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What were some of your concerns about pursuing a career in the culinary field? How did everything work out in the end?

I have my own reservations about entering the culinary field (e.g. an unstable source of income, expensive training/schooling, a work-life imbalance), so I'm interested in hearing more about other people's main concerns as well as how it all turned out in the end. Personally, I'm interested in becoming a pastry chef.

#culinary #culinaryarts #bakingarts #pastrychef #chef #culinaryschool #july20

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James’s Answer

I am a Pastry Chef so I'll be glad to answer! I had my own reservations as well before going through with it. My grandfather was and my father is an attorney and I could have followed their footsteps to a more certain career as my father has his own firm. However my father was one of my biggest supporters for me following my dream. It is definitely tough when you first graduate but a solid culinary school will make it easier to jump in. The starting pay is usually not great at all but it jumps up big in steps(a pastry cook will make like 13-17 an hour, sous Pastry chef 42-45k a year, pastry chef 45-100k, executive closer to 100k and bonuses) but it all depends on where you are working. I knew that being a Pastry Chef was my passion and I wouldn't want to do anything else. I'm 31 now and I'm doing great and continuing to become more successful as time goes on.

There are much less Pastry jobs than chef jobs but that also means that companies will pay very well for the right pastry chef on their payroll.

Currently its tough as most of the industry is shut down, but things will recover and people will need dessert after all of this!

If you really have a passion for it , I'd say that you will succeed!

James recommends the following next steps:

Think about if its something you simply enjoy , or your passion

I'm glad you didn't sugarcoat your experiences and that it all worked out in the end. Thank you so much for the helpful advice! Rachel C.

Of course! It can be rough at first but after a few years, I'm extremely happy with what I do! Glad to help and answer any questions! James Look

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April’s Answer

Hello Rachel!

I commend you for taking the next steps in this crazy field and really trying to take the time to figure out your next steps.

I am a pastry chef and have been for about 13 years, and let me just say it has definitely been some of the most trying yet rewarding years. I did go to culinary school and received a AS in baking and pastry arts. While this did help me to have a lot of really good knowledge under my belt right off the bat, it did not compare to what I would learn in kitchens. The days can be long and hard, but at the end of the day I was, and everyone I worked with (for the most part) were happy with our day. I like to tell people who are curious as to what path they should take when it comes to the culinary arts that while school is a really useful tool, see if you can't get into a kitchen and work a little before you make it a life decision. If you can find a good spot you can even have the opportunity to learn under some really talented people that will help you on your way and you may even be able to forgo school. It will save you some money as well as possibly put some money in your pocket.

Right now it's a little hard, the industry has been hit hard; but there are so many online resources for you take in and learn from. Keep asking questions, you will gain so much.

Beyond the schooling part, it really is a career of passion. If you are not in it to win it, it may not be for you. I absolutely love what I do, I love that it is constantly evolving and you are always learning. And most of all I love to feed people delicious food. It might be hard but if you love what you do you will go far!

I hope this wasn't rambling too much :) Good luck and I wish you all the best!

Thank you so much! Your guiding words have truly helped dissolve many of my worries about pursuing the culinary field! Rachel C.

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Junnie’s Answer

Hi Rachel,

It is really admirable to know your interest in the beginning.

I am a chef and specialize in baking and pastry.

Yes, culinary school can be rather expensive to attend, but there are also lot of culinary school out there that is not as expensive and able to give you good culinary knowledge and training. I graduated from Art of Institute Charleston. I was considering CIA as my culinary school, as the tuition is definitely more, and since it is my fourth degree after my AS in Business Administration, Bachelor in Hotel, Restaurant & institutional management, and MBA. I decided to just want to go to a school that I can afford to learn.

To be honest with you. This is a hard industry. I grew up in it. My parents own a bakery since I was born. I have been working in the bakery since I was 5 years old. My parents certainly did not want me to follow their foot steps, and that why they keep telling to achieve a business degree, to have a less hard career.

After working for 8 years, I decided that I still love culinary, the hard work, the long hours, the achievement of the work, it's all worth it.
You can have a simple job and just sit and look at the computer, answering the phone and meeting all day. But it's a bore.

Follow your heart. Do what you love. Passion trumps everything. You will work as hard to achieve everything in best.

Culinary world is very colorful, when you follow your passion, reward will follow.

Be humble and learn. Everyone in the industry can be your teacher.

Good luck my dear!

Thank you for being frank with me, and thank you for the encouraging advice! Rachel C.

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Krysten’s Answer

Hey Rachel!

The culinary field is a definitely an amazing but also, tough industry. Well worth the hard work though, especially if it is what you are passionate about.

After high school I went to college for a few semesters, even though I knew I wanted to be a chef. I didn't think I had the talent or that I would be able to find a good career in the field. Boy, was I wrong! When you love what you do and put the time into it, you will succeed! Times are pretty tough for all areas of hospitality, pastry chefs especially! But, as most things do, it will pass and we will get back to some kind of normal!

Once I realized I didn't have any passion for the subjects I was learning in school I decided to take the leap into Culinary school! I received my Associates in the Culinary Arts and immediately started working at a ski resort in the most beautiful part of Colorado. While I learned A LOT of the basics from Culinary School, being called a "chef" doesn't come from school, it is earned. I would look into some different options around you, see if there are any chefs that would take you on as an extern (paid intern) and teach you some of their techniques. A degree isn't what will get you the management jobs in the culinary industry, it's experience and actively showing that you have the work ethic to get ahead.

I got my first Executive Chef position when I was just 24 years old. I didn't get the position because of my Associates Degree, I got it because I continually showed that I could do the job as just the Sous Chef! Never stop learning, work your butt off and always love what you do!

Good luck!!

Krysten recommends the following next steps:

Look into Pastry Arts programs in your area and the pricing
Call around to chefs in your area (once things get back to some normal, if most places are working with skeleton crews)
Culinary can be tough with the hours but with pastry arts there are TONS of options with your hours, do research on pastry jobs and what their hours look like near you!

Thank you for your response, Krysten! I'm dealing with a similar situation as I am currently in the process of applying for colleges because I don't believe I have what it takes to become a successful chef. It's comforting and inspiring to hear about your experiences and how you eventually overcame them. Again, thank you so much for the clarifying advice; I now need to rethink what I want to do with my future :). Rachel C.

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Mark’s Answer

I will always be in the "don't go to culinary school camp." This isn't to say school isn't useful, I did end up taking a few hospitality management courses. That said, I've never met a chef who refused to hire a cook because they didn't go to culinary school. I've also never met a chef that didn't have several years as a regular line cook under their belt. You might be thinking, "I'm 31 and I can't afford to waste 5 years as a line cook, culinary school is a fast track to higher pay and status which is where I want to be."

1. It's not worth putting yourself in debt. I am in my mid 30s and I haven't met a single culinary school grad who is out of debt or sees themselves being out of debt anytime soon.

2. With a modest investment in books, equipment, and time in a quality restaurant that is doing the cooking you most want to perfect, in your case pastry, you can train yourself. Think 500-1000$

3. Being a chef requires a positive mindset, a lot passion and a mountain of willpower. Staggering debt from culinary school is the one thing I've seen that had burned people out faster than anything else. You gotta keep your head afloat.

There are exceptions of course. A lot of community colleges have culinary programs that get you serv safe certificates and practical kitchen experience. Tuition for those courses are often pretty affordable. It's like the difference of going to Yale to get a basic education degree vs. A state university at a fraction of the cost for the same degree.

I am not very different than you. At 30 I lost my job doing 3d design and found myself back in restaurants as a server so I could make ends meet. I cooked in high school and college but it had been about 8 years since I had been in the restaurant world. So, the chef pulled me into the kitchen when he realized I had cooking and from my previous job, management and now 5 years later I am exactly where I want to be.

I was lucky in that that restaurant group paid for me to take hospitality management class and a kitchen management class. Last year I jumped on the opportunity you to take an executive staff position a different restaurant but I'm unfortunately furloughed right now. This break is let me jump in another restaurant to help out and I'm having a lot of fun and trying to make the most of things.

The next few years are definitely going to be rough. There is opportunity though as old blood leaves the industry makes room for new people starting out. Make the most out of every experience. Get comfortable with self evaluating and being evaluated by others who may or may not perceive you as you do. I find it helpful to keep a journal and write down stuff down that I've learned, mistakes I've made, ect.

Good luck and I hope you don't find this advice too discouraging.

Thank you for the detailed response, it definitely aided in sorting out my thoughts about culinary school. Your advice was not discouraging at all! Rachel C.