Chef.... why? its not worth it!

Joined Jun 7, 2000
What ticks you off about being a chef? These days wages are getting lower... hours are increasing... Stress levels increasing... BUT profits are getting higher! All at the expense of a Chefs health. The industry has been in the shadows for too long. We need a global union and start taking strike action!!! Imagine... a Global strike on new years eve? If you are going to become a Chef.. I say .. DONT :)


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Joined Oct 5, 2001
It is what we do and anyone should know that before they get into the business. It has been like this for years, not just now so I don't think this is some big suprise.
Joined Mar 13, 2001
The "Celeb" trend around chefs (T.V., etc.) distorts the reality of "normal" chefs working in "normal" environments, does it not?

Joined Jan 26, 2001
I consider myself lucky to get paid at all to do something I love. It's not about being rich. It's not about getting away with working the least hours possible. It's about creativity and making people happy.

Viva la chef!

Joined Aug 4, 2000
Is it true that in France, chefs are treated like American football stars? Teachers there are highly respected, too. :confused:
Joined Aug 9, 2000
No it is not about getting rich but the pay is pathetic. I don"t think going to cul school and killing yourself for years on end for 13 or 14 dollars an hour is anywhere near getting rich.
Joined Jan 26, 2001
I thoroughly enjoy being a personal chef. Make my own hours ( 4 hour days ), choose my clients, create dishes, get real feedback,
make a real living, work in several different kitchens, network with other personal chefs. If anyone wants to find out how to become a successful personal chef then email me: [email protected]

The long hours in the restaurant and the relatively low pay does not appeal to me.
My hats off to all of you restaurant chefs, because I know you work hard!
Joined Feb 4, 2001
The real test........

All you chefs out there with a lifetime of experience.........

Would you do it all again?

I think I would. But I'd be a little reluctant to advise a young person that it's a wonderful life.

Joined Dec 8, 1999
In my opinion, being a chef is a wonderful life! It just depends on whether or not it's the life for you. We see the whole spectrum of humanity in the people we work with, from the dregs to the very best. We can run through the entire gamut of human emotion in a single shift. We can, by merely cooking a simple preparation, make someones night. And the next day, we go to work and everything is different. It's like living a brand new life every time you wake up. Of course, it's not always going to be good, but then whose job is? As far as the pay is concerned, as long as I have enough money to get by, I'm satisfied. I decided to make this my career because it's what makes me happy; I'd have stayed on track to be a lawyer (my first career choice) if I money was my priority.
Joined Aug 11, 2000
Thanks alot Palmier....Mom's are special people that deserve the best you have in you....

If money is an issue where you are at, or time, or conditions...there are many other venues you can pursue.

[ April 22, 2001: Message edited by: shroomgirl ]
Joined Jan 1, 2001
I don't think anyone here is trying to discourage you, Afra, only to discuss differing individual viewpoints about compensation for the job. I was in foodservice for 25 years, 16 of them as either executive chef or a comparable level, before switching venues. Some jobs paid what, at face value, looked like a good salary with benefits. However, the number of days per week and hours per day I was required to work averaged out to be BELOW minimum wage.
There is also quite a bit of sexual discrimination in foodservice regarding pay. An example-I was hired as one of 2 assistant executive pastry chefs for a 5 diamond hotel (which will remain namless). We served 5 restaurants, a night club, banquets facilities for 2,500 guests and 750 rooms. At that point, I had 12 years of experience in fine dining and hotel food service. I second in command of 14 pastry cooks and bakers over 3 daily 8 hour shifts. Within 2 months of hiring me, they hired the 2nd asst. PC, straight form the CIA, with no working experience other than a 3 month internship for $4,000 more per year than me. If the 3rd shift baker did not show up, it was me that got the call to come in at 1AM, not the new kid, because everyone knew he couldn't organize himself out of a paper bag.
The reality of food service is: 1-expect to work long hours every day of every week. 2-all of those hours are spent on your feet and often lifting and carrying heavy or awkward loads. 3-if your are female, expect $.68 for every $1 your male collegues receive. 4-benefits packages come only with larger chains and hotels; most smaller, fine dining operations do not offer any insurance benefits. 5-Culinary school graduates can expect $12.10 an hour at the finest restaurants in NYC-but expect to work at least a 60 hour week, more often 80-90, cutting that pay roughly in half. That's salaried pay, meaning you do NOT receive time-and-a-half for overtime. If you work 80 hours per week at $12.10/hour there is absolutely no way to live in Manhattan where studio (read one room) apt. rentals start at $2,500 per month (usually in poor neighborhoods).

That being said, if I had it to do over again, I think I would take a different track. However, I am proud of my work experience and knowledge that serves me well in my current vocation. Just be very careful (meaning do your research) about what you want-you just might get it.
Joined Jan 5, 2001
Afra, unfortunately, passion and earning potential do not always go hand in hand unless your passion is corporate finance or plastic surgery. I don't think any of us is in it for the money, which doesn't mean that you can't EVENTUALLY earn a half decent living. I don't think that it is responsible for anyone, especially your teachers to tell you that you'll be making much money because that's just not the reality. I think a very small percentage of those who enter the culinary world can make the big bucks if they have a good business sense, strong work ethics and the right contacts. Work hard and you'll get there too!
Joined Jan 5, 2001
Foodnfoto: that was a great post. Thanks for that information, it was very useful. It reinforces my own belief that restaurant experience is crucial to one's training but should be used as a stepping stone for a more lucrative career. At least, that's what my objective is, hence my interest in catering.
Joined Jun 7, 2000
Ive been out of my apprenticeship for 17 years or so. I have loved the industry esp during the 80's where everyone was dining out courtesy of the businesses. Head Chefs in that time were earning twice what i am now. This may not be global. Here in Australia it seems to be that the staff are descreasing and profits expand. Dont get me wrong i love the food industry.
Kitchenhands can earn more than a qualified chef here.... Is there any Aussies here that agree with this?
Cooking has been with my family for generations with my great grand father, grandfather, grandmother, father and 2 brothers, one sister and 2 cousins chefs. The younger generation of chefs seem to agree with me on the low pay stuff. My parents and grand parents made great livings out of the industry.
Joined Jan 26, 2001

By saying you would take a different track, do you mean a different career or a different direction within this field? Which direction would have been better for you?


I'm still deciding if all of this is for me. I sure like to cook, I really do. But I've been doing it full-time for a week and it is TOUGH. I'm learning a lot, but what Greg said about going through every single emotion every single day is true. Sometimes when I get home I am so tired and have felt so many things- frustration, anger, "woops!", happiness, laughter, worn-out, exhilarated, etc, etc, that I just sit and cry for a few minutes and let it all out. Especially since the last thing I do every night before going home is clean the flat-top grill, and burn at least two fingers....

So I don't have answers if its worth it or not. I think that is a decision we all have to make, and I'm still deciding.

Joined Jan 5, 2001
Shimmer, if I could send you an electronic hug, I would! Don't despair! THings will get easier very quickly. I was in your shoes just 2 months ago and believe me, I don't feel the exhaustion that I felt then.

What I can tell you is that it's sometimes hard to reconcile your passion for food with the gruelling and somewhat repetitive work of a professional kitchen. But at this stage, do it for learning. I sometimes get depressed at work because I forget that this (garde manger) is not what I'll be doing for the rest of my life. I have to remind myself that I'm here to learn, to pick up some skills that I will apply someday to my own business. You should try to focus on that too. If your passion is food, then let your passion lead the way; it doesn't have to be the restaurant kitchen, it might take you to the bake shop, to food writing, to catering. There are so many other venues that I don't even know about! Explore them and follow your heart!
Joined Jan 5, 2001
I've been in this biz in one way or another for over 20 years, and I can't imagine doing anything else, beleive me I tried a couple of times. If food is in your blood, you've got no choice but to pursue this industry.
As far as unions go, they scare me. I've seen what they've done to other industries, and I really don't want to see that happen to us. There is enough battling between FOH and BOH, between BOH and admin, without a union rep stirring it up for kicks and giggles. I would much rather negotiate my own package, and put a few bucks away than give those bucks to a union.
When it comes to pay, it's all relative. I've worked everywhere from big city places to some Mom & Pop kind of joints and it comes down to quality of life. To get that quality, I think you have to get out of the city. That $12.00 an hour goes an awfully long way in SW Michigan, and the job market around here is so good, you can probably get a lot more. But it still comes down to the passion. If you're in this biz to be the next Emeril, get out. If the food is in your soul, you can't.

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