I need to work as a Chef

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I need to work as a Chef

Postby Josephvr » Sat Aug 18, 2001 7:35 pm

Here it goes! After 20 years in the high tech computer industry, and achieving a career level with a salary (and stress) rivaling a doctor's life.....I was miserable. I hate this field. The cells phones, pagers, 150 emails a day, 12 hour work days, airport after airport, hotel after hotel.....yuck! The money isn't worth it....it is sucking the life energy from me and I've discovered that I need to do something which will *feed my soul*. For the last year I've been living under the stress of a potential layoff, due to an economic downturn in the industry. Well, it finally arrived....it seems my decision to leave has been made for me. I was laid off 2 weeks ago. Event after event is nudging me to 'follow my dream'....do what I love. I saw Barbara's telecast on PBS last night, and WOW....what a revelation. Affirmation that what I was thinking and feeling was alright! I've been reading books by Deepak Chopra and Dr. Dyer and in the process beginning to understand that misery is NOT what life is or should be about....and I am choosing a different path. Now the problem is this...and I'm throwing it out to the world and am going to see what comes back.... I love cooking. For over 20 years I've bought and read every cookbook imaginable. Every TV show on cooking, every article in the paper on food, every cooking equipment section in every store I've been in, has held my interest. I've studied every major cooking technique out there, and can't get enough of it. From French, Italian, Pastry, Fusion, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Cajun, Baking....etc. I love creating all types of food and discovering new challenges in the kitchen. (I make the world's best cheesecake, and chocolate mousse cake.....and my Hot Garlic, Asiago Cheese and Artichoke dip will make your taste buds absolutely melt!!!) How do I find work in a kitchen and make enough money to cloth and feed my two teenage children! Most entry level chef jobs pay barely above the poverty line. I can't work in high tech and cook professionally at the same time....time will not allow this. I'm turning 41 in two months and I am determined to make this move to the field that I love, but am not sure how to do that.....any and all helpful advice will be appreciated. I can cook anything, and do it with passion!!! I completely zone out when I have a chef's knife in my hand and set out creating something in the kitchen. I don't have a lot of money saved up however, so returning to school to get 'certified' etc. isn't an option at this point, not with local cooking schools charging upwards of $30K for a session....and then having to put in the 6000 hours necessary before I can be officially 'certified'. I need to find a job where I can recieve credit for what I do know and finally, FINALLY be able to do what I love. Help? ------------------ Everything is a choice!
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Postby kalypso » Sat Aug 18, 2001 10:05 pm

Hi Josephvr I've been in the food service business for 25 years, I might be able to give you some insight. A lot is going to depend upon where you live. The last Exec. Chef I worked with quit the advertising business at age 37, borrowed money from his in-laws and went through the program at the French Culinary Institute. That was 10 years ago, so it *is* possible to make the change. The fact that you have an education will be an asset. I've worked with cooks and chefs that have come up through the ranks as well as those that have been professionally trained and know that you can become a competent professional by either route. However, given your age, the cooking school route may open doors more quickly. Jacques Pepin is right, technique is everything, and the better your technique the easier everything becomes. By far the best technique is usually from the folks that have been through a professional training program. The other primary value to the cooking schools is that you learn the moves and the rhythms of a commercial kitchen. It's one thing to be a highly skilled home chef and quite another to be a highly skilled professional chef. Sometimes it doesn't matter how much passion you have for the subject, it matters what ends up on the plate, and cooking schools teach you how to get it on the plate as quickly and as attractively presented as possible. Cooking schools are ridiculously expensive and some of them really aren't worth it. I just got my CIA catalog in the mail yesterday and they offer 1 and 2 week crash courses on many topics that you can enroll in at a greatly reduced price. If your skill level is as good as you're describing, it may be that all you need are a few of these short courses to get you up to speed. If you are by any chance in the Bay Area there are some reasonable alternatives to both the CIA at Greystone and the CCA. I'd be happy to tell you about them if it's applicable. You could consider trying to go to work for one of the major food management companies like Sodexho/Marriott, ARAMark or the Compass Group. These generally pay better than restaurants, have saner hours and pretty much all include benefits. It isn't unusual in the restaurant biz to have to work a 50-70 hour week and spend most of that on your feet. The big 3 listed above all have web sites and Regional recruiters, you might want to start there and just talk to them and see if they'd be willing to take a chance on you. In most large cities, and especially if the city has a high restaurant profile like NYC, San Francisco or Chicago, there will be employment agencies specifically for food service and restaurant personnel. I can put you in touch with the one in the Bay Area if you're local. Check your phone book and see if there is a specialty recruiter local to you and then call and talk to them about how to get placed. Check any large Universities that may be near you. They will all have retail food outlets as well as dorm feeding programs. This doesn't sound very glamorous, but this is a captive audience and the College/University segment does just about anything to keep the food dollars on campus and as a result has become fairly innovative. If the University program is self-op as opposed to contracted out, they may be willing to take a chance. If you have your heart set on restaurant cooking you may have to pick a few restaurants you'd like to work in and start visiting the exec. chef and see if he or she will hire you. This is probably the hardest route. Are there any cooking schools close to you where you could teach a few courses to get that experience under your belt? I think you have lots of options open to you, it's just a matter of defining what you can do quickly. If there is any way you could take even a couple of cooking school classes it will increase your odds tremendously. I'd be glad to answer any further questions for you. Gotta run, Iron Chef is about to start and I've been addicted to that for years. Kalypso
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Postby Josephvr » Sun Aug 19, 2001 7:20 am

Hi kalypso, THANK YOU for taking the time to respond. Your insights are both welcome and very much appreciated. I am in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. As far as cooking schools are concerned, the only one with any reputation to speak of, other than the universities in the area, is the Cordon Blue Cooking School. It is a branch of the main schools in Paris and London. There are 6 levels (courses) to take. Cuisine 1-3 and Pastry 1-3. Each course is $5,000. Once all six courses have been successfully taken one must complete 3 months of full time study living in Paris or London to get the 'Grande Diplome'. I guess I was under the impression that one must have this final diploma for any restaurent to me seriously. Would it be good if I went with say one or two of the courses under my belt? Would it still carry weight on my resume? <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by kalypso: <B>Hi Josephvr I've been in the food service business for 25 years, I might be able to give you some insight. A lot is going to depend upon where you live. The last Exec. Chef I worked with quit the advertising business at age 37, borrowed money from his in-laws and went through the program at the French Culinary Institute. That was 10 years ago, so it *is* possible to make the change. The fact that you have an education will be an asset. I've worked with cooks and chefs that have come up through the ranks as well as those that have been professionally trained and know that you can become a competent professional by either route. However, given your age, the cooking school route may open doors more quickly. Jacques Pepin is right, technique is everything, and the better your technique the easier everything becomes. By far the best technique is usually from the folks that have been through a professional training program. The other primary value to the cooking schools is that you learn the moves and the rhythms of a commercial kitchen. It's one thing to be a highly skilled home chef and quite another to be a highly skilled professional chef. Sometimes it doesn't matter how much passion you have for the subject, it matters what ends up on the plate, and cooking schools teach you how to get it on the plate as quickly and as attractively presented as possible. Cooking schools are ridiculously expensive and some of them really aren't worth it. I just got my CIA catalog in the mail yesterday and they offer 1 and 2 week crash courses on many topics that you can enroll in at a greatly reduced price. If your skill level is as good as you're describing, it may be that all you need are a few of these short courses to get you up to speed. If you are by any chance in the Bay Area there are some reasonable alternatives to both the CIA at Greystone and the CCA. I'd be happy to tell you about them if it's applicable. You could consider trying to go to work for one of the major food management companies like Sodexho/Marriott, ARAMark or the Compass Group. These generally pay better than restaurants, have saner hours and pretty much all include benefits. It isn't unusual in the restaurant biz to have to work a 50-70 hour week and spend most of that on your feet. The big 3 listed above all have web sites and Regional recruiters, you might want to start there and just talk to them and see if they'd be willing to take a chance on you. In most large cities, and especially if the city has a high restaurant profile like NYC, San Francisco or Chicago, there will be employment agencies specifically for food service and restaurant personnel. I can put you in touch with the one in the Bay Area if you're local. Check your phone book and see if there is a specialty recruiter local to you and then call and talk to them about how to get placed. Check any large Universities that may be near you. They will all have retail food outlets as well as dorm feeding programs. This doesn't sound very glamorous, but this is a captive audience and the College/University segment does just about anything to keep the food dollars on campus and as a result has become fairly innovative. If the University program is self-op as opposed to contracted out, they may be willing to take a chance. If you have your heart set on restaurant cooking you may have to pick a few restaurants you'd like to work in and start visiting the exec. chef and see if he or she will hire you. This is probably the hardest route. Are there any cooking schools close to you where you could teach a few courses to get that experience under your belt? I think you have lots of options open to you, it's just a matter of defining what you can do quickly. If there is any way you could take even a couple of cooking school classes it will increase your odds tremendously. I'd be glad to answer any further questions for you. Gotta run, Iron Chef is about to start and I've been addicted to that for years. Kalypso </B><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
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Postby kalypso » Sun Aug 19, 2001 9:25 am

Hi Joseph I am familiar with the Cordon Bleu cooking school in Ottawa, I once had an employee that was considering that school. It is good and it is expensive. Does Canada have a Junior or Community College program similar to the U.S. where the first two years of college courses are offered? Many times these school have hospitality programs that are designed to get people into the industry quickly. Have you researched any other hospitality programs in Ottawa, I'd be very surprised in a city of that size if the Cordon Bleu was the only game in town. I know Canada has the equivalent of the NRA - National Restaurant Association, and there is probably a local branch in either Ottawa or Toronto (or both). I'd contact them and get as much information as possible about the current climate in the restaurant business. They should know about alternative schools in your area that turn out highly regarded, well trained students. You might find it easier if you concentrated on one area, food prep or pastry, rather than try and tackle both at once. Which do you prefer, baking or hot/cold food production. There has been a shortage of good pastry chefs the last few years and it *is* harder to do than straight cooking. Many of the best chefs can't bake to save their souls. The Canadian Restaurant Association should be able to tell you which area has the greater need. But by choosing one specialty area you can maximize your training dollars. How close are you to Hyde Park, NY. It might not hurt to get the Culinary Institute of America's catalog. It lists all the classes. They don't have the 1 and 2 week courses that their Greystone branch offers, but they do have 6, 10, and 13 week programs that range in price from $4,200 - $8,800. Unfortunately with the exchange rate between the U.S. and Canadian dollar the price would probably end up being higher. But the CIA name *will* open doors because of their reputation. You probably need to put it down on paper how you can make this transition. What do you want, how much time can you devote to it, how much can you invest in training, how elsastic is your budget and how far can you stretch it. You CAN do this, there is a way. Do you know the story of Nick Stellino, of Cucina Amore fame? He was a stock broker who got fed up with doing that and knew he had to get out. He'd always had a passion for good food and thought that held the key for him. He stewed about it and questioned everything, finally he took the plunge. Because he had no professional training, but was incredibly charming, he made the rounds of the Italian restaurants in Los Angeles that were actually owned by native Italians. He convinced one of the best ones to hire him............as a dishwasher. After a couple of weeks when his dedication and deisre to learn became apparent, they let him begin to help with the prep work, then as a line cook, and within 2-3 years he was an executive chef for one of the restaurants. He worked hard because he loved it. But it got better. An ad agency was looking for an Italian chef to be in a commercial for Ragu or some other bottled spaghetti sauce, Stellino got the nod. The ad was so successful it eventually spawned his TV show. He believed in the path that he started down, once he made the decision he totally committed to it and enlisted his family's support. If you too truly believe that cooking is your path, find a way to make it happen. Family support is going to be the key, get your wife and kids involved with your future and then everyone has a stake in making it happen Image. They can help research alternative schools for you, or part time jobs, or possible employers, they can also be involved in the budget planning (unless of course they're only a few years old). Decide where you want to end up and then work your way backwards from that goal. Good luck Kalypso [This message has been edited by kalypso (edited August 19, 2001).]
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Postby kalypso » Mon Aug 20, 2001 12:16 pm

Joseph It also occurred to me that becoming a Personal Chef might work for you. You can visit www.personalchef.com and find out more about it as a possible career choice. There is also a link somewhere on teh site to some of the seminars offered by the American Personal Chef's Association. They were about $750, the next one is in Denver, followed by Chicago. Check out www.culinary.net and click on the link to "Resources" it has other links to a wide range of stuff including training classes world wide. Also try www.foodservice.com . This site has all kinds of information as well including a bunch of job listings. Most of the job listings are for big coporations, but they've got all kinds. Just keep following the links on all these pages and you'll find all sorts of info that may help you along. Kalypso [This message has been edited by kalypso (edited August 20, 2001).]
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Postby Josephvr » Thu Aug 23, 2001 1:25 am

Thank you very much for your time and insightful responses. A lot of strange events have been happening these last few days. I've been approached by the Food Network to provide a demo tape for a possible show.....so we'll see where that leads....hopefully interesting places. I am seriously considering the Personal Chef situation, (especially if Major TV stardom isn't in the cards just yet...LOL) I've done a lot of reading on the Personal Chef buz and I think I might really enjoy that aspect. More personal interaction with the customer and more freedom of running my own business. I really appreciate the time you've spent writing on this board and helping me with your ideas. I'll let you know how things turn out with the Network. Joseph <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by kalypso: <B>Joseph It also occurred to me that becoming a Personal Chef might work for you. You can visit www.personalchef.com and find out more about it as a possible career choice. There is also a link somewhere on teh site to some of the seminars offered by the American Personal Chef's Association. They were about $750, the next one is in Denver, followed by Chicago. Check out www.culinary.net and click on the link to "Resources" it has other links to a wide range of stuff including training classes world wide. Also try www.foodservice.com . This site has all kinds of information as well including a bunch of job listings. Most of the job listings are for big coporations, but they've got all kinds. Just keep following the links on all these pages and you'll find all sorts of info that may help you along. Kalypso [This message has been edited by kalypso (edited August 20, 2001).]</B><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
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Postby kalypso » Thu Aug 23, 2001 8:24 am

Now, I am really curious about the Food TV Network gig. How did they know about you? Did you call them? Have you done local stuff? What kind of show is it supposed to be? I'll tell you why I'm interested. My first post to these boards was about trying to find someone with connections to the food media. I'm not particularly interested about being on TV (although that wouldn't be bad, I've been on TV numerous times in the past) as much as I am about learning how to become a producer of TV cooking shows. So far I've not been able to come up with the right connections, everything's pretty much led to a dead end. So I'm interested in hearing how you did this. I've been in operations W-A-Y too long and need to make a change. I am MUCH more interested in culinary history and the cultural, anthropological, and folkloric implications of food than I am in operations. I just haven't been able to make it happen yet. I'm so jealous Image Kalypso [This message has been edited by kalypso (edited August 23, 2001).]
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Postby Josephvr » Thu Aug 23, 2001 11:42 am

Well it's kind of bizarre actually....but I'm beginning to think that there in something 'else' at play here....call it destiny, call it fate...I don't know but more strange things have been happening since I've decided to actually let go of what was making me miserable (ie. my high pressure job etc.) My wife created a web site for me for a Personal Chef business, which is still in the creation stage....I am joining the CPCA (Canadian Personal Chef Association). You are welcome to come on by and have a look....my menu's are under development right now but you can have a look. Please make sure to leave a note on my bulletion board as well if you come by. The url is <a href="http://members.home.net/josephvr/index.htm">Tastefully Yours</a>. The site is not 'officially opened' yet....as there are still come changes and additions needed. As far as the Food Network gig goes....I am still viewing it as a pie in the sky venture....but at the same time, nothing ventured nothing gained. Some time ago, before I got laid off from my high tech job, I sent in an email with an idea for a cooking show, making sure to mention that I would be perfect as the host for this show, the fact that I'm an excellent chef and reasonably good looking (*grin*). I shared some of my personal beliefs about cooking shows and some of my ideas. Well somehow, my ideas got onto the desk of the Programming department and they are intrigued with what I said....and now they've invited me to submit a demo tape of myself. Now I'm not sure where this will lead but like I said, I've got nothing to loose. (*crossing my fingers*) Based on what you've said re: your 'producing' interests, who knows...maybe us meeting like this just ISN'T a coincidence!!!!!!! Think about it!!! LOL Maybe we're destined to work together someday! I'd love to talk to you on the phone someday (would be quicker than email), but San Fran is quite a distance and right now I have to be frugal about my expenses, until some regular money starts coming in again! Talk to you soon, Joseph <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by kalypso: <B>Now, I am really curious about the Food TV Network gig. How did they know about you? Did you call them? Have you done local stuff? What kind of show is it supposed to be? I'll tell you why I'm interested. My first post to these boards was about trying to find someone with connections to the food media. I'm not particularly interested about being on TV (although that wouldn't be bad, I've been on TV numerous times in the past) as much as I am about learning how to become a producer of TV cooking shows. So far I've not been able to come up with the right connections, everything's pretty much led to a dead end. So I'm interested in hearing how you did this. I've been in operations W-A-Y too long and need to make a change. I am MUCH more interested in culinary history and the cultural, anthropological, and folkloric implications of food than I am in operations. I just haven't been able to make it happen yet. I'm so jealous Image Kalypso [This message has been edited by kalypso (edited August 23, 2001).]</B><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
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