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Culinary Career

Lynda's picture

Culinary Career (post #60117)

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Hope this message seems relevant to this board--its the friendliest one I've seen so far!
I'm curious about the culinary profession as a career. I'm seriously considering attending the Western Culinary Institute here in Oregon, but have concerns about my employment options in the real world. A job search through several web sites for 'chef' revealed little more than burger flipping--obvoiusly not what I'm interested in. Any advice from you professional foodies or suggestions on books I could check out? Thanks!

MEAN_CHEF's picture

(post #60117, reply #1 of 11)

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First, after you get out of culinary school, you won't be getting a "chef" job. It takes years of experience to become a chef.
That being said, I choose a culinary career as a second career. I did it because I decided to do what I love doing. I have often joked that it would be a great profession if you could make a living at it.
If you love it , go for it. Remember, it one of the few professions that lets you work all nights, weekends and holidays .

Jean_'s picture

(post #60117, reply #2 of 11)

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Kind of like the medical field--think of it as saving lives. :-)

George_W._Carpenter's picture

(post #60117, reply #3 of 11)

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Lynda, seek a school that is recommended by noted Owner/Chef's in your area. Here in the East, the Culinary Institute of America (the other CIA) is noted as the "Big Name" yet,
most Owner/Chef's I've talked to recommend New England Culinary Institute (NECI) as the school they look to hire from. Note the word hire. The Johnston and Wales program in Providence, RI is getting good reviews for a comparatively nacent school.

As Mean Chef (for all his bombast) noted, if you're kitchen help, forget any "normal" life.
You have to love it, or have the business accumen to go out on your own. Beware partners, unless you can buy them out. Open a restaurant only at the end of a recession, build the business, and sell it to Venture Capitalists, just as the next big crash occurs. Get Cash. Most owner/chefs do the opposite, getting in just as the bottom's falling out, working 85hrs a week, to loose it all. Avoid drugs. Cocaine doesn't make you smarter, food taste better, or pink tomatoes ripen in the next half hour. Visit Julia Child.
Love what you do.

Nice_Chef's picture

(post #60117, reply #4 of 11)

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Lynda,

First thing, get a job in a restaurant to see if you actually like the work. What you see in magazines and on TV are very different from the real life kitchen. It's hot, fast, and hard work. You work weekends, holidays, and all the times when your friends are off and playing. Unless they work in the business too. Like Mean Chef said, you won't start as a chef. If someone offers you a chef position right out of school, they are not being truthful with you. It takes years of hard work and dedication to become a chef. Why do it? If you love it, you will understand why. A good book to read is "Becoming a Chef" by Andrew Dronenberg(did I get that name right?) It will give you alot of insight into the industry. Alot of real experiences. Western Culinary is a decent program. But not as good as what the real world will teach you. School offers alot of foundational work. You will be exposed to alot of things quicker than in the real world. But nothing substitutes for real life experience.

Good luck
Nice Chef

Gerard's picture

(post #60117, reply #5 of 11)

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Now you've got the advice take a look at the non burger flippin jobs. Theres big demand for good pastry chefs too, up to $90K plus.

http://starchefs.com/cgi-bin/sclist.pl?listFlag=jobsopen&start=0

Allow 10 yrs before you call yourslef Chef, no matter what they call you, I've been called worse too.!

Cheers, Gerard

I have lots of job links for chefs if you need to see more.

CMT's picture

(post #60117, reply #6 of 11)

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The Making of a Chef : Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America by Michael Ruhlman is a fine read and quite illuminating.

BTW Quite appropos to the board (says a diehard lurker) and a great topic!

Chiffonade_'s picture

(post #60117, reply #7 of 11)

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When I first started culinary school (Peter Kump's in NY) my teacher advised us to keep cooking as a hobby we enjoyed. I only wish I could do it full time but opportunities can be limited depending on where you live. I agree that TV food shows do glamorize a job that requires you spend hours on-end in a very hot (sometimes small) confined space. While you have visions of creating crown roasts and croquembouches, what will probably happen in the beginning will more resemble hunching over a cutting board with a chef's knife and a bushel of onions.

At this point, I will do both...I will work at an office job for $$ and do my catering on weekends and for special occasions and my own parties.

If you are 17 and don't mind working your way up the ladder, it's a great profession. However, if you are on a "second" career, it may pose a more strenuous existence than you may be ready for.

Lynda's picture

(post #60117, reply #8 of 11)

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Well, It looks like I certainly have further research to do. Thanks for all the info. Plus a big pat on the back to all you who followed your passions despite the unglamorous side.

Best,
Lynda

Gerard's picture

(post #60117, reply #9 of 11)

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Some of us are just trying to make a living, I coulda done worse and better but.....

Marcie_'s picture

(post #60117, reply #10 of 11)

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Lynda,

I think I have the perfect solution for you! I have been working as a personal chef for 4 years now and I absolutely love it. I was sick of working holidays, weekends and nights. This option gives you the luxury of deciding your own destiny. If you would like more information regarding this, check out http://www.uspca.com/

Marcie_'s picture

(post #60117, reply #11 of 11)

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Lynda,

I think I have the perfect solution for you! I have been working as a personal chef for 4 years now and I absolutely love it. I was sick of working holidays, weekends and nights. This option gives you the luxury of deciding your own destiny. If you would like more information regarding this, check out http://www.uspca.com/