Should I run away or toward?

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by tocookornot, Jun 22, 2017.

  1. tocookornot

    tocookornot

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    Have a passion for cooking. People say that culinary school is a waste and even if you do go you will end up working as a line cook as a grease spoon making $9.00 an hour. I want to go to culinary school because I want to study and learn, but every person I talk to says it is a waste. Even community college? 
     
  2. someday

    someday

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    You are better off getting a job in the type of restaurant you want to work in and seeing if you like it. If you like/love it and see yourself doing it for a career, culinary school is an option. I wouldn't personally go the expensive culinary school route, knowing what I know now, but CC programs are often relatively affordable and filled with dedicated instructors as well. 

    You should do a search of this forum for "should I go to culinary school" because there has to be approx. 9,999 threads on it. I'm not being snarky by the way, it could just be really helpful to read advice from lots of people in the same situation as you. 

    May I ask, what do you currently do for a living? How old are you? Do you have a family...kids?...do you love them? Want to see them? Do you like weekends off and going to friend's houses and birthday parties and bat mitzvah's and vacations? 
     
  3. tocookornot

    tocookornot

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    I don't do anything for a living. I was laid off as an apprentice for a funeral home as I was pursuing becoming a funeral director. They needed a licensed funeral director and I have to go to school which is supposed to start in the fall. I am 27. I have no kids. I don't care about weekends off because in the funeral service there is no weekends off. I don't go on vacations because I have a fear of traveling due to anxiety, but I want to go to France. 
     
  4. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    I don't mean this to sound obnoxious, condescending, or judgemental, but if you truly had a passion for cooking, you probably wouldn't be asking other people's advice on whether you should pursue it as a career or not. I never did. There was never even a doubt. It was just right.

    If it was right, you would probably already be working in the industry. There is no harm in trying it out though. Get a job in a restaurant and see where it takes you. Give it 6 months, what's 6 months, next to nothing; but then you will have a much better idea. I could be totally off base. I hope I am. Give it hell!
     
  5. phaedrus

    phaedrus

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    Complicated question!  There are some incredible chefs that never went to culinary school (eg Thomas Keller, Heston Blumenthal) and of course a lot of bad chefs that did go to school.  Certainly you can learn it all OTJ (on the job) if you're willing to put in the time.  Of course, you will learn by doing but a restaurant will teach you what they need you to know, not necessarily what you want to learn.  There will probably be some holes in your knowledge, at least at first, since few restaurants will do everything.

    Pay for cooks isn't generally great but the range can be very wide, and it's based on 1) your talent/skill/drive, 2) the area where you work and 3) the needs of your employer.  My previous employee will pay a solid line cook $13 and a rock star $16 (in a state with an $8.50 min wage).  As you work your way up the ladder the pay can be pretty decent.

    If you're thinking of culinary school then do yourself a huge favor and get a job in a kitchen first.  A person wanting to be a doctor can't really try it out- they have to commit to a decade of education first. What do you do after spending $400K and ten years to become a doc only to find out you don't like it?  At least you can try out the kitchen before you commit to school.

    There's that word- commitment.  It's really a lot better than passion. As Keller once said no one is passionate about something all the time.  You need commitment to keep going when the passion wanes.  It's like a marriage, there are good times and bad.  You can savor the good but you have to soldier through the bad.

    School can give a solid foundation but beyond that it shows some initiative and commitment to potential employers.
     
  6. foodpump

    foodpump

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    Hi tocookornot.
    .
    If its your objective to become a cook, then get yourself in a kitchen pronto. Get in as a dishwasher or prep guy. After two weeks ask yourself if you like kitchen life:the pace, the hours, the situations. Be honest with yourself. Every cook and Chef started off this way.

    If you like it, work another 6 mths before you plunk your money down for a commu ity college cooking program. If you follow this advice, you will be light years ahead of 90% of your classmates. Please, please, pretty please stay away from any private, brandname cooking schools, they ain't worth the money.

    If you don't want to work in a greasy spoon, don't look for work in one, right?
     
  7. icanburnanythin

    icanburnanythin

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    i went to culinary school about 13-14 years ago. i kind of dropped out or was forced out by the head of the program -- perhaps both.. long story short, we got into a heated argument.. it was kind of shocking in a way.. the school was doing a tour with about 10-15 prospective students and they walked into the kitchen with me and chef (the head) yelling and cussing up a storm. he saw more talent in me than i did i guess and wanted more from me, he was claiming my head wasn't right.. in retrospect.....he was right though.. i wasnt..

    anyway i was going to school part time because i was working as a prep cook, a personal chef for one client and blockbuster video, but i managed to fit in 1 1/2 -2 years of school..  i had a full load for sure...

    i was dealing with other life issues that help lead up to the argument... that argument was just one of the rough peaks in my life, but this was a long fall..after that argument, i left school, never went back... quit my prep job, dropped my client and actually left the state.. ended up becoming homeless, drinking, doing drugs and a cab driver for years.. took years to get my life back in order.. but now im a bored square, and married with a kid..

    anyway, sorry this is getting long.... i hadnt really cooked complex shat since leaving school and the industry... or tried to develop anything new.. i just cooked simple solid meal for me and my fam every night for years...

    after a decade + off, and nearing 39 years old, for some unknown reason i sent "one" resume out to a local kitchen that was hiring... i thought it was for a kitchen bitch position -- but i was wrong. i guess you could call me the lead cook......el numero 2 in the kitchen.. its definitely mine to lose... im basically the qualified chefs understudy... what helped me... culinary school... the industry helped too.. but depending on the school, some of the more advance stuff i wasn't learning as a prep cook etc etc was being recalled in me mind... i also learned a lot being a home cook too.. everything helps.. just cook... learn to cook.. and be willing to take the punches.. 

    im in a good place now... im finally ready for the kitchen... i still have a long way to go... but im finally right in the mind.. im finally right chef pierre... 
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2017
  8. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

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    I don't think the question is if you should go to school or work in the industry to learn. The question s/b, am I the kind of person that has enough drive, passion and structure in your life to accomplish it. School is set up for you to learn the basics and touch base on all aspects of working in a restaurant kitchen. Most everyone needs to be structured in their life by someone else to accomplish this. Just think of being a kid growing up on a farm. You wouldn't go to school to learn how to milk a cow, plow a field and pluck a chicken. If you want to structure your life and work in this business then think of doing so as a restaurant apprenticeship. Pick a restaurant that allows you to learn the basics, things like knife skills and all the workings of a kitchen. You will also work in a dish room, learn all the kitchen equipment, proper dry storage room setup, proper walking-in and freezer storage. After working this for 6 to 8 months then move into a prep area/ front line helper position. This will help you get a taste of the workings of a kitchen and what prep needs to be accomplished on a daily basis. Work this area for another 6 months and then move into a position on the front line learning, fryer station, Sautee station and grill station. This is the area of the kitchen that needs to be perfected. This is the real cooking, plate to customer quality that needs to be taught to you by knowledgeable people. This is where you'll run into all the Bitcher's and mouners. You'll run into cooks that want you to stay at their level so as to not make them look bad. They'll want you to go drink, take drugs after work and call in sick to screw the boss. These are the cooks that work all the restaurants in town for 4 to 6 months at a time. This is why you need to be structured and have goals. You need to resist all the cooks that don't want you to succeed. After you have mastered this move on to different Restaurants/menu's to broaden your food knowledge. I would venture out in the beginning and work fast food, Casual dining, catering, Hotel breakfast and brunch cooking. 

       At this point you can see why most people need to be structured and learn all this in a school setting. It's not easy to do this on your own. I did it on my own because I didn't have a choice. I worked in over 25 restaurants over the years ending with my own Food Service Management Company and Catering Company. If I had to do it again would I go to school first. No! I would do it the same way I did it, it was one Hell of a ride.........Good luck........ChefBillyB
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2017
    meezenplaz and phaedrus like this.
  9. chefwriter

    chefwriter

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    I was going to answer but thought I would wait and see if the OP came back. I think they ran away. Hope not.
     
  10. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    Your answer might help someone who is jogging in place.
     
  11. sweetrub

    sweetrub

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    There's some great advice in this thread. I waited a good five years of working in kitchens before going to culinary school, and I'm really glad that I waited. I feel like I got the best possible education because of it. Going into school with some experience under your belt can really help you grasp and utilize all of the cool techniques and better your understanding, rather than going in completely green and waiting weeks/months before the light bulb goes off. No matter what you go to school for, I've always told my own kids, take business classes too. This will help guide you thru your career. I think that's where a lot of chefs screw themselves. They go all in with the culinary arts but, many fail to learn the business end of the industry, and wind up holding themselves back for years. Many a great chef has met his demise at the hands of a savvy businessman.
     
  12. chefwriter

    chefwriter

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    Tocookornot, 

    So you were going to be a funeral director but got laid off. If you were really interested in that field, getting laid off shouldn't stop you.

    There must be other funeral homes out there. School starts in the fall.

    So why the sudden lack of interest in something you were already working toward?  
     
  13. bonnj

    bonnj

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    Well, in response to your first post -- I would work in the industry first, see if you truly like and truly have a passion for it. And I stress the word "truly" because you really should have a passion for it if you are going to commit to a track, go to school for it, etc. That said, if you work in the industry, and you enjoy it and have a passion for it -- then yes, I would go to culinary school. You get out of education exactly what you put into it, and more. People can debate education vs. real world, and both are critical. With the latter, you can then go for the former. 

    Regarding your second post, you were pursuing another career and already committed to going to school for that. Where was the passion for cooking then and there? I am not being argumentative, but it seems like the passion for cooking was either displaced, came in second, and/or is a bit sexy and something that sounds good. If you really have that passion -- go and see if you really like the industry and have a passion for it. Good luck. All the best.