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Quit Your Day Job?


jpschust
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So feel free to move this if you think this is more appropriate in another forum.

Today I came home from work just a few minutes ago and suddenly all my cares fall to the wayside. As some of you know I'm a mid level manager at a company, handling all sorts of complex risk analysis. Not to be arrogant, but I'm extremely good at what I do and I know it. That said, I'm finding more and more the only times I am truly happy is when I'm cooking for others (regularly doing 5-10 course meals once to twice a week), writing about food, reading about food and researching food.

It's weeks like this where nothing has gone overwhelmingly wrong, but I realize that my heart isn't in my job as much as it should be, that I want to just quit my job and go be a line cook somewhere. I'd be happy makine mire poix and stocks for people for a long time to come.

Sorry, just a venting of a frustration.

Thanks for the bandwidth.

Jonny

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Jonny,

I am so there with you. Seriously. I am running a non-profit now, one that I wouldn't be running except that when my boss up and moved to Europe in August, our staff of two became a staff of one. I am desperately seeking to get into the gourmet/wine/cooking industry. I love talking, writing, discussing food and wine. I love planning menus and events. As soon as I'm done with this god-awful 800 person Gala in Feb., I am OUTTA here. Maybe back to France... but definitely where my heart is. Life's too short to spend it with your mind in one place and your heart in another...

Brett

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I had a dinner party for 28 people back in November. The two crazy weeks I spent planning and cooking were more fun than I had had in a REALLY long time.

Of course, my reaction to this was Food!! Catering!! Culinary School!! I MUST DO THIS ALL THE TIME!

But.

I am not convinced. I think part of the reason I love doing it so much is that is it different from what I spend all day everyday doing. It is creative and indulgent and makes people happy and and and.

I worry that if it was my JOB, it would be just that, my job.

Thoughts?

(And with that, I am a ventworm :lol: )

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I am not convinced. I think part of the reason I love doing it so much is that is it different from what I spend all day everyday doing. It is creative and indulgent and makes people happy and and and.

I worry that if it was my JOB, it would be just that, my job.

Thoughts?

I have the exact same apprehension about going into brewing as a profession. The things I enjoy about brewing are the creativity and the spontaneity, which are usually driven out when you have to actually make money on every batch of beer (or meal the kitchen puts out, etc)...consistency makes alot more of a difference when it's a commercial product that people expect to be the same every time. And then of course, the pay cut would suck.

But it's nice to dream.

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Hm, I went the other way. I started out out seduced by culinary dreams, making mirepoix and stock for people, then worked in a patisserie, did some catering... then decided I wanted to be a middle manager. The misogyny level was about the same, but there were fewer opportunities for substance abuse.

I'd read The Making of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman, to get an idea of what the CIA is like. Rochelle Reid Myers' (AKA Malawry) cooking school diary on eGullet.com is another good resource - Rochelle's a member here and went to L'Academie de Cuisine.

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Before you ditch your job, seduced by romantic notions of life in a professional kitchen, go work in a restaurant for a month.

I gotta second on this. I have worked in kitchens and doing catering. And I have to say that other than building my own house from the ground up, I have never worked harder in my life. It is hard physical labor. You almost never get to sit down. It can be unbearably stressful. People you work with and who are in charge of the kitchen often have less than optimal interpersonal communication skills. The pay is lousy. But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?

A friend of mine has been trying to talk me into doing a "private dinner club" in my home, where I would cook and serve dinner to people who would pay for the meal. She says that this is popular in South American cities where she has lived. If I had a bigger house/dining room/kitchen, I would consider it.

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Just a clarification, I'm not planning on walking in tomorrow and resigining, but I am thinking about trying to get in somewhere to do even the most base level of prep for an evening, just so I can get a better feel. I've already owned my own business before and worked the 100 hour weeks, and remember how hard it was. I also remember how much I loved it. I think I'd focus on working for a restaurant rather than catering :unsure: I'm contemplating cooking school in the next year or two. I was going to pay for business school anyways, just seems like I'd get more out of cooking school :lol:

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I never worked in a kitchen but my grandmother and her second husband owned a restaurant -- smallish, only one cook per shift and one manager who also waited and bussed tables. Extremely hard work. You are on your feet all the time.

They did make money but kept two sets of books, if you know what I mean. I mention this now because she's been dead for many years and the restaurant is gone with the wind (Katrina).

She wanted all her grandchildren to go to college and do something else for a living.

On the other hand, many people do love it, and there's no way to tell without trying.

I'd suggest reading some books about it, like Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential.

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I am desperately seeking to get into the gourmet/wine/cooking industry. I love talking, writing, discussing food and wine.

Do you have a web site with some write ups? Maybe you can write some posts here on DR.com on various food subjects.

Just a clarification, I'm not planning on walking in tomorrow and resigining, but I am thinking about trying to get in somewhere to do even the most base level of prep for an evening, just so I can get a better feel. I've already owned my own business before and worked the 100 hour weeks, and remember how hard it was. I also remember how much I loved it. I think I'd focus on working for a restaurant rather than catering :unsure: I'm contemplating cooking school in the next year or two. I was going to pay for business school anyways, just seems like I'd get more out of cooking school :lol:

How much cooking experience do you have? Maybe take the 20-week (one night per week) culinary course at L'Academie and see how that goes and then roll into the full time program from there.

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You can always be a great amateur cook and even dabble in the professional world occasionally without risking your financial security and without going to culinary school. Also, you don't have to work in a restaurant kitchen to be a professional. I don't--I teach, I cater, and I do some food writing to make up my income, and the work is very satisfying. (It can still be high-pressure--particularly the catering--but at least I am not subject to the stereotypical screaming chef, nor am I shoved off to pastry or garde-manger because I am female like I was in some restaurant kitchens.)

I went to culinary school, and I'm glad I did--it opened a lot of doors for me and it really amped up my culinary knowledge. It's what allows me to speak and write with real confidence and knowledge when it comes to educating people about food (which is definitely my favorite thing to do). I don't think it's a bad idea to work part-time a little to see if you really like it before making that kind of investment or leaving the day job behind, though. Hell, I often hire passionate amateurs for catering gigs to give them an insider's perspective--they're less likely than professionals to try to tell me how to do things, and I like teaching as I work. If you don't want to pay for classes at L'academie but you have the time to take them, you can look into assisting during their recreational classes. Assistants are unpaid, but you get to attend the class for free (you do spend time prepping, fetching equipment, and otherwise supporting the instructor--but that alone can be very educational).

I would recommend that you consider all the different places a cook can work before making any decisions as to what kind of cook you want to be. The demands on a restaurant line cook can be very different from those on a catering cook, a baker in a patisserie or boulangerie, a corporate chef, a private chef, or somebody doing R&D. Yes, everybody knows how sexy those restaurant line-cook jobs and the chefs they report to are, but they are not the entire industry--I personally value having most of my nights and weekends with my family and don't miss the schedule of the restaurant world at all. There's room for all types.

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If I may toss in my two cents on the subject…

The advice being given here is great and I have to second it. I left 9 years of government service in 1996 to go to culinary school at L’Academie de Cuisine. In the 11 years since, I’ve worked at the Morrison-Clark Inn, Equinox, Café Atlantico, opened the Majestic Café and now Oyamel. I have not regretted my career change once in that time. However (there’s always a however), this career is not for everyone. If there is one piece of advice I can give to anyone thinking of doing what I did, it would be to really find out what you are getting into. To that end, take a comprehensive culinary basics class (non-vocational) at L’Academie in Bethesda. With your new found knowledge, find a restaurant that will let you work for free on weekends or evenings for several months. You absolutely, positively need to see and feel the pressure and frenetic pace of a professional kitchen. Some schools, like the CIA, require 6 months of restaurant experience before accepting a student. I absolutely agree with them. After your time in a professional kitchen, if you’ve really been bitten by the bug, then go on to cooking school confident in the knowledge that you’ve made an informed decision. If you realize that a restaurant career really isn't for you, then take home all the new skills you’ve learned, use them to be a killer amateur cook and be confident in the knowledge that you avoided a really big mistake.

In my time as a cook, I’ve seen too many people come out of cooking school with no real idea what they were walking into. The most common issues:

1) Can’t handle the stress and the need to do many things at once, quickly, perfectly and repeatedly;

2) Can’t handle the physical demands of 12 hours on your feet, in oppressive heat, around fire and sharp objects for days, weeks, months and years on end;

3) Can’t live on the low entry level wages that new cooks have to struggle with;

4) Can’t stand to give up nights, weekends, holidays and a substantial amount of contact with your family and friends

I realize that my suggestions for non-vocational classes and time in a kitchen are costly, both in time and money. In the long run though, the cost is miniscule compared to the time and tens of thousands of dollars you’ll invest in cooking school.

I don’t mean to lecture or be preachy. I want people to join me in what is possibly the coolest career anyone can have. Like I said in the beginning, just know what you’re getting into.

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Quit my day job? I did. As a result, I am:

1. way more broke.

2. way more happy.

3. Looking forward to tomorrow.

While the last two are motivators, the first shouldn't be a deterrent. It took a huge leap of faith to leave a well-paying job as a journalist and spend my days making preserves.

If you feel you must, you should. If you have doubts.... don't.

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So feel free to move this if you think this is more appropriate in another forum.

Today I came home from work just a few minutes ago and suddenly all my cares fall to the wayside. As some of you know I'm a mid level manager at a company, handling all sorts of complex risk analysis. Not to be arrogant, but I'm extremely good at what I do and I know it. That said, I'm finding more and more the only times I am truly happy is when I'm cooking for others (regularly doing 5-10 course meals once to twice a week), writing about food, reading about food and researching food.

It's weeks like this where nothing has gone overwhelmingly wrong, but I realize that my heart isn't in my job as much as it should be, that I want to just quit my job and go be a line cook somewhere. I'd be happy makine mire poix and stocks for people for a long time to come.

Sorry, just a venting of a frustration.

Thanks for the bandwidth.

Jonny

How you goin' to afford that hip Adams-Morgan condo on $14 bucks an hour as a rookie line cook?

Writing? The last time the Washington Post cut me a check (which will probably be the last time they cut me a check :lol: it was for $400, pretty good for a freelance piece. Worked out to about $4/hour.

Not to get all sensible. My first years in politics paid nothing, and then almost nothing. And I loved it. But you could buy a house in Logan Circle for $200K back then. And my girlfriend had health insurance and immense amounts of tolerance. Love will get you through times of no money....

I loathe being practical, but do ponder for a moment.

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Some of the responses have touched on this but let me also chime in that you should consider the following when making your decision: going to work as a line cook not only means giving up your current salary, it can also mean giving up benefits (company-paid insurance), paid vacation time and holidays with friends/family. When I was in culinary school, I was among a large group of "career-changers" - folks with day jobs in an office going to school nights/weekends with dreams of cooking for a living. Only one of us made the leap to cooking full-time and he had prepared by saving a year's worth of living expenses before going to work as a line cook for $10/hour.

Even though I'm not cooking for a living (YET!), I don't regret going to culinary school (ok - maybe there's a little regret when I write my student loan check each month). It was a great experience and still the only time I've gone home exhausted yet stupidly happy despite spending 14 hours on my feet in a hot kitchen and getting burns on my arms/hands.

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DISCLAIMER: Rant that follows is possibly overly self indulgent, definitely preachy. Just so you know...

I do believe there are some people in this world who find the perfect job for them. The kind of people who always gush about how they love "going to work". I am sure Tony Hawk is more than happy to skate all day and M. Richard is more than happy to play in his kitchen all day but I am a realist and a lot of people out there, by pure mathematics, are going to have to have jobs that aren't "dream jobs". I don't think that means all of us in that second category should just give up on your dream but we can still be happy where we are at. We just need to compartmentalize a bit (being able to switch back and forth between work and non-work mode), quit whining about how bad our jobs are and quit letting our work define us. I would rather be defined by who I am outside of the office than in it.

Of course I would still like to be the best I can at work and I would love to feel like I did something meaningful but I have realized it is much more important to me to do something meaningful outside the office than in it. I guess I have just accepted the reality that not all of us will have professional acclaim, touch other's lives like doctors, entertain people like chefs or "change the world" like politicians. The world needs data processors, janitors, and researchers, and lots of them. So I just try to leave my work life at the office and from 5-9 focus on the things that I DO want to define me being a good mate, a good friend, (when the time comes) a good father, a good member of the community etc. etc. Some of those are very hard to do without money.

I have just started to look at work and what I do there as a way to get the funds necessary to do the things that I really care about. Its hard to hate my day job quite as much when I know that the paycheck funds my dining tours of NYC, paid for the racks of pork and wine I cooked and served to family a few weeks back, paid for the round for me and my buddies at the bar, and allowed me to get opening day tickets to Camden Yards. If I was a professional chef, I may like what I did while working a lot more but I might not have the time and money to do all those things when I am not. You may hate your day job but before you quit just remember how many extravagant 7 course tastings or wine and cheese parties you could throw for the people you care about with the paycheck you get there. And you would be able to do it at your leisure and the way YOU want to do it.

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I think this is a good place for this question because it might be a sign of what you are in for but, do any of you other restaurant employees out there have dreams that you are swamped in the restaurant? Maybe I am just crazy but sometimes on really really intense nights I go home and have dreams where I am sort of awake (my eyes are open and I can see my room but I am dreaming) but there are people in my room eating and I am waiting on them and everyone needs things but since I am laying there in my bed I can't get them. And I start getting really nervouse cause I know they are all getting angry because they can see I am just laying there and not getting getting the stuff they need and this goes on until I finally wake up and it takes like 30 seconds to realize I am not in a restaurant and no one needs me to get them anything. Anyone else get those or am I COMPLETELY insane? Ummm, maybe I just need to see a shrink or something. Please ignore this post....

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I have just started to look at work and what I do there as a way to get the funds necessary to do the things that I really care about. Its hard to hate my day job quite as much when I know that the paycheck funds my dining tours of NYC, paid for the racks of pork and wine I cooked and served to family a few weeks back, paid for the round for me and my buddies at the bar, and allowed me to get opening day tickets to Camden Yards.
Blake - very well said. It's like the old cliche about "working to live vs living to work". Very few of us have the kind of jobs where that contemplation is moot.

I like my job as much as I can and, for the most part, I don't dread going into the office in the morning. But when I leave work, I truly leave it. No checking email throughout the evening, no overtime (if I can avoid it), etc. The rest of my day (and night) is spent doing the things that I hope truly define me. Right now, that seems to focus on being a glutton and a drunkard, but hopefully that will change as I mature :lol:

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Sometimes I think back about what an idiot I was for using my G.I. bill to be an accountant instead of a pastry chef, which has always been my heart's desire (my ex husband wanted me to do something "practical"). I have often thought about quitting my cushy government job to pursue my dream but as several of you have pointed out, one gets accustomed to a particular lifestyle and I've had to catch myself asking how I could afford the beautiful home, the vacations, the fine dining and wine that I enjoy so much on a novice pastry chef salary. Would I want to work crazy hours, weekends and holidays? And of course I have to keep in mind the tuition cost and time it would take me to develop the skills I would need to even find a decent job. As a gift to myself, I took the 20 week recreational pastry arts course at L'Academie d Cuisine in Gaithersburg and loved every minute. Most of the participants taking the course were trying to decide if they wanted a career change, some were getting ready to start their own catering business, and some had taken the course more than once just because it is so much darn fun! I guess I've come to grips with the fact that I most likely will never be a professional pastry chef, but I get so much enjoyment from baking for family, friends and co-workers that I realize that this is the most important thing: If I can feel that good about cooking, does it matter whether I do it at home or in a professional kitchen?

If I were so much younger, I would definitely go for it!! (I have 4 more years till I can retire). I guess you have to find peace within yourself as to what you need to make yourself happy. I believe I've found it and the best of both worlds.

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Anyone else get those or am I COMPLETELY insane?

I'll occasionally have a dream that I can see a dining room full of people that need to be fed, and I can't get my saute pan hot. You're not insane...you're just remembering last Saturday night's service

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How you goin' to afford that hip Adams-Morgan condo on $14 bucks an hour as a rookie line cook?

$14 dollars an hour :lol: if you've got zero real word experience and are just getting out of school you may get, maybe 9.50-10 an hour if your lucky. Most garde manger chefs start our in that range, which is usually the first station in the "real" kitchen, you would probably get about the same as a good prep cook. After about 6-12 months of that, depending on how fast you mastered the various stations, which is hard considering that menus can change as many times as the chef cares to (I average 6 changes a year) you may get a raise of up to a dollar unless you are exceptional. If you excell and it is obvious that you are a star in the making you may get more. After that it's a fairly slow progession, but line cooks who don't aspire to become sous chef often top out at 14-15 dollars an hour after 3-4 years of solid work at top flight restaurants. However, if you want to work in a more corporate enviornment you could possible make that much after 2-3 years in a high end hotel. That's just the sad reality of it all. I worked for about 6 years before I made a decent wage (the starting wage now is around 9, when I started my first real kitchen job paid me 6.50). In reality, if you work hard and rise in the kitchen to a mid manager level you still will only make on average 40k. You still only start to see really good money if you get to the exec chef level where you begin to get around 60-70k. In the end, if you average out the hourly, it's sad, and we never do it because often chefs make way less per hour than their line cooks, but as I said here it is all worth it to me. I've never done anything else. I could never sit at a desk, work at a computer or wear a tie all day. I like the visceral rush you get when you're in the middle of it all on saturday night and you get in to the "zone" and it just is quite possible the most fun I think I could ever have.

As for screaming chefs, I used to work for a chef with a past of being one of the biggest assholes in DC. In his middle age he has mellowed a bit but he will still occasionally lose it. The newer generation are more gentel, having never had anything thrown at them or gotten dressed down in the middle of service while feeding 200 people. I think that that (the old steroetypical French Screaming Chef) was a self perpetuating cycle that seems to have been broken. I know I hardly ever yell anymore and I used to alot in my early 20's. Maybe it's like Eric Ziebold told me once that it's a function of feeling more in control as a chef, maybe it's a function of maturity, but I hardly ever yell anymore, maybe twice last year.

As for the dreams :unsure: I had this one reaccuring dream, both at Bis and Vidalia, where I was expoing and cooking on a station on a Weekend night and the kitchen printer just went ape shit. Like literaly crapped out tickets for the entire dream. At first we are cooking and staying caught up, tickets come in, food goes out, it's all good. Then the machine starts to speed up abit and we speed up abit, that goes on for awhile, we are only alittle behind now, tickets are starting to stack up abit, were about 3 tables behind, not panicking yet. Then it happens, I look up and the host has sat the entire dining room at once and there are people stacked up five deep in the bar and the printer begins expelling this never ending line of tickets. The ticket never takes a breath, there is just a long line of paper that stretches on for ever. At one point all I can do is stare at it. I never find out how it ends because I always wake up, sometimes in a sweat, but always panicky. Getting buried is every chefs worst nightmare. B)

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So here's the follow up. I have an opportunity that looks to have fallen into my lap. A good friend is a sous at a very very high end, world recognized restaurant (not in DC, and I'm not going to name names here), but he was both a Wharton and a CIA grad and knows a thing or two about running a business and a restaurant. We are talking about starting his first restaurant together. My experience is primarily in finance, and this would put his and my experience to work on the business side of things with him mainly getting to focus on the food. I'd also have a large hand in running the bar as I've tended in the past and know the financial side of a bar pretty well. Nothing is for certain right now and we are looking at 2-3 years down the line to getting all the financing, build out and whatnot together. Exciting stuff. (also, the chances of it being in DC are slim to none, so no worries about competition from me chefs and owners :lol: )

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Two things have led me to this post:

1) I've come lately to the realization that food is a big part of my life. I love eating it, cooking it, reading about it, talking about it, and, if I have a good book with me, excreting it.

2) The formerly small business I work for was recently bought by a faceless corporation that is slowly micromanaging it to death, and at about the same time as the aforementioned realization, I'm realizing that I don't belong in a job where my decisions matter about as much as the excretions from item number one (or number "two," yuk yuk).

I'd love to have a job that somehow relates to my passion, but working in a restaurant in any capacity isn't for me for too many reasons to go into here. Another problem is that my wife and I just bought a house (and I mean just, settlement is on Tuesday), and I can't really think of any food-related jobs that I could up and leap into that would allow me to make the sort of salary I'm currently making. So I'm basically stuck in my current job, which I used to love, but which is no longer fulfilling.

Really what I'm looking for is some sort of food-related career that I can start NOW, in my spare time, just to make my LIFE more fulfilling as I trudge to work 9-5. Options I can come up with are:

1) Food critic

2) Turn something I make like cookies or a sauce into something that could be sold at a supermarket or through mail order.

I'd love for one of these to eventually become a full-time affair to free me from the shackles of mediocrity that seem to have clamped down on me at work.

So my question to the DR community is, what do you think? Are these viable career options for a 27 year old in the DC area with no professional food, journalistic, or resale experience whatsoever and who has a wife to support and a mortgage to pay? Are they things than can be done in one's spare time? Being that the only research I've done on either option is this post, how would I get started? Can people think of other food-related, part-time careers other than one and two?

Does anyone out there want to hire someone whose adult professional experience consists of running e-mail marketing campaigns and making executive-level policy decisions at the small business scale?

Did people stop taking me seriously after my feces joke?

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Though fun to dabble in, there are few things the world needs less right now than one more restaurant critic wannabe. Professional restaurant critic wannabe, that is, good contributions to Internet boards are always appreciated. First, I'm not convinced that they bring that much wisdom to the world, as opposed to someone who writes more broadly about food. (I'm increasingly on the star system for restaurant reviews, I can't handle the adjectives any more). Second, on a more practical level, there's a lot of competition out there, willing to blog for free and write for community papers at a dime a word, which usually won't cover the meals you eat. I don't know if they want to be critics or the next MFK Fisher (or both), but I do know they're smart and talented and not paid well. Don't quit the day job for this.

Good cookies are always a good thing.

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Does anyone out there want to hire someone whose adult professional experience consists of running e-mail marketing campaigns and making executive-level policy decisions at the small business scale?
I don't know much about the field, but what about something in food marketing? That might take skills and experience you already have and apply it to a subject you're interested in.
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I've looked into food manufacturing a bit and found that working in the business is kind of difficult to do part time. The biggest barrier to entry that I can see is that you have to have a professional kitchen to work in. The kitchen may be in your home if you can get the zoning for it, but it may not be the same kitchen that you use to cook for your family. Many churches have professional kitchens, but at least in Maryland, they may not house a profit making business. The best reccomendation that I can come up with is to find a restaurant that will allow you to work in the off hours. The wife and I considered opening an "incubator kitchen" for just such situations. The idea is that we would build a large kitchen with two or three workstations for fledgling caterers and manufacturers like yourself to rent by the hour.

Another thing to look into is possibly being a personal chef. A friend in Philly does this and it works out well for him.

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2) Turn something I make like cookies or a sauce into something that could be sold at a supermarket or through mail order.
I've looked into food manufacturing a bit and found that working in the business is kind of difficult to do part time.

Talk to Krishna Brown, of Shoebox Oven. She managed to do it.

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The wife and I considered opening an "incubator kitchen" for just such situations. The idea is that we would build a large kitchen with two or three workstations for fledgling caterers and manufacturers like yourself to rent by the hour.

That has been tried. About 25 years ago I was interested in a food business and there was a new kitchen just like you suggested which I toured. It was somewhere in one of those suburban commercial parks in Virginia I think. They had everything, even a little office for the USDA guy who would be coming around to inspect, which apparently was still another requirement (for "manufactured" foods to be sold at retail??). They wanted to market it for small manufacturers (your Mom's spaghetti sauce recipe), caterers, occasional off-premises needs of restaurants, etc. Anyway after a brief flurry of stories in the Post and elsewhere they faded into oblivion.

One approach might be to open, or buy, one of these suddenly-popular franchise places where Mom's go to "home cook" a week's worth of food for their families, and use the facilities at other hours for what you really want to do. Spread the risk around a little better that way. Don't get overly hung up on trying to improve the food habits of the world; it's fine to talk among ourselves about $20 olive oil and all the rest, but business is business, and if you don't want to get financially "creamed" I'd say your best bet is to go with the flow, i.e. where the market already is.

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I don't know what your financial situation is, but you may be looking to buy a business the way you are talking. There are businesses all the time that are failing or people looking to get out to follow another passion in their life. It saves you the problem of having to do some of the baseline development problems like equipment, facilities, etc. I don't know anyone currently doing that sort of thing, but it may be an avenue for you.

Note, if you do this sort of thing, don't buy the actual business. Buy all their assets, name, equipment and intellectual property and form a new company so you don't get on the hook for their old debts or problems. Good luck to you.

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I don't know what your financial situation is, but you may be looking to buy a business the way you are talking. There are businesses all the time that are failing or people looking to get out to follow another passion in their life. It saves you the problem of having to do some of the baseline development problems like equipment, facilities, etc. I don't know anyone currently doing that sort of thing, but it may be an avenue for you.

Note, if you do this sort of thing, don't buy the actual business. Buy all their assets, name, equipment and intellectual property and form a new company so you don't get on the hook for their old debts or problems. Good luck to you.

In essence that's somewhat what we will be doing with what I'm looking at now, though we will be doing it in a unique way- the only costs we are looking to cover right now are some minor build out issues and space concerns. We will be doing a full build out for my new project. We're working on the business plan and are part way to financing as it is.
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I think this is a good place for this question because it might be a sign of what you are in for but, do any of you other restaurant employees out there have dreams that you are swamped in the restaurant? Maybe I am just crazy but sometimes on really really intense nights I go home and have dreams where I am sort of awake (my eyes are open and I can see my room but I am dreaming) but there are people in my room eating and I am waiting on them and everyone needs things but since I am laying there in my bed I can't get them. And I start getting really nervouse cause I know they are all getting angry because they can see I am just laying there and not getting getting the stuff they need and this goes on until I finally wake up and it takes like 30 seconds to realize I am not in a restaurant and no one needs me to get them anything. Anyone else get those or am I COMPLETELY insane? Ummm, maybe I just need to see a shrink or something. Please ignore this post....

I just read this thread, so i'm sorry for the delayed response...

this is only about the dreams part, i don't have any advice for yall except that if you're going to be just starting out in the food world, there's a very very good chance that you'll be poor.

anyway, so I just switched from restaurants to cheese after about 10 years in the former - I had Those Dreams ALL THE TIME (but they were REM sleep dreams).

i'd be in the restaurant ( sometimes a restaurant where i hadn't worked in years) and often the restaurant would be closed, but about 40 people would show up demanding to be fed, and I'd have to cook, bartend and wait on them. i'd always be running behind, and usually one of old managers would be there yelling at me. I'd wake up sweating and incredibly relieved that I was at home, in my bed.

I think they're just stress dreams, and maybe anyone else in a high pressure, high-stress job has them, too.

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Agreed, John. I looked into the incubator kitchen idea a bit and did some rudimentary financial modeling and couldn't get it close enough to profitable to make it doable. I'm not sure I'd be all that crazy about the other business either (the personal chef without the chef). I'm sure it has some novelty value now but ultimately I think it will proove to be a fad.

That has been tried. About 25 years ago I was interested in a food business and there was a new kitchen just like you suggested which I toured. It was somewhere in one of those suburban commercial parks in Virginia I think. They had everything, even a little office for the USDA guy who would be coming around to inspect, which apparently was still another requirement (for "manufactured" foods to be sold at retail??). They wanted to market it for small manufacturers (your Mom's spaghetti sauce recipe), caterers, occasional off-premises needs of restaurants, etc. Anyway after a brief flurry of stories in the Post and elsewhere they faded into oblivion.

One approach might be to open, or buy, one of these suddenly-popular franchise places where Mom's go to "home cook" a week's worth of food for their families, and use the facilities at other hours for what you really want to do. Spread the risk around a little better that way. Don't get overly hung up on trying to improve the food habits of the world; it's fine to talk among ourselves about $20 olive oil and all the rest, but business is business, and if you don't want to get financially "creamed" I'd say your best bet is to go with the flow, i.e. where the market already is.

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Turn something I make like cookies or a sauce into something that could be sold at a supermarket or through mail order.

I was thinking about doing the same exact thing! I spoke to my brother-in-law, who works for Elite Spice, over the holidays and he told me that if I were serious and had a recipe that I wanted to manufacture, I should let him know and we could discuss it. His company specializes in products like this and he said that they could do as much or as little of the production (including packaging and distributing) as needed.

He does blends for Predue Chicken, Mama Illardos, many of the large meat plants in the country, many of the large tea companies, chocolate companies, snack food companies, etc. He also told me stories of people like you and me that have recipes for products that they would like to sell; his company would produce a marinade, seasoning blend, powdered drink mix, sauces, or other product in small batches and people would rent a booth at a food show and sell their products there. Several of them got picked up by national chains.

What it comes down to is that if you have a recipe, for a price, companies like this will produce, package, and distribute it for you. All you'll need is a business plan. Your whole supply-chain could be in one place.

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I don't know what your financial situation is, but you may be looking to buy a business the way you are talking. There are businesses all the time that are failing or people looking to get out to follow another passion in their life. It saves you the problem of having to do some of the baseline development problems like equipment, facilities, etc. I don't know anyone currently doing that sort of thing, but it may be an avenue for you.

This will also allow you to look at a company's financial statements and look for ways to improve on what went wrong with the previous owner

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