Culinary school for a 30+ with no experience

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Joined Nov 13, 2018
Hi All,

I'm 35 and realized after 10 years of doing something totally different that I want to change to something I am passionate about.
Could you give me any good advice if i'm thinking about a culinary school in Belgium or France in English? :)

Cheers, and thanks for your answer in advance
 
886
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Joined Mar 1, 2017
Hi and welcome to CT! :)

There are quite a few culinary schools in France, especially Paris. Le Cordon Bleu jumps to mind. But, very few of them are going to teach their courses in English. The ones that do offer courses in English are probably not going to offer the sort of degree that you are looking for.

Here is a decent website that may start you in the right direction for schools in France.

https://www.culinaryschools.org/international/france-cooking-schools/#context/api/listings

In Belgium, you are likely to find just as many culinary schools. But, again, most of them do not offer their courses in English.

If you want to find culinary instruction taught in English, you will likely have to choose a culinary school in an English speaking country such as the UK, US or Canada.

If I may offer a piece of advice, cooking professionally and cooking at home for friends and family are two very, very different things. Being passionate about food is good. But, the skills you have in a home kitchen will be of little use to you in a commercial kitchen. Before you commit to this rather expensive and very specific course of study, I would recommend that you take a job in a commercial kitchen for a few months to see if a life in this profession is for you.

Good luck. :)
 
5,272
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Joined Oct 10, 2005
Hi Marton,


Read your post. Please, please, pretty please DO NOT ENROLL IN A CULINARY SCHOOL UNTIL YOU HAVE WORKED IN A KITCHEN FOR AT LEAST 4 mths.

Sorry about the screaming, but it needs to be emphasized....

Look, just because you enroll and graduate from a culinary school does not guarantee you will be suitable for work in a commercial kitchen, does not guarantee you will like the hours or lifestyle, nor will it guarantee you a job either. Work in a kitchen— any kitchen FIRST, and then see if you like the work. It won’t cost you a dime, matter of fact quite the opposite. If you like the work, THEN get into a culinary school.

Now for the big one one, why a school in France or Belgium that teaches in English? French would be the national language of both countries, no? If you don’t want to learn French, take a course in an English speaking country, otherwise you’re just a tourist, waiting to get fleeced.

Thirdly, the majority of cooks and Chefs in Belgium, France, Switzerland, Holland, etc., don’t go to private culinary schools, they do 3 or 4 year apprenticeships.

Sorry to be umm... abrupt and straightforward, it’s just that reality has no soundtrack.....
 
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Joined Sep 17, 2018
Where do you currently reside? What is your current career, and do you have any restaurant experience, and if not what is your end goal of going to culinary school? If it is just to get experience I would suggest finding a place that could take you on and teach you some things first. Starting into the field later in life is fine but you may have to take some reality checks about health concerns in the long run, abilities and where you want your career to end up.

On a side note, I know a lot of people are passionate about cooking at home or for friends and family but that does not always end up transferring 100% into a satisfied job path. For some turning your pleasures and passions into a job or work is a fast way to make it unappealing in the long run.
 
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Joined Sep 26, 2017
I somewhat disagree with foodpump.

I went into culinary school with zero home or restaurant cooking experience, and that turned out to be for the best.

I was able to absorb all the knowledge better than my experienced classmates, and that translated very well into real work after graduation.

It's true that you could save money by first testing the water at a restaurant before committing to this profession, but your experience at work will be much more pleasant and rewarding if you go into it with all the skills and knowledge needed to succeed.

Just think of how different your experience will be competing in a sport that you know all the rules and techniques versus one that you haven't a clue how it's played and have to learn everything on the fly.
 
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Joined Sep 17, 2018
I somewhat disagree with foodpump.

I went into culinary school with zero home or restaurant cooking experience, and that turned out to be for the best.

I was able to absorb all the knowledge better than my experienced classmates, and that translated very well into real work after graduation.

It's true that you could save money by first testing the water at a restaurant before committing to this profession, but your experience at work will be much more pleasant and rewarding if you go into it with all the skills and knowledge needed to succeed.

Just think of how different your experience will be competing in a sport that you know all the rules and techniques versus one that you haven't a clue how it's played and have to learn everything on the fly.
I didn't see it mentioned anywhere your age when you went to school. When I attended culinary school it was mandatory to have 1 year of restaurant experience before you could start. I did feel like I could absorb much more information because I hadn't been exposed to it before. On the other hand I did see many older students from restaurants that either left or did poorly because they were taught and set in their ways about things before coming to school and thus could not learn as much. Not saying that is always the case but it is a consideration to take when spending time in a restaurant before going to school.
 
886
522
Joined Mar 1, 2017
I somewhat disagree with foodpump.

I went into culinary school with zero home or restaurant cooking experience, and that turned out to be for the best.

I was able to absorb all the knowledge better than my experienced classmates, and that translated very well into real work after graduation.

It's true that you could save money by first testing the water at a restaurant before committing to this profession, but your experience at work will be much more pleasant and rewarding if you go into it with all the skills and knowledge needed to succeed.

Just think of how different your experience will be competing in a sport that you know all the rules and techniques versus one that you haven't a clue how it's played and have to learn everything on the fly.
Devil's advocate here. :)

Think of spending 2-4 years and tens of thousands of dollars learning the rules of the sport without ever having played the sport or even knowing if you are going to like it. Throw in the fact that by the time you are done learning the rules and a ready to play, you are 10-20 years older than the average player at your level.

If a 40 year old, recent culinary school grad came to me for their first job in a commercial kitchen, my first reaction would be "when did you get out of prison?" lol. Just kidding. But seriously, I would begin to wonder why someone his age would change career paths at such a late time in their life. I would naturally wonder if he/she couldn't cut it in their previous line of work. They would have to come up with an answer that is far more convincing than "I'm passionate about food and I'm chasing my dream." As an owner, I have a business to run. I don't need dreamers. Managing a staff of 10 people whose average age is less than 30 is already like trying to herd a group of cats. lol.

I wouldn't want someone working in my kitchen who hasn't answered the question "is this life right for me?" That's why I always asked those who were new to this business who came to me for a job "what makes you think this life is right for you?"

Ok. I'll get off my soap box now.

How about those Red Sox?
 
5,272
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Joined Oct 10, 2005
Funny, that hasn’t been my experience at all. Way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, in the early ‘80’s, I took a 1 yr culinary class at age 18. Out of a class of 24, 7 didn’t make it past the first semester, 6 of those 7 had no prior kitchen experience. After grad many of those who had no prior experience had difficulty finding work—actually they had difficulty working for minimum wage, they had assumed school would get them a higher wage.

Currently working with culinary students on 2 week practicum stints, I realize there are two distinct groups: Those who are eager to work and learn, and those who still can’t comprehend that the hospitality industry’s working hours are different then say, I.T., and that we work hours most people don’t. That’s not to say that people don’t change and adapt, many do. But many of those who have adapted wished they weren’t so naiive before getting into this industry.
 
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Joined Mar 1, 2017
That's what makes this industry so interesting. Everyone has different experiences and different ways of reaching the same goal.

Btw, the dinosaurs roamed the Earth in the 1970's. :)
 
1
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Joined Jan 12, 2019
Hi All,

I'm 35 and realized after 10 years of doing something totally different that I want to change to something I am passionate about.
Could you give me any good advice if i'm thinking about a culinary school in Belgium or France in English? :)

Cheers, and thanks for your answer in advance
How about trying something completely life changing like going to cooking school in South Africa at Jackie Cameron school of food and wine. http://www.jackiecameron.co.za
Money will stretch a lot further in SA and it's very European in the part of the world where her school is.
You only live once. Just my 2c :)
 
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Joined Jan 9, 2019
I tend to agree with foodpump & sgsvirgil.
50 something here..been in the electronics/tech industry for my entire life (all gone/exported/overseas now).
I LOVE cooking & was looking into culinary school..$40K? Are you crazy?..
To be a glorified line cook? I don't think so!..and working nights, etc. Not!
I'm actually volunteering (no pay) at the local church(ish) hall the odd days..it's OK.. but they are stuck in their regime, as are most restaurants, so be it...you can't be first chef because you love cooking! ;-)
Not sure what to say..I'm certainly not a life councilor..
Perhaps try to work in a kitchen part time? (I liked it as a kid, but not now..I'm too old)
Best wishes! :)
 
2,297
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Joined Feb 8, 2009
Life is enjoying the journey while focusing on the destination. I feel everyone should follow their dream. How sad it would be to work in a profession and never accomplish your true goals.
At 35 years old you need to fast track and be in a good position in a few years. If you can't get mentored under a good quality Chef then you will need formal training.
I took the work my may up starting at 27 year old working through all kinds of restaurant positions until owning my own at 47 years old.
I think in your case you need to be hyper focused and try to move your career along and not waste time. If you're interested in fine dining then stick with that. Work in this area during you schooling. After school is finished you could be well on your way to holding your own in a good kitchen. It's going to take a lot of hard work in a short period of time.
You'll find when you travel your own path in life, believe in yourself and accomplish your goals you and your loved ones will be much happier........Good Luck.........ChefBillyB
 
18
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Joined Sep 27, 2019
Hi All,

I'm 35 and realized after 10 years of doing something totally different that I want to change to something I am passionate about.
Could you give me any good advice if i'm thinking about a culinary school in Belgium or France in English? :)

Cheers, and thanks for your answer in advance
At this point I say, obtain a few really good cookbooks and incessantly read them, as you test them for their validity.

Watch Youtube Cooking Channels like Cuisinart Culinary School, French Cooking Academy, Oh Yum with Ana Olson, Jacob Burton, Bon Appetit Bien Sur, and America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook...
* Also checkout the American Lamb Channel
 
18
2
Joined Sep 27, 2019
At this point I say, obtain a few really good cookbooks and incessantly read them, as you test them for their validity.

Watch Youtube Cooking Channels like Cuisinart Culinary School, French Cooking Academy, Oh Yum with Ana Olson, Jacob Burton, Bon Appetit Bien Sur, and America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook...
* Also checkout the American Lamb Channel
Hi there, Marton!

I say, create several outstandingly delicious recipes and get a foodtruck! :)
 
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Joined Sep 27, 2019
Food trucks are not easy. In fact, in many ways, they are actually harder to operate than a brick and mortar establishment.
Hi there, sgsvirgil!

Admittedly, I'm not completely familiar with foodtruck food service operations.

However, I'm most certain that with the right location(s) frequented, with the appropriate menu, a sustainable profit can be maintained.

Many years ago, I once thought of having a foodtruck serving a menu completely based upon a special sausage recipe of mine.

Just about a decade later, I observed a long line of customers waiting for hot dogs and lemonade at a foodtruck in L.A...

I stopped to sample the goods. Compared to my recipe, that rogue foodtruck hot dog was flat, bland, and lacklustre.

I often wonder how my "Icelandic Dogs" recipe would have paid off, had I relentlessly pursued the initial idea...
 
5,272
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Joined Oct 10, 2005
Here in Vancouver you need a “mother kitchen” to support the truck— all of the trucks have their own bricks and mortar restaurants. Permits for the trucks are done on a yearly auction basis, as are the designated parking/vending spaces.

A cheaper option is to sell at private events like concerts or trade fairs, but you still need a mother kitchen.

I’m sure other municipalities have similar regulations.

Cooking and running a business are two different skill sets.....
 

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