Chefs mid-life crisis

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Joined Mar 22, 2017
Hi there, my name is Luk, I'm 31 living in the UK and currently, I am experiencing a mid-life crisis as a chef.

I've been cooking professionally for around 7 years now, currently, I'm holding a head chef position. Basically, I didn't loose my passion for the kitchen, I lost passion for working in restaurants just for a paycheck. I always wanted to be a pastry chef, especially now I discovered that this is where my passion for the job is. Overall I have a year or two experience in pastry, but there is a lot of holes in my knowledge. I am thinking about going to a pastry school in London or Paris and starting up a career as a pastry chef, working only for some famous bakeries/restaurants. The problem I have is that I think I might be too old for starting a career as a pastry chef. I know I already have some experience, been running kitchens etc but still, the pastry is for me like starting up from scratch, by the time I'll finish some stages in Europe, finish school and get some experience I'll probably be 35 before landing a first pastry sous chef job. Thanks for any advice.
 

pete

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Staff member
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Joined Oct 7, 2001
You are way too young to be talking about a "mid-life" crisis and you are way too young to start thinking you are too old to change career paths.  You have plenty of time ahead of you.  If you feel that pastry is the route you want to take then go ahead a pursue it.  I know many people, much older than you that have successfully changed careers completely and I'm not talking just altering their paths from restaurant chef to pastry chef.  A buddy of mine, in his 40's just recently left his career in the financial sector and is getting ready to open up his own Charcuterie shop.
 
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Hi Luk, welcome to Cheftalk. First of all I am thinking and praying for you and your country after this terrorist incident in London. The best from your friends across the pond. 

  As for your 1/3 life crisis I would have to say your age isn't even close to being a problem. The food business isn't about working in a job and just going with the flow everyday. I would hate to work in a job everyday that didn't give me a feeling of accomplishment, pride and fulfillment. Take the path that makes you happy in your job. You'll  be working for another 34 to maybe 40 years. Like Nike says "Just do it".......Good luck ChefBillyB
 
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I don't think you're too old to switch tracks. Bear in mind that's not a complete change in careers like going from cooking to investment banking.  It's really changing focus.  Since less and less restaurants can afford to have a full time pastry chef the fact that you can step in and bang on the line will be a big asset when you're seeking a position.
 
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Joined Mar 22, 2017
Thanks for those comments guys, really. What's your opinion on going to a pastry school vs stages/work experience or just a commis chef job and get experience from there? I was thinking about a) going to my community college in London and do a classic pastry training while I'm working, b) Le Cordon Bleu, I know there's a lot of bad press about this school around, but would having it on my CV help me in the future, or c) just spending a year doing stages in different kitchens learning as much as I can. What your view on that ?
 
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Joined Oct 30, 2015
You are 31, it is very natural for you to be thinking about what you have done and what you want to do. The only crisis in your life would be not having the courage to follow your dreams. I am a 39 year old executive chef with many more years experience than you, and I can assure you that the only true path to self fulfillment is to constantly challenge yourself. For years I shied away from any type of pastry or baking, fearful of a craft that I believed only master artisans and grandmother's could do. I challenged myself to follow a recipe for ciabatta, with due diligence and studying, and with a few failures, until I finally baked an amazing loaf that I thought could have been seen in a Manhattan bake shop window. I was so proud of my modest accomplishment, but I realized that it is simply a matter of following a recipe with more precise measurements. Magick is the art and science of causing effect in accordance with one's own will.
 
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a school will teach you fundamentals and technique; a stage will show you that span of what the restaurant does but perhaps less of the "why" behind  the dish.  Your advantage is that you already  know how to work in a kitchen; you are there to absorb technique and learn: for example, you can make pastry cream with cornstarch or with flour, why? and, how does it differ?

It will make you a more well rounded candidate for future jobs; but don't let someone hire you thinking you can go back on the line if that's not what you want to do; save for the occasional time when you are helping your crew because they are in the weeds and can't see daylight.
 
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