Where Did You Start? What Do You Do Now?

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1bbqboy
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2005/04/12 14:37:52 (permalink)

Where Did You Start? What Do You Do Now?

I've never worked in a food establishment. I've always liked to eat in 'em, however.
We all know faintly what you food pros do, but where did you start?
How did you decide to follow food as your career? Was your entrance to food as a career accidental, did you grow up in a family business, or make a concious choice
to follow your muse?
How did you end up where you are now? America and Roadfooders want to hear your stories....
#1

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    crmos8
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    RE: Where Did You Start? What Do You Do Now? 2005/04/12 17:46:11 (permalink)
    It's a 2nd career choice for me. After having been in the transportation industry for many years, governmental deregulation forced me into a new area. Had an opportunity to return to school and got my HRIM degree. And so after many years of being sous-chef, kitchen mgr., head chef, F&B mgr., etc., I now find myself as a part-time caterer and full time restaurant industry consultant which allows me to work when I want or need to!! I can actually play golf when I want to, although there are times when I actually miss the hectic Friday nights in the weeds!!
    #2
    nvb
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    RE: Where Did You Start? What Do You Do Now? 2005/04/12 18:36:01 (permalink)
    It's my second career also. I was in law enforcement for 29 years and had been cooking BBQ for 25 of those. I used to sit around in my office and daydream about retirement and opening up a BBQ joint. However, I had not planned on it this quick. An administration change made me decide to go ahead and retire.

    I guess I had part of my plan thought out because I had been purchasing restaurant equipment for the previous five years. Anyway, after two months of sitting around and just messing with my show pig business Mrs. Slick thought it was time for me to do something with myself, so I started looking for a restaurant location. My plan was to to build my business from the ground up, but then I found an established BBQ joint for sale.

    I got to work there a month before sealing the deal and got to know most of the regulars. Did kinda feel bad about lying to them, though. Everyone was pretty vocal against me changing the recipes, so I would tell them that I wasn't, while knowing just about everything was going to change slowly. After several months I guess I was doing something right because my business had just about doubled, and those regulars were enjoying the changes.

    As time went by I knew that in order to grow more I had to make some changes. My kitchen back then was two deep fryers and a smoker making it difficult to prepare anything but BBQ. Back in February of this year I grabbed both cheeks and put in a full kitchen in order to have a grill menu. So far, it has worked great and my business is still growing.

    Now I'm just waiting on my first million.
    #3
    lleechef
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    RE: Where Did You Start? What Do You Do Now? 2005/04/12 21:10:00 (permalink)
    Music major in college with a French minor which sent me off to France as an interpretor for 4 years. Getting ready to leave France, my uncle calls me and says, "Why don't you go to cooking school just for kicks, I'll pay for it." So I did (LaVarenne Ecole de Cuisine in Paris) and loved it and thought, maybe I'll do this for awhile. Well, it has been QUITE AWHILE.......about 25 years. In the employment of the CEO of Schlumberger (Mr. Jean Riboud) I cooked for Francois Mitterand and his entourage, the curator of the Hermitage Museum, Henri Michaux (French painter), Kathryn Graham formerly of the Washington Post, Felyx Rohatyn......who was with Lazard Freres and is now the US Ambassador to France and on and on. I left the Ribouds for a career in the US and opened 5 restaurants where I was executive chef. It has been anything but dull! There were times when I wanted to cry and there were times that were very satisfying. Such is the restaurant business. Now I do in-flight catering and don't have to deal with wait staff, bartenders, line cooks.......just ditzy flight attendents and some pilots....easy!
    #4
    Michael Beam
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    RE: Where Did You Start? What Do You Do Now? 2005/04/14 10:05:27 (permalink)
    I suspect that i started like a lot of other people in this business. I started working in restaurants as a teenager in various roles (server, host, busser, etc.)and continued throughtout college. It was great to earn tips and get to eat from free at least once a day while in school.

    I left the business when I graduated and got a "real" job that I hated. So I quit and got back in the restaurant business as a manager. I worked for a number of years in various establishments across America. Unfortunatley, I wanted to do more with my career (work less nights and weekends), so I went back to school at Cornell University to get my Masters degree in Hospitality Management. From there I got into the "corporate" side of the business, developing restaurants in hotels and in freestanding settings.

    Now I provide management and consulting services full time and get to work on projects that are interesting and that I believe in. I guess in the end, I am drawn to the business because I like being of service and I like everything about food, so what profession could be better? Besides, eating out becomes "RESEARCH", my wife can't complain about visiting new places and I can write it all off on my taxes!
    #5
    zataar
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    RE: Where Did You Start? What Do You Do Now? 2005/04/16 17:48:58 (permalink)
    Nothing too interesting about my backround. No France, or cooking school. My father was a baker before he was a teamster. I learned much from him. My mother was into ethnic food in the 50s when I was little, so I was experiencing some interesting food before the 4th grade. In the 6th grade I worked in my elementary school kitchen with the lunch ladies, scooping cookie dough, running the dish machine and polishing flatware. Cooked at home and for friends all through high school and while taking art classes. Many people I hung out with were musicans and artists and were very involved with food and restaurants. I've worked in a number of restaurants, doing everything, bus, dish, prep, line work, front of the house, management, serving. Learned something every place I worked, and from many of the talented people I've worked with. My husband and I met at one of the restaurants I cooked at, he was a regular customer. That was 32 years ago. I've been an executive chef at 4 restaurants, and tend to stay places longer than the national average. Whch is under 3 years, I believe. Most recently I worked as an executive chef for a non profit that had 800 members. It was like having 800 bosses instead of 1 boss. That was a challenging job. Now I'm the chef at a small catering firm. Food for people who have far more money than they know what to do with. A whole different ball game. As lleechef said, Sharpies are my friends. I can't imagine not cooking for a living, but when I'm feeling terminally exhausted, I wish I would have earned that graphic design degree.
    #6
    Scallion1
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    RE: Where Did You Start? What Do You Do Now? 2005/04/20 13:21:30 (permalink)
    Under three years? Hell, there were times when I went through three kitchens in one year. Maybe things are more stable and saner out there, away from NYC.
    Worst time for me was one day when I slept late, having been stricken with the flu. I'd made a giant crudite for a benefit just before leaving the night before. At 9am the woman who was to pick up the basket called me at home and said that the restaurant was closed. Seems the owner had sold out without telling anyone, and had come in with two gorillas around 11pm to make sure no one lifted anything on the way out. Such a son of a bitch.

    C'est la vie.

    Bill
    #7
    zataar
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    RE: Where Did You Start? What Do You Do Now? 2005/04/20 19:10:03 (permalink)
    I should have inserted a winky face! I was being somewhat (well, very) sarcastic about less than 3 years at one place. I tend to stay places longer because I like stability, but even here in the Midwest, I'm pretty sure most people move from restaurant to restaurant within 1 year. At one restaurant where I was the executive chef we had a kitchen staff of 10. 6 of my staff stayed for 4 years. Some of them were there before I was. That was one good team.
    #8
    Chef Billy Jack
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    RE: Where Did You Start? What Do You Do Now? 2005/04/22 18:58:33 (permalink)
    I'm new to this forum. I started Culinary School last Nov. and have been working in Foodservice since I was 12--I started frying catfish and boiling crawfish at a seafood restaurant in Louisiana, where I was born and raised. I am currently an Exec. Sous Chef for a Corporate Dining Facility--trying to decide what I want to do when I finish school. I'm looking forward to meeting new people and making some new friends.
    #9
    Chef Billy Jack
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    RE: Where Did You Start? What Do You Do Now? 2005/04/22 19:08:56 (permalink)
    I guess I should have read the intro question before I posted..LOL. I went to college with a double major in Criminal Justice & Psychology in Louisiana. I applied for job working at a very nice city club in the pantry. At the interview the Chef asked if I could make Waldorf salad, etc. I said yes. (I had never heard of a Waldorf Salad.) I went to the library and got some books on salads and I was hired--he never had a clue that I didn't have any experience. I've worked in many city clubs and country clubs. But, I do miss the stress of working at TGIFriday's on a Saturday night when we did a $23,000 day. I am very fast, and LOVE the "hectic-ness" of that atmosphere--where other people panic, I am very calm. I kept trying to get out of foodservice, saying that I had a brain, why waste it? and I just kept getting pulled back in. Now, I'm in Culinary School and working full-time, some days I'm awake 20 hrs.--hopefully it will be worth it in the end.
    #10
    nvb
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    RE: Where Did You Start? What Do You Do Now? 2005/04/22 22:19:00 (permalink)
    Chef Billy Jack, welcome to the board.
    #11
    lleechef
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    RE: Where Did You Start? What Do You Do Now? 2005/04/23 00:44:37 (permalink)
    Yes, Chef BJ, welcome to the board. Oh, and by the way.....get used to the 100 hour weeks if you do the restaurant scene (take it from a seasoned vet)! Anybody who doesn't love the "hectic-ness" and doesn't find it an absolute passion would not be happy in the food business. Good luck!
    #12
    zataar
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    RE: Where Did You Start? What Do You Do Now? 2005/04/23 17:12:09 (permalink)
    Hi Chef Billy Jack, I think that a backround in Criminal Justice and Pyschology could be beneficial to someone aspiring to be a chef! There are times it would have served me well. Nice to meet you, Zataar
    #13
    Chef Billy Jack
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    RE: Where Did You Start? What Do You Do Now? 2005/04/23 19:38:58 (permalink)
    Thanks for the warm welcome all. I know about the 100 hr. work weeks--I opened new restaurants for Friday's for about 10 yrs., and we were "scheduled" 80 hrs. a week; I think the most I did at an opening was 118, and opening day was a $21,000 day--it was crazy. I'm thinking of going into R&D when I get out of school--does anyone have exp. in that field? I'm not sure about all the different opportunities out there when I do graduate, but I believe with my years of experience, my crazy work ethic, and a degree, I should hopefully make a lot more than I do now. I've been an Exec. Sous currently for the last 6 yrs., and I settled for less money to have weekends off. Anyway, thanks for the welcome.
    #14
    lleechef
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    RE: Where Did You Start? What Do You Do Now? 2005/04/24 04:07:12 (permalink)
    Chef BJ,
    Wise choice to go into R&D. Food chemistry courses will be necessary. Take them. The more the better. You will need to know the difference between guar gum and xanthum gum, their chemical formulas, etc. I was the R&D chef for Alaska Seafood International for a few years. My kitchen was my lab. We did mollecular studies on various types of fish, shelf life studies, taste test studies, endless tests on value-added products, it was quite fascinating and a whole different life away from the restaurant biz. Take a course on USDA standards and also nutrition and product labeling as you will be required to list the calories per serving, fat calories per serving, protein, carbohydrates, etc. It's not the crazy pace of Friday's (who would want that anyway?) but R&D is VERY scientific.......more chemistry than actual cooking. It can take years and years of testing, tasting, more testing, more chemistry, more tasting before you can actually come up something ready for the market.
    The UP side is that they are basically 9-5 jobs, Mon.-Fri. and have decent salaries and decent benefits.
    #15
    2010Vision
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    RE: Where Did You Start? What Do You Do Now? 2005/05/19 16:23:05 (permalink)
    I guess I will joint the crowd. I worked in the restarant since I was 13. Never in the kitchen. I worked in all types of restaurants. I am currently a tax consultant working for one of the Big 4. Many of you probably think I am a "dreamer" but I plan to open my own restaurant in a few years.

    Michael,

    I do not believe you can write off your spouse travel on your tax return; however, until Uncle Sam knock on your door, enjoy the deductions :).



    quote:
    Originally posted by Michael Beam

    I suspect that i started like a lot of other people in this business. I started working in restaurants as a teenager in various roles (server, host, busser, etc.)and continued throughtout college. It was great to earn tips and get to eat from free at least once a day while in school.

    I left the business when I graduated and got a "real" job that I hated. So I quit and got back in the restaurant business as a manager. I worked for a number of years in various establishments across America. Unfortunatley, I wanted to do more with my career (work less nights and weekends), so I went back to school at Cornell University to get my Masters degree in Hospitality Management. From there I got into the "corporate" side of the business, developing restaurants in hotels and in freestanding settings.

    Now I provide management and consulting services full time and get to work on projects that are interesting and that I believe in. I guess in the end, I am drawn to the business because I like being of service and I like everything about food, so what profession could be better? Besides, eating out becomes "RESEARCH", my wife can't complain about visiting new places and I can write it all off on my taxes!
    #16
    fastfood
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    RE: Where Did You Start? What Do You Do Now? 2005/07/13 03:33:24 (permalink)
    I started when I was 16 as a regular crew member. I excelled everywher they put me in the resteraunt:front line,back line,fry station,or drive thru I was good at it.By the time I was almost 19 I was offered a crew leader position and I took it.From there I was offered a shift manager position and I took it.Then the DM's boss offered me my own store and I took it,the store closed down and i'm now just a shift manager but I like my job.
    #17
    The Travelin Man
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    RE: Where Did You Start? What Do You Do Now? 2005/07/13 08:55:39 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by fastfood

    Then the DM's boss offered me my own store and I took it,the store closed down and i'm now just a shift manager but I like my job.


    So, are you saying that you ran an Arby's store into the ground?
    #18
    UncleVic
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    RE: Where Did You Start? What Do You Do Now? 2005/07/13 21:40:56 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by stevekoe

    quote:
    Originally posted by fastfood

    Then the DM's boss offered me my own store and I took it,the store closed down and i'm now just a shift manager but I like my job.


    So, are you saying that you ran an Arby's store into the ground?


    Ouch....
    #19
    fastfood
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    RE: Where Did You Start? What Do You Do Now? 2005/07/14 00:51:05 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by stevekoe

    quote:
    Originally posted by fastfood

    Then the DM's boss offered me my own store and I took it,the store closed down and i'm now just a shift manager but I like my job.


    So, are you saying that you ran an Arby's store into the ground?


    No,the building was old and the sales had been dropping for a few years. And as part of Arby's new pinnacle design for thier building they felt the store wasn't worth remodeling or rebuilding to fit the pinnacle design because of the low sales.So the store closes and I think they tore it down i'm not sure.
    #20
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