Stuck in a rut

Joined Oct 8, 2001

I have only recently joined Chef Talk but all ready I have picked up some great advice and tips. With so much experience and expertise at hand I thought I might ask for an outside view of my problem.

I have always loved good food and cooking but have always done it as an amateur. I have often dreamed of being able to do something food related for a living. I nearly took the plunge a few years ago when I went to work as a kitchen porter for Raymond Blanc whilst I taught myself web design.

He was opening his new restaurant in Cheltenham and it was my first experience of a professional kitchen - it was extremely hard work and being a kitchen porter made a lot of the work extremely tedious but whenever I got roped in to help the chefs I loved it. At this time I was in my late 40s with 5 kids still living at home so when the conversation turned to asking the Head Chef to take me on as a trainee I shied away from it because of the hours and it would mean a drop in salary.

From there I became a freelance web designer but that all started to go wrong after I nearly died from a burst appendix which resulted in me being unable to work for over two months. I was just starting to get over that when I had to go back into hospital for a massive hernia opeartion which put me off work for another month and then the dotcom collapse resulted in all web work drying up.

Through all of this I have developed and grown my web site Hub-UK because it enables me to keep my web skills honed and keeps new ideas coming in on the food side.

At the end of March because things were looking pretty bleak with the web design business I took the job of Night Supervisor at a local hotel. It is something I really hate doing as it destroys my life through lack of sleep and it gives me very litttle time for myself or family. If I have two days off the first is spent in bed and on the second one I cannot go to bed like a normal person because I must sleep on the day I return to work. Considering the hours we work (11pm to 7am) and the responsibilty we have, the job is extremely poorly paid.

Sorry if I have been a bit long winded but that gives you the background. Now I would like to do almost anything that got me out of working nights but there are problems. Two of our children are still only 7 and 8 so they have to be looked after when school finishes and be taken to school in the morning, as well as the problem of school holidays. Both my wife and I work but our combined salaries barely give us enough to make ends meet so if I was to change jobs it would have to be for considerably more money to enable us to pay for child minders.

In my ideal world I would like to devote myself full time to running Hub-UK but that would mean finding a sponsor or sponsors or other financial backing. I have all ready extensively explored that avenue (it may be that I never made contact with the right person) so until there is an upsurge in investment on the internet I have to forget that. Another idea that has come to me is about setting up a small catering business - not to the end user but supplying hotels and restaurants with things like ready made desserts, starters, etc. The problem again is lack of experience and knowing where to start.

I have now passed the big five-oh which makes things slightly more difficult. With the business of working nights and running around doing all those other things necessary to maintain the family there seems very little time to step back and think about the future. My wife and I both know we want to move away from where we live now but that is as far as we seem to get.

Does anyone in the group possess a magic wand or is there a millionaire out there who would be prepared to back Hub-UK for the next two years?

To give you some clues you can find my online CV through my profile.

I hope this is not seen as too tedious a post nor too off-topic.
Joined Jan 5, 2001
David, I'm not the one with the magic wand, but I just wanted to say, hang in there. These are slow, tough times for so many, and tough times tend not to last forever.

The most important advice I can give you is to look after your health. If you don't have that, your no good for anyone, including your kids, so get some sleep and take some vitamins!!

As for catering, I've learned a lot from Wendy, which you can read in Diary of Baby Chef II. You won't make any significant amount of money in catering without experience, a large investment, lots of contacts, etc.

Eventually, if you can prove to be a good cook (some education, maybe your papers), maybe private cheffing could be just the ticket for you. The hours are more flexible, so you could work around your children's schooling.

Good luck to you, and take care of yourself.
Joined Mar 6, 2001
Unforunately or forunately depending on how you see it, your really not alone. There's alot of people, like me too, struggling to find the right path. I have had acouple different career paths in my 40 years. I'm trying to keep more focused and remain on the one I've known the longest and have the most martketable skills in, since starting over becomes harder and harder as I grow older.

I really wouldn't recommend STARTING in the kitchen at your age if you have physical problems. It's really a more physically demanding job than you might realize. Although if you love cooking perhaps working part-time for a caterer would be a way to keep you emotionally happy with cooking.

Most caterers are looking for servers, bartenders and temp. kitchen help all the time. Call several in your area and ask if their hiring (working the parties pays more money than working at their base kitchen). Also working parties, you can accept or decline according to YOUR schedule. A mature, responsible person who knows how to hussle for a buck is a HUGE asset for them.....!

What about creating web sites for your local food businesses. Have you called party consultants and caterers and tryed that avenue?
Obviously working from your home would be the best job you could have (with children....). Have you pursued any other avenues with computors....can you teach web design? Or tutor seniors, students etc... on the computor?
Joined Mar 4, 2000
My advice would be the same as Wendy's. At this stage in your life, with 2 kids still at home, it may be difficult or impossible to find a starting job in a kitchen, that will allow you time with your family, and sufficient money to support them. But if you can restart your web design career, you're more likely to make a decent salary, while being able to take care of your kids. In your spare time, you can temp. in professional kitchens, while getting the experience you need for your future plans.

Good luck.:)
Joined Oct 13, 2001
Hey David , I would have to go with the group on this one . Take care of your health first and foremost and if you realy like to work in the kitchen I would start by cooking for my family and when you get good then your friends . I would not at your age think about a career in foodservice . I know it can look mighty glamorouse but physically and mentaly it can be very demanding .
Good luck and keep cooking .
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