The Great Hall
"Would-Be Chefs Vie for Stardom" Part 1 The Great Hall: "Would-Be Chefs Vie for Stardom" Part 1
By Chef_Mars (Chef_Mars) on Tuesday, December 28, 2004 - 10:05 am: Edit

Because I have been increasingly impressed by the regular users of this forum to have all the one-and-only right answers, I am posting this article with expectaions to be enlightened by your insightful coments.
Due to message posting size limitations, this posting is in two parts.
...Thankx in advance.

December 28, 2004


Reality Bites:
Would-Be Chefs
Vie for Stardom

December 28, 2004; Page B1

After graduating from culinary school in August, Kevin London had the skills to whip up multilayered puff pastries and other complicated fare. But at his entry-level kitchen job at an upscale Westchester County, N.Y., restaurant, he handles more mundane tasks like cleaning crabmeat and chopping chives. His salary for a 75- to 80-hour work week: about $25,000 a year, or just slightly more than what he paid to attend culinary school.

Mr. London, who once dreamed of becoming a star chef à la Emeril Lagasse, now thinks he'll quit his job in about a year and take time off to reassess the culinary landscape. As a kitchen commoner, "you make no money and you work really hard," says the 24-year-old. "It's just too intense."

Thanks to the pop-culture pull of chefs like Mr. Lagasse, and TV shows such as "The Restaurant," the cooking life has never seemed more glamorous -- or tempting. Since 2000, enrollment in culinary-school degree programs has increased 40% to around 53,000 students, according to estimates from the Culinary Institute of America, a top culinary school. And thousands of young people have shelled out as much as $50,000 for culinary-school programs, both degree and nondegree, in hopes of becoming the next Emeril, Mario Batali, or Bobby Flay.

But like cellists, actors, and so many other folks with artistic aspirations, today's starry-eyed culinary graduates face a grim reality: Good gigs are hard won. Even in the fast-growing restaurant industry, beginning positions are apt to be more grueling than glamorous, and typically pay only $22,000 to $26,000 annually. Opening a fine restaurant of one's own, meanwhile, is more prohibitive than ever, with start-up costs hitting a million dollars or more.

"Young people are going into culinary school, they're paying a lot of money for tuition, and their heads are in the clouds as to what kind of job they can get when they get out," says Antoinette Bruno, who runs a food Web site called StarChefs.

Culinary educators say they warn students about what to expect when they first start out -- and blame television cooking shows and the media attention given to celebrity chefs for creating unrealistic expectations. "The [TV channel] Food Network has been very helpful to the industry but it [also] has influenced a lot of students to believe that that might be the reality of the...industry," says Michael Nenes, assistant vice president of culinary arts for the Art Institutes, a chain of 31 for-profit vocational schools in the U.S. and Canada. The culinary section of the Art Institutes' Web site asserts that a culinary career is an "opportunity in a thriving industry, just waiting for your vision of the next great meal." But it also warns that it is "orchestrated chaos and hard work."
(continued in Part 2 posting)

By Chef_Mars (Chef_Mars) on Tuesday, December 28, 2004 - 10:07 am: Edit

PART 2 of posting::
Michael Baskette, director of educational development at the American Culinary Federation, a professional chefs' organization based in St. Augustine, Fla., says that between 50% and 60% of culinary-school students quit their kitchen jobs within three years of graduation. "There's a lot of drop-off [from restaurant jobs], a lot of attrition," says Mr. Baskette. "They just say, 'This is not the industry for me, this is not what I expected. I can make a lot more money doing easier work.' " Some dropouts launch entirely different careers. Others find other food-related jobs, which also are growing in number -- such as teaching cooking, food writing, corporate food service and restaurant-equipment sales.

Culinary schools may be partly to blame for let-downs. Admissions standards are often minimal, and few applicants are turned away. Even the Culinary Institute of America, one of the most selective schools and which requires prior experience in the food business, accepts about 80% of its applicants. Many programs require that students work in restaurant kitchens as part of their education. But that experience usually doesn't occur until students have already paid all or some of their tuition.

At the Art Institutes, enrollment at its now 19 culinary programs has nearly doubled to 6,460 students for the fall quarter this year from 3,394 in the fall of 1999. The Art Institutes say 95% of its 2003 culinary graduates were working in their field within six months of graduation, but their average starting salary was just $27,500.

The pay improves substantially when a chef achieves the goal of running his or her own kitchen. But even then, frustrations can come to a boil. Head chefs often work 65- to 80-hour weeks and must stay innovative in an intensely competitive business.

Brent Lewis graduated from the Art Institute in Denver, Colo., in 2002. He soon scored a job as head chef at a high-end steakhouse in Loveland, Colo. It was a prestige title with a lot of responsibility. He was inventing his own menu, just as he'd dreamed. His exotic specials, like a grilled John Dory fish served over avocado pico de gallo, were big a hit with customers.

But a 60-plus-hour work week left him starved for something else. "I was constantly giving up vacation times with my family," he recalls. "If there was a day I wanted off, it was pretty much impossible." The highest salary he earned was a little less than $35,000.

After two and a half years, he changed places in the food chain, taking a job at a Chinese restaurant owned by P.F. Chang's China Bistro Inc. He is a sous-chef, which ranks below his old title. He's given up much of his creative freedom, since he usually must stick to the chain's menu. But the trade-off suits him: he works fewer hours and earns about $12,000 more than in his previous job.

Noted chefs say that more than formal education, their job requires an innate talent that isn't easily learned in a classroom. Scott Boswell, head chef and owner of Stella!, a top restaurant in New Orleans, says his protégé isn't a culinary school grad, but a 23-year-old who has no formal culinary training and started out as his dishwasher. "He just has a natural gift," Mr. Boswell says.

Mr. Boswell thinks many aspiring young chefs don't understand what it takes to succeed. When he first started out, he spent a year at a restaurant in Provence, France, where he worked from 7 or 8 a.m. until past midnight. He worked for free at first, then was paid $50 a month and lived in employee housing with five men in one room next to the horse stalls.

An intense, demanding boss, Mr. Boswell estimates that more than half the kitchen staffers he has hired in the past three and a half years have quit and given up cooking. "People just don't want to work anymore," he says.

Write to Erin White at erin.white@wsj.com1
URL for this article:,,SB110419049511410466,00.html
Hyperlinks in this Article:
Copyright 2004 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

By Jonesg (Jonesg) on Tuesday, December 28, 2004 - 12:32 pm: Edit

Hi Chef,
Well its there for those who can muster it up, for some like me, I had no choice and it looked a lot better than stackin shelves at the supermkt.

Theres a benefit in starting as a dishwasher, not the least is the humility it demonstrates and as dishwasher I got a good look at the kitchen.

By George (George) on Tuesday, December 28, 2004 - 04:08 pm: Edit

Your odds are much better if you start very young and as dishwasher. Then by the time you reach 25 you might have some clue about what this is all about.

The article is a pretty good condensation of what has been said here for years.


By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Tuesday, December 28, 2004 - 07:13 pm: Edit

So, what is it your looking for?
I don't understand.
Please explain Chef.

Yes, George is right, this has been said for years on this site. By some very smart people.

By Coolbanana (Coolbanana) on Tuesday, December 28, 2004 - 07:54 pm: Edit

I agree with George, Spike and Jones (I know, big surprise...) Buried in the article is troubling statement. " Some dropouts launch entirely different careers. Others find other food-related jobs, which also are growing in number -- such as teaching cooking, food writing, corporate food service and restaurant-equipment sales." So, the persons who couldn't make it in the industry, for whatever reasons, want to teach cooking? I hope they mean to "Suzy Homemaker's" because if they want to teach the next generation of chef's, I don't see how they could, if they, themselves couldn't cut it! Further diluting our field. And how the heck could they write about food?! The culinary schools are responsible for 50% of the blame, they will take anyone with the cash and grants to pay. And don't require much, if any experience in a professional kitchen, before attending. The most surprising thing is that it is almost commonplace to have an extern apply with little to no "real" experience.

By George (George) on Wednesday, December 29, 2004 - 10:19 am: Edit


Young people are going into culinary school, they're paying a lot of money for tuition, and their heads are in the clouds as to what kind of job they can get when they get out," says Antoinette Bruno

I think it is ironic that they quote one of the causes of the "problem" in the article.

Another way to look at it is that those who go to an academically accredited AOS program (credits can be applied to another degree) should at least know how to impress their friends and family with a decent meal.

Thatís more than you get from most other AOS programs. ;<)


By Foodpump (Foodpump) on Wednesday, December 29, 2004 - 08:32 pm: Edit

To quote from the article, "Culinary schools may be partly to blame for let-downs...".
Now who else would be partly to blame for let downs? Could it be, possibly, the students? Imagine your 20 yr old nephew telling you that he just finished a 4 month $12,000 course in auto mechanics, and now he's expecting to earn $40,000 a year working on only Ferrari and Porsche engines--no mufflers or brake jobs--thank you very much. Realistic? I think we need more articles like this one, it just might save everybody, future culinary students and employers, alot of anguish in the long run.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Thursday, December 30, 2004 - 09:37 am: Edit

This article hits the nail on the head!!!!!
As to admission standards, people, schools are a "BUSINESS" they accept you if you have the right standard.....$$$$$$$$$$$!!!!!

by George
"Your odds are much better if you start very young and as dishwasher. Then by the time you reach 25 you might have some clue about what this is all about."
This is so true, this is the way I did it and it makes you realize whether you have it or not for this business. Sometimes I wish I would have had the cash to go to CIA four years and concentrate on all facets of the business but, realistically my experiences far outweigh all that training, hindsight is 20-20!!!!!!!
The schools sell the kids a false bill of goods by telling them they will have 35-40K a year jobs after graduation.
Good article, Thank you Chef Mars!

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Friday, December 31, 2004 - 12:24 am: Edit

We should start something, like an organization to force these schools to stop.
Put pressure on the Chefs org's to do something about it.( thats if they are not getting kick-backs )
See if they measure up to the, what "honesty laws"(I don't think thats what they are called), but the same laws that they have to use for lables.
Could you imagine if this is how they schooled airline pilots!!?

By Brians (Brians) on Friday, December 31, 2004 - 10:03 am: Edit

Sorry Spike wonít work. The programs are careful not to put promises in print and they have millions at stake with immense staff and budgets to generate new fodder to fill their classrooms.

Anyone know anyone at 60 minutes or one of those kind of shows? It would make a great scam expose.

The ACF will never help because they get a lot of funding from the schools and the educators are the largest single block of active members. And students the second although not considered active. Thatís why they always schedule the national convention in the summer when schools are out and most of those actually in the trenches are working. Education is a key part of their mission, where other professional organizations are involved in increasing the security of the jobs of their members. Thatís why I never joined. Itís like paying dues to someone training someone to take my job.

The schools are really a buyer be ware thing.

Happy New Year!

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Friday, December 31, 2004 - 11:14 am: Edit

Man you hit it.

By Chefgibz0 (Chefgibz0) on Friday, December 31, 2004 - 11:48 am: Edit

The schools do put the promises in print but cloud them with delusions. My brother attended a half baked, non degree school in the northeast that in its brochure quoted chef jobs of $50,000 to 90,000 a year salary. What they did not tell these kids is that is not the entry level wage. Before my brother went to the school I asked him what he expected to make after he graduated and he told me about $40,000 to $50,000 a year!! I laughed and told him C.I.A. grads that come to work here at the resort as an extern start out at less that $8.00 an hour and how was he going to make up the difference when he was a extern. He then went and "attended" the school for a day and quit.
I think they should institute a full apprenticeship program for the culinary arts in the U.S.A. instead of all these worhtless schools (sorry Manny, you may be different!?) I have worked with fresh college grads that come as an extern that 1. Do not know how to hold a knife the correct way. 2. Cannot tell you what is the emulsifier in a vinaigrette. 3. The five Mother Sauces. 4. The ingredients that spell out the difference between a chowder and a bisque. All very basic things that I learned BEFORE I made it into college. And they expect to be Sous Chefs at graduation!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? This is the basic reason why we have "drop chefs" and "sandwich chefs" and you don't cook but one "chefs" the day away. Tell me the itemized food cost, labour cost, human resourse and labour laws, local sanitation specs and tell me the purveyors names, numbers, delivery times, and personallities and then I might call them "chef".

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Friday, December 31, 2004 - 06:27 pm: Edit

ok, lets see if I, a pastry chef know.
I know that one. by the handle end!
?....i forget.
would cream be one? bay leaf, type of fish used?,thyme?, elwood loves thyme, damnest thing.

and don't forget "button Chefs", like in the microwave timer button.

By Foodpump (Foodpump) on Sunday, January 02, 2005 - 11:09 am: Edit

Brians, thanks for the "inside information". Aahh, politics, I hate it. Should this whole "Chef's School" business become too much, oversaturated, like Starbucks or Mc D's, there's only one way to stop it--a national standard for "Chef". Any school could teach the curriculum, but it must be a national standard.

Of course now that I've opened my big yap I'd better start doing something about it. Don't know how I'm going to start "influence peddling" to the powers that be when I'm so anti-social that I don't even play golf...

By Jonesg (Jonesg) on Sunday, January 02, 2005 - 11:17 am: Edit

Its self policing really, the national standard for incompetence is and always will be "your fired". Thats why a majority get out, they got fired right out of the industry. They conveniently omitted that though.

Sit back, get a cup of joe ,relax and watch it all happen, it might get a bit worse but it WILL get better. (wheres me cuppa joe now? sluurp ahhh )

By Chefgibz0 (Chefgibz0) on Sunday, January 02, 2005 - 11:47 am: Edit

There is one problem with the self policing....."I need bodies!!" When push comes to shove and the positive gene pool for hiring is slim what is the next move......I need bodies!! Then a few slip throught the cracks, end up staying long enough to start training your would be good crew.

1) Yes by the handle but not with your first finger on the rib of the blade!!
2) lecithin from the yolks, as well as mustard and shallots.
3) Tomato
Bechamel, "cream"
4) bisque; seafood and cream present, thinner than chowder. Chowder, thyme and potatoes present.
And yes we need the "button chefs" else you applebees survive??

Now on the topic of chefs I was reading a past National Culinary Review from the ACF and the article was on drinks from the bar and how they have evolved over the years and are now trendy. The line that floored me was that with all the trendy drinks and the exotic ingredients now used bartenders should now be considered "cocktail Chefs"!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

By Brians (Brians) on Sunday, January 02, 2005 - 01:04 pm: Edit

I could almost go for the term "Cocktail Chef" look at it this way-
They get orders for products that have multiple ingredients and have to be prepared with consistency in taste and appearance. They have to order and maintain pars, prep their produce (lemon, lime etc.) supervise staff (back bars) and perform under production pressure. An added job skill is having to deal directly with the public.

I think they are closer to being a "chef" than a lot of button chefs are.

I can see the new ACF certification now, Certified Executive Cocktail Chef.

How about the Iron Cocktail Chef series ;<)

By Foodpump (Foodpump) on Sunday, January 02, 2005 - 04:31 pm: Edit

Jonesg: Yeah, getting fired is the ultimate acid test, but like ChefgibzO says, I need bodies. You can only fire AFTER someone screws up, and between the hiring and the firing is a very painful period, for the employer and ALL the employees. Sometimes this period can be as short as one day, or as long as two months.

In my neck of the woods (Vancouver, Cdn) we have a very one-sided labour relations board, and any employee (or ex-employee) can file a claim without providing any documentation. The employer is then automatically assumed guilty and is contacted to provide proof of his innocence--at his cost. I've been down this road a few times after I've fired someone for incompetence, and I strive to cover my rear with warning letters and the like. But this kind of stuff eats up my time, so I try to avoid it. Usually I stop talking to them and communicate only with sticky-notes and cut down on thier shifts so they quit by themselves. Besides, even when I'm cleared of any wrongdoing there is no way I can extract some kind of acknowledgement from the employee that he dreamed up up the claim for spite or to get a few extra bucks. O.k. enough of my whining, I think I'm off-topic here...

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Monday, January 03, 2005 - 02:05 am: Edit

Foodpump, you should not write here on this web site how you get rid of bad people.
ask George to delete it.
and delete this one too.

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Monday, January 03, 2005 - 02:13 am: Edit

thanks, its amazing what one forgets when your not using the knowledge.
This school thing.
It's all about MONEY.
It will never change as long as there are people willing to spend the amounts to go to these types of schools.
Maybe they will eat themselves, like a snake eating its own tail.
Los Angeles is the same as Vancouver. Its all comes down to how to defend yourself.
Foodpump, Please email me with where you are in Vancouver, I have a good friend who realy enjoys good food and I'm sure he will want to go and eat at your place.
Cocktail Chef....?....Now I'm going to go shoot myself.

By Foodpump (Foodpump) on Monday, January 03, 2005 - 07:48 pm: Edit

Chefspike, my server is down now, has been for about a week over christmas and is driving me nuts. I can access the web but can't recieve or send e-mails. Hopefully by this week it'll be fixed. You should be able to get my address off of my profile

By Andapanda (Andapanda) on Monday, January 10, 2005 - 05:05 pm: Edit

A Culinary Arts graduate, extern, intern, student(or career-changer contemplating becoming a Culinary Arts student), might think that The Five Mother Sauces are:

1. Heinz 57, or A1 Steak.
2. Barbecue(BBQ).
3. Tobasco.
4. Tartar.
5. Worcestershire(What's Dis[sic] Sauce Here?).

All characters described in this post are purely fictitious, and any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, or have recently been graduated by, or currently enrolled in, or about to be enrolled in, any Culinary Arts program, is coincidental, and unintentional.

BTW, I had met a Culinary Arts student last semester who had told me that she had realized that she didn't know everything(what an epiphany!), when someone had asked her to get her "mise en place," and she had thought that that was a sauce! Hey, would that qualify as The Sixth Mother Sauce? Alright, People! Get your Mess In Place! I mean, your Mise En Place! LOL.

By Andapanda (Andapanda) on Monday, January 10, 2005 - 06:45 pm: Edit

3. Tabasco.

By Foodpump (Foodpump) on Monday, January 10, 2005 - 10:17 pm: Edit

Hey wait a minute, isn't ketchup a mother sauce too? It has to be, because if you add horseradish and chilli to it, it becomes cocktail sauce, right? Now does the knife go behind the meat grinder disc or infront of it, because we never learnt that at school....

By Cheftim (Cheftim) on Monday, January 10, 2005 - 10:36 pm: Edit

the knife goes in front of the die but with the blade facing the back

By Foodpump (Foodpump) on Tuesday, January 11, 2005 - 09:51 am: Edit

Really? I tried that, but only sludge came out and it got harder and harder to force stuff down the hopper, so I quickly shifted the mixer into third because it was taking so looong and then the Chef came out and got really mad, and then...

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Wednesday, January 12, 2005 - 02:21 am: Edit

christ even I know that.....
or do i.
i forgor ketchup as a sauce.
can i have a do-over?

By George (George) on Thursday, January 13, 2005 - 11:53 am: Edit


Baristas (pronounced "br-istahs") make specialty coffee drinks as a profession.

I never heard of this job title let alone heard of the "profession" before some posted an ad at the CJN site. I thought it might be a female bartender.

Now a "Coffee Chef"



By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Thursday, January 13, 2005 - 02:01 pm: Edit

I think it's from latin, used in Spain that I know of. Starbuck's hijacked it for their "droids"

By Foodpump (Foodpump) on Thursday, January 13, 2005 - 08:24 pm: Edit

In coffee saturated Vancouver, where there really is an espresso place on every street corner (not counting the new Starbucks drive-thru's) Baristas are very easy to spot. It's not so much a profession but rather a lifestyle. The requirements are: Multiple facial piercings, minimum of two tatoos, jangly body jewlery a must, and the ability to suggest dozens of meanings by simply altering the inflection and tone of the word "Dude"....

By Chefgibz0 (Chefgibz0) on Friday, January 14, 2005 - 08:56 am: Edit

Duuuude! Dude!? Douude. There are three. I do not have there rest of the requirements but I can do the duuuuude! And I am not even a barista. The first time I heard of this was the last Survivor. Some chick was on there and they listed her as a barista. I dunno.....I think the term "chef" is being used too losely.

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Saturday, January 15, 2005 - 12:08 am: Edit

If someone tells me they are a "Coffee Chef", I'm slapping the crap out of them.
And TAKING their coffee.
Bunch of pierced freaks.
I've had them wash their hands after they take my order 'cause they stand there and fiddle with those damn piercings, and I don't want them touching my stuff.
Tell me again why we are not starting the draft??????...uh, why?

By Foodpump (Foodpump) on Saturday, January 15, 2005 - 03:33 pm: Edit

Yo Spike duuude, if you drafted the pierced ones, all the enemy would need is a large electro-magnet, and then there wouldn't be any more soldiers...

By Calamata (Calamata) on Tuesday, February 22, 2005 - 06:23 pm: Edit

OK, OK Everyone! I get it: Experience Rules, School Sucks. Does that mean I should never take a cooking class to flesh out my repetoire or get some creative ideas? I work as a saute line cook at a middle/high end steak and fish restaurant. There's only so much I can learn from this limited menu (especially with the chef uninterested in taking me under her wing for some advanced training). I learn a lot from cook books and practicing at home, but is it dumb of me to want to accelerate my learning with classes...or is everyone just railing at cooking PROGRAMS, with their high tuitions? (as if MIT is free)
And as for the the contributer that wants to sell us the negative notion that great chefs are born, not made, well this is one Boddhitsatva (student/seeker) that is going to take what native skills, palate, and sophistication I have and combine that with learning from my culinary betters + hard work to see what I can make for myself in the food business/vocation. Thanks!!
PS: I DO see how low the wage scale is even for skilled cooks and chefs (which is due to a lack of labor organization--which is whole 'nother essay) and so I am really interested in owning my own small high end restaurant/take out place...obviously it's only the owners who are making any money (other than a few celebrity chefs and private chefs).
PPS: Any advice for classes without the program? Thanks, -C

By Cvincolorado (Cvincolorado) on Tuesday, February 22, 2005 - 09:42 pm: Edit

Calamata, have you told the chef that you wanted to learn more and specifically asked her to take you under her wing? If your answer is yes and her's is no, then I would start looking for a chef that will teach you. I have worked for both types and obviously have learned more from those that want to share thier knowledge. I love it when my cooks ask questions and show the desire to learn and I think there are more chefs like that then not. There is nothing wrong with taking classes. If you want to be a chef and/or restaurant owner do whatever it takes to learn as much as you can. It sounds like you have the desire and passion it requires and that's a huge part of it.

By Foodpump (Foodpump) on Tuesday, February 22, 2005 - 10:40 pm: Edit

Wait a minute, School doesn't suck, and experience is good but doesn't rule ultimately.
Experience is what school doesn't teach you, how to move in the kitchen, how to organize your station, and your thoughts. School will or should teach the whys, why you shouldn't sear a steak in a deep fryer even if the other line cooks tell you, why you shouldn't throw raw tomato paste into a sauce.

The wage scale in N. America sucks because the whole business of restaurants and cooking is so confused that anybody can call themselves a chef, and anybody who has money to burn can own a restaurant.
It's a pretty viscious cycle. Do yourself a favour and walk into a used restaurant equipment store for an afternoon on your day off. Just hang around and watch and listen to the people who walk in, and to the salespeople: Joe Schmo, a former political science Professor from Whatsis University decided to open up a place featuring his national dishes. Of course the guy can't cook or operate the place, that's why all his equipment is being sold for cents on the dollar, and his landlord is rubbing his hands in anticipation for the next schmuck who walks in. Its still wild west out there, and experience and knowledge are your only silver bullets....

By Cheftim (Cheftim) on Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 09:59 am: Edit

It's not school we're railing against so much as it is the cost of school that has become the problem.

Everyone must balance their positions in life.

If I were to start all over sans family obligations ,a younger age, with no money concerns, I'd take my experience as a teenager, to the CIA, to stagiaire positions throughout Europe, then the best restaurants and hotels herein the states.

Education should never stop, classes, seminars, and demos can enhance anyone's skills. My little olive do you think at some point one decides, "now I am a Chef, I am complete, I no everything there is to know."

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