of it. Im on maternity and I dont have to pay for anything. :chef:

    FYI to all Jersey residents: I also went for disability (yea they consider pregnancy a temporary disability) benefits since my employer doesnt offer paid maternity. So what ever I was making per week I get a certain amount of that per week during maternity leave. This is good if your employer wont pay for maternity leave either. So many programs out there.
     
  10. chloe23

    chloe23

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    Thanks ShawtyCat for the info. :) Now I just have to figure out what to do about my career.... :(
     
  11. panini

    panini

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    I definitely don't want to be critical, but there is growing negetivity for those asking about our industry. Is it our intention to run all potential newbies off?
    Insurance is different from place to place. Some smaller businesses are now eligible for moderatly priced insurance. Its getting better all the time. As far as the "selected few"it is illegal for me to cover someone in my employment without offering it to all.
    chloe23,
    make sure you do all your homework when researching a new career. This industry is pretty antiquated,hard roads to success, etc. But it is really rewarding.
     
  12. shawtycat

    shawtycat

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    Chloe,

    I believe there are cons in every profession. My philosophy is to not think of them as being preventive but challenging. Walls are made to be scaled, tunneled under or scooted around. Always look for another solution or alternative to your problem. Health care is not an con anymore due to NJ Family Care.

    I would like to know what else you believe to be a con. Post it here so we can offer you alternatives to your obstacles. If you don't like the long hours aspect of the foodservice industry, maybe you can PT with a caterer or try going corporate. If you prefer to have more leadway with creativity, start out at a reputable restaurant, learn all you can. Watch the chef, always. Cooking school is an option. And as Ive checked NJ (Bergen), Id suggest attending one in NYC. The CIA also offers online classes at reasonable prices, for those of us already working and actually cannot physically go to classes.

    Im also curious as to what your previous/present profession is. What about it did you not like? And what kind of job would you like? I dont mean just naming an occupation but also describing your ideal. I am also sure that you have other factors that may sway your decision one way or the other. Im sure with the number and variety of chefs (some just starting and others with definate tenure) can offer you solutions. There may be some negativity from us but it is that way with all professions. I can quote you many cons from my last occupation as an Executive Assistant/Paralegal.

    Ill also extend an invitation to email me if you would like to discuss anything further off board: [email protected] :talk:

    End of boring monologue. :smiles: :blush:
    Cheers! :chef:
     
  13. chiffonade

    chiffonade

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    I don't feel a person should embark on a career until they have all the facts. Yes, the industry gives a person a chance to be creative and to bring pleasure to many - but should someone raising a family look to a career in the culinary arts to support them? Long hours, bad pay and no health benefits. How honest could we be if we all just jumped up and shouted, "Yes! It's wonderful!" without giving the whole spectrum of conditions?

    Re: Health benefits...people find ways around offering benefits "to all". For instance, if a chef is considered an "executive" you can bet her/his offerings will be different than, say, a dishwasher. This is also covered by putting someone on salary vs. hourly wages. If it were illegal to offer benes to some and not all, Wal-Mart's entire upper management staff would be in jail. WM lets you work 39.5 hours a week so they don't have to insure you as a "full time" employee. You can bet that supervisors and others have benefits and decent salaries while stock people and part-timers are barely scraping by.

    If a person has a spouse with medical benefits and if their employment isn't a big contributing factor to the family's overall financial well being, sure, a culinary career is wonderful. But don't tell some guy who wants to raise a family of seven that he can do so comfortably on what a culinary career will pay, especially in the beginning.
     
  14. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

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    Panini, I have always given a semi-negetive response to those who post here as career-changers or youngsters thinking of going into this business. Cheffing has become "glamourous", and many people make their career choice based on Food TV. I think that they need a dose of reality. Yes, I love this career, but there are many sacrifices I have made for this career. Yes, many years after starting this career I make a good salary (not great, but good), but I could be making much more in some other field. Finally, I have seen too many people come to this career, because they like to cook, they like to throw diner parties for their friends. Some stick with it, but most of them find that the restaurant business is not all the fun and games they thought it would be and end up leaving it. Cheffing can be a very tough lifestyle, but it can be very rewarding also. I ust think that many people think of going into this industry without really thinking it over, or ever spending time in a professional kitchen.

    Chloe23, as far as being too old. You are definately not to old. There were numerous students, at my school over 30, a few over 40, and at least one, over 50.
     
  15. chloe23

    chloe23

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    Hello everyone,
    I just want to say thank you for all your inputs and opinions. I value all the honest answers that everyone has said. And yes, I know the food industry is a tough industry to succeed in. My dad is a chef and I've seen the long hours and overtime he has to put in. The ironic thing is that my dad worked so hard to put me in an office job and in turn I wanna follow his foot step. :eek: Funny isn't it? Reading the posts from people on this board, I realized that I have a lot to learn if I was to become a chef. But not only that, I have to thoroughly research this industry before doing any major changes.

    One question that ShawtyCat asked was the other cons that I have about being a chef. To answer that question, in the culinary industry, male chefs tend to be the majority while female chefs are the minority. How hard is it for the female chefs out there to get a job as a chef?

    I would like to take classes at FCI, but before I do that, I want to get a job in the kitchen to see if that is what I really want to do. But since I don't have any cooking experience, I feel that it's hard to find a job anywhere. Any suggestions as to how to get my foot in the door?

    Thanks.
     
  16. shawtycat

    shawtycat

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    We have a lot of people who drop by the diner. Late at night, early morning, afternoon, you name it. They generally ask if we have open positions or leave a resume. Now Im sure that all diners in Jersey aren't like this but a majority prefer to just get a mexican. Im not being racist, since I come from the same background as mexicans (poor country), but they tend to work for less and not ask too many questions like "do I get health benefits" or "are you really supposed to throw the raw chicken cutlet into the entire flour bin?". Or even have the audacity to ask for a raise. :eek: We usually joke around about how many relatives we could fit in our houses back home. :) Sorry, Im the only one allowed.

    My MIL runs our diner and we know a variety of diner owners both in NY and NJ since they are part of a greek network called Pan something or the other. Id suggest going to other actual "restaurants". Although I believe you would have more of a chance in NYC than NJ. I can ask my friend Pete (not our Pete) who owns a fine dining restaurant in Rutherford if he is hiring. He has a small place though but the menu is like 60 bucks for the entire meal, excluding dessert and drinks.

    Just my two cents. .. Im sure someone here can give you better info. Have you asked your dad how he got started? Did you check out "life of a culinary student" at Cheftalk.com? He gives good info about getting his foot in the door. Plus you could do what many do and just staige (work for free on a trial period) to get more experience. Hope this helps. :cool:
     
  17. holydiver

    holydiver

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    Owners get around the law all the time working people 60 hours paying for 40, not paying overtime,paying under the table,salary is a huge rip off in it self you are not supposed to work more than I think 60 percent of your hours on the line if you are salary but we all know that is a crock. I love cooking too I just think it needs to move out of the 19th century it dosen't need to be that way but it it because they get away with it. I too have seen way too many newbies come into the biz starry eyed only to be crushed they have the sad impression that they will be treated and payed professionaly sadly that is not true. I have already seen a lot of people come and leave within 5 years that is wrong they leave good paying jobs as nurses or stockbrokers to come "follow their dream" because they are lied to and pumped full of bulls##t by the culinary schools,food tv, and the gourmet mags. This is a rough nasty industry and I believe all the young kids and career changers should see all the bad stuff too before they make such a choice.
     
  18. shawtycat

    shawtycat

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    I feel you holydiver. I mean if my own MIL can work her blind son 14-15 hours per day, 6 1/2 days a week for 7 years with no vacation while paying him under the table. And only pay me $245 a week for menu creation, baking, bussing tables, waiting tables (with both kids in tow while pregnant), invoice creation and deliveries etc. What makes anyone think shed do better for strangers?

    If employer's can get it for less they will take it. Anything to save money. :mad:
     
  19. chloe23

    chloe23

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    Ah, yes! I know what you mean. I see my dad work so hard and he still gets a lot of s**t dumped on him. And when something goes wrong, his employers blame him for having a bad attitude and what not. So yes, I know the difficulty of working as a chef and in the restaurant. And I have to agree with you ShawtyCat that a lot of restaurants hire mexicians because it's cheap and you get to work them a lot of hours. That's like all other corporate companies going to third world countries because the labor is cheap....
     
  20. chiffonade

    chiffonade

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    Lightbulb moment? Dim bulb moment...

    Cooking is like teaching, regardless of what it's actually worth, it's grossly underpaid. At least teachers get benefits and summers off.

    People don't come to cooking to make money - although the media-friendly and gifted ones certainly end up making it. Prospective chefs look at people like Wolfgang Puck who had a staff of 250 in the kitchen for the Governor's Ball at the Oscars and think, "He's got lots of money." He paid his dues for many years before the field of cooking became "media-worthy." A crafty person who can make a Christmas decoration out of a toilet paper roll in their home craft room won't be in Martha Stewart's income circle anytime soon. The trailblazers make the money, and that's only if they're lucky enough to blaze a trail when someone's watching.