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Old 07-03-2006, 04:43 PM   #1
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Changing career for food industry?

Has anyone here changed their career to go work in the food industry? I'm curious to know what you used to do before and what you do now in the food industry. I have had numerous jobs, have two degrees, and have chosen different career routes but nothing would make me happier than to work in the food industry.

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Old 07-03-2006, 04:55 PM   #2
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I didn't exactly change my career, but when I lived in London some years ago, a friend started a private catering company. I worked with her for 6 or 8 months and although fun, it was exhausting as I was still doing the 'day' job. Luckily, most of the time I was on summer vacs, but the beginning of the Autumn term nearly killed me!

I finally decided that I wasn't going to be able to keep up with a young family, a 'day' job and an evening/weekend one, too!

Mind you, we catered some pretty amazing dinner parties and luncheon parties, including things like the Henley Regatta and catering for a couple of racing days at Ascot and Cheltenham. In later years, when I attended Royal Ascot (not in the Royal party, of course!) I really sympathised with the private caterers.

BTW - my friend is now worth an absolute FORTUNE!
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Old 07-03-2006, 11:49 PM   #3
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I've pretty much always worked in the food industry since I got my first job. Of course, 6 years of that was in fast food. I worked at JC Penney's for 3 years. It's the only non-food job I've ever had. The benefits were great, but the store manager was a jerk, and the hours sucked, as I was in Maintenance, and he liked to schedule 3 - 4 all-night shifts a week during the summer.
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Old 07-04-2006, 12:01 AM   #4
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I've spent most of my life in the food industry, although I got out for four years, working for a couple banks up til 3 years ago when I came back to cooking. Having spent many years as a chef, my advice is: if you decide to take the plunge, go in with your eyes open. Depending upon what type of job you want, it's not exactly glamourous! The hours can be very long, the kitchen is very hot and the job can be extremely stressful. Of course, the hours aren't so bad if you love what you do, and some us do our best work under pressure.
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Old 07-04-2006, 10:58 PM   #5
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The heat would be something to consider. As far as the stress, I handle it pretty well I think. Thank you all for sharing your stories on here. It's good to hear advise and input.
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Old 07-05-2006, 12:07 AM   #6
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i put about 17 or 18 years in restaurants, working my way up from dishwashing when i was 16 to executive chef by my late 20's (strictly big fish in a small pond).

rob b's advice about going in with your eyes open is absolutely right.

one of the best aspects of the business is the comaraderie working the line in a good kitchen. after you get to the point where you are able to come up with specials and can let your creative juices flow is nice too.

but,...
- don't expect to be exactly raking in the bucks. as a rule, wait people tend to bring home a lot more. i've worked in restaurants where the wait staff would be really pissed off if the didn't clear $200 a night, while the bulk of the kitchen staff were making between marginally more than minimum wage to about double minimum wage.
- if you get to head chef, your troubles are hitting full throttle, as you are usually putting in 12 hour days, dealing with people calling in sick, hiring and firing, purveyors, management breathing down your back, etc. etc. ad nauseum.
- don't expect to be working at "culinary art". 99% of the work in the food industry is pretty cut and dry and none too creative. you've got to put your time in to get to that position. come in, prep your station, sweat buckets for 3 or 4 hours, and then start cleaning up while late orders still come in.
- forget about thanksgiving and christmas at home.

when i started thinking about raising a family, i went back to college and became a teacher. part of me still longs for the better aspects of the job, but i can certainly do without the headaches and the grease.

my advice for those wanting into the business: put a couple of years in at a culinary school, taking every extra course they've got. enter some competitions. don't just take any old job, but try for the best restaurants and be persistant, going back year after year. accept the fact that initially at least, you'll have to put your time in as a drone, because even most people straight out of culinary school are still considered to know next to nothing. if you smoke, stop so you can clean your palate. your tongue is your most important tool. spend big bucks eating out at a variety of excellent restaurants (and bring a little notebook with you).
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