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To be or not to be...


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I did go to culinary school and cook on the line, yet I regret none of these decisions. With a culture of Top Chef, Hell's Kitchen and Emeril, is cooking so glamorous as it seems. Where did Gordon Ramsay start? Well at the bottom and no he did not walk into life as an Executive Chef. Kids now a days see Rachel Ray knives and know what a culinary "foam" is. My 12 year old brother knows every single contestant on all three seasons of Top Chef and a family friend,15 years old, wishes to be like Emeril.To discourage them and kill a dream or let them find out the hard way? I am a product of the kitchen, I have tasted a white truffle and eaten caviar with a blini. Yet I don't know what to say. I know why I cook but it is hard to know if they want to do it for the same reason. To be or not to be....A chef.

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Isn't this really a broader parental dilemna? Like kids wanting to be a football star or an astronaut or a movie star? I wanted to go to Julliard at one time, and my mother paid for my music lessons, but I found out soon enough I wasn't going to make it there. Meanwhile I still enjoy my musical education while my profession is about as mundane as most. At least I had that chance and consider myself a broader person because of it.

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"Did you see what Julia Child did to that chicken?" ... Howard Borden on "Bob Newhart"

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speaking from experience -- we always cooked at home with my son. When my son voiced his desire to go to cooking school - I agreed with the proviso that he work in the industry for a year before making a commitment. He found a job, worked hard, got cut, got burned, we talked about the reality of the industry and he still wanted to go. What more can you ask.

Jmahl

The Philip Mahl Community teaching kitchen is now open. Check it out. "Philip Mahl Memorial Kitchen" on Facebook. Website coming soon.

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Yet I don't know what to say. I know why I cook but it is hard to know if they want to do it for the same reason. To be or not to be....A chef.

Yes I agree with your motivation to try to spare your children the heartaches and battleground conditions of the commercial kitchen, but probably one of the hardest lessons for parents is to let their children make their own choices in life. I truly believe parents are there to guide their kids through the journey of life providing tips and pointers along the way, but mostly standing back and watching their kids begin to make their own decisions and possibly mistakes. However, this is very easy for me to say as I don't have kids, but my parents were have been extremely supportive of every decision I have made thus far in life, and I can't tell you how good that makes me feel.

Stephanie Crocker

Sugar Bakery + Cafe

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Since you can speak with some authority, I believe you can tell them how much hard work it is, and they'll believe you, because they know how much time you spend away from home at work, and the kind of hours you keep. Still, I think the advent of the Food Network and the "celebrity chef" culture is a good thing for children. There's nothing wrong with including chef or restaurateur along with the usual choices of policeman, fireman, doctor, lawyer or ballerina in the stable of answers to "what do you want to be when you grow up."

Becoming a chef is a lot more realistic and attainable goal then wanting to be a professional sports star or modeling oneself after any of the horrid examples of humanity we have in the Paris Hiltons and Britney Spears of the world. Kids could do a lot worse than wanting to emulate Emeril, Bobby Flay or Rachel Ray.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Well, my son wanted to be a chef since he was very young. He was so determined that he left school at 16 after GCSE's (U.K. mid secondary school certificate), found himself a stage at a resto run by a 2* mich. chef one and a half hours away by bus, was so enthusiastic that he was taken on, found a flat in the city and worked there very successfully until powers that be decided he was too young to work such long hours. He was shattered. His chef recommended him to another 2* resto, he went for a trial, started a week later on a 3 year apprenticeship, ....I bit my lip and smiled when I met up with him, 3 stone lighter, white as a ghost, working 18 hour days. ...getting the piss taken out of him daily for having gone to a famous private school etc etc ......nearly 2 yrs later he is happy,calm, settled, mature beyond his years (19)and running one of the sections....if you want something badly enough you'll do it.

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Make 'em spend a year on the line. Heck, every kid could benefit from a year on the line (or in any other job marked by stress and responsibility) before they went off to school, whether that school is the CIA or Balliol.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I would encourage my child’s choice, but suggest that they work in a restaurant before deciding. Any job - bus boy, waiter, prep person; they will be able to get a general feeling for the job, plus even if they don’t go into the industry the work experience will look good on an application.

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I can share my recent experience on this subject. Living in a community of 3,400 people with an annual visitor count of 1.5 million people, there are a preponderance of restaurant jobs in our town. My daughter took restaurant management and culinary arts in high school and then went on to a year of culinary school. She dropped out after a year due to drugs and alcohol. Upon returning home she went back to work at local restaurants, mostly flippng burgers and making buffalo wings.

About 8 months ago, she got a job as the head chef at a fine dining restaurant by shear fluke. Their chef went home to the Philipines to visit and never came back. Hers was the only application they had on file with any culinary school background so they gave her a shot. Much to their surprise, and quite frankly mine, she's put them on the map with the local community and their doing better and better with their weekend visitor traffic as their reputation spreads.

As a result of this I have seen a tremendous difference in my daughter. Gone are the drugs and drinking is limited. She's lost the loser crowd she hung around with. And just this last week, instead of only wearing t-shirts and jeans on the line and when she visits the dining room, she came and got all her chef's whites. She feels she needs to project an image that matches her food.

I guess my point is, will she ever get rich being a chef? Probably not. It's hard work, hot and the hours are hell. But what it does give her is confidence and self esteem that comes with producing a product that genuinely pleases other people. And some people thrive on that. So being a chef isn't such a bad thing.

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