Some additional thoughts on culinary school

A few weeks ago I received the invitation to the graduation ceremony from culinary school, which happens to be just two weeks from yesterday; however I won’t be attending since I now live nearly a thousand miles away from Chicago.  Though conveniently the ceremony is on a Sunday, so most people in the area could attend.

Of all the people I met at school I only trully keep in touch with three people on anything resembling a regular basis.

Joe is the one person I actually talk on the phone with – he was my partner throughout most of the classes and we actually had a chat on the phone a few days ago (not to mention some texts on Saturday night when he had a brain fart and couldn’t remember how to make biscuits).  Over the summer he was promoted to banquet chef at the only place he’s ever worked, a job he got not too far into school.  Like me, he was a career changer and switched from construction work that he derived no enjoyment from.  He figured if he was going to be on his feet all day making little money, he may as well enjoy the actual work.

Colby is another person I keep in touch with, albeit in fragmented text messages referencing Kevin Smith films while we’re both working during service usually on Friday and Saturday nights.  He’s now in Miami, though may be moving to Chattanooga and may stop by our house on his way there.  God knows when, but I’m sure I”ll get about an hour’s worth of notice. 

The only other person I keep in touch with regularly is a former instructor, the one from the now infamous (in certain circles at least) “The Confit is Fucked” episode.  He’s recently purchased a farm in downstate Illinois and hopes to retire there sooner than later.  I wish him all the luck in the world, because after putting up with the degenerates and lowlifes who make it their business to attend culinary school and waste his time, he certainly deserves some rest.

Sure, there are a few other people I loosely keep in touch with.  The guy who served us the sushi degustation back in February now works outside of Houston at a resort that’s just to open or may have by now actually opened.

The girl who asked one of the dumbest ever questions is now in Colorado and not working in the industry in any appreciable way, at least from the latest text I received from her.

And a whole slew of folks are unemployed from what I’ve heard.  And apparently pissed off.  No doubt I would be, since repayment time for those student loans is rapidly approaching.  Joe related to me that one of our classmates did his externship at a food service establishment owned by one of our instructors.  Upon completion of his externship he was informed that his services (free as they were) were no longer appreciated.  And so he went back to work for the corporate chain that he was employed at prior to attending culinary school.

And so it goes, probably endlessly on, about people with gripes about attending culinary school.  I’ve read many accounts of people who felt they were promised all sorts of things (laughably good pay among them).  Upon completion of school they thought they’d be running a place, not realizing that to get to the unglorious position of sous chef you had to actually bust your balls, just to work even harder than you had to just to get the job.  Guess what?  The work can be hard, laborious at times, is at best repetitive, and often requires you to work terrible hours for pretty awful pay.  I’m not complaining, this is just the stark reality of the industry.  I love the work I do, more so now than ever before. 

So this is my advice to those out there who think they want to go to culinary school:  if you think there’s money or glamour in cooking professionally, or you just have nothing better to do with your life, get the fuck out before you end up spending tons of money along with wasting your (and a whole lot of other people’s) time. 

If you don’t think that the Bobby Flay’s, Emeril Lagasse’s and Mario Batali’s of the world busted their fucking asses year after year, think again.  As much as I don’t really care for either of them, they made their way in an industry that’s hostile to longevity to say the least, and for that I can respect them.


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