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Thinking of Changing Careers


ALB
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Hi everyone,

I am not usually a big poster on this site- but I had a question and I thought this may be a good resource. I am currently employed in a standard "DC" job, but I thinking about changing careers and going to cooking school and working in restaurants/catering full time. I am only 25 and still paying off my first education attempt, so I thought it might be a good thing to try it out part-time and see if I would like to do this for real- not just dinner parties for my family and friends when I feel like it- before I make the investment.

So DRers, do you know if caterers or small restaurants/cafes that would be interested in part time (probably just a few weekends a month) help from someone with no experience other than assisting at a cooking school? I have decent knife skills and I like to think I can cook- but I don't have professional experience at all.

Thanks everyone!

ALB

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Hi everyone,

I am not usually a big poster on this site- but I had a question and I thought this may be a good resource. I am currently employed in a standard "DC" job, but I thinking about changing careers and going to cooking school and working in restaurants/catering full time. I am only 25 and still paying off my first education attempt, so I thought it might be a good thing to try it out part-time and see if I would like to do this for real- not just dinner parties for my family and friends when I feel like it- before I make the investment.

So DRers, do you know if caterers or small restaurants/cafes that would be interested in part time (probably just a few weekends a month) help from someone with no experience other than assisting at a cooking school? I have decent knife skills and I like to think I can cook- but I don't have professional experience at all.

Thanks everyone!

ALB

Hi ALB,

This gets to be my first DR post!

I can't speak specifically for D.C., but as someone who has made the decision you're flirting with, I can give you a (vaguely) informed opinion. I'm just finishing culinary school now (in Seattle) and we've had to work in the industry (for free) as part of our graduation requirement. Restaurants have been overwhelmingly understanding about my school conflicts, tests, etc - and have been generally pretty great about training me and then getting me on the line. But I started off working for free. My best advice is to think about the kind of place you think you might want to work...this sounds obvious, but it's not. Think about the places you love to eat, the places where the food (or atmosphere, or staff, or whatever) are most aligned with what you want to do. The first jobs tend to be really boring, so at least you'll get to see what other people are doing, and you'll get a feel for what that kitchen is like. Go in and offer your (free) services - offer to prep. It's very unlikely anyone will have the time to train you to work on the line (assuming that's what you want) for the kind of time you have to offer. Everyone needs prep. Cut 40 cases of romaine (or whatever,) decide you never need to eat lettuce again, since you've absorbed enough chlorophyll for a lifetime. sleep. Go back the next time you're free and do it again. The faster & more accurate you are, the more likely they are to let you do something else in addition. I have only done small personal catering, and you're so right in thinking it's not at all the same as a larger company or a restaurant. The only large catering I've done was not fun (imo - 500 of the same thing is not creative. or fun.) and small parties are different every time - apples and oranges.

I have absolutely loved culinary school, but I don't think I'll end up on the line. I want to get beyond pantry, but after that, I think I'll focus on other (culinary) things...I only mention that because if changing your life is what you really want - even if you don't like the line, there are other jobs. maybe there are pros here on DR that need some ad hoc catering help...not a bad way to get your feet wet.

in any event - good luck - and save some money first...

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Well, while you're chewing over the decision as to whether or not to go deeper into debt to make the career switch from communications specialist at a Washington-based trade organization, here's an interesting topic on another board: chefs who didn't go to culinary school. Not that I'm taking a position one way or the other, but maybe you can get a good taste of the business while at least not paying for your education. You'll still be broke, but less so.

Just a thought.

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