Starting a little late in life

Joined Oct 21, 2010
Where to start, hello all and thank you for having me. 

 I am 33 married and father to 4 children ages 9 to 1. Since I love cooking, I am predominantly the cook in the house.

 After spoiling family and friends with a number of tasty dishes (some made Gluten free for a friend) , they have encouraged me to do something in the culinary field. I tried in vain to explain to them the hours a typical chef works and what a "CHEF" knows that I do not but they still encourage me nonetheless.

So in the back of my mind the idea was always there but when I was let go after my company was bought out, I really started to give it a serious second thought.

So here I am really in the beginning of my career. In January I am going to school for a 6 month (crash course) culinary program and for now, I am trying to get in a restaurant where I can work and get some serious cooking chops.

---if your not bored yet, read on /img/vbsmilies/smilies//smile.gif ---

I am originally from Southern California but I now live near Winston Salem, North Carolina. For the last couple weeks I have tried in vain to get a position in a restaurant that cooked everything from scratch. I dont know what to call the restaurants as they are high quality food but they do not consider themselves fine dining either (very small portions etc). These are the types of restaurants I've visited

I made a portfolio of the dishes I've made, including pictures and recipes and the chefs I spoke to loved it and gave me continued encouragement. But the thing I am running into is that these great little restaurants are struggling with the economy and sadly, I cant work for free.

I don't know if it's premature, but I have lowered my standard of restaurant I am shooting for. Tomorrow I have a 2nd interview with a local steak house. On one hand its a great opportunity to get some skill working a grill line, on the other I cant help but wonder if I should keep applying to smaller high class restaurants. I was told by the GM that he would know in two weeks if I was cut out for it or not.

I know its just the first step, but I have a bad habit of obsessing over the first step. It is the perfectionist in me.

sorry for the long read. Thanks again for having me.
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Joined Aug 29, 2000
Welcome to Chef Talk, MacGregor. Your journey is just starting, and we're glad to be part of it. Good luck with your quest. Perhaps your culinary program will have some ideas for places to work if the current prospect doesn't pan out. (Sorry for the lousy pun!)

I'm sure the pros here will tell you there are lessons to be learned wherever you work, whether it's fine dining, family fare or chain restaurant. Sometimes the lessons will be suprises, both good and bad. But you'll learn something. I'd guess you'll learn quickly about the press of the dinner or lunch rush, the repetitve nature of daily prep, the necessities of careful sanitation in a chain restaurant. As a home cook who did only a few weeks behind the flattop in a small restaurant during college, I learned that much likety-split!

Our members, both pro and home cooks, hail from all over the world, all ages and all levels of culinary knowledge. Our "well" of information is about 10 years deep, so using the search tool will offer you even more possibilities.

Good luck in your new pursuit! We look forward to seeing you here often.

Joined Aug 18, 2007
Well you certainly have a passion macgregor and that can take you a long way, so long as practicallities are applied.

As Mezzaluna suggests,you can learn absolutely anywhere. Doing well on what you might consider the lower rungs of the business,will give you confidence. you can learn absolutely anywhere.( A kitchen assistant taught me masses about kitchen co-ordination when i was working schoolmeals years ago)

Good luck with the jobs. I look forward to hearing how you get on.
Joined Nov 5, 2009
I think it is great that you are pursuing a culinary career.  Wishing you good luck in school and a big welcome to the forum
Joined Feb 8, 2009
If you do fail working on the front line at the steak house don't get to upset. There is much much more to a restaurant business than working on a grill. Starting at 33 isn't at all to late, its in a lot f ways just right. Work as many restaurants as you can in the next two years, learn fast absorb the knowledge like  a of luck..............BillyB
Joined Oct 21, 2010
Thank you all for the very warm welcome. Pacific Northwest, Wisconsin and Scotland--from all over. Thats awesome.

I know it has only been a few days but here is an update.

Last thursday I visited no less than 7 restaurants. 6 out of the 7 were what many would refer to as Family Fare (did I get that right). Places like Macaroni Grill, Steak Houses, Applebees etc. Out of the 7 I spoke to, 2 that really stood out as having 1-Possibility of me working there and 2-A good working environment.

I realize I will only know for a fact what the environment is once I work there, but the attitude in management is big in my opinion. The steakhouse that didn't make my cut had a semi rude GM, that just came off as New York style busy. He asked me to come back the next day and speak to another manager (gas is free, why not.) So I did and the next manager I spoke to made the New Yorker look like a gentile southern belle. He threw his questions at me like statements. He interrupted me with questions before I was done answering the first question. Personally, I think someone pissed in his oatmeal and he didn't want to be bothered, he was just looking for a reason to go back to whatever he was doing at oh... 230 on a "dead" Friday.

Back to the good shall we /img/vbsmilies/smilies//smile.gif

2 more restaurants. 1 I had good success with on Thursday. We really sat down and talked at length. He was a straight shooter but kind. He gave me some more insight into the business and the way things usually worked. He asked many of the same questions the Rude manager from the previous paragraph asked, but he didn't interrupt me and he "asked" them. I got the feeling that he cared, and was kind but was also serious. He told me exactly how it was, what might be the outcome of my "trial" period so to speak and what my struggles might be with the schedule and with the job itself. He asked me to come back on Friday after consulting my wife and I did. We had another good discussion and I have a position waiting. He wants me to speak to the wife again and make sure this doesn't hurt my unemployment benefits, should this not work out.  

I have pondered, talked to the wife and prayed. Everything feels good and right and at this point I am preparing myself mentally. (stay grounded, focus, concentrate, breathe---easy)

"Go placidly among the noise and haste" My favorite new quote. In lieu of my soon to be grill line position, for me that means not letting the chaos of the kitchen get to me.

The 2nd place I had a good feeling about was not a family fare type of steakhouse. They were expensive, cooked over a wood fire and didn't look to do quite as much business as the other steak house. The challenge there, was learning to cook steaks, at a chefs pace, over a finicky fire. They give hours to there top producers and while I think I could one day be a top producer, I need the time to learn. And then again, that was the other kicker, if I was to start there, I would start at dish. I think with more experience the restaurant would be a good fit, but at this stage, not for me, not now at least.
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