Being a chef is hard work. It’s not glamourous, it’s not easy and it’s stressful. But – it’s also a rewarding labor of love for those with the passion and fortitude to see it through many years.
If you think you might be meant to be a chef, consider the pros and cons; evaluate – with honesty – whether you believe you not only can but would thrive in a busy kitchen environment.
Some of the not-so-great things about being a chef:
- You will always be burned, cut and injured. Especially your hands.
- You will be tired more often than not.
- Your days and nights will be mixed up, and your schedule will be opposite that of your friends and family. You won’t have a social life for a long time.
- You will not be present for weekend trips, Friday date-nights, family events (including weddings, funerals and Christmas).
- Even when you are sick, you will still be required to go to work.
- When you are first starting out, you will work a lot. Multiple jobs, probably. You will work more than you will be off, in order to pay the bills.
- You will probably have back problems at some point in your career – or for all of it.
- You won’t be permitted to sit at all during work.
- You will always be under pressure, probably anxious and stressed as well.
- It will be absolutely nothing like the chefs you see on the Food Network or other television channel.
- You will cook junk at home because the last thing you will want after cooking 16 hours is to cook another meal – for one.
- You will have to work many years in low-status positions of all kinds, in order to work your way up to a role where you receive a modicum of respect.
- You will get yelled at. A lot.
- Your family and friends will ask you to cook for them and for advice, on you only day off. And you won’t want to do it.
But it’s not all bad. When you love what you do, there is always something to be excited about. Here are some of the great things about being a chef.
- A formal education is encouraged, but not required.
- Experience is like gold.
- You can work anywhere in the world. You can travel.
- You can learn genuine, ethnic cuisines from native people who have made them for centuries.
- There are a multitude of venue options – restaurants, hotels, bars/pubs, schools, corporate offices, private work, catering, hospitals, retirement communities and more.
- There is a wide variety of options within the culinary field itself to specialize. You can focus on baking, cake design, chocolate (pastry chef), sous vide, sauté chef, grill chef, sous chef, and many more.
- You typically have some level of creativity, sometimes a lot.
- You’ll get exposure to different kinds of foods and recipes
- You’ll learn the ropes. You should know all the roles in a kitchen and how to do them well. You’ll learn the business of a kitchen, as well as the management.
- Job outlook, as a career, are steady. People always need to eat.
- If you are lucky, sometimes you learn the history behind the foods or recipes.
- You will be able to cook in some respect, every day.
- You will have a feeling of satisfaction every time someone enjoys a meal you helped create.
After weighing the pros and cons, if you still feel excited and passionate about attending culinary school and working in kitchens and restaurants, then you are probably meant to be a chef. It’s not an easy path, and its one from which few people retire. Keep in mind that a culinary degree is only helpful to a point. In order to hone your skills – to truly develop the finesse and art to a level where you are a top chef working in your own restaurant – you will need to travel the world and work in the best restaurants.
Take comfort in the knowledge there will be highs and lows, good days and bad. You will work hard; harder than you ever have in your life. You will not make money for a long time. Travel, learn and pay attention to everything. Plan your career path while you are in culinary school and stay focused on it, but not enough that you miss an amazing opportunity that comes knocking. And if you start to feel this career might not be for you – get out of it.
And remember, just because you love cooking does not mean you will love the business of cooking.