Goal oriented and need advice

Discussion in 'General Culinary School Discussions' started by mike laughlin, Jun 4, 2002.

  1. mike laughlin

    mike laughlin

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    I need some career counseling, what better place than here? You are all honest and fair in your replies, so I ask you to lend me a bit of advice and thank you all in advance.
    I have no wife and no kids, I have some money saved up, and I want to own a restaurant in the very... distant future (long-term goal). With no restaurant experience, but much ambition to learn, where should I begin (school vs. baptism by fire) and what goals (short-term) should I set to ensure I remain on the right track?
     
  2. suzanne

    suzanne

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    Hi, Mike. Nice to meet you. You have indeed come to the right place!

    First, before I make suggestions (which I will, fear not), I'd like to ask you, or rather have you ask yourself:
    Why do you want to own a restaurant?
    What do you think it's like?


    While you're chewing on that, I will suggest that you probably should go to school: a program that includes both culinary arts and management training. Preferably one that requires you to do an internship in each. You'll need to learn about food (all the basics about ingredients), food preparation, service, business systems for restaurants, human resources, fund raising, and more -- a whole range, because the owner should be able to do EVERYTHING. I'm not talking about one of those 6-week continuing-ed courses on how to open a restaurant. I mean SERIOUS SCHOOL. After you finish school, then you'll still have to work in the industry for several years, front-of-house, back-of-house, and office. And, oh yes, maybe it would be good to get some experience as a purveyor, too. If you still want to be an owner after all that, great.

    The reason why I recommend school over experience is this: wherever you work, all you will learn is how they do it THERE. Maybe it's right, maybe it's wrong. In any case, it's very limited. Good coursework from good teachers will give you a much broader knowledge base.

    What I'm getting at is that as much as we crab about how hard it is to be the chef, or the manager, it's THE OWNER who has ultimate responsibility for everything and everyone. That's a big burden, not to be taken lightly. If you've got what it takes, more power to you. But please go in with your eyes open.

    Let us know what you think, please. We're on your side!
     
  3. marmalady

    marmalady

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  4. mike laughlin

    mike laughlin

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    So let me get this straight, I need to find a good shrink and then go find a good school, or do I have the order mixed up? HA! You both make very good points and I am thankful for your wisdom. As to the 2 questions posed by Suzanne:

    1. Why do I want to open a restaurant? I simply have to have a long-term goal, simple as that. I don't want to ever get complacent, and I think without a goal, settling and assuming the role of a follower becomes comonplace.

    2. What do I think it will be like? Probably, something like marmalady went through. However, I don't want any partners, in any form, if it fails or succeeds its going to be because of me not some guy going through a mid-life crisis who feels like "doing something new."

    We have a good 2 year program here where I live with hotel, restaurant, and culinary skills offered. Any thoughts on going that route as opposed to the more expensive schools?
     
  5. culinarian247

    culinarian247

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    If one of the most important things to learn is cost control, why go to a $40k school? I get the SAME education at my community college. Pay large cheese for a name school? Do I look like Boo-Boo the Fool?!! Just kidding, lol. Seriously, though, I am looking into a program at school that addresses FOH management. Upon completion of school the student is awarded an AAS in Culinary Arts and an AAS in Food & Beverage Management. Total time: 2 years. I'm luvin' it...............
     
  6. chrose

    chrose

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    Mike best of luck. Just remember that in a lot of ways opening a restaurant is like opening any other business. You wouldn't expect to make a sucess of a service station if you've never changed a tire. You probably wouldn't make a good fine clothing store owner if you never bought your own clothes. I think you get my point. Number one thing to remember is no matter how good a cook/chef you may be, a restaurant is a businesslike any other so you must learn how to run a business. If you don't know how to operate the books and all other aspects you'll likely fail. The mortality of restaurants is very high and I suspect most of it is because of a lack of business knowledge. You will need to have some culinary background so course work is in order so you know how a food operation/kitchen is run. But I don't think you have to study the finer points of making a stock or the difference between a chiboust and a mousse. You can hire a chef to do that, you just need to be able to speak the same language in order to work together. Because though you may go it alone, you and the chef will be partners, for better or worse. Just go into it with your eyes open and a background of knowledge. The more, and the more varied, the better.
     
  7. chrose

    chrose

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    Heh heh, he said AAS.....:D
     
  8. mike laughlin

    mike laughlin

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    Thanks to Culinarian247 and Chrose, I appreciate the info. I have a couple of follow up questions though. Is it possible to enroll in a 2 year program and also have time to work at a food establishment? Second, what goals have you set for youselves to ensure that you remain on the right track?
     
  9. suzanne

    suzanne

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    If the 2-year program near you can teach you what you need to know, why look elsewhere? There are many debates -- even here on CT -- about the relative value of different schools to people who want to become CHEFS. But as Chrose pointed out, you won't necessarily need to know the finest points of every cuisine. A solid general food knowledge base will help you make good decisions, and hire good people, and be able to figure out when someone is s***ing you.

    A lot of restaurant failures have nothing to do with the quality of the food, or even the service. Usually it's because the owners had not done all their homework, and didn't have the business skills they needed. They didn't know how to control costs; they were way undercapitalized; they hadn't done the research on their site or their probable expenses. So the more you learn about the business end, the better off you'll be.

    (And it wouldn't hurt to learn how to have access to an unending supply of money! ;) ;) )
     
  10. culinarian247

    culinarian247

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    I can not speak on behalf of other community college programs. The one I am starting has job placing available. And it's not just for graduating students. Often, I am told, students are employed soon after taking PCA-I Basic Cookery. What I like about the community college is schedule flexibility. A school such as CIA will have blocks of instruction where more than one subject is taught. And this is at a specific time of day. Here (at comm. coll.) courses are a la carte. For example, in any one given term, there can be several garde manger classes offered at varying times. Next semester I am enrolled in 17 units but will work full time. Of course living in Las Vegas affords me opportunities of working in a 24-hour town. :)

    Good luck and keep us posted on your decisions.
     
  11. chrose

    chrose

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    You have no wife and kids and some money saved up, that's good in one respect, you can devote the time and resources necessary to achieve this goal.
    First I would think you need to as was said get the basic culinary schooling. And again basics is what you want. Also get basic restaurant business courses. There are many good books available as well. Once you know what the term "menu mix" means you're on your way to getting a grip on whats required. After that I would devote as much time as possible to as many different jobs as possible. You don't have to spend years at each one, 6 months depending on the establishment and the time should be fine. For example, all jobs are good learning experiences from dishwashing to front of the house. One day you may be called on to wash your own dishes and a basic machine knowledge and what a dishwasher has to go through will create an empathy that will take you a long way. Nothing will work against you as quick as telling a dishwasher to hurry up and work faster AND go shuck those oysters if you haven't done it yourself and they know it (my opinion) also time your jobs to get the full feeling. ie work in a catering operation during the holiday season. Work in a fast food joint in the summer, do front of the house work at the height of tourist season in a seasonal area. Get a job as a line cook, even a fry cook in a family restaurant that's busy as ****. As a pilot you're no stranger to stress I imagine. Get used to the stress and heat and pressure of a busy kitchen and you'll be ready for anything. You will also be in a better position to decide exactly what it is that you want to do. Who knows you may end up wanting to become a food writer, R&D chef, catering company owner, **** you may be happy owning the snack bar at the bowling alley. There's a million ways to go and the better your flight plan, the better chance you have of landing at the right airport and not someones back yard with a pit bull that's hungry!
     
  12. mike laughlin

    mike laughlin

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    Chrose thanks, good post, and I like your pilot analogy, it is right on the money. I will definitely put your input into action. I live in a tourist town so your suggestions to time the seasons will work out well.
     
  13. leo r.

    leo r.

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    Mike,i think you are taking one very brave step.The food industry is full of fluctuations,just like airlines experience! The ability to adapt is essential.
    I`m sure that as a pilot,you have eaten in a number of different establishments.
    Compare your experience of these places:
    What was your first impression?
    How clean were these places?
    Were the staff friendly,efficient,cohesive,did they seem to be enjoying their work?
    How many of the places you ate in seemed profit driven and impersonal?
    We may have all,i suspect,been in an establishment where the management haven`t a clue how to retain good employees!
    What level of service do you aim to provide for you customers?
    Do you intend to cater for all tastes and types of people or are you looking at a specific sector of the market?
    I hope you succeed in you forthcoming venture as you are accustomed to hard work:) Leo.