Next step/Career advice

Joined Mar 16, 2009
So a little over 5 years in the field I am at a crossroads, and I figured that I might get some good advice from you folks, most of whom have been at it much longer. I am currently Sous Chef of a smallish country club where I have spent the bulk of my culinary career, having worked my way up from prep cook. I left briefly to run my own kitchen at an upscale pub and decided that it wasn't the sort of place where I wanted to work; too much emphasis on pumping out deep-fried pre-made crap as fast as possible, too little emphasis on quality. Fortunately, the club was eager to have me back, and I'm happy to be there for the time being, but I don't want to do the same thing forever. Right now I am weighing three options.

1) Culinary school in the fall. The next logical step for me would be to move on to one of the local casinos or hotels, but most of these places require two years of training regardless of your work experience. Having learned on the job, I would need some school to go in this direction. Downside: I am reluctant to cut back how much I'm able to work, especially since I already know a good deal of what I'll be doing at school.

2) Stay at the club. When I mentioned I was thinking about school (Which would mean having to step down from the Sous Chef position), I was immediately offered a raise and an eventual promotion when the current head chef retires. There is no firm timetable on when that will happen, but I don't think he wants to spend more than one more summer in the kitchen full-time. Downside: I will miss out on the opportunity to be exposed to new things.

3) ACF apprenticeship. This is more appealing than school, but I have no idea how to set it up, how widely available they are, or if you can use financial aid or if you get paid while you apprentice.

It is important to mention that I am married and have two small children, so financial security is important and it isn't practical for me to go run off to Paris and apprentice under people with Michelin stars or that sort of thing.

Thanks in advance for any input you guys can offer!
Joined Apr 17, 2009
That's always a tough decision, and one that only you and your family can make. My general advice is to invest in your future, no matter how painful today.

I left a VERY lucrative career with company car, expense account, to enroll in culinary school 15 years ago. I went from making 6 figures to 6 dollars an hour in one afternoon. It was very difficult for a while, but my wife and I pulled together for our future.

Now, I enjoy my new career much more, our lives are richer, and I'm now teaching people all over the world to cook with my videos. It's something I never would have envisioned.

Staying in the same job doesn't progress you as fast as taking large risks and working with people who are more experienced. Don't take the easy out, it has the least payoff.

I'd find a way to use savings, take a loan, work part time, or whatever you can do for an ACF apprenticeship or going to school. You'll never lose education, you can certainly lose your job at the club. Go for it, for your future, for your family.
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