Please give advice, help seeking thread of both introduction and inspiration.

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by Cwhitlock, Oct 14, 2018.

  1. Cwhitlock


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    Hello, I am using this post as both an introduction and to get honest advice, this post may be too long for most of you but I think it gives an idea of who I am and why I'm here today, I hope you take the time to listen to my story.

    I am a 28 year old male living in Northern California currently, back to my home town after 7 years living in Baltimore, MD. Today, after jumping from job to job in the medical tech sector, I want to be a chef.

    Some may be asking why now? Why in your late twenties? To really answer this I have to explain why I've waited so long to really pursue and seriously believe in myself.

    Growing up I lived in a small town at the tip of California, the type of place where your neighbor stands out front and wave to you on your way to work, who invite you over for family meals and know everyone on the street by name. You can really feel at home in a town like this, except I never did. My mother has been an addict as long as I could remember, my father an alcoholic who would often times be at work drunk and, if he came home, would be drunk at home.

    My mother was verbally abusive and placed a lot of her marriage and life issues on her children. She would steal from family and friends and soon the word was well known that my mother was a problem. My dad would come home mean and drunk. He'd beat my mom, if we intervened to stop it he'd beat me too. My nose still has issues to this day after not being broken once but twice.

    It didn't limit at school either, people knew but anytime I'd come to school with bruises or hungry or both no one would awknowledge it. Most would pretend I wasn't there but I valued school, I cherished learning.

    This continued very much throughout high school only upon my completion of 8th grade. High school meant that I had to go to a school about 18 miles away. My mother fought with my dad about taking me to school. She won and I was told at the age of barely 14 that I would have to find my own way to and from school. For a while I relied on my neighbor marry until my mother told her to stay away from her children.

    Then my grandmother but she passed away when I was 16-17 years old. I dropped out of school at 17 from lack of transportation. It didn't much matter though, I remember everyone from campus police to the teachers not caring about me as a student. Going as far as to threaten me with expulsion.

    Yet It's at school I met my close friend at the time, Chita. Chita was from a immigrant Thai family. It was my first real experience with a family that was wholesome and caring. Everyone came around a table not large enough to hold the 8-9 people whom they were serving. It was my first experience with Thai food, I remember it fondly, we had a giant steaming bowl of Tom Kha Kai with a hearty chunks of white fish and Sticky Rice. It was amazing to me. Something funky, hot, sour and sweet from the monk fish yet just a little bitter.

    I ate there everytime they invited me over. It was there, that sense of family and communion that inspired me that I too want to serve people. It's also kept me in an exhaustable pursuit for that feeling food brought me.

    I've been to some of the best Thai restaurants in the USA today, Night + Market in L. A., Jitlada in L. A., Sapp Coffee Bar in L. A. and Lers Ros in San Francisco, but there are so many more restaurants in the USA that utilize high sugar content, curry pastes from a jar, canned vegetables and a general consensus that in order for Thai to be successful in the USA it must pander to the tastes of the undereducated populace that seeks a high sugar content Thai food.

    My ambition is to travel to Thailand and study there, to learn the basics, to learn the complexity of Thai ingredients and to find a way to make the tradition of Thai cooking work in an American environment whether that be to make connections to important supplies or to cultivate it myself. I'm not looking to earn Michelin Stars or to make Thai food into a tweezer restaurant nor am I looking for fame, I simply want to produce quality meals using fresh ingredient and time-tested methodology to push forward the American ideal of Thai food.

    I would love to go to Bo. Lan in Bangkok, as I've been studying their ideals and methodology. I very much look up to Duangporn Songvisava, bo, as both a chef and a person.

    What advice would you give to someone at my age when this is a young person's world?

    Is this accomplishable at my age in a realistic time frame?

    I was always told by friends and family that failure was promised, what did you do to overcome this fear?

    What additional advice would you give?

    Thank you so very much for your time,

    phaedrus likes this.
  2. sgsvirgil


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    Retired Owner/Operator
    Welcome to CT. :)

    The only question that matters is "what makes you think this life is for you?"

    I am not trying to talk you out of pursuing a career in the food industry. But, it would be a terrible mistake for you to make such a decision with your eyes closed. This is not an easy life by any stretch of the imagination. You will undoubtedly encounter some people who will make this life out to be easier than what it is by featuring their success stories and how rewarding their careers have been. But, these people are not the rule. They are the exception. They mean well, I'm sure. But, they are simply not being completely honest with you.

    This is a profession that has an astonishing rate of divorce and substance abuse. You will work insanely long hours for terrible pay and little in the way of benefits until you move up or are lucky enough to land a job working for a hotel or resort. But, those jobs typically require a Culinary Arts degree.

    You will have little to no time whatsoever for friends or relationships, including marriages and families. Weekends and holidays are your busiest times and you will be working.

    These are just some of the highlights.

    Yes, this life can be rewarding in its own unique way. But, don't expect to find very many people wiling to pass out the feel goods on a regular basis. Anything good that happens to you will happen because you made it happen.

    So, the bottom line is this. If you can do anything else, do anything else. But, if you are determined to make this life for you, start by getting a job in a restaurant. If you have no experience, you will likely start off cleaning and mopping and doing dishes. At some point, you may or may not be allowed to work with food in some limited capacity, probably with some sort of simple prep. Nevertheless, this will give you a glimpse of what it is to work in a kitchen and what this life is like. After 6 months to a year, if you are still interested in making this life for you, then, at least then you will have some sort of understanding of what you are getting into.

    Good luck. :)
  3. Trosly


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    Buy some good shoes.
  4. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

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    Professional Chef
    28 is definitely not too young to switch careers. That being said, do you have any restaurant experience? If not, get some. Just because you have a love of food doesn't mean it will translate into a love for the restaurant business. I've seen it time and time again-people who love to cook and share food with friends then try going into the business and realize that quitting their previous job was a mistake because they hated the restaurant business. After you've spent a year working in a restaurant then you can decide if you want to pursue your dream, but realize that you will have a long road.
    linecookliz likes this.