Mid life "Career" crisis.

Joined Jul 31, 2000

Anyone have a bit of advice for someone who wants to spread there wings in the industry?

I lost my job a couple months ago after 15 years and I want to try something else that can take advantage of my work experience.

Not sure if I want to pull the 60 + hours a week anymore,done it for over 20 years.

Teaching,consulting ?

any ideas ?
Joined Jul 2, 2001
Wow Brad, I didn't know. That is one thing I hate about this career. I got out of the cheffing end about 14 yrs ago only to get back in 3 yrs ago. I went to work for a food dist. here on the west coast as a food salesman. I had alot of fun made some good money and more importantly made some really good friends. On the down side the hrs are about the same if you want to be successful. On the up side you can decide when you want to work the extra 20 or so a week. In the 11+ yrs I never missed any holiday or anything special w/ my wife and kids. Brad, one of your Biggest attributes is your knowledge. You can't teach that type of knowledge over night. Think back to the number of times you educated your salesperson. You also seem friendly and full of life two other needed qualities. While I'm not tring to sell you on being a salesperson I just thought I'd throw it out there for thought. There is alot more that goes into it but if you're interested leave me a e-mail and I'll get back to you w/ my cell #.
On another note my partners and I are in the early planning stages of a food and wine school and resort. Overlooking the Pacific to the west and Edna valley to the east. When it happens we'll be looking for teachers but unfortunately it is at least 10 yrs away at this point. I'd also think about wine sales the hrs are not as long and you get to drink free wine. Huge Bonus:D . I don't know about the money though. Good luck. Take your time. Maybe take one of those career classes at your local JC see what you are wired for.

P.S. How are you doing w/ your back?
Joined Jul 31, 2000
On another note my partners and I are in the early planning stages of a food and wine school and resort. Overlooking the Pacific to the west and Edna valley to the east. When it happens we'll be looking for teachers but unfortunately it is at least 10 yrs away at this point.

Above Quote by Fodigger.

maybe I should wait ten years and come out west and work for you!

I've been contacted by a # of high-end prevayors to see if i'm interested in sales. One seemed interesting because they wanted to have someone to really kick start there speciality stuff. But I just couldn't bring myself to do it.

I think I kind of panicked when I thought about not being in a kitchen.

I'd like to get invovled somehow with consulting (i.e menu developement,wine and food programs and such) but I have no idea where to start.

Also i'm not afraid of long hours, I just want to find a balance in my life between work and my family. This biz is not so conducive to a great balance,but I know theres something out there with my name on it.

Mike, I appreciate your thoughtful post and advice. As much as I love the East Coast, sometimes I wish I was in Northern California so I could dive into the food and wine world with abandon :)
Joined Nov 20, 2000
Brad, Brad, Brad, oh do I feel for you. I know exactly what you are up against. I offer my support and 2 cents.
First off, I have mixed feelings about sales. I was in sales for 5 years. I loved it and hated it. The hours can be ridiculous and the paychecks oft times non existant. Some freedom of travel balanced by boredom.
As Fodigger said, with your knowledge and experience it's just a matter of where to put it.
First consider coming up with a book idea and shopping it around. (Thankfully there are editors and spellcheck programs to help you! ;) )
Also I know in CT there are several culinary courses. Perhaps you could teach. Also as you mentioned consider consulting and menu development. There are many companes that do that. A search on the computer, even in your own yellow pages under food consultants might yield something.
Daycooking. Companies that have their own kitchens and food outlets so you have daytime cooking. School foodservice. Not the caliber you're used to, but an easy job.
I'm a little stuck right now, but there's a lot more. I'll let you know as I think of it.
Joined Jul 31, 2000
If I write a book, I'll need the most advanced "spell check" program on gods good earth :D

Honestly Chrose, That's great advice.

Someday I hope to write a book, but I think I will be in my rocking chair watching my grandchildren dance around the yard by the time I actually get to it.

There's alot of day jobs out their as you said, but most are just mass corporate feeding with the occasinal executive dining.

So I need to really sift through those jobs. You know what else guy's?Sometimes the pride of an old chef just gets in the way.

But reality is reality.

Thanks again for your sage advice Chrose
Joined Nov 10, 2001
Brad,as you have a considerable amount of experience and knowledge,you should be able to pick and choose.
I am sure you also have excellent communication skills,which would be invaluable if you took up teaching at a college/academy.
There are some positive points as well as negative points.Some students really try your patience,others take to cooking like a duck to water.One key aspect of teaching is that you are helping to develop the chefs of the future.You may find that your hours become more stable,hopefully.
On the other hand,i`m sure that there are food companies that are looking for development chefs.Your extensive skills would be very useful as most people are always looking for something different.I hope that someone recognises the plain fact that you have a heck of a lot to offer.
Best wishes,Leo.:chef:
Joined May 10, 2002
Cape Chef thats rough try hopitalityrecuiters.com sorry I didn't provide a link. Good luck they gave me a lead but couldn't take it ,
because of family.
Joined Oct 28, 1999
Isn't that the greatest hurrdle, really? Brad, you and I have had this discussion when I was scouring the job scene (and continue to do so). I think we really find the position that suits us best when we find some inner strength from the job. Not trying to sound overly spiritual, but I think we thrive in an atmosphere that is enriching, enlightening and challenging. There needs to be visceral stimuli, rather than just work. For most folks, a job can be just that; a place to go a few hours a day. When there is a creative flame that is not yet snuffed-out, you need a position that gives reason to use brain power and some cause & effect; perhaps a position that will 'leave a mark'. I'm rambling.
Joined Feb 6, 2002
Yes, yes........that sounds like CC. I personally think he would make a darn good teacher but I can't really see him tied to a desk in a school somewhere. I believe that would quickly get boring and very unstimulating. (I hope that's a word. :eek: ) I also can't see him as a salesman. I think he'd like it for a year or two and THEN it would become boring. I just can't see CC without his hands elbow deep in the food preparation part of the biz.

Maybe you should open your own little place, CC? You would be the Chef/Owner and the creative energy of the place....train your sous well, set your hours and spend some time discovering culinary finds (all sorts of fresh produce, etc.) and making nice simple dishes, which are intricate in flavor? From the recipes you've posted that I've read.......you are a very creative and darn good chef. :bounce:

Anyhoo, you don't HAVE to do anything just now. RELAX AND ENJOY the little vacation from the commercial kitchen. Make some food for once that pleases only you and invite some of us over for dinner. ;)

Joined Jan 1, 2001
Gee Brad, that's a bunch of crummy luck; loosing your job along with the health problem. I know you will be able to make a shift, but take your time to figure out what will be as rewarding to you as chef work.
I suggest you join the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals). The membership is extensive, from chefs to food manufacturers, to distributors, food writers, stylists, consultants and on and on. The yearly conferences have all kinds of workshops from which you can gain very useful information and network with people from every facet of the food industry. The conference in April 2003 will be held in Montreal--should be lots of fun.
You may also want to consider working as a chef for a specialty food retailer. When I made the shift away from the restaurant kitchen I found quite a number of available jobs in this sector. Although I didn't make quite as much money, the hours were considerably better, as well as benefits, holidays, and most have profit sharing ESOP plans.
R&D and test kitchen work can be another option for you, however, in my experience, former chefs have difficulty working in such stringent environments. Every measurement must be exact, as well as any process notes. Understanding of market audience is also key to this work and chefs tend to balk when faced with the questions "Can you get this ingredient in Paduka?" or "Can a homemaker who cooks for 5 on a combined income of $40,000/year afford Jamon de Serrano at $24/pound?" Not that you, per se, would have this kind of trouble; just know what you are in for if you pursue this track.
You may also want to pick up a copy of "Careers for Gourmets and Other Who Relish Food" by Mary Donovan. I've found it helpful.

Good Luck

PS: PM me if you would like to talk more about this. I have some other contacts that might help, but feel the need to protect them somewhat.
Joined Nov 21, 2001
dear cape chef,
what rotten timing, your back and no job! are you out on comp? unemployment? maybe you could get some funding to go back to school.
when i went into sales a few years ago, i loved it. but unfortunately with my kids i couldn't give as many hours as needed. did you try for corporate chef positions within a food service corp? like at kraft. i don't know about cirelli, and there is also springfield foods in the area. sysco is in taunton that's about an hr from me , i don't know how close you are.
i had an offer from one of the top guys from sysco a few years ago, but.... kids needing one parent at least. they always need people who actually know how to work with their products.
how about teaching at a voke school? i had a friend go into that and he loves it. he has summers off and does some cash gigs - catering. money's not the highest, but not the lowest either.
i wish you the best, i went back to school at 35 and 40 and did much better than when i was a juvenile delinquent. if you ahve any questions about going back feel free to pm me.
Joined Jul 31, 2000
Dear Leo

Thank you all for your great support and ideas.

FNF, I do agree with you about the Coporate R&D stuff, I don't know if I could be so exact to the point of overkill, I like to dance to much in the kitchen :)

I have sent my resume to a few CT schools, but no luck at this time as there already geared up for the fall semester.

J&W talked to me, but I can't relocate at this time but i'm keeping that in my back pocket for the future.

Sysco is far for me + I can't see myself pushing products down chefs throughts that I wouldn't stand behind.

I have to go deliver a dinner to my nieghber who just had a baby,so i'll catch up later.

Thank you
Joined Mar 13, 2001
Wow Brad, I had no idea! Thought you were merely on sick-leave!

Hey you're such a comedian, you would do great with your own cooking show on the Food Network. Watch-out Emeril...! ;)
Joined Jul 24, 2001
Cape Chef, our friends here have shared some good ideas.
Writing a book, yes, and teaching.
I have difficulty in picturing you somewhere far away from the kicthen.
From yoour posts it's obvious that you are blessed with the talent to make people happy the moment they put the fork in their mouth.
Also I still recall this post of yours about this day at work when you were without electricity. I could almost feel your excitement.
Working 15 years in 12 hours a day shift are a lot, but think it the other way. Some people are made to accomplish what to others, seem impossible.
It seems that you are one of those and since your posts show that when it comes to cooking, there is no limit for you, stick to your kitchen my friend. You are so young, there is plenty of time for you to write books and give lectures.
Good luck.

Joined Jul 31, 2000

Thank you very much for what you said, I appreciate it very much.

Yes your right, I can't see myself out of the kitchen, it's in my blood.

With the support i'm getting hear I know things will work out
Thanks again
Joined Jul 3, 2002
Dear Brad,

I'm so sorry to hear that you've been going through so much. But it's heartening to read all these wonderful suggestions. You've inspired a lot of support (not surprising). Anyway, as a non-pro, all I can do is add my good wishes for your next adventure.
But as a teacher, I can smell a natural a mile away and I'm thinking you'd be great. I sense you have the patience and the humor along with the expertise and artistry to make a fanstastic teacher in a cooking or trade school (where you'd get to work in a kitchen environment, at least). And as a teacher you'd get benefits!!! (something I don't think a lot of chefs get). And, as others have said earlier, the hours are better in terms of family. Please don't cringe, folks, but I get the impression that going to cooking school has replaced getting a real estate license for people who've discovered they don't like the careers they're in. So there have got to be more and more schools opening up.
In addition, you seem interested in (and clearly have read a lot about) food history and culture. Why not pitch this as an extra skill? If you need any help making a sample syllabus (or editing that book you should write ;) ) just let me know.

All the best,
Joined Mar 4, 2000
Brad, I have to agree. You are so inspired and inspirING when you cook in the kitchen. From what I know about you, what you need is total creative freedom, in a structured serious work environment, with reasonable compensation, so you won't have to worry about providing for your family.

That rules out sales-- It's not creative enough for the artistic side of you.

Teaching would be nice, but would it take care of your family? Probably not, with the local choices that you have. And how can you hold your breath for those jobs with the Fall semester coming up??

Private cheffing is nice, but you'd have to pay your own health insurance. And no paid sick or vacation days. But that might be a stimulating 2nd job.

Same is true for catering.

Business owner takes capital, and ability to take risk.

Cookbook author (or some other food related book)--Now THERE is something I can see! While it does take capital, and there IS substantial risk, you can certainly start working on it while you're recovering, and you can probably make a serious dent in the difficult beginning stages. I believe you'd be extremely successful-- and something tells me that Foodnfoto can give you some advice on that front.

And of course there are dozens of corporate sites, much like the one you just came from. Connecticut and Westchester are teeming with places like that. Only you would know whether that could still be challenging, after 15 years in that kind of environment. Sometimes, a simple change in surrounding, with new colleagues, is all it takes to re-awaken your enthusiasm. Other times, you need a complete rehaul of your career and a direction change.

Perhaps you can work on the book, while doing some catering and personal/private chef work. And maybe you can also mix in some short-term cooking classes. You'd get a lot of variety, you'd be able to work a schedule that suits your life, and you might find something that you really love!

Call me if you need help.
Joined Sep 21, 2001
If you have it in you, open your own business. Ownership isn't for everyone, but I would'nt trade all of my problems for anyone elses' in a million years. And I have medical ins, and every other "bene" and a few "benes" most people don't have. BTW- an ugly little secret- we started with $8000., a lot of luck and an EXCELLENT line of BS.......its' a good story, I'll tell it some time.
Joined Jun 13, 2002
with your training and talent why not open a little bistro somewhere and have classes too, the best of both worlds, a small place wouldnt be too much to handle and the overhead would be ok, might not make ya a millionaire, but you could get by;)
Joined Jul 28, 2001
WELL, you know me, I usually disagree with everyone. First off, there are never any down sides.All this was meant to be.
Everyone seems to rule out sales. NOT ME! Now this is just a suggestion .Find yourself a distributor that handles a very good line of foods and ingredients. Most all good importers and distributors have technical chefs on board. There might be some travel involved with shows, but the jist of your job will be to take their products and develope recipes using the products. These are then used to upsell to chefs.It's R&D but on a (not so stressful enviornment).
I meet with sales people all the time who know nothing about the products they are selling. Most of my gourmet vendors will provide tech. support. Oh Wait!! You might have to go to Europe to see where the product is manufactured, shoot! Oh crap, that item comes from China or Japan and you might have to go there. Maybe it's not a good idea. I know you would not like to travel the world. I have a chef buddy that I envy. He does this for a candy company that makes garnishes for ice creams and baked goods. He just took his family to England this summer, took a couple of days to push his creative ideas to one of the biggest bakeries there. Moving into a new house with his bonus and his base is 6 figures.
to long. If you decide to do your own thing I can certainly take some funds out of my failing conservative mutuals to invest in someone special.
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