I have been a professional chef for over 13 years. I recently got out of it to pursue a job that doesn't have me working 13 hour days on my feet in a hot kitchen. It wasn't a decision I made lightly, but it was time for me to make a change.
A lot of people think that just because they can cook great dishes for their friends and family that they could run their own restaurant.
Are they sure about that? Have they thought about what it will actually take to succeed in the industry? I am not saying that they shouldn't give it a try. Who am I to stand in the way of their goals? I just want to make sure they know what they are getting themselves into before they make a decision. I have learned a lot of things in the industry and definitely have become a better person for it. The professional kitchen isn't for everyone though. Here's a list of five things you need to know if you want to become a chef:
You will work a lot - You will put in long hours and cover shifts for any number of reasons. Maybe the dishwasher called in sick. Perhaps the butcher cut his finger off and needs medical attention. It could also be one of your line cooks doesn't want to work at the same time his ex-girlfriend is working in the lounge. I believe it's possible to run a successful kitchen without being in there 24/7, but prepare for the long haul getting there.
You should go to culinary school - Some chefs will tell you that you don't need schooling to become a chef. I feel as though it was one of the best decisions I made. I was able to learn how to calculate food and labor costs. This will be the most important thing that determines the success of a restaurant. As good as the food might be, you have to make money or you close, period!
You will be doing laundry and showering often - Your significant other should get used to you coming home smelling of garlic, fish, or whatever else you prepared that day. Just make sure you bathe often and you should be fine.
You won't make a lot of money right away - It will take some time for you to make any real money. You may have to work your way up to a saucier, sous chef, or Executive chef. It took me about 8 years into my career before I was a credible sous chef making a decent salary. If you are passionate about food and the industry, you will do well. Just be patient.
Be prepared to make mistakes often - Some of the best chefs in the world have probably make more mistakes than anyone else. You shouldn't be afraid though. The more mistakes you make, the better you will get.
Hopefully these five points haven't scared you away from wanting to train in the culinary world. Becoming a chef was one of the most rewarding things I did, and I have zero regrets. It is a very demanding industry, but has made me a better person.