Is 40 year-old too late to become a Pastry chef?

Discussion in 'General Culinary School Discussions' started by sandy74, Apr 28, 2014.

  1. sandy74


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    At home cook
    Hi everyone,

    I am from Vietnam, female and I will turn to 40 by this July. I have Computer Science background and work in the software development industry for 15 years. In that field and particularly in my country, who excel in their performance will be promoted to project manager or higher management level. However, the more I climb up on that career ladder, the more I realize that it’s not something I want to do for the rest of my life, even that job gives me a decent income.

    I have deep passion about food. I love cooking and I even love to make polymer clay miniatures food (1:12 scale). There is a battle in me for years, where the head said “I am having a good career, comfortable life with good income and reputation so that cooking can be kept as a hobby”, while the heart said “I should go for it, I should change my career to become a chef to live a more completed life.”

    I guess at this stage, I will have to make up my mind with a “it’s now or never” decision that I will not regret. I don’t want to ask myself on the day I die that what would it be if I dared to change but at the same time, I also don’t want to regret that after I made up my mind to go for it, things are not working out the way I dream.

    My plan is to go study abroad in Le Cordon Bleu Sydney, Australia, Diplôme de Pâtisserie. This will cost me half of my saving, but I choose it because there is no good future to study and do it in my country. This means I will seek for working opportunities in Australia during and after my studying and I also want to relocate to Australia. I will need your advice to some of my concerns:
    • [if !supportLists]·         [endif]Is Le Cordon Bleu Sydney Australia a good place to study and it’s worth the investment? I read mixed feedback from people in this forum.
    • [if !supportLists]·         [endif]At the middle age, do I have equal opportunities with youngers when seeking for a job, not counting the fact that I am foreigner, not local people?
    • [if !supportLists]·         [endif]Will a new grad, “in-experienced” student be allowed to do the work as a Pastry Chef supposed to do: making cakes? Or he/she will have to do all cleaning works, be nice, be submissive to the ego Master Chef to gradually get his permission to make cakes? (This is something I was warned if I try it here in my country)
    •           Would racist, anti-feminist a big problem in the hospitality industry?
    • [if !supportLists]·         [endif]What are physical challenges I will face to work as a Pastry Chef at this age? I’m near-sight, I also have migraine and mild carpel tunnel problem.
    Any other advice or suggestion is also greatly appreciated.

    Many thanks

    Last edited: Apr 28, 2014
  2. soesje


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    Professional Chef
    hi sandy,

    your age is absolutely no problem here :) there are quite a few on this board who switched careers even at age 45 ….into this hospitality direction.

    if this is your passion then by all means GO FOR IT!!!! 

    (fyi: I started at age 46 on this road…)

    but wow relocating thats maybe the biggest challenge….. having to build a whole new life in a different country.

    hats off to you!

    its not gonna be easy though.

    some chefs may want youngsters. just because they are cheaper to hire.

    but I can say if you persevere and show that you really have passion for the job, and can take the long days, it will work out!

    most important thing is to believe in yourself and be able to motivate yourself time and again.

    there are plenty chefs who don't give a shit about age and would prefer an person with more life experience and passion above a cheaper young person.

    whether the new graduated will be alowed to do pastry chef work, can only say, usually you have to start at the bottom.

    until you have proven your skills.

    if you're lucky and have a nice chef who you can get along with, then just ask for possibilities to learn/ grow. challenges is the word, actually.

    racist, anti-feminist behaviour is a problem everywhere so you MIGHT come across it, but maybe not.

    usually depends on the place.

    always aim for the highest possible level you want to work at….usually more professional.

    but bastards can be found anywhere. can you show them that you take no fooling and can stand up for yourself?

    and above all : GOOD LUCK!!!!! 
  3. discretionplz


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    At home cook
    Hello, I don't doubt that you possess the passion and persistence necessary to become a successful pastry chef. I just want to point out that Australia is not the most accepting country when it comes to hiring foreigners. I may be bashed for saying so, but from what I've read there seems to be a very xenophobic mindset about the nation. Some may even call it outright racism. Regardless, there is a sizable immigrant population there who seem to be doing alright. I wish you all the best. P.s. I'm not saying all Aussies are like this. Please don't mistake my post for ignorance. I'm simply relaying the information that I've read in many, many news/journal articles.
  4. jcakes


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    Professional Pastry Chef
    Another consideration is physical stamina; this job is physically demanding with long hours on your feet, lifting and moving heavy bags of flour, sugar, etc so make sure you are also physically fit.  After 12 years, I am starting to feel the long hours in my feet and have been through dozens of shoes and still can't find something that makes it possible to get through the day.

    You should also research salaries; food service is notorious for low wages so make sure you can live on what newly graduated culinary students are paid for at least two to three years. With some experience under your belt, you can move to a different job with a higher salary but it is still never going to be close to what high-tech pays.
  5. sandsquid


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    Professional Baker
    I'm 46 years old and in Culinary School now, using my GI-Bill to pay the tuition.  Finally following my interrupted dream (dropped out of Culinary School in 1989 due to finances) worked in a few kitchens, ran a private (by referral only) catering service, met my wife got married... Lived a whole different life:nCorporate Customer Service & Tech Support, then 12 years of military life, picked up multiple degrees (Computer Science, Criminal Justice, Intelligence Operations.)  

    Luckily, the past 7 years of Active Duty Recall(from the reserves) has left me fitter and with more stamina, focus and bearing, and drive than the kids half my age. Actually I have kids in my class that younger than my own daughters.

    We have an _elderly_ couple in our afternoon class, seriously they are married and both over 70. every day I watch them and think "Yeah, rock on oldsters, live the dream!"
  6. bakingbee


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    (To the comments about Australia being racist) As an Australian, that just made me laugh out loud. Yes there are problems with racism, just as there are in other countries, but I wouldn't let it stop me from going to school or trying to find work, esp in food. Australia has a fantastic food culture and many, many ppl from different nationalities, esp from Asian nations.

    Honestly, I'd go to Melbourne, over Sydney. It's a more down-to-earth lifestyle, has a HUGE foodie culture and lots of Vietnamese people and cultural things around in case you're homesick :) One of my favourite places in the world for cake is an Italian place called Brunetti in Carlton, Melbourne...yum.

    As to being a late starter, I'm 35 and am changing from a career in IT (web editor for ten years) to become a French patissier, in France. So my advice is to go for it!! Better to give it a go than to continue wondering and if you find you don't like it, you can fall back on your previous career.

    Good luck!
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2014
    nicko likes this.