Are You Too Old For Culinary School?Adviser | Saturday, December 11th, 2010 | 1 Comment »
“How old are you? Nobody will tell you this, but I will: If you’re thirty-two years old and considering a career in professional kitchens? If you’re wondering if, perhaps, you are too old? Let me answer that question for you: Yes. You are too old.” (Anthony Bourdain – Excerpt from “Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook”
Some people just like to ridicule and destroy as opposed to assist and create. It’s easy to come up with a few jabs or barbs if you don’t disapprove of anything from a book, to food, to a movie, to someone’s clothing style or even their age. I think we all know someone like this or even find ourselves doing it on occasion. We’re human after all but some of us have bigger influence than others.
Anthony Bourdain is not exactly one of those people because he has created entertainment for the public with his books and television shows and found wild success after years of working in the restaurant industry. He’s worked hard to get where he is at today. I own many of his books. I generally like what he has to say. I think he is usually hilarious and I learned so much about the realities of the food industry from him to provide insight to my customers. In fact, it was his books that informed me of the possible outcomes of the industry, education and profession I was selling and representing. Many people respect his opinion and listen to what he has to say. However, when in a position of power, blanket statements are irresponsible.
Too old? Really?
I’ve always been a fan of the underdog. The people that have the odds stacked against them but have the heart, drive, and character to succeed…I root for them. If I have the opportunity, I offer to help them. If I make money from it, great, if I don’t, I can live with that too. I just like to help. Is someone naïve for thinking they can go to culinary school and graduate as a chef? Yes. Do they need to be educated on the realities of the industry and that there is far more than cooking in a commercial kitchen? Absolutely.
It’s really all in the mind and educating people that are considering a career in the food industry of their options. Should a 30 or 40 year old with a spouse and kids leave a corporate job making $75,000 a year leave that world to enroll in a culinary program costing $45,000 to make $8-10 an hour? Probably not. Financially, it just doesn’t make sense and could hurt the family for years. Why not promote the idea that one can doesn’t have to work in a kitchen with a bunch of young, tattooed 21 year olds? Perhaps someone considering a career change doesn’t even want that life. Why not promote the idea of attending the local community college? Some programs match or exceed the “expensive” ones. Even a certificate at an expensive private school is still reasonable, arguably a better investment than a new car costing the same price.
I know this, because I have worked with, met, and advised the type of person that Anthony Bourdain says should not pursue this career.
For example, Bobbie and Roland Voegel were featured in the Chicago Sun-Times article, Not The Retiring Types. If you over the age of 75, MAYBE you are too old, but these two weren’t because they determined that it was not for them. They warmed my little, jaded heart every time they walked into school. If their story doesn’t inspire you, check your pulse because you may be dead inside.
Barry Sorkin, from Smoque, decides to leave the IT Industry to open up a BBQ shop in Chicago. He attends culinary school for a certificate program (doesn’t officially graduate), travels the country doing BBQ research and now has a thriving business.
Chef’s Tom Beckman and Marilyn McNabb were instructors at a school I worked at and both had changed careers to get where they are at. The last time I spoke with them, they still loved what they do and were happy.
Lyn Scalzitti left the mortgage industry, is a grandmother, and now works at the same community college she attends.
Kevin Mershon left the finance industry to pursue his interest in the food industry and will succeed on his own terms when he graduates at the end of 2010.They don’t teach character in school. He has it and will find his way.
Jason Key recently left his career as a truck driver to enroll at Greenville Technical College in South Carolina where he is attending now.
While I agree with Bourdain on his points of the realities of the difficult life of working in restaurants, the expense and usually terrible return-on-investment of an expensive proprietary culinary school degree program, he doesn’t seem to see the big picture of the industry he once worked in.
I have heard 30 year olds say they are too old for a change. It’s shocking yet understandable as most people fear change. When their lives are flipped upside down, they have to deal with it. Few people really throw that monkey wrench into the gears to see what will happen. I admire people that want to improve their lives and in my opinion, they deserve the respect and guidance to see if making the leap into the culinary industry is the right choice for them.