A Stir The Pots Post

Professional paths

by | Apr 22, 2010 | Uncategorized


It's been a few years (decades?) since my high school guidance counselor was giving me advice on life after graduation. Honestly, I wasn't a great student, but had a mother, brother, and sister who were all great cooks. So when I saw the counselor's futuristic charts about the seemingly way-distant year 2000, graphs that said by the millennium a job as a chef would yield premium wages, well, sounded good to me. But then the counselor pointed out that my grade point average sucked, and even with economists painting a rosy picture for kitchen professionals, the army might be a good place to start. So I did my service and gained lots of human experience in the college of hard knocks, all the while cooking for the general staff.

So why am looking back or into the future? While having to juggle two work stations and the typical multitude of hats a professional chef wears, I've been thinking back to that counselor, wondering whether in hindsight I should of thanked him for his efforts to steer me into my current metier. Now, more then ever, it seems to me that there are  so many misfits wandering through the food industry.  Yes, the luxury sector and high end restaurants can afford a million stagiaire and food geek slaves. But for many of us cooking professionals, it's a different story. We're not clipboard and coiffed types. We're blue collar guys, managing staffs who are often untrained, undisciplined and uninterested, folks just making the weeks work for that paycheck.

All to say, I wonder why many people do this work and are making life and work so difficult for those of us who have to pick up after them. Maybe it's too much food oriented television, or just the way people today don't care or can't handle the grind. As a profession, food work isn't sexy; It's heat in the air, burns on the skin, cuts on the fingers, back breaking and teeth clenching rush of service, day in and day out. All that between higher-up management and customers whose attitude is one of pure servitude. 

My knowledgeable food friend Shuna has been writing a lot lately about food industry jobs. Sort of the do's and don'ts of interviews, giving notice, attitude, learning, etc. I hope other food professionals would glance at it and take notes. There's big value in learning job etiquette and protocol. Personally, a lot of things I gleaned from my experience in the military, which perhaps is where that guidance counselor years ago was right in suggesting…nuff said!


  1. Laura

    I am a pastry chef and have worked in restaurants for almost 7 years. I have seen a fair share of mediocrity, bad attitude, laziness. I think that a small percentage of food professionals do it for the passion, the rest for a paycheck. I have seen a lot of people who would not fit in any other job because of various problems, a kitchen environment somehow absorbs them. However, in the long run these people create a lot of problems and disrupt the flow. As a costumer I also have had a fair share of mediocre food, even with a high price tag. We rarely go out to restaurants any more, I am always disappointed. The sad part is that most people find the mediocre restaurants really good, so there is no push to improve the quality of food. I have enjoyed Shuna’s posts a lot, they totally resonate true.
    If it helps, you are not the only one frustrated. The hard part is that the frustration takes away from your true love of food. Keep on cooking!

  2. sydneek04@aol.com

    A great subject to write on, Jeremy! I’m passing it on to my past chef-instructor along with Shuna’s advice if that’s alright with you. Culinary careers are very easy to access in this day and age and I don’t think most students know what they are getting into. It is a thankless job for the most part so you better love your work if you are to survive with sanity intact. I am glad I was better prepared by working in the industry before I went to school. As always, I look forward to your posts!


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