Thinking about becoming a chef

5
0
Joined Apr 22, 2019
Hello all,

I'm about to finish university and I've decided that, right now, I don't want to get a job related to my degree. I'm studying wildlife conservation, and whilst I do care about the subject, the only real draw to a job in that field would be to work outdoors in cool environments. But I think I want to do something that requires more skill, something that I can excel at if I put in the time.

I have been seriously considering learning how to cook. Over the last year or two, I have become naturally interested in cooking. I get satisfaction out of making good food, and, more recently, the idea of making food to a higher standard excites me. I enjoy the thought of learning traditional recipes from different cuisines and even travelling to learn first hand. As an end goal, I don't want to be a head chef in a Restaurant unless it's my own. I know that is a LONG way off, but I'm serious about the idea.

I have some concerns though. I haven't worked in a kitchen before so I don't know if I will enjoy the environment once I'm there. Also, I don't think I'd be satisfied starting as a dishwasher. Does anyone actually advance beyond a dishwasher to a position where you actually learn how to cook?

Also, I don't have the cash for culinary school. Nor do I want to be in education any longer unless I have no other choice.

Any advice on what direction I should take? I was thinking about going to places in my city and asking if they need any kitchen assistants. But I really want to learn how to cook right away and get some experience behind me. Maybe an apprenticeship is the way to go?

Does anyone have any advice? or any input at all?

Thanks
 
4,638
853
Joined Aug 21, 2004
Does anyone actually advance beyond a dishwasher to a position where you actually learn how to cook?
I advanced from a starting point of dishwasher, through the ranks, to a position of executive chef in a hotel; and actually learned to cook along the way. I have also been chef/owner of my own restaurant. The profession was also conducive to me traveling and learning along the way.

My advice, get a job in a kitchen, any job. If you have what it takes, advancement will happen, but it is up to you. Hard work pays off in spades in this industry, but don't confuse that with getting rich. The rewards come in forms other than monetarily.
 
1,775
510
Joined Aug 15, 2003
Honestly, if you've never worked in a professional kitchen before and are starting off with the attitude that you are too good to wash dishes that is a pretty big red flag for me. Kitchens are one of the last great meritocracies and, I'll be frank with you, if you are starting from zero experience what type of job are you expecting to get in a professional kitchen?

You have no idea how to move, how to work, how to hustle in a professional kitchen. You don't know a sixth pan from a 400 hotel pan. You don't know the heat. The sweat. The dance. You don't know how to receive a delivery, how to break it down, how to rotate it, how to store it.

What job in any kitchen worth it's salt do you think you'd start off as a "kitchen assistant" learning how to cook "right away." At best, you should start off peeling potatoes, making stocks, shucking peas, cracking coconuts, etc.

I dunno...you sound like a tourist.

I agree with cheflayne. Get a job in a kitchen. Start as a dishwasher or a prep cook. It'll either make you really commit to being a cook or it will make you happy you decided to finish school.
 
437
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Joined Oct 1, 2006
I echo cheflayne completely!

If only there were shortcuts to the end...

It may only take weeks to learn the dish area but, that is valuable information for when you are a chef. Unless you already know which tools/treatments/chemicals/products are most efficient to clean and sanitize all manner of glass, stainless, aluminum, ceramic, cast iron, silver, wood and plastic surfaces. Not getting people sick is pretty important!

If you are the person that says "I've finished that, what's next?" or "It's a little slow, do you need anything prepped?" you will advance. The more energy and effort you apply to learning, the faster you will advance.
 
5
0
Joined Apr 22, 2019
Thanks for the advice and feedback. Cleary I don't know what I'm talking about, haha. I was originally planning on getting into a kitchen by any means possible, that includes washing dishes. But when I started looking into exactly what dishwashing would involve, I came across a bunch of depressed people complaining about their job, and they all advised people to do something else. All of that negativity put me off. But thinking about it, those people clearly had no drive to advance their position. They were miserable and had no ambition. So maybe that's why they feel that way. I dunno.

I love the honesty, especially"you sound like a tourist". But yeah, I'm basically afraid of being trapped as a dishwasher, I'm just eager to learn. And yes, I'd be very content with chopping vegetables, making stocks, etc... as long as I get to learn something. I don't think I'm too good for dishwashing, I just want to progress as quickly as I can. I feel like I've wasted too much time at uni already.

Please feel free to offer me any tips, advice, criticism, whatever. I just want to understand what I'm getting myself into.
 
36
4
Joined Jan 22, 2018
Not to discourage you but it sounds like your trying to turn a hobby into a career. My advice to you is if you really want to pursue this, go get a job as a line cook, you will be working nonstop most times with no break, 10 to 14 hours a day is regular, say goodbye to holidays and weekends as well. Also if you think you will run a successful restaurant with no experience being a chef anywhere else your setting yourself up for failure. There's more to being a chef (not a cook) then cooking, there's labor cost, food cost, menu creation, knowing health code, LONG HOURS, plus many many other variables. Go get your food saftey certificate and start applying and try it out.
 
5
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Joined Apr 22, 2019
In all honesty, attempting to turn a hobby into a career is what I'm doing. If you can achieve it, it must be a fulfilling way of life. But you know, being a chef is entirely different from home cooking. I think it's worth giving it a shot though. I could end up loving it or hating it. I just want to find out.

The running my own restaurant thing is only a pipe dream. It sounds good, but yeah, I'm clueless. But who knows what's possible down the line.
 
53
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Joined Jun 8, 2017
Even if you do make it as a chef one day you will still have to do dishes. Yes, it gets hot and frustrating. The pay sucks but in the end it is a valuable skill to have, especially in a busy kitchen. If you can bust dishes out like a badass and let it be known you want to be trained as a cook; it will happen. Just don't start out thinking you're too good for this and that. You have no skills related to a pro kitchen so in reality you aren't too good for it. 90% of chefs start from the bottom. Like you even said, you want to work your way up. Start putting in apps and don't get discouraged.
 
4,638
853
Joined Aug 21, 2004
I just want to understand what I'm getting myself into.
Long hours, low pay, job insecurity...What's not to love? :~) In actuality, this profession gives me the ability to go anywhere and get a job probably within a week or two. I have worked across the U.S. and foreign countries as well. Work finds me.

The running my own restaurant thing is only a pipe dream. It sounds good, but yeah, I'm clueless. But who knows what's possible down the line.
I turned it into a reality. Who wooda thunk. I got into the profession while I took some time off from college until i could figure out what I wanted to change my college major to. When I started out, I was definitely a clueless, only here for a short time, tourist. What i discovered was my home!

Get a job. Any job. Be eager. Be a sponge. Watch coworkers. Ask questions. What do they do that is right? What could be done better? Ask what can you do when caught up with your station to help them out. You won't be a dish tech for long. Attitude. Attitude. Attitude. Make yourself too valuable, not to be allowed to grow and expand your skills.
 
26
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Joined Feb 19, 2019
Not letting us dissuade you is a good indication that it MIGHT work out.
Well put :)

But yeah - the best and only thing that makes sense at the place where you are now (to the OP) is to get a job in a professional kitchen
Washing dishes - honestly speaking, especially for someone who has never worked in a kitchen before, is just basics. Every cook/chef I know and have had the pleasure to work with has, at one point or another, washed the dishes.
Heck - I actually still today enjoy the task of just switching off and busting dishes - nothing quite like it :)
 
4
1
Joined Apr 26, 2019
Hello all,

I'm about to finish university and I've decided that, right now, I don't want to get a job related to my degree. I'm studying wildlife conservation, and whilst I do care about the subject, the only real draw to a job in that field would be to work outdoors in cool environments. But I think I want to do something that requires more skill, something that I can excel at if I put in the time.

I have been seriously considering learning how to cook. Over the last year or two, I have become naturally interested in cooking. I get satisfaction out of making good food, and, more recently, the idea of making food to a higher standard excites me. I enjoy the thought of learning traditional recipes from different cuisines and even travelling to learn first hand. As an end goal, I don't want to be a head chef in a Restaurant unless it's my own. I know that is a LONG way off, but I'm serious about the idea.

I have some concerns though. I haven't worked in a kitchen before so I don't know if I will enjoy the environment once I'm there. Also, I don't think I'd be satisfied starting as a dishwasher. Does anyone actually advance beyond a dishwasher to a position where you actually learn how to cook?

Also, I don't have the cash for culinary school. Nor do I want to be in education any longer unless I have no other choice.

Any advice on what direction I should take? I was thinking about going to places in my city and asking if they need any kitchen assistants. But I really want to learn how to cook right away and get some experience behind me. Maybe an apprenticeship is the way to go?

Does anyone have any advice? or any input at all?

Thanks
First things first, start small, find a job in the kitchen section of a restaurant or look out for short term courses. There's a way you can infuse all your love into the kind of restaurant you want to open, but garnering experiences will definitely inform wha you are gunning for.
 
5
0
Joined Apr 22, 2019
Thanks again for the knowledge.

I finish university in about 2 weeks and straight away I plan on finding work in a kitchen. From what everyone’s said, that’ll be washing dishes, but I’m cool with that now.

Looking at job posting in my city, there isn’t really much advertised. So I’m wondering, would y’all reccomend going to a restaurant in person and asking if they need any kitchen staff? That makes more sense to me, because I can ask for work in places that I know do good food. Which brings me onto my next point...should I try in the most respected restaurants, or just places that do good hosnest food?

Also, I’m definitely overthinking this, but when I do ask, should I ask front of house or go around back to the kitchen? I’ve heard of people doing both.

Thanks again.
 
4,638
853
Joined Aug 21, 2004
I would walk in the front and ask to speak to the chef, just be sure to do it during off hours as in pre-shift. Don't ask the chef a yes or no question, instead tell him where you are coming from and what you are looking for. This will stimulate conversation. If the chef takes a shine to you but doesn't have any openings, he might know of someone who does have an opening. The culinary world is a small tight knit community. As to best or good restaurants, it is a toss up, depends upon the personality of the chef. Some are teacher mentor types, others, not so much.

Also, I’m definitely overthinking this
Overthinking is alright as long as you are moving while you are doing it. :~)
 
26
4
Joined Feb 15, 2019
Its pretty nice idea about becoming a chef. But I think there is a lot of competition in market and you should be creative with your dishes. Everyday many of the people comes in this industry but very less become the best chef. So, I think there should be your interest in Kitchening and you should wiling to give the time to kitchen as much as you can.
Thank you.
 
8
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Joined Dec 1, 2016
Gotta start on the pots - it will give you the work ethic and efficiency that you need to learn to work in a kitchen. It will also give the opportunity to observe and see how a professional kitchen actually works. If you can’t hack pots you will never survive in a professional kitchen. Sorry but that is the reality of this industry.
 
56
25
Joined May 30, 2019
If you want to live hand to mouth, work two or three jobs just to make ends meat, have no health insurance, not be able to save for retirement, live with several people in one house cuz you can't afford it on your own, eat PB&J's every day, work weekends and holidays, miss out on life's milestones cuz you have to work, work with as* ho*** that have the emotional IQ of a thirteen year old boy and do this for several years until your ready to take on your own kitchen then I say go for it!

Honestly, if you love food and have no skills to offer other than work ethic and attitude, I recommend you turn to high end grocery stores such as Whole Foods for your first kitchen job. They will hire you with no experience and teach you the fundamentals, (knife skills, the different cuts, how to use the different kitchen equipment, work space organization, proper food handling and storage, etc.). You will get a decent starting wage (better than a dishwasher in a restaurant), health insurance and a positive learning environment. I did this after years of working in restaurants and hotels in the 80's and 90's and enjoyed it. After working my way up the ladder in the deli, I transferred to the meat department where I became a journey-person meat cutter making $23 an hour.
 
1,775
510
Joined Aug 15, 2003
If you want to live hand to mouth, work two or three jobs just to make ends meat, have no health insurance, not be able to save for retirement, live with several people in one house cuz you can't afford it on your own, eat PB&J's every day, work weekends and holidays, miss out on life's milestones cuz you have to work, work with as* ho*** that have the emotional IQ of a thirteen year old boy and do this for several years until your ready to take on your own kitchen then I say go for it!

Honestly, if you love food and have no skills to offer other than work ethic and attitude, I recommend you turn to high end grocery stores such as Whole Foods for your first kitchen job. They will hire you with no experience and teach you the fundamentals, (knife skills, the different cuts, how to use the different kitchen equipment, work space organization, proper food handling and storage, etc.). You will get a decent starting wage (better than a dishwasher in a restaurant), health insurance and a positive learning environment. I did this after years of working in restaurants and hotels in the 80's and 90's and enjoyed it. After working my way up the ladder in the deli, I transferred to the meat department where I became a journey-person meat cutter making $23 an hour.
I'm going to assume that the OP lives in the UK (or at least Europe) where they won't have to worry about much of that stuff.
 
174
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Joined Feb 8, 2015
I started out washing dishes when I was 15, as most of all the chefs on here worked their way up. I graduated culinary school 19 years ago and still washing pots and pans. Even as an executive chef I go help and enjoy that at that time my only job is to make a dish clean. Find your puppy's running in a field with a rainbow, then actually work in a restaurant and check back in 6 months
 

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