WanaBe a ChefAm I too old?

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WebFoodPros.com: WanaBe a Chef: Am I too old?
By Michelle52 (Michelle52) on Thursday, March 21, 2002 - 04:51 pm: Edit

I am seriously thinking about taking a 2- year culinary arts program at my local community college. It seems like a well-rounded program will several classes in business management areas as well as the basic food classes. However, I am 31 yrs old and I see alot of postings stating that I will make next to nothing for 10 years after graduation. I am married and want to start a family before too much longer and cannot really afford to make minimum wage. The program I am looking into requires students to run an onsite restaurant for the faculty and general public. Will this type of "hands on" experience help with my wages after school. I am not looking to get rich doing this, just don't want to be in the poorhouse. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

By George (George) on Thursday, March 21, 2002 - 10:54 pm: Edit

It really depends on what your base expenses are, where you are, what you are used to spending and a hundred other things.

The "experience" from school has little if any relationship to outside.

Generalization- In school you have 15 folks doing one carefully timed sitting for 45 with an experienced chef there to pick up the slack. In the real world you have 3 or 4 folks doing 300 in 2.5 turns with major peaks and valleys.

That said at 31 you're still kind of young, I got back in at 35 after being out of the business for 15 years.

Do a key word search for Career and career change to get dozens of other relevant readings.

Good luck!


By Cheftim (Cheftim) on Thursday, March 21, 2002 - 11:09 pm: Edit


I will make next to nothing for 10 years after graduation.

It also depends on what else you can bring to the table. While cooking skills are important have you acquired other skills that could give you an edge. Maturity, a solid work ethic, ability to manage people are these things that could help.

By Chefgbs (Chefgbs) on Thursday, March 21, 2002 - 11:56 pm: Edit

HI Michelle,

A long time ago I read a letter in a Dear Abby column from a a woman who was 34 and wanted to go to med school. She was very concerned that she was pretty much going to have very little of a life for the next ten years with schooling, residency, etc. Dear Abby's response was that in 10 years she was going to be 44 and either she could be a 44 year old doctor or a 44 year old woman with a lot of regrets. Go for it, I say. When I was at the CIA with George, there was a student in the group ahead of us who was a 65 year old retired insurance executive who was following his dream. Before you commit to school, you might want to work in a real restaurant to get an idea of what it's all about and to see if it's something you really want to do with your life. I got lucky at the age of 17, but all that means is that I've been in the kitchen for 19 years working under good and bad conditions, chefs, salaries, etc. There is a certain mental illness that affects those of us in the culinary world. Are you ready to subject yourself to that? Best of luck with your decision.


By Steve9389 (Steve9389) on Wednesday, September 18, 2002 - 01:56 pm: Edit

If 31 is too old, then I'm in trouble since I'm almost 37 and I just started my second semester at culinary school. Then again, since several of my classmates are older than me, I'm not so worried. As I told my wife, if I don't do it now, I'll just wind up regretting it later.


By Mbw (Mbw) on Friday, September 20, 2002 - 12:30 am: Edit

Community College ROCKS!!! You will NOT spend too much money, and you will be surrounded by dedicated students NOT trust funders. Shure if I had 80K to spend on two years I may do it, but then again??

Besides if you are lucky most of the subject matter covered in the BIG NAME schools will be passed on to you in time WHEN YOU CAN ABSORB IT. Nothing like a fresh CIA student dripping with classic knowledge, but no skill. Makes a mess.

I have also heard quite a few stories of abuse at the CCA/CIA schools. Shure it is good "Old world" experience, but some of these stories sound like some Army, and Prison stories I have heard. I have never heard of such abuse at community college.

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Friday, September 20, 2002 - 01:08 am: Edit

Steve, just frigg'in go for it!
study, study, study !!!
do extra work, get there early, go home late.
don't fool around.
read, read, read !!!......everything, until your eyes fall out.
take complete notes, so years down the road you can still understand them.
pick four favorite chefs and read everything they have to say.
pick a speed to learn and work with and stay with it, don't slow down for anyone.
push yourself to learn ahead of your class.
balls out !!!
if you really want to do this and not just fooling around, what and how much you learn NOW, will decide what your worth and get paid in the future
so...what HAVE you learned in your first semester?
please tell us,off the top of your head, no notes.

By Steve9389 (Steve9389) on Tuesday, September 24, 2002 - 01:58 pm: Edit

What have I learned in my first semester? Geez, you don't ask much, do you?
I've learned to work clean and work fast.
I've learned to use my knife without losing a digit.
I've learned to make a good, rich stock (white, brown, fish and veg).
I've learned how to present food attractively (but not absurdly) on a WARM plate.
I've learned to say, "Yes, Chef," even when I want to slug him.
I've learned how my blood boils when others don't clean up after themselves and I wind up washing their dishes.
I've learned how to stand on my feet for 10 hours in a 95-degree kitchen and not sweat into the food too much.
I've learned I love this even more than I thought I would, and I'm not so bad at it, either.
And halfway through my second semester, the list is twice as long, and much more practical (I can cook you a meal now, and actually do something with that stock).

By Corey (Corey) on Tuesday, September 24, 2002 - 06:02 pm: Edit

sweat in food? you should do a summer in a truck stop somewhere in the desert...

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Tuesday, September 24, 2002 - 07:39 pm: Edit

screw the desert.......
thats where armidillo's and scorpions live.
ok, good start...I like the "Yes Chef" thing. LOL!
how do you sharpen your knife?
how often do you stir your stock?
how many cuts of beef from a leg, and what are the names?
what do you put in that rich stock of yours?
ie. veg's, ect,ect...
how is a brown stock differ from a white stock?
if you sweat in the food, won't it have too much salt,LOL.
how long do you roast/brown the flour for a brown sauce?
why would you roast/brown the flour?
what are all the thickening agents?
list 5 reasons why you don't want to work for Chef Manny...here's one, He's in Florida!!!HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa
who's your favorite chef?
what's your favorite dish?
name 3 other dishes you could make from the ingriedents of that dish, changing out sauce's.
why do you peel asparagus?
DON'T ANYONE HELP HIM.....Good Luck, and good cooking.
oh and the most important thing of all, don't get caught alone in the walk-in with any waitress, because you won't have the time to do anything, anyhow!!!!

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Tuesday, September 24, 2002 - 08:40 pm: Edit

Not bad Steve, you are definitely on the right track!!!!!
Keep it up!

By Corey (Corey) on Tuesday, September 24, 2002 - 08:58 pm: Edit

dish? I prefer fine china...

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Tuesday, September 24, 2002 - 10:13 pm: Edit

yea, but ya can't say......"there goes a fine china plate"

see how it works?

" there goes quite a dish " or
" Man! She's a Dish!" or
" Hand me a spoon, cause I'm gonna dish up some of that!"

hope I've helped............

By Corey (Corey) on Tuesday, September 24, 2002 - 11:16 pm: Edit

ya, but you can say, wow look at the tortes on that.

By Ladycake (Ladycake) on Wednesday, September 25, 2002 - 10:30 am: Edit

And they say men don't appreciate a fine china dish plate smashed over their heads !!! LOL

By Ladycake (Ladycake) on Wednesday, September 25, 2002 - 10:30 am: Edit

Or even recognize one...

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Wednesday, September 25, 2002 - 10:51 pm: Edit

ouch !

By Corey (Corey) on Thursday, September 26, 2002 - 12:01 am: Edit

Smashing China?
sounds like a new rock band...

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Thursday, October 03, 2002 - 01:36 am: Edit

wheres our student???
he's late.
damn kids!
hey steve, when you've answered all of my questions, you still have to answer some from the others here.
your not done yet.............lol.
have you started any baking or pastry classes???

By Corey (Corey) on Thursday, October 03, 2002 - 01:49 am: Edit

ya, type us out a metric to #10 can chart.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Thursday, October 03, 2002 - 11:53 am: Edit

NO professionalism at all nowadays!!!

By Steve9389 (Steve9389) on Friday, October 04, 2002 - 01:36 pm: Edit

OK, OK. I'm back from rolling out croissant dough.

how do you sharpen your knife?
- With a stone (quite often, since I've got a Henkels that doesn't keep its edge so well)
how often do you stir your stock?
- Never, just skim (thought you'd trick me?)
how many cuts of beef from a leg, and what are the names?
- Four, I think: roast, chops, sirloin chops and shank.
what do you put in that rich stock of yours? ie. veg's, ect,ect...
- Bones; 2 parts onion, 1 each of carrot and celery (maybe turnips and/or leeks if they're handy), added halfway through; tomato in a brown stock, otherwise a little cider vinegar; sachet of peppercorns, thyme, bay leaf; cold water.

how is a brown stock differ from a white stock?
- In a brown stock, bones and mirepoix are roasted.
if you sweat in the food, won't it have too much salt,LOL.
- Always adjust seasoning at the end :)
how long do you roast/brown the flour for a brown sauce?
- Add the flour to the browned mirepoix and stir until medium-brown
why would you roast/brown the flour?
- It cooks the roux to eliminate the gluey flour flavor.
what are all the thickening agents?
- Roux, starches (cornstarch, arrowroot), rice, potatoes, liaison, reduction

- As for Manny, I probably wouldn't be able to come up with the other 4 reasons until I've worked for him for awhile (thought that first one means I never will).

who's your favorite chef?
- Rick Bayless, Topolobambo/Frontera Grill - I love how he stands a tradition-bound cuisine on its head and goes on to create amazing food.
what's your favorite dish?
- grilled lamb chops with sweetbread and veal ragout (Four Seasons Philadelphia)
name 3 other dishes you could make from the ingriedents of that dish, changing out sauce's.
- Hmm. Sauteed lamp chops with a veal demiglaze and sweetbread ravioli; roasted lamb chops with thyme and garlic cream, with a starter of veal consumme with sweetbread garnish; lamb and veal enchiladas with sweetbread mole.
why do you peel asparagus?
I don't peel asparagus.

And, yes, I'm currently taking Introduction to Baking and Pastry as well as breads. I'm enjoying both much more than I though I would.

Oh, and a #10 can holds 3,067 ml.

Did I pass?

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Friday, October 04, 2002 - 06:59 pm: Edit

1) I thought there were 5 cuts from a leg?
2) If you don't peel asparagus of it's outer layer, it gets tough when cooking, thats what i was told and taught, and it's a bi*ch to eat.
3) reductions are NOT thickening agents
4) your fav. dish sounds good, and so were your 3 choice's.
5) roasting the flour also adds color, why add white to brown?
6) and who ever helped you with this, tell them thanks from me, cause this aint from a second semester student, and if it is your pretty damn smart and I'll get the money to open a rest and you can come work for me. thought you got us on those, didn't you?
oh and one last thing, don't forget to ask the pastry chef/baker for some egg shells for your stock. they help clairify it, and then your throwing away even less.
so if no one has anything else to add, or corrections,... I'd say a 90% is in order. (?)
I don't grade on a curve. LOL.
keep studying!!!!!!

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Saturday, October 05, 2002 - 12:47 am: Edit

steve 9389,
my mistake, I was not clear on the type of cuts.
there are 2 wholesale cuts,
1. rump.
2. round.
there are 7 retail cuts,
1. rolled rump
2. rump roast
3. round steak
4. top round
5. bottom round
6. hind shank
7. heel of round...ground beef
I don't think the loin end is part of the leg.
keep studying !

By Steve9389 (Steve9389) on Saturday, October 05, 2002 - 02:44 pm: Edit

Only a 90% if I had help?
Actually, I did this on my own. I just pay attention, work my ass off and I really want to get this right. I'm glad it shows.
As for reduction as a thickening agent, I originally did not have it in my list, since it's a technique and not an agent (I'm a writer by training, so I'm a little anal with the English language). But I checked back in my notes, and my CUL 101 instructor said it was one of the thickening agents. Got it wrong on the test, too.


By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Saturday, October 05, 2002 - 03:48 pm: Edit

Steve, you are doing a hell of a job. Wish all my so called Culinary Arts students were as astute as you....keep up the great work sir.
Ignore Spike.....he's in LA, you know...LA...LA Land

By Corey (Corey) on Saturday, October 05, 2002 - 08:18 pm: Edit

You are only old when you start to fart dust...

By George (George) on Saturday, October 05, 2002 - 08:46 pm: Edit

Nope, not yet, thank God!

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Sunday, October 06, 2002 - 12:42 am: Edit

If your intructor wants to discuss it, have him come here.
good work.
keep studying.
ignore Chef Manny, he's in Flor-e-da.

By Corey (Corey) on Sunday, October 06, 2002 - 03:04 am: Edit

better than ve-gus

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Sunday, October 06, 2002 - 08:28 am: Edit

A reduction is a thickening method, hence an agent of thickening. An agent does not necessarily have to be a chemical agent, it can be a natural proces/agent! Like farting dust!
All that stuff Spike asked you is important but I have found that a great Chef is one who can take an average product and make it great! Any Chef who is worth anything professionally can take an excellent product and make it at least good, hopefully better!
You need to learn other soft skills they never or hardly teach at school, for example, what percentage do you ask for when you go into a kitchen and you kick ass and save $$$ for the owners, how do you hire a great crew. The first crew I hired for what I call a real job stayed with me through three other properties and from there they ALL went on to be Chefs or Sous Chefs to their own location. It makes you proud to see that happen and, it keeps you challenged on finding good people. You have to learn to deal with union workers without pisssing them off too much, you have to be compassionate yet a dick when need be, you may be having a beer with a co-worker one day, and firing him/her the next day. You have to be a detective and find out who is stealing from you and how? You have to be a little bit of an accountant, take at least 2 accounting classes, you won't regret it!
Know your market, you'll be surprised how many Chefs come from Colorado, NY, California and open restaurants in South Beach and are gone in 2-3 months and it's because they don't know their market and nobody goes to eat their food. South Beach restaurants are about fashion, lack of substance, X, and, beign seen...not about eating. Everyone is a model they don't eat!!! Except Spike!!!
I was born and raised in FL. I can tell you where to get freshest live soft shell crabs, farm made goat cheese, the best fresh pasta. All that stuff takes time to find, it does not happen in a week or two after you move from one part of the country to another and, you are spending so much time in the kitchen when you are in a new job, you have no time to do this and things just start a downward spiral!!!
A good Chef today, needs to know the basics, weights, measurement, cooking techniques, product knowledge and varietal use of them!, accounting.
This is the only business in the world where you buy the raw product, produce it and sell it under the same roof. Also, if you fail to sell a chair in your restaurant today, you can NEVER sell that chair or table again!!! Sure you can sell it 3 times tomorrow but, it would have been 4 if you had sold it that time you missed!!!!
Always treat your people good and, always hold them accountable for their actions. YOu want to have a beer on the line, fine but, you better not f--- up anything or that's the last one you have on the line!
Sorry for the rant but I felt it was due!!!!!!

By 4evacommis (4evacommis) on Sunday, October 06, 2002 - 09:03 am: Edit

I am so not worthy to be in this company .... but I'll stick around and learn a thing or two

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Sunday, October 06, 2002 - 09:56 am: Edit

you shouldn't think like that!
why put in all the work if your not going to feel you've done a good job, or that you can't compete with the guy down the street.
anyhow, good, great chef's are all over, not just here. but there is a good amount of knowledge here, and some of us are good at being smart-as*es.
stick around, contribute, get to know some of these people, it's a lot of fun most of the time.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Sunday, October 06, 2002 - 11:16 am: Edit

In what co. do you mean Leigh? In reality, today's information is so readily available that just about anyone with a little computer knowledge could find many of the answers provided here. Look at Spike, he's a bag boy at a fancy LA meat market and look at all he spews here!!!!!
He learned all those meat facts fromt there you know! Just kidding, I love Spike!!!! He's a hell of a bag boy!!!

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Sunday, October 06, 2002 - 01:02 pm: Edit

will that be paper or plastic?
do you need help with that out to your car?
sorry ma'am, I'm on break.........
clean up where?
no, that's not on special.
you know, it would help if you learned the currency of this country.
boy, all that from food stamps!
again, sorry, I'm on another break.......
yes, us bag boys do have a union.
if it's too heavy for you to lift, what part of that brain of yours is telling you I could lift it?
sorry, cig. break..........
I think I need to call my union rep.
ya, I'm on lunch, see you in an hour.
if you wanted fresh, why did you grab the day old?
yes ma'am, peaches have pits, like this conversation with you.
did ya see the honey on #7 ?????
my union rep says don't do anything until he gets here.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Sunday, October 06, 2002 - 02:01 pm: Edit

You are the man!!!

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Sunday, October 06, 2002 - 02:03 pm: Edit

Was I bit long winded up there about Cheffing Spike???

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Sunday, October 06, 2002 - 05:24 pm: Edit

no why, you been drinking?

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Sunday, October 06, 2002 - 08:32 pm: Edit

That's a rhetorical question!
When have I not been drinking is the question!

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Sunday, October 06, 2002 - 10:17 pm: Edit

there are days I wonder why I stopped.
oh yea, I remember now.

By Ladycake (Ladycake) on Tuesday, October 08, 2002 - 11:23 am: Edit

Was that a demo to make eva feel more comfortable??? LOL LOL Sometimes I think the guys scare themselves, LOL

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Wednesday, October 09, 2002 - 01:46 am: Edit

you been drinking too?
up there in the woods?
ladycake, are the bears still eating the campers up there?
i'm still trying to get there, for my little camping trip with the dog.
as soon as i make enough money for the gas!

By Ladycake (Ladycake) on Wednesday, October 09, 2002 - 11:10 am: Edit

Don't wait too long, it has already snowed once (a little early and just a sample,) but many of the inns and some restaurants close for the season at the end of October. The back roads are dirt and many of the best spots get too muddy for travel. Yosemite, of course, stays open all year, they really do want your $$$$$.

By Newbe (Newbe) on Thursday, October 31, 2002 - 03:05 am: Edit

I was just wondering what people thought about the Western Culinary Institute. I am sure everyone has their opnions about what school is best, but that is not quite what I am looking for. I am not a "trust Fund Holder" like was mentioned in a earlier post but I want to be the best that I can be if I am going to become a Chef. How much impact will going to a "top" school help me and is it worth it in the long run?

By Cheftim (Cheftim) on Thursday, October 31, 2002 - 08:27 pm: Edit

Relode I want to be a Chef, Speach VII
Roll tape

Your Name here
First, lets get something straight; being a Chef, see the big "c", takes more than cooking skills.

Question One
What do you think of Name of School Here
The "industry" dosen't look at a degree, some people like them, some don't, some like people form one school because they went there and some don't like peole from from that school because they went there. A degree is just a piece of paper and a blue ribbon is just a blue ribbon and I don't know what the schools tell you but you get out of culinary school, CIA, Cordon Bleu, two year college or trade school, what you put in to it. When you graduate you'll be up against people with more experience and willing to work for less. You have to ask yourself is "what do you have that will advance you over those people?" Thats what the chef that hiers you will be looking for.

"...can I expect to earn, a reasonable salary in name of City Here to be content and pay of the enormous amount of loans I will have accrued by graduation?"

The short answer is No. Unless you have plenty of experience going into culinary school you don't graduate as a chef. Culinary school just give you the basic skills and knowledge to be useful in a professional kitchen. And just barly that. You have to earn your "bones" as they say, who they are I'm not sure but they do say it. Maybe in the 80's when every doctor and dentist thought that it was a good idea to open restaurant recent grads did head kitchens, 99.99%+ failed. Some very spectacularly. Another fact to consider, 90% of all culinary grads aren't in the business after five years.

The Long answer is maybe. In my case wanted to go to culinary school. I had a Wife and Child to help support so I went to work. I landed a job in a large hotel, more by default than any thing else. I had minimal experience and was able to extrapolate what I knew and I read all the masters and used what they wrote about in my work. Again in little more than a year I made sous, again more by default than anything else, and I was making more than my age. This was back when there was something called yuppies and you had to earn more that your age to be one. Of course I drank heavily and missed my son growing up, I worked every weekend all the holidays, six and seven days a week, seventy too ninety hours but hey I was a chef. Oh ya, I never made it to culinary school.

End Tape

By Corey (Corey) on Thursday, October 31, 2002 - 08:57 pm: Edit

It's sort of like that line in Karate Kid,
I got a black belt,
Wow, where did you get that?
JC Penney, 14.95

i.e. not what you have, what you know.

By Cheftim (Cheftim) on Friday, November 01, 2002 - 02:05 pm: Edit

I like that black bellt line, but I think it's over the head of many that wana be.

By Corey (Corey) on Friday, November 01, 2002 - 03:22 pm: Edit

ah, too deep?
sometime the Reiki Master in me comes out.

By Corey (Corey) on Friday, November 01, 2002 - 03:24 pm: Edit

ah, grasshopper..
what is the sound of one hand chopping...

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Saturday, November 02, 2002 - 11:38 pm: Edit

that was good you guys.
I liked that!!!
lets keep that around cause you know in two months another will ask the same question.

By Cheftim (Cheftim) on Sunday, November 03, 2002 - 11:45 am: Edit

Cut and paste it to your hard drive or just reference the
"I wanna be a chef" speech http://webfoodpros.com/discus/messages/108/2120.html?1036298311#POST15280

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