Interogation of a Student

Joined Sep 25, 2000
These questions are for you, the culinary students.
Why do you want to become a chef?
Do you think you can handle the "real world" presure of learning under fire?
Does it make you feel really good about your self to know that "hay, I really like doing this" or is the other way around?
After being in school for a while do you feel that "man, what did I get my self into."
What influenced you to make up mind that you wanted to go to culinary school, was it the Food Network or someone you know?
These questions are to help you, not to scare

Chef David ;)

[ March 14, 2001: Message edited by: Chef David Simpson ]
Joined Sep 28, 1999
I'm not in school yet, but I can answer based on what I've done so far...

Q: Why do you want to become a chef?

A: Love to feed people, really that simple. Looking forward to the challenge of running numbers (finances), menu design and working to get multiple personalities to work together. It's what I was made to do, just took me a while to figure it out.

Q: Do you think you can handle the "real world" presure of learning under fire?

A: I think so. I jumped on the line quickly after starting my staging at a few places. It's the only way to learn, sink or swim.

Q: Does it make you feel really good about your self to know that "hay, I really like doing this" or is the other way around?

A: I feel great after working a busy night. The rush and then the calm. I feel really good when I see one of my plates in the crowd and after the first bite they make that "This is soooo good" face. Looking forward to using the small amount of experience once I get into school.

Q: After being in school for a while do you feel that "man, what did I get my self into."

A: Not in school yet, but have had that feeling a couple times. I think it's normal. For me it's the fear of starting over at 31. On those sunday afternoons during football season I sat in the car before going in thinking "this is the schedule I may be lookin at for a long time." My friends are at home, bbqing, watching the game, etc. I've found it to get easier as time goes on.

Q: What influenced you to make up mind that you wanted to go to culinary school, was it the Food Network or someone you know?

A: For me it was just realizing what I wanted to do and what I didn't want to do. They kinda came at the same time. I finally realized sitting in a cube staring at a pc was not for me. At the same time I was looking into culinary school because I knew cooking was what I loved. While at Chico, my buddy and I put on a formal dinner for 20 people (along with other smaller dinners) and it always stuck with me that I was happiest when cooking. My buddy is too, but I haven't been able to talk him into joining me at J&W in the fall, yet.
Joined Sep 28, 1999
thanks, I was set up by some great questions. Thanks for the thought provoking questions CDS.

Joined Jan 26, 2001
Wow, I just read this today. These are great questions! I consider myself a student even though I have not entered culinary school yet (possibly these questions are even more important now!)

>Why do you want to become a chef?
I like the idea of people coming to me and leaving satisfied and wanting to come back. To relieve their stress, fill their stomachs, and yet be challenged creatively and manually daily. Daily challenges also go along with daily gratification for a hard but satisfying job. That's what I like. I also want to become a chef because it is justifies the time I spend learning about and experimenting with food, and allows me to take my interest more seriously.

>Do you think you can handle the "real >world" presure of learning under fire?
Yes. I was a music major in college, and also an accompanist that had to play for auditions without ever practicing with the person auditioning or seeing the music prior to that moment. Learning in the culinary world AND the music world is really about finding patterns first and learning the new stuff second.

>Does it make you feel really good about >your self to know that "hay, I really like >doing this" or is the other way around?
>After being in school for a while do you >feel that "man, what did I get my self >into."
I don't believe I can answer this one yet. I still feel like hey, I really like this. I'll let you know when I start feeling the other one. I think there might be days I feel that way even though this is what I want to do. There are always days we need a break! Or maybe I won't- maybe I'll enjoy it so much... well, like I said, I'll let you know.

>What influenced you to make up mind that >you wanted to go to culinary school, was it >the Food Network or someone you know?
I always follow paths when doors open. Right now, cooking seems to be related to all of the doors that are opening to me. And I love to cook, I grew up baking and cooking, and never understood that other people didn't. I also completely want to open up a tea room or something that will be a haven for enjoyment and relaxation. What better way to provide joy than to cook?!? At first I was only thinking about it, but my experience with it has made me really want this direction.

Good questions!!!

Joined Jul 18, 2000
hmm, bring it on:

Q)Why do you want to become a chef?:

A) Well, i was working as a kitchenhand and i thought that, gees i can do that, plus a little instinctive ability, also a friend many years ago who was a chef said, "you can cook quite well, give it a go", so i did. Also a ex girlfriend said i could never make as a chef - so just to prove her wrong,,,,..

Q)Do you think you can handle the "real world" presure of learning under fire?

A) If you cant learn under "fire" then you have no place in this industry.

Q)Does it make you feel really good about your self to know that "hay, I really like doing this" or is the other way around?

A) I cant answer this question that honestly, because that, if you have the inherent talent or ability, it makes this a little complicated, given that you would know virtually straight off if something is going to work or not - it goes back to instinct.

Q) After being in school for a while do you feel that "man, what did I get my self into?

A) Never, because i gave myself the benefit of the doubt for at least a year and a half.

Q) What influenced you to make up mind that you wanted to go to culinary school, was it the Food Network or someone you know?

A) I would assume that it was combination of both. Given that in Australia that to qualify as a chef (on paper) is somewhat a feat that the drop out rate is something like 85%, the honest answer is that i did due to someone that i know.

I started off as a kitchenhand (UT person), from where i stood, i said to myself "i can do that, and from there, i can either add my own flair or do better" - no more and no less.

However, and from my own experience, learning in a academic & practical environment has expanded my own knowledge in excess from what any one chef could of ever shown me in such a relatively short period of time. Dont get me wrong, practical experience is essential, but without some of the background theory, what is it worth?
Joined May 26, 2001
Actually, these are good questions for professionals to ask ourselves, too! Especially when we might be on the verge of burnout, or when looking for job. Very thought-provoking. Now, we just have to be able to be honest with our answers, and face up to the positives AND negatives.
Joined Dec 1, 2001
I think one important way to look at any career choice is by comparing the up front picture of it, the beauty of it, the romantic side of it, with the side that many people never see. The technical, hard work, hard life aspect of the job.
There is a very popular book called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance which uses two different terms to describe various people. Romantics, those who love the overall picture of things without getting into the details too deeply, and the Classics who are more interested in the fine details, and the reasons why things work the way the do.
Often times one can destroy the other, and getting to my point, I think this is what happens with people in the industry on a regular basis. People become captivated with the artistic, creative, romance of creating food and seeing people enjoy something you have made. However, when someone begins to actually see what it takes (i.e.working long irregular hours, hard conditions, repetitive tasks) they get turned off to the idea. It is a common occurance in all aspects of life.

For me, I do not know whether I want to be a cook or not. I think that like most people who love working as a cook, it is a combination of both aspects that give us enjoyment. I will admit that I like watching TV network, but not as much as Great Chefs on the Discovery Channel. But regardless, just watching food being prepared and seeing both the small involved tasks and the finished product is enjoyable to me.
So whether I decide to go to Culinary institute (still contemplating) or not, I will still enjoy cooking.
Joined Feb 2, 2002
I am also still in the "decision stage". My original career choice some 20 years ago was to go into the culinary arts.

My first real job while in high scholl was working in a kitchen of a nursing home doing mainly dishwashing but also some prep work for a "retired Navy Cook" on weekends and a Culinary School graduate during the week. Even at that time in my life, there was something that really impressed me about the Navy Cook. His whole philosophy about cooking was that no matter what he was cooking or for whom he was cooking, he was going to make it as delicious as he could. Given that many of the residents in the nursing home were on very resricted diets, this presented many challenges to him but he still made the effort almost daily to still go and visit some of the patients to make sure they were getting some enjoyment out of the meal he made. This contrasted greatly with the Culinary School graduate who may have been preparing a more technically correct meal but one that as a dishwasher I can always remember coming back more uneaten. I always liked working for the Navy cook more because he was there always trying to make someone's meal special.

Unfortunately, I was talked out of pursuing a career in cooking back then being convinced that "computers were the way to go".
Now 20 years later, after having a successful career creating software, I'm now looking at the culinary field again. For about 3 months now, I've been talking to folks both in and out of the field and all have been trying to convince me that working in the food business is a bad choice. The common reasons seems to be "why would you want to work so hard for so little money" and "working as a cook will ruin your family life".

All I can respond to all is if I can cook well enough to make people half as happy as Ed (the Navy Cook) did, then the happiness will make up for the money difference. I also know that cooking can interfere alot with family life but being married to an RN for 20 years has shown me that it is possible to work around work shift problems.

I'm still looking for the right path to get started but that's my reason for pursuing this career. I hope I actually get to go down that path soon.

As Robert Frost wrote "Two paths diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both...". Sometimes, you just need totake a "Do-over."

Wish me luck.
Joined Jul 18, 2000
Chef david, i was responding on the grounds that i was a student, and still am. i think whether or not one is a student, it probably makes good sense to assess and review ones career at any given stage.

At the stage that i posted, i was partially through a second cookery course and was trade qualified only 1year and 1 month.

Your question is duly noted as one that applies to all chefs, because remembering the past both reassures that the right choices have been made and that mistakes made, if possible, should not be repeated.
Joined Sep 25, 2000
It's good to see people ingest these questions with such devotion and ablity. Also, to see that our trade is still a profession and not a "trend". It seems as though most people think of our profession and automaticlly think that they will be a cilebrity (not a good speller). The defination of a chef must reley on the fact that they WILL do the job in any aspect and repeat the same day after day. Suanne you are very right!!!!!!! I think it's most important to look back on our mistakes and realize our positions in this trade (NOT TREND) and see the real picture. We do a service, no more, NO LESS.
Joined Apr 19, 2001
Chef David, what a great thought-provoking thread! Brings everybody 'back on track'!

BTW, to all of you starting a 'second career', I started mine at age 49!!! So yes, all you 30 year olds can do it too!!!!
Joined Aug 11, 2000
As I read this there is an implied assumption that anyone that cooks is in a restaurant......some of us work with food but do not do the hard hours or heavy lifting. There are other options.
Joined Feb 11, 2002
some of theloggg's answers could mirror my own.......

While I am in the beginning of the process (or second beginning, actually), I am finding myself asking similar questions as those you posed, Chef Simpson.

About nine years ago I worked for a 'chain' restaurant in a mall. Have any of you heard of Sbarro's? Their food is actually pretty good and depending on the manager you get they train you really well. I had never actually worked as a full-fledged cook before but the manager hired me and trained me as a line cook.
*sigh* I loved it...and I miss it. The pace was...insane but fit my personality to a 't'. I was there for almost two years and then chose to move to a job cooking in a daycare center where I was in complete charge of the kitchen. Menus, ordering, prepping, cooking, cleaning...everything. :) Again I loved it but then my boss talked me into working in the classrooms with the kids when I was done cooking and that is how I ended up with a daycare of my own in my home........

I have been miserable....... :) but making the best of it. After being on this message board almost obsessivly in the past couple of weeks..... (whose signature tag says 'There is a fine line between mental illness and hobby' ?) ....I have realized that at the age of 36 I need to get back out there....sooooo, I am in the process of doing a job search, updating my resume and doing some job market research for a local job placement firm. I will complete these three things and then will go into see if they will help pay for my schooling. There is a fine college here in Fresno that, while not well known, is sincere in producing some fine cooks and potential chefs. That is where I would like to go..... and I am also looking for a job as kitchen helper/prep cook in a catering business.

Thank you all for the inspiration...and thank you for the questions.. and MARMALADY...thank you for your post about your age and carreer change~~ It was a real encouragment. :) :bounce:


I tell people I'm not a wanna be......I'm a gonna be!!! :smiles:
Joined Sep 25, 2000
Shroomgirl, your assumptions are valid but incorrect. These questions are for culinary students and culinary service profossionals (which means all fields of our trade) As you well know, I have worked in high and low end catering. this post was writen when I was working in catering. Now that I'm back in the restaurant scene I still look at all aspects of everything we as "professionals" do day after day.

Joined Aug 11, 2000
I reread the questions you asked and restaurant was not mentioned...the responses seem to be geared to only that end....remember there were threads that talked about other options in the culinary field that did not involve working in a restaurant? Been a while. Good to see you back.
Joined Sep 25, 2000
I must admit I haven't been around for a while. I just faced a tradgity in my life of losing my house in a fire. But all is well. I'm sure everyone understands my dalima. I also must admit that I missed all of you "shroomgirl". Things are looking up and I'm fortunate to be alive. :)

Joined Jan 5, 2001
OMG! So glad to hear your allright! So sorry this had to happen to you Chef...

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