Is He "Reaching" or Is He on to Something?

Updated on August 18, 2011
P.G. asks from San Antonio, TX
19 answers

I'm in a state of transition. I've worked as an admin for a long time. Tried my hand at being an entrepreneur, but it wasn't for me. I love to work as part of a team and really want to be in an upper level support role. I'm looking to get back into the full time work world. I also want to improve myself and go back to school eventually, but have been struggling as to what. When will be a few years down the road unless I do the one-class-at-a-time thing.

So I love to watch cooking reality shows, but specifically Chopped, Food Network Star, Restaurant Impossible, etc. I don't get a chance to watch the educational ones during the day. I had NO cooking education as a child. No experience with "real" cooking till I got out on my own. I don't have this "passion" to cook - I'm a bit timid actually, about making mistakes.

Hubby thinks Culinary School would be a good idea. There will always be a need for chefs, and you can use the skill at home, he says. I'm going to look into it, but I wanted to know if anyone has done this kind of thing, and if it really could be a good career choice? Did you ALWAYS want to cook? Or did you discover when you started that you were good. I just muddle through but he's happy with what I make. I'm not very adventurous, but once I see it works, I roll with it and make it nice.

Thanks for your input!

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answers from San Francisco on

I agree with the classes at at community college and reading "Kitchen Confidential." It's a great read, in any case.

I have zero interest in cooking, so my take is that I wouldn't go to culinary school unless it were a passion. When I watch someone who has that innate cooking ability, I see a person who just effortlessly glides through the kitchen, chopping and sprinkling and stirring and then, voila!, something amazing appears on a plate. And those are people who haven't gone to culinary school.

It seems to me that some people just have that gift, and like any art, those are the people who would excel at the craft of cooking. If you are timid about cooking, spending a fortune on culinary school right away might not be a good idea.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

If you do decide to go this route, El Centro Community College in Dallas has Culinary program that is supposed to be a decent program. Since you are in Richardson - it wouldn't be too far and cheaper than some of the Culinary Institutes.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Houston on

Culinary school is extremely expensive and competitive. My friend went and right now he is working at two very non-glamorous restaurant jobs trying to make ends meet and to pay off student loans. I would not go that route unless you were already passionate about it and plan on making it a full time career, it can be pretty cut throat and a lot of hard work, strenuous hours....

For the reasons you describe, it would be cheaper if you took some culinary classes at a local community college to see if it's something that interests you before making the jump into a culinary school.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Erie on

Read Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. If you think you could hack it after reading that, then go to culinary school.

I can attest to the fact that what he writes about the commercial kitchen experience is REAL. You will be pushed to your limits and berated for your failures. You will work with people who smoke like chimneys & swear like sailors. If you attempt to open your own place, it has a very good chance at failing, your employees will steal you blind if given half a chance (and if they show up for work), and you will spend 80% of your time at work or thinking about work. And yes, you will work holidays, weekends and nights. You will get few if any sick days. You will fight for every benefit. You will cut yourself and need to keep working through the dinner rush, even if you need stitches. You will go to work with fevers, broken arms and sprained ankles. You have to have a passion for it, otherwise don't waste your time, and don't waste the time of those who would attempt to teach you. All of us who work in the industry liken it to a calling. Yes, I always wanted to cook. So did my husband. We never figured we'd do it for a living, but here we are, doing it for a living. There's nothing "nice" about this industry, you have to have a tough skin and have excellent skills to just make minimum wage. We've been able to carve out a niche as a pop-up restaurant/caterer, all while he works 60 hours a week as a chef or line cook. We have four kids. We love it, otherwise we wouldn't have anything to do with it lol!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Here's what you need to know about working in the culinary industry - weekends, evenings and holidays. That's when you'll be working. you'll be home when your kids are at school and at work when they're off. You'll work your hardest and be busiest when it's holiday time when you want to be with your family.

There are some types of positions in the business that are primary breakfast/lunch - like corporate environments, delis and restaurants in business parks. But for the most part catering and restaurants people work when everyone elses doesn't want to.

If you don't mind that and you don't mind being on your feet for much of the day then this might be for you.

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answers from Atlanta on

My husband's friend went through the entire culinary school thing and he ended up working at 1. a hotel with a restuarant inside that catered meals to the guest 2. at a golf club place that had a restuarant there and 3. a butcher shop and lastly he went totally away from it all and ended up working for Publix in the meat department....nothing wrong with that I suppose since that is how my own husband makes a living and Publix is a fairly good company.....not as good as they used to be but that's a whole other can of worms. Therefore he might just be one trying to figure out his place but I know from him its a very competitive field and very hard to get anywhere. Now another guy I know is in culinary school and has already been offered a job or perhaps an internship at Disney ;()) ......maybe it's who you know and where you are at right time......;()) I say go for it if you are passionate about it.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I think you really need a passion for culinary school. It's a lot of work and if you get a job as a chef, the hours are long and late nights.

I have thought about this in the past myself. I really love to cook and I'm great at it, but the thought of being away from my family most evenings and weekends did not appeal to me. Then I thought about pastry chef, but that's not really where my passion lies.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Take a few classes at a community college first. I have several friends who have gone through the Culinary Institute in NY and Oh My- the tuition is outrageous!

It's hard work and they love it, but the hours stink and unless you want to be a private chef/caterer you have to be prepared to work nights and weekends.

Take a few courses and see if you like it as a "field of study"- very different than loving to cook!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Salinas on

You need to talk to someone who is actually working in the industry. I love to cook and am pretty good at it but would never want to do it for a living. As a 20 something worked in a lot of restaurants some of them very high end. The kitchen is a super stressful and often "unhappy" place to spend your time. My experience is head chefs are often very hard to be around, to put it gently. Of course this is a generalization and there are many exceptions but the first time I saw Hell's Kitchen I thought "that's not too far off base from my experience".
Just be sure that you know what your getting into before moving forward.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

I watch all the shows like Hells Kitchen, Master Chef, Rocco's Dinner Party, etc. It seems like chefs have to really LOVE what they do. And I think you have to put in long hours and a lot of time on your feet. I think they have crazy work hours so you would not always be available to your family. I think your husband just wants you to spice things up in the kitchen so maybe take a few classes to learn some new tricks but I would look into other employment opportunities. Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Albany on

Yes, I LOVE to cook, I cook excessively, and for no one in particular.

There are a lot of different things you can do with a 2 year culinary arts degree, besides cooking in a restaurant.

Here, every community college in the area offers a decent program, for a reasonable price. I think about it all the time.

I'm not sure late nights and grueling kitchen restaurant work would suit me anymore, having kids and getting older. But there's catering, starting your own business, food trucks, farmer's markets, etc....

Even if you don't ever use it, it'd be a cool thing to do.

But if you're thinking of cheffing in a dining establishment, read Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential before to decide, tehehe.

I hope you do it, maybe I will too!


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answers from St. Louis on

If you love to cook you can become a chef but unless you have the skills you will never be a great chef. Your husband is right in that any improvements will help your skills at home.

There is a skill set that not everyone has that is needed to be anything more than a fry cook. You either have that or not, it cannot be taught.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I love to cook and love to see the look on my wife and kids' faces when it really turns out perfect.

BUT, I would not want to be a professional cook or chef.

There are some one or two week cooking schools. Take one. If you like it go to a youth camp (boy scouts, girl scouts, girl's camp) and volunteer to help in the kitchen. They are always short on kitchen staff. If you like that, then you will be a candidate to be a chef.

I told my kids to look at when the people work in the career they are thinking of going into before they decide on a career. If you work for Walmart, K-mart, or Target or other retail business, you will work every holiday and every weekend and most evenings. If you work for the Post Office, you will work from Thanksgiving to Christmas every year. If you work for an engineering firm you won't work holidays or weekends unless you are pushed to get a project done. Chefs work holidays, evenings and weekends because that's when people go out to eat.

Good luck to you and yours.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I think most of your answers lay out the pros/cons of going to culinary school. I personally LOVE to cook and I consider myself very accomplished and confident. Having said that, I've never really thought culinary school was for me. I knew it would be expensive and afterwards, the work would be very long hours with lots of dirty grunt work - not my cup of tea. I'm a Pampered Chef consultant so I'm cooking in front of people all the time. I share my cooking knowledge and expertise & I make very good money doing it. I didn't have to go to culinary school and my need to cook & share is satisfied. I'm also happy to entertain and cook for friends and family in my home. I think all the cooking shows we see on TV glamorize the field without showing us that a lot of people who spend big bucks on culinary school spend most of their time sweating in a kitchen taking orders from someone else. Good luck with which ever route you decide to go & send me a personal message if you have any questions.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Being a cook (it is a while before you get to chef) is underpaid, has long hours and is extremely physically grueling. I dated two chefs, and I one of the things I learned from them is that is is not a fun job, or particularly suited to flextime or having a family life. You have to love it to put up with working conditions. It sounds like your husband is thinking it would be cool to have you learn some cooking stuff, but it is NOTHING like working in an office job.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

I think the question to ask yourself is this: Do you love those shows and want to BE LIKE those people once acquiring your degree? Or, are you happy on a much smaller scale?

What area are you in? Do you have a lot of up-scale restaurants looking for chefs? If not, then you will likely end up working in a chain restaurant, killing yourself on nights and weekends.

I had three acquaintances I knew who went to culinary school - one of them is a cook at Applebees, the other two went on to do something else because of a lack of job opportunites. They live in a fairly large city in North/Central Illinois.

What is your goal - and can you attain that goal based upon your geographic options and the degree you will obtain?

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Naples on

I don't think being a cook/chef would be a family friendly job. I know three thirtysomethings who went to culinary school. Two of them worked as chefs and are now pursuing completely different careers, because of the ridiculously long hours, always working evenings, weekends and holidays, and how physically taxing it was. The third LOVES it, but he's a bit younger and is a bachelor. Even he complains a bit about the 12+ hour days.
BUT maybe you could open a little side catering business or something like that....
I mean hey, if you all have the money to spend, and it sounds like hubby is supportive of the idea of you going just to get the cooking experience...why not?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Bismarck on

I have a friend that has 2 adult children. Her daughter always wanted to be a chef and attended Culinary School. Her brother was unsure what he wanted to do and was J. trudging along in life when he decided to give it a try too, since he and his sister could be room-mates and he really didn't have any other plan to fall back on. That was about 6 or 7 years ago. After completing school, the sister soon decided that it wasn't for her after-all and pursued other avenues. The brother, however, is now a well-known chef and absolutely loves what he does. If you feel it's something you would enjoy doing and you have your husband's support, I say go for it!

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