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ecchef
03-23-2011, 01:24 AM
For all youse professional cooks/chefs: How or why did you get into the industry, and if it was a career change situation, what did you do previously?

I"ll start with a brief bio. I went to a military college with the intentions of getting a USMC officer's comission. Halfway through, due to circumstances I'd rather not get into, I switched to a business admin program at a civvy college.
Entered the workforce working for a few different companies in the structural fabrication field but left to get into motorcycles. Some time later, wound up as P&S manager at a Honda dealership. Fun, but too many opportunities to get killed or arrested. Worked in my Dad's friend's restaurant as a prep dog part time and liked it. Learned enough to get by, went to a local culinary school and took an intensive program to fill in the missing parts and been in it ever since. Probably stay in the field in some capacity until I drop dead. Or a little after that.

steeley
03-23-2011, 02:04 AM
Well I started when i was 13 as a dishwasher and always like watching and helping the cooks . bad and good influences early
:goodevil:

rysara
03-23-2011, 03:07 AM
Hmm.. this feels like I'm filling out a job application. Lol!

I've worked as a Lab Tech in the emergency room, sold cars, retail sales, insurance sales, phlebotomist, owned and sold my own moving company and a slew of other jobs that I either can't remember or don't care to.

Why I got into the industry was cut and dry really. Out of all the jobs I held, all of them were for the money. there was no passion to it, I never got any form of happiness from whatever I did. But the one thing I did like to do was cooking. At first it was taking pre-processed foods and doctoring them up to change them because I was too scared to spend the money to buy the actual product and try to make it and then fail. Once I sold my moving company, money was a little bit less of an issue, and I had told myself that whatever I did next was going to be for me. So I enrolled in culinary school (which, I should have spent the extra money and went to a better one like CIA or JW) and have been working in the industry ever since.

JBroida
03-23-2011, 04:22 AM
i loved food and cooking all of my life... when i was in college (studying for my asian studies degree) i had been planning on going into consulting... however, i decided i didnt want to get stuck behind a desk, so over a break, i asked a chef friend of mine if i could hang out in his kitchen and see what cooking was all about. They expected me to last a day... i had some pretty crappy jobs that day... peel pounds of carrots and potatoes, slice onions for sandwiches, wash dishes, etc. I loved it... went back every day of my break. After that, whenever i had free time i was staging in a kitchen. After college, i was good enough that people started paying me for it and i was stoked. I kept at it and eventually traveled around a bit working in other countries- Japan and Italy.

However, after getting married, i decided that i actually wanted to see my wife during normal daytime hours instead of just after she was asleep and on my day off. Stopped and started JKI. Still miss it though.

shankster
03-23-2011, 10:24 AM
I was born into the biz.My old man owned restaurants for as long as I can remember.I started washing dishes then moved on to line cook/burger flipper did some front of the house stuff,bartender,waiter etc but I always felt more comfortable in the kitchen.
Didn't really start cooking seriously(professionally?) till my late 20's and I've never looked back.

Eamon Burke
03-23-2011, 04:29 PM
Pretty much got to where I am by doing jobs nobody else wants to do. People above me would quit, or I put up with management that was so infuriating that I was one of the old-timers by 6 months.

ecchef
03-23-2011, 06:20 PM
Thanks for the responses so far guys. I'm sure there are some more interesting stories out there yet.

tweyland
03-24-2011, 01:09 AM
I used to be a computer guy at a record company. When that started going south (file sharing, etc), I started thinking about what else I would want to do for a living. Naturally I had always loved food and cooking. I had considered culinary school years earlier, but went to college instead. All the while, I kept cooking and learning about food as a hobby, so I was a pretty fair home cook, but had never worked in a restaurant. I knew a chef of a fine dining restaurant and asked him if I could work 2 shifts a week for free in exchange for learning the ropes. I "interned" that way for a year while I still had my day job at the record company. I got downsized, took a trip to Asia, then came back and started looking for work as a cook.

I got a lucky break from my friend's chef instructor, who I had to "audition" for, then she got me an interview at a well known restaurant.

I like that I get to interact with the guests and see their reactions. When I was doing IT, it was pretty tough to see the connection between my work and the success of the company.

~Tad

Atreidai
03-26-2011, 02:05 AM
...when I graduated high school. I was going to go to University and get my Classics degree, then it was off to become a "Reconstructive Archaeologist"...that is to say a guy who builds replicas of ancient stuff to find out more about it. I traveled and worked and read and studied and followed that path all the way to my Bachelors (I still have it...wrapped up in the tube they sent it to me in...around here somewhere...somewhere...) I even had a few profs who thought I could pull it off...then I cooked something!

I don't know when it was that cooking began its insidious crawl up to the forefront of my existence. I can't give you a date or time, or person or place...nothing, it kinda happened. I got a job as a servers assistant at a local restaurant, and things happened and they needed help in the kitchen and then I stayed...not really because I fit in...being the only guy in the whole restaurant let along kitchen to be able to read Latin or speak with authority on the political structures of the late bronze age didn't make for a lot of conversation. I was probably the dweeb that most of the pros around here would have laughed at and poked and prodded into crying in a corner like some kind of demented reality show chefs.

I stayed with it, there were several people who took the time to teach me, and to them I will be forever grateful, their lessons have always been in my bones ever since and have been used everyday. I worked and worked, read and learned, and after a brief stint as a professional fencing coach I realized as my best friend at the time put it "...cooking...the reason you were put on this planet..." I was/am a good-ish coach, I was told point blank by a leader in the field of Greek philology that I was NEVER going to make a good Classicist! and I am a pretty good cook...so the choice was pretty easy; not to mention I LOVE the look on someones face when they bite into a dish that they are all sorts of dubious about only to smile and close their eyes as if remembering their first kiss or something (the good kind..not the traumatic..although that can have its moments too!)

I got into it because I have a natural talent for it that has been honed over the years more by the time and invested energy that others have put into me than by my own Machiavellian workings, and despite it all, I love it!

-D

Citizen Snips
03-26-2011, 11:35 AM
i graduated from a college prep high school and went on to get a partial ride to Saint Louis University for pre-med. i wanted to become a doctor so i could be rich. terrible idea. i had to work at a restaurant just as i did through high school and during the summer to pay bills and pay the remaining tuition. after one semester i realized i was in college for the wrong thing and it was costing me a lot of money. so i started staging and working at as many places as i could. my rule was never less than 6 months and never more than 1 year at one establishment. after i felt i had a good knowledge base i went to culinary school for my own questions that never got answered. i met my wife in culinary school and we worked together as sous chefs at a local small italian restaurant. needless to say it didn't work out and we decided not to work together anymore. now we work at 2 of the top restaurants in the city and grow tired of fine dining. we like cooking for friends and family and try our best to just keep work things at work.

Chef Niloc
03-27-2011, 02:55 AM
I wanted to be a chef for as long as I can remember. I remember in 1st grade I did a thing on " when I grow up" funny true story, when I was 10 years old I made my dad take me to a book singing by Jeff Smith for his 1st book the frugal gourmet. I still have a picture of me sitting on his lap, I know now what he must have been thinking.

steeley
03-28-2011, 01:02 AM
I really liked Jeff Smith back in day; history with food was a nice show.
what was a his helper name ?
A guy I worked with was a dishwasher at the The Chaplains Pantry in Tacoma ,WA

Dave Martell
03-28-2011, 01:37 AM
what was a his helper name ?


Craig ?

steeley
03-28-2011, 02:30 AM
Ah yes Craig at the time i thought he had a sweet job .
:eek2:
and looks like he left the cooking field and poor Jeff passed away in 2004.

MadMel
04-25-2011, 07:48 AM
I actually wanted to be an astro-physicist lol. My parents were not that supportive... My grades were good enough to get me into any Polytechnic course that I wanted and so they made me do a Diploma food science and nutrition instead. 2 years through, I kinda got bored cause it was kinda easy to score (3.7 GPA throughout) so I decided to do something more challenging. Switched to chef's school(got my ass busted for that), got my diploma in culinary skills and started my life in the kitchen. Working in a kitchen for me, is much more challenging then any desk bound job. And I enjoy the challenge.

Salty dog
04-25-2011, 09:38 AM
I started as a dishwasher. After high school I set out to be an art teacher. After receiving all in-completes my first semester (it was the 70s) I decided to get a cooking job. Traveled the country for years cooking and finally settled back home. Then one day I got a bug up my a$$ and said to myself, "I think I want to be a fireman". So I did that for 10 years while holding down three restaurant jobs. After 10 years my pension was vested, I yanked it and plopped it down (and every other penny to my name) on my first restaurant.

Chef Niloc
04-26-2011, 09:01 AM
I started as a dishwasher. After high school I set out to be an art teacher. After receiving all in-completes my first semester (it was the 70s) I decided to get a cooking job. Traveled the country for years cooking and finally settled back home. Then one day I got a bug up my a$$ and said to myself, "I think I want to be a fireman". So I did that for 10 years while holding down three restaurant jobs. After 10 years my pension was vested, I yanked it and plopped it down (and every other penny to my name) on my first restaurant.

This may have been asked a thousand times but how did you get your nickname and do they call you salty at work?
O another interesting similarity between us I went to art school and then went back to the kitchen.

Salty dog
04-26-2011, 09:22 AM
Some friends call me Salty. Some Scott. In the kitchen it's jeffe.

I had a T-shirt with a picture of a cranky dog pirate complete with peg leg, eye patch etc. After a hot summer shift I removed my cook's shirt to reveal the salt marks left from perspiration on the T shirt . Someone commented, about the "salty dog" on the shirt. The moniker seemed to fit and I've using it ever since.

Saltydog was taken on the Knife forums so I used my gaming tag Idiotking. My friends who've I met through gaming refer to me as "King". It's funny when we're in public and people are referring to me as king. We get some looks.

AnxiousCowboy
05-17-2011, 12:54 AM
I've been cooking a long time. My father was a hotel chef growing up and I moved around a lot because of it. I always took a cooking job growing up because it was just kind of something I knew how to do and the pay is decent for a young kid. I guess for the longest time I didnt get too serious about cooking since I had that teenager "I dont want to follow in anyone's footsteps" individuality mindset. Then one day it just clicked that it was indeed my passion so I went to CIA instead of just ******* around in ****** kitchens. Now I work exclusively in high end fine dining restaurant and sacrifice my young adult life for my career; moving forward as hard and fast as I can. You have to be a bit of a masochist to adopt this lifestyle, but you slowly acclimate to it; now I cant work any less than 10 hours a day without thinking I have half a day off and get restless. Now work is the only place I feel truly at home, my river to anyone who's read siddharthra. My sanctuary is on the butcher block sawing veal heads in half and on the line cooking meat and fish as fast as I can in an oven as hot as I can get it.

If you want some inspiration, search for the marco pierre white videos on youtube where he is cooking a series at Harveys.

brainsausage
04-14-2012, 04:11 AM
Some friends call me Salty. Some Scott. In the kitchen it's jeffe.

I had a T-shirt with a picture of a cranky dog pirate complete with peg leg, eye patch etc. After a hot summer shift I removed my cook's shirt to reveal the salt marks left from perspiration on the T shirt . Someone commented, about the "salty dog" on the shirt. The moniker seemed to fit and I've using it ever since.
Saltydog was taken on the Knife forums so I used my gaming tag Idiotking. My friends who've I met through gaming refer to me as "King". It's funny when we're in public and people are referring to me as king. We get some looks.
A close chef friend of mine is named King Bishop. The fourth no less!!! Coolest name ever...?

bieniek
04-14-2012, 08:43 AM
when I was 2 I would wake up first, sneak up into kitchen, open closet with pots and pans and by throwing them all around, would look for "foodie" in it.
When I was 3 or so I ate glass ball in shape of mushroom from christmas tree, parents found me sitting behind the tree eating last bits.
When I was 6 and older the only road sign I would recognize was fork and spoon crossed, pretty much that stayed up until today.

I was always in my home kitchen surrounded with handpicked mushroom, warm milk and still warm-dirty eggs, fresh herbs

My first choice was a chefs college. Familys economy was poor then, and the school was 300km from home.
I would stay for 3 of 4 years in dormitory eating only rice and drinking cheap tea. Just before graduation I got little homeless for two beautifull winter months[was thrown out from dorm for coming back from training too late at night], and sometimes wouldnt eat nothing for a week.
But instead getting into dealing drugs I just pushed myself into graduating, ended up here and now, cooking for Noble piss prize and Norwegian King, working with chef apprenticing in Herman, Noma and lately Fat Duck.

Sarge
04-15-2012, 04:38 PM
I started working in a kitchen while going to school to get a teaching degree. Found that I loved it and switched to culinary school and have been doing this ever since. It is the only thing I want to do and I've never once regretted the switch despite being constantly broke and tired

Salty dog
04-16-2012, 04:16 AM
I graduated from high school and needed a full time job.

stevenStefano
04-16-2012, 08:16 AM
To be honest I never planned on being a Chef but it looks like that is my current and future career. I was always pretty good at school and went to University and did a Degree in something that is a little like architecture, that sort of thing was always very interesting to me and I loved studying it. Unfortunately it's nearly 3 years since I left and basically there are no jobs in it whatsoever. I got into cooking by getting a weekend job washing dishes at University and got promoted a few times to where I get pretty good money in a reasonably fancy place. However I think I have sort of went as far as I can go in my current place of work and my plan is to move somewhere fancier where I can really learn again. Thing is, because I lack formal culinary training it looks like if I do get a new job I'll be on very low money for a while but hopefully it is worth the risk long term