Honestly, what keeps you in the industry?

Joined Apr 11, 2013
After a rough night at work, I tried to self evaluate myself and I asked myself...

Me: "Why do you keep cooking, why do torture yourself sometimes?"
"Why don´t you just quit and go do something else?"
"Why do you enjoy this?"
"Are you crazy?"

Yes sometimes the conversations with myself are like this.
Yes sometimes i still have doubts about working in the industry, after all it´s not every young adult who is willing to give up weekends, holidays and other things to work in a hot kitchen, busting their arse.

Anyway, I (and im sure other young people who have entered, and or will enter the industry) want to know... Honestly, what keeps you in the industry?
Granted not every professional on this forum works the hotline, but the majority have and still do.

So what kept/keeps you guys in the industry working up to this point, was it worth it in your opinion?
Are doubts normal sometimes?

I don´t have the intention of quitting, but these questions definitely stir up inside of us, especially after getting slaughtered at work some days.
Joined Sep 26, 2017
The love of cooking and eating is what have been keeping me in. No matter how rough things get sometimes, I never once thought about quitting the food industry.

I have had many co-workers left to do something else entirely different; while some others just moved to a different section in the hospitality industry.

But for me, reading cookbooks is my hobby and watching cooking shows is my entertainment, so there's nothing more fun than a job that involves food.
Joined Feb 8, 2009
If I had to stay in this industry being at the line cook position I would have quit years ago. Well! I would have either quit or killed someone. Either way I wouldn't be in it. The only thing that kept me going was moving up and always having something to work towards. For me it was starting out as a Catering Steward and working my way up to owning my own Catering, Vending and Contract Food service management company. It was a good ride and I wouldn't change a thing.........ChefBillyB
Joined Dec 19, 2015
My analogy may be different, but I know I'm not alone on my feelings- I keep going back every single day because of a high feeling; like a drug. There is that moment of bliss you get- doesn't necessary have to be found while slammed on a busy Saturday night service- where you are so busy yet everything around you is moving abnormally fast and all of your senses are on hyper speed yet there is feeling that washes over you that is pure bliss and and ecstatic. Everything seems to slow down or stop, I imagine it is a similar feeling of peace and calmness some describe when "seeing the light down the tunnel" or such while on their death bed or something. Or it is a feeling while you are performing in a Symphonic Orchestra and the violins are all in perfect tune and harmony with the bass and director and it hits all of your senses and locks into your body at the same time. Maybe it is something similar to what runners describe as a runners high. We all go through emotional tolls of the job and I cannot imagine working in any other industry (by this point not sure my kitchen social skills could adapt anywhere else) but I still question why I put my body through endless torture of late nights and holidays and such, but that particular feeling you get when you are busy and everything slows down and you view the world different- even if for a brief second- keeps me going and coming back every single day.
Joined Jan 29, 2017
Money, and the fact that I can learn and grow at this job, and people actually pay me for it.

it sucks, most of the time.
for that other amount of time, it doesn't, and you feel accomplished, and than...... something happens.

I do believe it is important to keep pushing forward, and learn something new, or keep practicing something you like to do ( other than cooking ). It would be wise to be planning to change industries , if permanently , or for freelance and side money. You can't ( yet you might ) do this forever
Joined Jun 8, 2017
I'm a masochist and this is the only industry that will put up with my b.s. LOL Plus I know at least 1 other cook is as crazy as I am. I'm fairly good at it and I love creating beautiful dishes. That sense of pride I get when I do something exactly right, or how the line seems like a perfectly orchestrated event when everything is on point. Creating new recipes is fun.
Joined Jun 6, 2017
But for me, reading cookbooks is my hobby and watching cooking shows is my entertainment, so there's nothing more fun than a job that involves food.

Haha that's what I think exactly!

I'm not "in" the industry yet, just decided to give it a try at my 30's, starting cooking school and trying to get experience in kitchens to eventually have my own enterprise... we will see...

As the OP mentioned, one asks "why a young person would put him/herself through all this pain", my thought process was exactly that one when I started cooking school just as I left high school, I only studied for a semester and left... Now, many years later, with other experiences in my bag I want to try this and I'm willing to give what I wouldn't in the past...
Joined Sep 21, 2001
Tonight I will go into work and spend the first half of the shift shucking oysters. My goal for tonight is to see how I can work on my technique. I've shucked loads of oysters however each variety poses its own method.
For me its like getting paid to show up to practice. I don't see any reason for me to ever stop.
Joined May 17, 2010
I get to improve on something I already know or learn something new everyday. I've wanted to get the hell out of it so many times then something brings me back. It's always something different. A new job, more money/promotion. Then I would go back down the path of wanting out. I got burned out. Lots of hours, pressure and stress cooking other peoples food. I still do that, but now I work for a small restaurant owned by a friend with an amazing chef. He's not the best chef in the world and he'll tell you that. However, we have free reign in the kitchen. I can come to work with an idea, we'll order product and I make it. We have the ability to take chances. We can make mistakes. We get to learn from them. It's an ideal situation for me and I'm really enjoying it. I'm enjoying it more that I ever have.


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Joined Oct 5, 2001
I stayed in the industry for a long time 15+ years and at the time I was single and the work was enjoyable. It allowed me to travel and cook in many parts of the world so it was always like I was on an adventure. As I got older and settled in a bit as a chef (no longer just a cook) my eyes really opened up. They opened in the sense that I noticed most of my colleagues who were married with kids were either divorced or never home with their families. In addition to that I was working extremely hard and getting paid a small amount. So I chose to leave because what I had to give up (family) was no worth it to me. For the time I stayed in it what drove me was the excitement and creativity of the kitchen.

Most of my friends eventually left the business or completely transitioned. They went into teaching or institutionalized food which allowed them greater time with their family and the same pay or better for much less hours. It is a hard business and you have to be willing to sacrifice a lot and I was no longer willing to do that.
Joined Sep 5, 2012
Many reasons I remain in the industry. In no particular order I would say;

Control. When I’m cooking I have complete control of the environment unlike any other place I can ever be.

Ownership. I have a wife, kids, dogs, horses, free time, hobbies, vacations.
I could never have stayed in the industry as a line cook and had a life like I do now. You have to progress and mold the profession into what fits.

Money. Unlike the conventional wisdom so put forth by many people, there is a lot of money to be made in this profession.

I’ve been doing this since I was 12. I’m 52. What else would I do.
Joined Oct 10, 2005
Why am I still in this industry?

Because at the age of 53, and almost 35 years in, I don't know anything else, and would make a lousy sales rep.

I like to make stuff, and cooking/baking/chocolate work allows me to do this. One of my favorite quotes comes from a furniture maker who said:
"What I make is for the customer, How I make it is for me".
Joined Dec 19, 2017
I will admit I left the kitchen and I am a desk jockey now with a Director's title. But there is nothing better than having a counterpart in the kitchen that keeps a clean coat my size hanging in the office. On my days that I just absolutely hate sitting at a desk dealing with the BS outside of the kitchen doors I grab the coat and run the line. Nothing makes me happier than being able to stand toe-to-toe with the line vs the ticker to knock out orders.

Sometimes days suck even weeks. But I am still here because of the people I work with. Yea, sometimes we get plagued with a trove of under performing employees that make our life very difficult but that burden is what drives a lot of us. In the kitchen I always got a great level of satisfaction by being able to do more work faster and better then everyone else. It is always a competition to me. It always passed the time faster and it encouraged other employees to work harder.

If you are looking to get rich you picked the wrong industry. Just like teaching. You do it because you love it not because of the pay check.

Some nights absolutely suck and run you into the ground you just have to get up look at went wrong and plan how you can do it better next time it hits.
Joined Dec 20, 2017
I mentally recite my resignation letter every time we have a bad night or major problem, inwardly I curse and wail and moan with regret at ever having entered this industry, while at the same time doing everything I can to make it work and fix the issue. It's the only aspect of my life where I strangely love the hard times as well as the easy ones.

It's a strange thing, to willingly thrust yourself into this "hurt-box" we call a profession, and yet never consider doing anything else. I think that lends a great amount to the charm of kitchen life.
Joined Mar 8, 2015
If you are looking to get rich you picked the wrong industry. Just like teaching. You do it because you love it not because of the pay check.

Amen to that. I taught Kindergarten-4th grade for 9 years in the public schools. I got burnt out about being in the classroom. The staff meetings, report cards, difficult parents, those were things that dampened my interest in teaching. I realized that I still love teaching and love working with kids. My calling is teaching/mentoring my passions are kids, cooking, and helping others. I realized what I loved about my teaching field and what gave me unnecessary stress. I needed to shift how and where I teach to get back into enjoying it. I have an opportunity to start a cafe in Anaheim, California at the ARTIC (google it). I've never started nor operated a cafe. I own a baking company. I'm hoping to partner with/help a chef that will see this as an opportunity to get their own cafe and be in charge of it. LMK if you all know anyone.
Joined Dec 23, 2017
It's funny...I just joined this site and the first two questions I read are about burn out. Welcome to food service. Burn em and turn em, a saying from back in the day. This business demands to much for what you receive from it. When I was younger, without a family or many expenses, it was a good time. Like was said previously, most careers chefs have been divorced multiple times, been to treatment or the like a few times, and you don't see very many older chefs anymore. Life is about priorities and my love and passion for food didn't afford me the kind of lifestyle I wanted for my family or myself. I grew up with a father who was always working and it hurt never having him at my events while growing up and I found myself falling into the same trap. As I get older I like having some change in the bank and being able to take the kids on a nice vacation. I like being able to coach my kids baseball team and being home for Christmas and Easter and Mothers Day. My back doesn't hurt from having to stand on hard floors for hours at a time. But most of all I get to spend real time with my family and had I continued in this business most of all of these things would have to be sacrificed. That's just the simple truth. My advice to younger chefs wanting to go down culinary's path is do something else. Learn to weld or plumb, go to electrician school, get a degree in computers. All of these jobs would afford you a much better lifestyle. Better pay, less hours, full benefits sometimes with union backing, way less stress, and time to spend with the ones you love so when your 80 on your deathbed you not wondering why in the hell you screwed your priorities up and chose cooking over family because that's really the only choice you have if you stay.

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