How to enter the "chef" world?

Joined Aug 26, 2010
As a bit of an introduction, I'm 40 years old, married with two small children.  I work in the IT industry and must continue to, in order to support my family.  However, I really enjoy restaurants.  I have worked in a couple of large pizza chains, owned a very small pizza joint in my youth, and have worked as a server --- none of which have been in the last 15 years.  I want to open my own restaurant, but am not ready to risk my retirement fund without good experience and skills.

As for my level of desire, I have no desire to be a world-famous chef.  I wouldn't mind being "boss", but I have no desire to become a true chef.  I don't enjoy the types of food that great chefs can prepare.  The menu on Hell's Kitchen is about as high-end as I want to go.  I also have no desire to spew French words for everything I do.  I'm more of a "crap in the right spots" than "mise in place". 

I would like to get a part time job where I'm paid next to nothing and can LEARN.  I need to practice knife skills, learn some techniques, and am willing to work hard for little money for the exchange for providing sub-par abilities on the front end.  I'm not above bussing tables or washing dishes (and actually need the experience if I plan to ever have my own restaurant).  However, I'm trying to determine how to find the right restaurant where I can learn quality skills rather than how to open bags and cans. 

I accept that I need to put in time as a prep cook and as a line cook.  My "vision" of a restaurant wouldn't have a "head chef", and "line cook" would be the top job. 

I realize that kitchens have a large Hispanic population (at least in my area) and the restaurants find guys that will work extremely hard for less than ideal pay.  I say this not to be derogatory, but to help others understand my area a little better.  I don't speak more than a few words of Spanish, so that also goes against me as far as being able to work in a non-English speaking kitchen. 

My two favorite types of food are Italian and Mexican, and I'd prefer to find an Italian restaurant.  I have worked at O.G. in the past as a waiter and understand that their kitchen isn't going to give me the skills I want.  I want to make real Alfredo sauce (involving cream, butter, and quality cheese vs the soy concoctions). 

Does anyone have any suggestions?  I hope this was the correct place to post such a question.
Joined Aug 25, 2010
Dear gobbly- First, go out and make best friends with the owner of the kind of restaurant that you'd like to own...offer your services for little or no pay.....learn to wash the prep guy....wash more the cook(he's most likely your best friend)...and as your weekends tick by.....month by month..(maybe years)..don't think of this experience as working for free..but gaining the skills you need....and little by little...and step by step you work you way to making that sauce...helping with the apps...taking a station durring a rush....then one night, the cook looks at a duce-order and says"hey gobbly..come over and fire this one"and at that place in time you have to decide if your ready to risk your retirement fund to follow your dream....the only choices left to make is ether..#1 offer to buy your friends restaurant....#2 find another restaurant to buy...or #3(this iv'e done twice myself)start from scratch, and open up your own place! With a little luck....and your life could HAS happened...but if all could always wash dishes.
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