Cooking school after going to college

Discussion in 'General Culinary School Discussions' started by magpie, May 12, 2005.

  1. magpie

    magpie

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    I am 27 and just received my BS in Business Marketing 2 years ago. I am now realizing that I really do not like working in an office. I like cooking and I miss that feeling of being exhausted at the end of a hard days work ( like I used to when I worked in the food industry in high school). One of the things that is stopping me from pursuing my interest in this field again is that I feel like I am kind of taking a step back, since I already have a degree in Business and now I want to go back to working in a kitchen (I know this sounds really bad to say!) I also know that is exactly what my dad is going to say if I tell him that I want to go to cooking school "Why did I pay for college if you are jsut going to work in a kitchen?" Has anyone else encountered this kind of thinking? I think I need someone to just contradict my thinking for me! Thanks! :)
     
  2. headless chicken

    headless chicken

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    In highschool, I studied business, computers, art, georgraphy, and woodwork. Did quite well in each but I couldn't find myself in any of those fields before chef school. Going into the food industry didn't sit well with my mother, she kept nudging me towards carpentry. In the end, it was my decision and she had to learn to accept it because its my choice, my life, not hers to dictate.

    I havn't looked back since and I don't regret it and now my mother brags about me in chef school :rolleyes: go figure!
     
  3. aw puddin'

    aw puddin'

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    hey Magpie,
    I'm in the same situation. I'm 25, I graduated three years ago with two bachelor degrees. I can't handle sitting behind a desk. Three months ago I dropped everything and got a job on the line. I received the same blahs from my Dad. I'm currently applying to culinary schools despite the opposition from my family. If it feels right do it. If your family sees you happy in the long run they will eventually come around. You have to close yourself off from your Dad's input and make the decision on your own. I've always been a victim of pressure from my family but I came to the realization that I'm the one who has to deal with the choices I make in life. And though they are older and have more life experience, they don't know everything. Make yourself happy - if it doesn't work out then you can always go back to the office world. . . or become a fisherwoman. . .or a welder - under water welding - even better! All of them very exhausting career moves.
    Best of luck to you.
    Aw Puddin'
     
  4. columbus

    columbus

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    Hey Aw Puddin,

    I'm also 25, three years out of college, hating the office and starting to think about culinary school. I've got a couple of years of restaurant experience, mostly front of house (waiting tables when I was 21, 22), but with a few months experience doing prep, grilling, as well. But rather than drop everything right now, I'm thinking about volunteering my nights and weekends in kitchens, doing whatever I'd be allowed to do -- salads, prep, I'd even wash dishes -- just to remind myself what I'd be getting myself into, and to make sure that it's something I'd want to devote myself to. A lot of chefs seem to recommend this, especially for career changers, before applying to school.

    My question -- for you or for anyone reading this -- is: what's the best way to go about seeking out chefs and then asking them if I can volunteer? And should I expect to get turned away a number of times before someone takes me up on my offer?

    Any thoughts?

    Thanks.
     
  5. zen!!!

    zen!!!

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    I graduated college in 2000 with two BAs and have worked in the financial industry for the past five years and decided in December that I wanted to move from the financial services industry to the food service industry.

    When I started looking for places to get experience, I knew that I couldn't leave my day job. I had some major debt from drinking away my depression spawning from cubicle life. So, I decided that I would try to find somewhere that I could intern at part time.

    I knew that the place that I would be interning at would either have to be close to my day job, as to be able to get there as quickly as possible after work, or close to my home, as to not be an issue when staying crazy late. So I started researching restaurants in those two areas that produced the cuisine and the caliber of cuisine that I eventually want to produce myself. I sent e-mails, faxes and letters to these restaurants and only one place got back to me.

    After playing e-mail tag with the executive chef/owner and having several missed encounters just due to sudden schedule changes, I ended up speaking with the chef de cuisine. I talked about what my goals were and what I was looking for to which hesaid, "I'm sorry, but I don't have any space to hire you." To which I replied, "Chef, I'm not looking for money right now. I have a day job. I'm just looking to get into the kitchen and to get some experience." He seemed taken aback for a second and said, "Well, you can come hang out a couple of nights a week if you want." And I asked, "When do I start?"

    That was back in January. I started coming in on Mondays and Tuesdays after my day job. I thought I would be peeling potatoes and chopping onions, but instead, he put me on the garde manger station with a guy who had been there for about six months full time.

    After about a month of cooking two nights a week, the guy who I worked garde manger with said to me, "Just so you know, in two weeks, I'm giving my two weeks notice, so if you want to move in, now is the time." But due to my debt I couldn't go full time. However, when he left, I picked up Saturday and Sunday nights for pay. They were actually paying me and I actually got to come in to do prep.

    After about a month of being paid two days that I was on the schedule and coming in for two nights of internship where I wasn't on the schedule, I bumped into the executive chef in the dry storage room. "ZEN!!!," he said. "What are you doing here? You're not on the schedule." I told him that I knew and that even though I wasn't on the schedule, I told the chef de cuisine that I would keep coming in for those nights unless he kicked me out of the kitchen. To that, he said, "You know, we should really start paying you for these hours too."

    And so has begun my transition into the Culinary world. This is the best thing that I have ever done with my life. I feel invigorated everytime I hear the ticket machine buzzing. I'm almost done paying off the debt and after saving for a few months, I'm taking all of my vacation from my day job and I'm going to Europe to eat for a month. Following that, I'll save a few thousand dollars and I'll make the jump to full time at a restaurant. I just feel incredibly lucky to have taken my first couple of steps into the culinary world in a two and a half star bistro.

    So that's the short of my story. If you want the long story, it would involve talking about war wounds, burns, cursing and little explosions.
     
  6. columbus

    columbus

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    That's what I'm talking about! Thanks Zen, great story.

    I guess I'll just start contacting some chefs. I live in center city Philly, so there's lots of great restaurants nearby. And I guess I'll make sure to stress the 'work for free to get experience' part.
     
  7. magpie

    magpie

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    Hey, Thanks for the inspirational story ZEN! I have been putting off contacting kitchens for fear that I will just be turned away, but it sounds like you started out the same way and are having a great experience now. I think you just gave me that extra push I needed! Thanks!
     
  8. zen!!!

    zen!!!

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    So any of y'all workin' yet?
     
  9. columbus

    columbus

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    I did a week at a French bistro, then got a call back from another chef and trailed there for a night. He offered to set up a schedule for me to work there, and to pay me (!), so of course I accepted. Now I'm working about three nights a week, and making more than I had anticipated.

    And it's a lot of fun. I love the kitchen. I look forward to it while I'm at my "actual" job.
     
  10. magpie

    magpie

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    Not yet...I have filled out a couple of applications for some bakeries that are hiring for some part time help and applied for a per diem catering job.... Need to follow up with them this week. Unfortunately I am not able to do the "work for free" thing right not due to my financial situation. I actually NEED a second job for money not only the experience...so I am still looking!! :) Anyone in Maine want to hire me??? :rolleyes:
     
  11. magpie

    magpie

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    Columbus....What are you doing at the bistro? Prep work??
     
  12. columbus

    columbus

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    Magpie,

    The french bistro was tiny, so on the nights I was there it was just the sous chef, another cook, the dishwasher, and myself in the kitchen, with the chef/owner overseeing and mingling with the customers. So, on those nights, I got to work the garde manger station making amuse bouches, salads, etc. Before service I did prep from about 4:30 (when I got there after my other job) until 6 or 6:30.

    At the place I'm working now, which is northern italian cuisine and also much larger, I've been primarily working the salad station, though occasionally I'll do some prep that hasn't already been done, or if there's a banquet I'll carry stuff upstairs to the banquet room and plate dishes -- basically whatever's needed. And whenever I've got a free minute, I'm badgering the line cooks and sous chefs with questions -- who are, thankfully, very friendly and patient.

    I should clarify my last post by pointing out that I wrote both chefs cover letters, explaining my interest, longer term goals, etc., and included a resume that highlighted my previous restaurant experience, however irrelevant (it was mostly front of house). I contacted four chefs, and received responses from two, both of whom probably only responded b/c I made clear that I was not just looking for a job but a foot in the door. And both, even though they offered the opportunity, were still a little bit skeptical when I came in to meet them.

    I can only assume that most chefs are happy to give someone the opportunity, as long as they think you'll actually show up for work, and have no illusions about the nature of the work (i.e., it's not glamorous). That being said, I'd rather peel potatoes than fill out another Excel spreadsheet.

    Good luck, Magpie.
     
  13. chefoncall

    chefoncall

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    I think that is great. Many Business majors do have many talents in the kitchen. I think that you will not find what you are looking for within cooking field. If you are wanting to be creative at first I would slowly walk my way into the door of something you might want to do. Meaning if you decide to got to school. I think you are going to see that cooking is alot more about art than many people realized. Don't try to get it in one night.

    Don't get discouraged if it is not exactly as easy to create nice plates to sell. It sometimes can take some time to develope talents. I would suggest getting involved. I would also think about the other side of school and consider the backgrounds you have mentioned and then try to match your background with that particular part of the cooking job.

    Also, keep in the back of your mind that maybe cooking is not for you. What you are doing know might really be a hidden sign of doing exactly what you are doing know.
     
  14. davidsl

    davidsl

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    Well, I have a BS in Finance and an MBA and was a VP at a fortune 20 company. I left that life when my wife and I bought a restaurant two years ago. We're doing OK. Working more hours but no bosses except ourselves and our customers. I cook, I manage, I serve, I empty trash, I am in food service now. The money is OK comparatively also although we may have some luck on our side for whatever reason. Obviously, the business skills were there but people liking our food must be some luck.

    I'm going to attend Culinary school starting later this month. I feel I have more to learn and can be a better cook. I am not looking to go out and be a line cook or an Executive Chef. I'm going just to learn and be enriched.

    Do what makes you happy. Not your parents, not your spouse, not your friends. It's your life and as far as I can tell you only have one and only a certain number of years. Be happy.
     
  15. colleeno

    colleeno

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    I too went through the hard decision of whether to stick to the job that I had already gotten a lengthy education for or to pursue the things I really wanted to do. I have a BA in Psychology and finished up a Master's in Marraige and Family Therapy. After completing all the needed hours for graduation as a therapist trainee I knew I couldn't do that to myself for teh rest of my life. So, before graduation I applied to culinary school. My initial feelings, as irrational as they may be, were that it seemed like such a non-academic career choice, if that makes any sense. But, at the end of the day, there are countless things to learn about yourself, food, other people, methods... and it is truly what you make of it. I am currently working in a learning center part time as I need money, but I cannot wait to start working in the field. Every time I see an interesting business or something on the internet, I just send them an e-mail with my resume attached, even if they do not have job openings listed. So far, everyone has at least gotten back to me and I have a couple of interviews coming up.

    My point is, do what you want to do in life, you only go around once!
     
  16. jacqueline

    jacqueline

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    I'm 22 and recently graduated with my B.B.A. While in school I decided to attend culinary school but I made sure I finished college first. Many people thought I was crazy but I had to follow my dream - I went to school for the restaurant business and decided to expand into the culinary side of it. Now I am in NYC about to start Culinary School for Pastry Arts. So go for it!
     
  17. kiel

    kiel

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    I don't know if it relates to this thread, but I was wondering...

    If you took college like an undergraduate course in hotel management and then went to culinary school, would that be a good idea?

    Thanks :D
     
  18. cheech

    cheech

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    I don't know if this will help you, but if you have some sort of experience in a kitchen, and it sounds like you do, plus a business degree, you should not have much trouble moving up in a kitchen.

    I worked with a guy that went to school for his business degree while working in our kitchen, and has since moved up and on.

    Much of your culinary degree is business related anyway, and past that, you have two options for experience. 1) Go out and do things. 2) Go to school. I have found by doing both that going out into the field for the amount of time that it would take you to go to school will teach you much more, especially if you already have a degree in business...
     
  19. mikefly

    mikefly

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    Ok i know im going to become the downer in this thread but, have any of you that are spending lots and lots of hours in school spent lots and lots of hours in a kitchen????
    like 16-18 hours a day 6 days a week all hot and greasy knees hurting back aching and all a round being misrable!!
    some of you that are in buisness schools planning on going to culinary school should really take 6 months and work in a high volume kitchen before you spend thousands of dollars on something that will probably get you close to the same postition in a kitchen as a year or two of work expeirence!!!!
    i know when im hiring ill always take the more rounded person or even lean twords the more expeirenced....
    just some things to consider before you jump in to it
     
  20. magpie

    magpie

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    Well I can't speak for the others, but as I posted in my original thread...I have worked in the food industry... full time (not 16-18 hour days however) for a while and actually do miss the hard work. And as for the miserabe feeling..I actually feel more miserable after spending the day sitting in front of a computer in a stuffy office than I ever did at the end of the day in a kitchen. But since it has been a while since I worked in the cooking field I would definately get a part time job in a kitchen again before spending the money on cooking school! Trust me I am not ready to rush in to getting even more in debt than I already am! :)