Moving up, or moving on...

Joined Jun 14, 2002
Yeah, it's a possibility. A few years ago I faced my own mortality as a cook when my feet got so bad I could hardly stumble home at the end of the week. I took a break, took some school towards getting a business admin degree so I could start effecting a move into management. Found out I have a knack for the accounting and legal end of things, now, in addition to pro cooking, I work part time Jan-April doing taxes for extra money, as well as having a very small year round practice.

A lot of the guys on here are a bit older, and a few of them have opened their own place. Still have to bust a** though. It's harder then working a regular job, IMO.

Anyway, it helps to have a plan b

1) Sales. Many many many cooks and chefs go one to be Sysco etc reps.

2) Hospitals and Institutions. Better hours and benefits. Lower on the prestige scale.

3) Research and Development. You will most likely need a BA of some sort. Check out the research chefs association. One of the friends of my family used to be a flavor chemist for Baskin Robbins. I thought that was a cool job.

4) Consulting. If you go solo, helps to have experience and a rep in the cooking field. Some of the consulting firms my not be as picky. One of my teachers got a few consulting gigs right out of pastry school, but that was because he had technical knowledge.

5) Allied trade. Thinks like culinary teacher, industrial kitchen design, farmer, purveyor. I've always wanted to take my FU money and start a mushroom farm in my closet. lol

I hear yeah on the respect thing. One of my teachers has a bitter sweet story about a benefit he was attending where he was going to get an award. He was wearing his very fancy whites, and because of that the security people made him go in with the catering staff.

Honestly, screw those jerk-holes. There is an apt aphorism here, but I can't remember it. Sorry.
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Joined Jun 14, 2002
So here I am wondering to myself, is it time to get out already and find something more stable? Or is there hope for this career?
Have you ever worked a job besides kitchen work? Many guys are in the kitchen because they can't stand 'more stable' jobs.

Don't fall victim to the grass is greener on the other side syndrome. There are probably more disillusioned office drones then disillusioned line dogs.
Joined Feb 8, 2009
The 70 hour weeks you work now, should be stepping stones for owning your own food service. If you don't love this business it will eat you up. Working the 60 to 70 hour weeks are normal in the Restaurant and Hotel business. You will never make any big money working for someone else, learn from these places and build your own empire.........ChefBillyB
Joined Mar 18, 2011
I understand where you are coming from.....

First off, SCREW people who don't respect chefs or kitchen workers. They have obviously never busted ass on a line, or spent a night in a dish pit at 120 degrees soaking wet. 

As a recent new head chef, I can tell you... Running a kitchen is a whole different ball game from working on the line. There's so much more involved... Watching food costs, talking to vendors, running around to different restaurant supplies because the handle on your sham snapped off and you need a new one like NOW, coming up with new specials.... Its just as draining as busting it on a line, but in a different way. You have to think about the whole picture. You have to worry about your expo sending out brown broccoli or your prep cooks over prepping, or dealing with your KM who is a COMPLETE moron. Trust me.

Also, if you become a head chef, and you aren't making more then 20k, I hope you live in some sort of 3rd world country where 20k gives you a nice life, because chef's make more then that. I know I don't make a ton of money, but I make enough to support myself and my family without my husband working, and we're very happy, our bills are paid and food is in our fridge. 

I have done other work. I spent 2 years working for IBM, and I hated every single day of it. I hated waking up and going to work, even though I worked M-F 8-4. I hated being stuck in a cube, I hated my co-workers, and I hated life. The kitchen is where I belong. If you feel the same way, don't give it up. Work your way up the ladder, learn everything you should and shouldn't do, and have a great time doing it. 

In the end, you have to do what makes YOU happy. 
I'm not exactly sure where to begin...

Well, I'm currently 'chef de partie' at the restaurant where I work. We serve Italian food in a casual environment, but everything is done from scratch and we only use fresh, seasonal, local ingredients. It's pretty wicked, we get two whole pigs in every Thursday and we use every part. The executive chef has a great reputation and definitely knows his s***. We are consistantly very busy, which surprised me to be honest - not even Sundays or Mondays are remotely slow. I just started here a couple months ago after a year long stint at a very high end, award winning restaurant in the city.

Unfortunately, I'm having doubts about this career in general. I mean, I'm sure you've heard it before... 70 hour weeks spent busting my a** for a tiny paycheque? Is it worth it? This is a big question for me. I love what I do, but I care about having free time as well.
I'm also concerned about moving up. I know I'm pretty young, but I feel like I could be stuck working as 'chef de partie' or 'line cook' or whatever, forever. I work with a lot of people decades older than myself that have been in that position for a long time, and potentially make LESS than me (if that's even possible). I'm worried I'm going to be 50 years old one day, suffering from the physical stress of working the line, and still making like $20,000 a year.

Finally, there's the matter of respect. I feel like hardly anyone respects the career of a chef, unless you're some ridiculous celebrity. I think in this field there's a ton to know and a lot of expertise involved. My family doesn't agree, and niether do many of my peers it seems. People appear to look down on the food industry.

So here I am wondering to myself, is it time to get out already and find something more stable? Or is there hope for this career?
Joined May 5, 2010
Dear Guts:

I hope you chose that name for yourself for a reason, cause being a Chef is all about "guts."

If you have the intestinal fortitude to work long hours, and put out all the little fires that pop up during the day, and STILL enjoy what you do, then what is the point of worry?

$20,000 at 50 years old?????  

The fact that Grant Achatz was a Sous Chef at 24 is great......for him.

Don't compare yourself to others or you'll go crazy.

If you chose cooking so you would become the next celebrity Chef, you've made a mistake.

Our industry is about hard work and little acknowledgement.

That's the way it is. a fraction of one percent of Chefs make it to be celebrities.

Look at the list and tell me that they are doing what they are, because they crave the limelight, the media exposure, and the status.

What do YOU want?
Joined Jun 23, 2011
I got lucky, I grew up in this business - which means I had more chances for starting up my own place at a younger age than most.  I got my own place at 21, 4 years later I'm ready to move on.  I run the kitchen, and the business, it's hard work, easy 80 hours a week and I take my work home with me too. 

It's tough, and it puts hardships on my marriage.  I don't enjoy busting my feet on the line everyday to make sure there's good quality food coming out.  So I'm getting an online degree for accounting, so I can help other restauranteurs make money and invest their money wisely. 

With that, let me just say - I would much rather know I am working 70-80 hours per week than be begging someone to give me more than 20 hours per week.
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