looking for advice

Joined Feb 18, 2009

I am not sure if this is the right place for this thread or not.  I am also not sure if I want to be a chef.  

I am 32... I myself am a religion and anthropology undergrad at FSU (Florida State University)... I have anywhere from three to five years left before graduation because I am taking things a bit slowly. I struggle with mental illness (schizophrenia and bipolar) which caused me to screw up my college career quite royally. So basically im a 32 year old man now and time has just gone by. Needless to say I feel like I missed the anthropology boat and am too dumb and stupid and old to succeed. My interests include african and caribbean literature (for example, kamau brathwaite, vs naipaul, george lamming, maryse conde, amos tutuola, wole soyinka, kojo laing, ben okri, syl cheney coker, derek walcott, wilson harris, earl lovelace and others like aime cesaire, frantz fanon, eric williams, clr james, ngugi wa thiongo and still others) as well as german philosophy like nietzsche, hegel, marx and other romantic idealists, karl jaspers, carl jung and most of the good anthropology like malinowski, victor turner, paul stoller, anne stoller, john k thornton, paul farmer, and dennis tedlock, james fernandez and marshall sahlins. I have a lot of scholars and novelists I aspire to study and grasp and apply to life somehow, I have not really figured it out yet, but the music of RAM, tabou combo, ella andall, david rudder and boukman eksperyeans and chalkdust convinced me to become interested in trinidad and haiti and now im stuck in lala land.

So I thought I wanted to finish school and get into grad school, be involved with african and caribbean studies somehow.

But this isnt a big field and there are not many jobs, its a pipe dream with a minimal chance of success, and Im already 32 so I feel I would rather do something that wont take so long (another 10 to 15 years) before I even have a shot at anything.

Dont get me wrong, knowledge is awesome and the world needs help from academics interested in the third world, but I myself am probably not that dude.  I dont feel smart enough and my mental illness has zapped years from my youth.

I love the cooking of Haiti and Trinidad, JAmaica, Cuba, Guyana, Mexico, West Africa, the Middle East MArtinique,and Guadeloupe. So I figured hey why not learn to work with my hands and try my shot at moving to one of those countries and cooking there.  Then if I was living in HAiti (a country with a 90 percent unemployment rate) well I could still have my Marx and Jung and Afro Caribbean Literature desires met when I am not working, and if I was there I could check out the local vodou scenes.

But this is a long shot I know, I have this fantastic cookbook "great chefs of the caribbean" that really gets mycreative juices going.

I know Bourdain says if you are 32 you are too late, but bourdain doesnt have the last word on his social darwinist take on things.  He is following false ideals in that letter that have helped to destroy the modern world.
Joined Feb 8, 2009
This idea could be good if you wanted to repair bikes in India. But, I would do it for cooking in a different country.......Sorry, back to the drawing board..
Joined Nov 28, 2014
Before you go to the time and expense of pursuing a Culinary degree, you might want to apply for a job at a restaurant just to get an idea of what it feels like to be in a kitchen. 

You could easily get a job as a dishwasher. Depending upon your skill level, you might be able to get a job as a prep cook. 

Love of food isn't quite the same as being in a commercially licensed kitchen. At home you have the luxury of time to produce whatever it is you're making. In contrast, employment in a restaurant kitchen can be stressful especially when the crew is "in the weeds" and there are dozens of tickets that have to be filled and the waitstaff are at the pass over window clamoring for their orders. 

Will you crack under stress or can you step up to the plate and pull your weight as a productive and cooperating team member?

Would it bother you if you had to produce recipes following a restaurant's standardized recipe which includes specifications for seasoning, portion size, and plating? Entry level cooks are expected to follow the restaurant's standard without innovation or variation. 

At home, no one cares if you decided to add extra basil or garlic to a Marinara Sauce. If as an entry level employee, you try tweaking a recipe in a restaurant to suit your personal tastes, the chef will flip out. 

Can you handle long hours with standing on your feet? I've worked double shifts with barely a restroom break and no break for meals despite contract stipulations. Can you work for 16 hours at a stretch if you had to? Are you okay with being on dinner service from mid-afternoon to closing only to be told that they want you on the opening shift which starts the next morning?  Are you okay working nights, weekends, and holidays?  As an entry level employee, are you okay with cleaning bathrooms, especially after some jerk took a piddle (or a dump) ON THE FLOOR? Do you have the ability to multitask ... bussing tables, washing dishes, and chopping vegetables while line the host/hostess is complaining about the lack of clean tables, the line cooks are calling for clean plates and chopped vegetables, and the servers are complaining about the lack of silverware, glasses, plates, and bowls.

The Food Network makes working in a kitchen look fun and exciting ... and it can be ... but there's also a lot of stress. There's also a reason why so many chefs smoke, drink, and/or have broken marriages. 

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