Culinary Schools & Career Changing
Posted 23 September 2003 - 09:44 AM
Also, it seems that many people (often in their 30s or 40s with college educations and many years as white collar professionals under their belts) considering a $20K plus culinary education to change careers approach culinary school like a college class and competitively strive for grades which are essentially meaningless in the industry. How do you feel about people making this type of career change and is it really something you would recommend to someone if you knew them personally?
Posted 23 September 2003 - 04:39 PM
Thanks for your message about career changers.
You'd asked if this is something we'd recommend to people we know, which reminds us of kind of a funny story: When BECOMING A CHEF was published in 1995, one of its biggest fans was Kate Jackman, the national cookbook buyer at BORDERS. We loved working with her, and she thanked us for helping to make the book one of her top five best-selling titles of 1995. However, we soon became saddened to learn just how much she loved the book -- it helped persuade her to leave her job at BORDERS to change careers to go to cooking school! We were sorry to lose such a great champion at BORDERS (and sorry to lose touch with such a terrific woman -- Kate, if you're out there, we hope you'll let us know how your career change went...and it sounds like some people here on eGullet.com will be curious, too!).
It's tough going for career changers who enter this profession later in life, but that could probably be said about any profession, really. Many leading chefs pursued other careers before cooking, and that allowed them to bring a certain richness and maturity to the profession. Alfred Portale of Gotham Bar & Grill, for example, credits having worked as a jewelry designer before culinary school with the seriousness and focus that led him to graduate as #1 in his class at the CIA while many of his 18-year-old classmates were busy partying.
Our biggest advice is to do your "due diligence" before making such a huge career change. Talk with other career changers. Interview alums and current students at the culinary schools you're thinking about attending, and find out about the highs and lows of their experiences at school and in the job search process.
As Norman Van Aken told us, " This is not a profession that you choose. It chooses you." So while the choice to enter this profession may not be yours, the choice to do it wiht both eyes open and informed by all the current realities of it certainly is.
Best of luck to you!
Andrew & Karen