WanaBe a ChefNeed some help, advice

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WebFoodPros.com: WanaBe a Chef: Need some help, advice
By Briangig (Briangig) on Monday, September 12, 2005 - 09:48 pm: Edit

Hey all. I would like some feedback from those of you in the business today. Now, without giving you all my life story. I am 21, and have been working at a local restaurant for 6 years, breakfast. Started out as a dishwasher, then moved up to the line, and after the head cook was fired two years ago, the owners gave me the chance to step up. Since then, I have been doing the inventory, ordering, scheduling, food cost, worked on new menus and being a "line leader". The restaurant has also won several awards for breakfast, and is very successful.

I know I dont want to cook breakfast for the rest of my life...The owners are great as far as teaching me managment skills, and always help me out when I ask, but in the kitchen there is nobody above me with more experience to show me knew things, or help me out with questions, etc..

So now I either quit, start working the dinner shift somewhere, from the very bottom up, or quit, and go for some formal training, and work my way from the bottom up, maybe a little faster.

As much as I would like to just learn the ropes on the job, I think I would have a better chance of landing a better job w/ more money earlier (and I know it's not about the money...) if I had some formal training. The restaurant also does Italian-American dinner...but to be honest, the whole crew is full of miserable alcoholics take breaks on the half-hour, and just dont give a crap...

Any advice? And let me just say this, I do love my job, the satisfaction I get after doing 3 or 4 hundred people with few problems, and the people I work with. For the last 2 years I have gone back and forth over what I wanted to do with my life, and I have decided the restaurant business is what I know, love, and am addicted to. And despite what the forum name is, right now my goal is not to be a chef. I want to become a successful, respected line cook...then I'll go from there.

By George (George) on Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - 08:24 am: Edit

Sounds like you are very much on the right path.

Find a local culinary program that is accredited and get in. Pick the best restaurant in your area and knock on the door. Any chef would be happy to have an employee with a pedigree like yours.

If you have the funds do the CIA or J&W, if not going to any of the ACF and academically accredited programs will work fine. I'd normally say to work in a restaurant while in school but if you can do the CIA spend your time working in the side jobs on Campus with continuing ed and special functions and/or using the resources on campus to increase your depth. You have the line skills.

The next step is to move to a major market and work the line in top knotch places for a few years.

Good luck!


By Briangig (Briangig) on Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - 01:34 pm: Edit

Thanks for the input. I have been researching NECI the past few weeks. 75% of class time is real-life restaurant work with real customers, and class size is tiny. The thing that really caught my eye was the 6 month at the school, 6 months interning (paid), then repeat again the next year. The only downfall is the cost..but I don't think it is out of my reach completely, I just need to decide whether it is a wise investment.

By George (George) on Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - 06:25 pm: Edit

NECI is a very good program but no one offers the resources the CIA does.

I think the money is similar.

The biggest difference is the CIA is mammoth factory where NECI is much more personal/friendly At NECI you would be a super star but at the CIA with any luck you would have some peers in your class to compete with. A newbie could be swallowed up and spit out at the CIA but with your experience you would excel.


(ymmv I a CIA grad)

By Briangig (Briangig) on Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - 08:08 pm: Edit

Both my Father and my Uncle (brother in-laws, not brothers), both graduated from the CIA in the 70s. They both got out of the business years ago..said they got sick of it. I'll definetly check it out deeper than I did.

By Cvincolorado (Cvincolorado) on Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - 09:48 pm: Edit

I went through almost the same situation that you did. I started out cooking breakfast at a busy Aspen restaurant and got the hang of it real quick. Then, after a year, I got moved up to dinner line cook. I realized at that time I wanted to make a career out of it and started looking at culinary schools. while out in San fransisco touring CCA the chef I was working for got fired for coming in drunk one night and causing all kinds of problems. When I returned the owner talked me into putting off school and becoming the chef. I worked my butt off and spent every morning at the library reading cookbooks and magazines and trying out different specials every night. Then I realized I needed to move on to learn from someone else. I moved around to a few more restaurants and through a few sous chef jobs and then eventually to a few executive chef jobs. There are times that I wished I had gone to school and times that I'm glad I didn't. Now, 15 years later than the day I flipped my first omelet I am the owner of a successful catering company and know just as much as someone that went to school. So my advice is is if your still young and have the resources to go to school, do it now, and then come back and put everything you learned before school, combined with what you learned in school to work and you will move up quicker than you think. It will be very important to perspective employers that you knew how to be a manager before learning how to be a chef.

By Briangig (Briangig) on Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - 11:25 pm: Edit

Wow, thanks! Your post is very helpful. Eerily similar situtations too.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Wednesday, September 14, 2005 - 05:35 am: Edit

Unfortunately it is the nature of the business that you have to move to learn and/or to get a promotion. Usually the "concept" or "style" of the restaurant will limit your abilities, sometimes it is the boss.
If you love the business and have the $$$, CIA is the place but, if you have family that have gone there and have gotten out of the business, you really have to ask yourself if you may do that one day, I know!!!...you're not a psychic, but think about it because any school now is big $$$$$.
Another point I want to mention is that a good, reliable breakfast cook can make almost as good a money then a Chef, a few hundred less but excellent, this is because not too many people enjoy waking up at 4:00AM to go to work daily and they are rewarded well if they are good in the industry!!!!

By Briangig (Briangig) on Thursday, December 29, 2005 - 01:02 am: Edit

Just thought I would post an update, for the hell of it, if anyone cares.

Well, a few days after the origional post, I was talking to an old friend who I used to work with. He is a server at a place a few towns over now. Well after some talk, I started part time at that place, really like it alot. Very fine dining, lot of steaks, local seafood. It's right in the center of a town filled with money. Crazy busy in the summer and around the holidays. Well doing full time breakfast and part time dinner was pretty rough, I was feeling the strain, and I knew before summer I was going to have to make up my mind.

Then one day it just clicked in my head that I wasnt enjoying the whole breakfast thing anymore. Between the owners hassling everybody, replacing the head prep guy with one of the owner's wife (who is never wrong), and just annoyed from the same old BS (and getting up at 5 am), I decided to give my notice. So I am done there the end of January, and I move over to full time doing dinner.

So for now, I dont know what the future holds. I am learning so much everyday, the chef and all the cooks are really good at what they do, and always have time to help me out with anything. So, culinary school? Maybe in a few years, I'm not feeling rushed or pressured anymore.

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