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Npandolfi

Aspiring chefs.

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Mr Achatz-

I am just beginning to go through the whole “College Process” with my parents, and I was wondering what advice you had. First of all, do you think that going to college is a bad idea for someone who an aspiring chef, and if those four years are much better spent in a kitchen gaining experience, or in culinary school. Also, if I do go to college, I will take a gap year, and I was wondering what you think the best way to spend that year would be. I want to travel, but I have no sense of whether or not it is possible to become an apprentice, or even whether gaining experience in Europe is worth it. Thanks alot.

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-Nick

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npandolfi:

I would discourage anyone from going to college that wanted to become a chef. That is if you are 100% confident you want to become a chef, if you have doubts college may be a good way to sort them out. Competion is fierce in the high-end segment, people devote a great deal of time to gain knowledge, for someone to postpone 4 years would seem wasteful. Compromise with your folks, go to culinary school for 2 years. Then get into the field where you will begin to learn and develop. Or maybe you want to pursue the 4 year program at a culinary school, pleasing your parents and still staying focused on your goals. Travel is huge. Go to Europe, you don't need to work necessarily, but find out where this reverance for cuisine started. Study the regions, and food styles of each. Familarize yourself with different ingredients and food cultures. That will give you a huge edge.

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npandolfi:

just another perspective here.

i am 28 years old, and i attended a 4 year college, and worked various jobs after graduation. at the age of 27 i came to the cooking profession. i attended a 1 year program (chock full of practical experience in french technique) and now i am working and externing at a relais and chateaux property outside of washington, dc.

my mind wants to accomplish so much in the kitchen...i have goals, i have ideas, but sadly i don't have the experience. only time will take care of that. what i am saying is, i wish i would have found cooking before i was 27 (i am ecstatic i found it at all, since many never find their true love)...and if it is your true love, go for it now...just like the high schooler jumping to the nba or the teen age tennis prodigy...just go for it, now.

jonathan

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Chef,

I'm not certain what percentage of people that set out to be chefs actually meet their goal. Given the competitive nature of the industry and the relatively limited number of spots available, do you think it's wise to forfeit (or even postpone) college to pursue this dream? Is there any way for someone finishing high school to evaluate his or her talent to determine whether they have a realistic chance of success? (For example, a high school athelete should be able to evaluate whether their talent justifies sacrificing a real college education.)

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stone:

My comments were made under the assumption that a person would have a passion for cooking. That being the case I feel this industry offers many possibilites to fullfill that passion, besides attaining the positions the small percentage of Charlie Trotters, Thomas Kellers, and Ferran Adrias occupy.

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Given the competitive nature of the industry and the relatively limited number of spots available, do you think it's wise to forfeit (or even postpone) college to pursue this dream?

Stone -

Being in a similar position (I finish up high school at the end of May), I think the issue is very similar to anyone who wants to go into a field where success (whether that be realization of dream, material success, fame, whatever your definition...) may be a long way, if ever, down the road, but where the person has an enormous amount of passion for what they want to do. This applies not only to the culinary arts, but also to painting, writing, filmmaking, sculpture, architecture, and so many countless other jobs that people do and love for very little (or sometimes very much) money. But, if you really have to question whether you should make the decision, then it does kinda seem that you probably shouldn't. And that's not to say that we all don't doubt our decisions at some point, but I think if you are really worrying about whether money and security is more important than doing what you are passionate about, then it might create problems and impediments somewhere down the road. What if success takes five years? What if it takes ten? For me, the choice kind of made itself, almost as if I really have no choice -- that I cannot possibly idle through 4 years of college majoring in English, philosophy, or something else, only to get out and go apply for a job in a restaurant a day later. This wasn't always my plan and I really had no clue I wanted to go this direction at all until I walked into Trio for dinner on my birthday, last July and I've been really sure ever since. Before I was considering studying film, or literarure somewhere for four years...architecture was also an option I've taken seriously and liked for sometime, my dad being an architect and having grown up surrounded by books of Frank Lloyd Wright and Tadao Ando, but he warned me a few years ago about the state of the profession...how it is not the way it was back in the past, and that everything is done by computers now with very little creativity. And I haven't based my decision with that solely on his word...all I have to do is look around the suburb of Chicago I live in, at the houses -- expensive, boxy and all the same -- that have been built here in the last ten years, and realize that this is what I would be doing and that it is not, in fact, what I want to be doing. So as far as advice goes, I really can't give any from experience, but I do think that if you feel very strongly about going in a certain direction and are sure, at least as much as you can be, that it's what you want to do, then go for it. Too many people prescribe the same four years at college and too many people end up not liking their jobs. If you are lucky enough, like pastramionrye said, to find something you love, then why not goddamn it? Why not?


Edited by RyneSchraw (log)

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Given the competitive nature of the industry and the relatively limited number of spots available, do you think it's wise to forfeit (or even postpone) college to pursue this dream?

Stone -

Being in a similar position (I finish up high school at the end of May), I think the issue is very similar to anyone who wants to go into a field where success (whether that be realization of dream, material success, fame, whatever your definition...) may be a long way, if ever, down the road, but where the person has an enormous amount of passion for what they want to do. This applies not only to the culinary arts, but also to painting, writing, filmmaking, sculpture, architecture, and so many countless other jobs that people do and love for very little (or sometimes very much) money. But, if you really have to question whether you should make the decision, then it does kinda seem that you probably shouldn't. And that's not to say that we all don't doubt our decisions at some point, but I think if you are really worrying about whether money and security is more important than doing what you are passionate about, then it might create problems and impediments somewhere down the road. What if success takes five years? What if it takes ten? For me, the choice kind of made itself, almost as if I really have no choice -- that I cannot possibly idle through 4 years of college majoring in English, philosophy, or something else, only to get out and go apply for a job in a restaurant a day later. This wasn't always my plan and I really had no clue I wanted to go this direction at all until I walked into Trio for dinner on my birthday, last July and I've been really sure ever since. Before I was considering studying film, or literarure somewhere for four years...architecture was also an option I've taken seriously and liked for sometime, my dad being an architect and having grown up surrounded by books of Frank Lloyd Wright and Tadao Ando, but he warned me a few years ago about the state of the profession...how it is not the way it was back in the past, and that everything is done by computers now with very little creativity. And I haven't based my decision with that solely on his word...all I have to do is look around the suburb of Chicago I live in, at the houses -- expensive, boxy and all the same -- that have been built here in the last ten years, and realize that this is what I would be doing and that it is not, in fact, what I want to be doing. So as far as advice goes, I really can't give any from experience, but I do think that if you feel very strongly about going in a certain direction and are sure, at least as much as you can be, that it's what you want to do, then go for it. Too many people prescribe the same four years at college and too many people end up not liking their jobs. If you are lucky enough, like pastramionrye said, to find something you love, then why not goddamn it? Why not?

Don't listen to anybody. Go for it and don't look back...

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I second that encouragement. Life is a learning experience. I did not find culinary until I was through the 4 years. But I do not regret the years either. Even though I am not a celebrity chef, I enjoy what I do. Life is good. So what ever you end up doing, Go for it with all the gusto you can. And have fun while your doing it. Even the mundane can be fun if you let it be.

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