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  1. #1

    ecchef's Avatar
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    Industry pro question.

    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.
    Though I could not caution all I still might warn a few; Don't raise your hand to raise no flag atop no ship of fools. - Robert Hunter

  2. #2
    GoogleFu San steeley's Avatar
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    Well I started when i was 13 as a dishwasher and always like watching and helping the cooks . bad and good influences early

  3. #3
    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.

  4. #4
    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.

  5. #5
    Senior Member shankster's Avatar
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    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.

  6. #6
    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.

  7. #7

    ecchef's Avatar
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    Thanks for the responses so far guys. I'm sure there are some more interesting stories out there yet.
    Though I could not caution all I still might warn a few; Don't raise your hand to raise no flag atop no ship of fools. - Robert Hunter

  8. #8
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    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

  9. #9

    I knew EXACTLY what I wanted to do...

    ...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

  10. #10
    Senior Member Citizen Snips's Avatar
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    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.

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