Is 25 to old to start cooking professionally?

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by jfresch, May 9, 2012.

  1. jfresch

    jfresch

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    I am 25 years old and am considering attending culinary school in NYC. I have been cooking in a kitchen for the past 4 months and have really enjoyed it for the most part. I am the type of person that if I am going to do something I am going to strive to be the best I can possibly be in that respective field. I have read various comments in blogs and articles that for one to be successful in the culinary industry they should ideally start around the age of 18. Is this true?

    I have also been accepted to a few law schools and am trying to decide which path to take. Cooking is a true passion of mine which has made this decision extremely difficult. Thanks for any thoughts or advice. 
     
  2. baconator

    baconator

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    That's a bunch of B.S.. I started culinary school two years ago (graduating on monday). I'm 34 years old and run circles around 18 and 19 year old interns we get.
    Just enjoy what you're doing and you'll do just fine.
     
    alexalexnyc likes this.
  3. jfresch

    jfresch

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    Thanks! But to chefs consider age when hiring new cooks? If I were to apply for employment or stages at some of the top restaurants would I be looked over due to my age?
     
  4. baconator

    baconator

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    Just Graduated From Culinary School
    Depends on where you go, just like any other industry. I personally haven't run into it yet.
     
  5. thetincook

    thetincook

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    There are a lot of big names out there that career changed late in life. eg Rick Bayless

    I'll tell you this, even though it sounds really cynical. For most people, cooking makes a better hobby then it does a job.

    4 months is still honeymoon phase. It's still novel for you. Also, give it at least a year before you commit to going to culinary school. Also you might consider skipping the school part. Culinary School student loan debt is not worth having.
     
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  6. rbandu

    rbandu

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    Here's my take on it.  During my tenure, I've worked with 2 kinds of cooks.  One cooks because he/she absolutely loves cooking, creating, cleaning, hard work and high stress environments.  The other only works in a kitchen because he/she needs a job, and may have some restaurant experience so that's their easiest go-to job.  If you've been accepted to law school, you've obviously got a good head on your shoulders.  But remember, if you choose a culinary career you will be underpaid, under-appreciated, overworked and you're going to get a few scars and callouses. If you attend culinary school, the debt will astound you, and it's going to be hard to pay off on the salary you'll make straight out of school.  Down the road however, your degree may help to secure better jobs, but only after you've worked and had some experience.  A close friend of mine recently went and got his degree from the CIA at age 53 after cooking for most of his life.  According to him, he learned a few things, or at least new terms for things he already knew...and he's not better off than he was.  Now he's just got another monthly bill to pay.  I do understand what you mean; if you do something, you want to commit to it and charge at it 150%.  That's respectable, but be sure you could really do it for the rest of your life before you have a 6-figure student loan debt.

    So is 25 too old? H3ll no.  Most employers look for experience solely.  I once fired a 23-yr old Johnson & Wales graduate and hired a 55-yr old cook that'd never even graduated from community college.  Best decision I ever made.  The guy breaks his back for me and asks for more.  He's on time, constantly cleans everything and doesn't complain when we get orders 10 minutes before closing time.  The Johnson & Wales kid was fired after he threw a 12" french knife down the line because a server asked for an extra plate with an entree.

    Work in the industry for a while before you decide on school.  In a lot of cases, the work experience will be more beneficial to you.  Read a lot of cookbooks, reach out and talk to chefs on this forum and others.  Just learn, then make your decision.
     
  7. killcookdestroy

    killcookdestroy

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    25 is not a bad age to start. Just know that your life will be a lot better financially and physically if you go to law school. Cooking for a living can be extremely satisfying, but it takes a certain person. If you are okay with working long hours late into the night just to be able to scrounge enough cash to pay the rent while you listen to servers complain because they only made $300 off your back breaking work that night then cooking might be for you. If you can work through serious burns and cuts during the rush of a 300 cover night and still be able to scrub every piece of equipment down to a shine at the end of the night all while knowing you have to be back to run a brunch in 6 hours then maybe this is for you. Not trying to sound cynical, because this is my life and I wouldn't change a damn thing about it. I'm just saying that cooking for a living is not really a glamorous life style. It is true blue collar work.
     
  8. kingfarvito

    kingfarvito

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    Also keep in mind, you can cook with a law degree, you cant practice law with a culinary degree. I've only been at this a short while compared to some but I've seen a lot of people that are there because they already know how to do it and compared to them you'll stand out just fine
     
     
  9. chefedb

    chefedb

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    Some pro chefs and restaurant owners started in their 40s.
     
  10. jfresch

    jfresch

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    Thanks for all of the advice. I hate being stuck in between two options. I could start culinary school in June or Law School in September.
     
  11. twyst

    twyst

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    I was an architect and was on my way to a very successful career but just hated my job so I quit and went to culinary school 4 years ago (at age 30).  I now work in a kitchen for a chef that just won a james beard award this week, love my job, and don't regret my career change in the slightest.  So I would have to vote no, its never too late.
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2012
  12. chefedb

    chefedb

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    I would go law school.
     
  13. chefedb

    chefedb

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    I work ith a Chef who also won  Zach Bell from Palm Beach
     
  14. jazzcook

    jazzcook

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    No age is "too old" so long as you have the strength and energy to do what's required.  Having started at 38 myself, I can keep up just fine but it is exhausting for sure.  My biggest hurdle seems to be the knowledge/experience gap I have with co-workers ten or fifteen years younger than me.  It's humbling in a lot of ways, but if you have the right attitude it's also motivating.
     
  15. cjm1

    cjm1

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    25 is so young, you are definately not too old. I started at 40 , I am now 50 and own my own resturant , I look forward to going to work everyday. I love being able to experiment and create, I love the pressure, deadlines and challenges . It is hard work, long hours and a lot of pressure at times but also is very rewarding. Follow your heart and do what you think you will love......or......do both !
     
  16. hautesaute

    hautesaute

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    in my opinion...court is not as fun as a kitchen. you are obviously down for a little hard work so either one could suit you. but i'd rather read a cookbook than a book on law anyday.

    only the strong survive in the kitchen. i could not imagine a lawyer calling you a P**** and then saying you take it in the A**. in the kitchen, you are a soldier. complaining is an invitation for ridicule, and enduring physical pain and bodily harm is regarded highly and with much respect. there are no recesses in the kitchen. and as far as rules, they vary by kitchens. it is one of the few careers that will get you high on adrenaline and endorphins, and then depress the hell out of you in the same hour. you will get hurt and probably suffer mental breakdowns and you won't be able to sleep because of the stress and the salary does not hold a candle to what successful lawyers make. if you have a family than they will have to deal with your endless hours or suffer from them. you work too much. you don't get paid nearly enough. you will leave some nights feeling like you are at the end of your rope...other nights like you just took on the world, and won. kitchens don't have HR departments, or desks with cushy chairs, or quiet spots where you can reflect on the nights work. you work your effin face off. you work with sweat in your eyes until you don't have the time, energy, or will to even wipe your face. you will dehydrate during a busy service. no maybe's. you will not even have time to drink water, a basic human necessity. then you go home, struggle to sleep as you mull and stew over that night's service, and then go back and do it again. physical pain is to be ignored. you WILL work harder than everyone else around you, and you will still have to listen to them complain about how hard they work...get used to it. i'm sure lawyering is tough too. i wouldn't know. i don't have time to watch those shows on TV and i can't experience it first hand because im always at work. honestly, cooking food for a living is the best and worst thing i've ever decided to do.

    BUT at the end of a night that flowed like water. a night where every cook, although beaten down and tired and demoralized, knows that he owned it. nothing better in the world. one thing is for sure: cooking will make a man out of you. 
     
  17. squirrelrj

    squirrelrj Banned

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    You work for Paul Qui?
     
  18. twyst

    twyst

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    No, Im working in another region right now and am only currently in austin to visit.   Uchi/uchiko are on my short list of places Im going to try to get into when I move home permanently  in 8 months though.

    I think paul is actually working in houston a lot right now with the new uchi there according to the people I know who work at uchiko.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2012
  19. kostendorf

    kostendorf

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    if you choose to be a cook rather than a lawyer you wont be called a duchebag as often
     
    ongarde likes this.
  20. garrow

    garrow

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    I started a month after I turned 25. Nearly 2 years later, I'm about to go to the CIA in San Antonio, and the restaurant I'm currently at has offered me the kitchen upon graduation. It's not too old, just know what you want to take from the work and go after it. Decide your goals and do everything you can to make them happen. Hard work is the only thing that pays off in this profession, that's the first thing I learned.