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For those of you that love chef shows...

Would you ever change your career to go into the food industry? I'm almost 30, in a decent paying job, but I don't love it. I'm not exceedingly happy when I go to work, I do healthcare, so totally opposite from the food industry and all that it entails. Anyway, just wanted to know what career options are out there for someone who loves to watch these shows, loves to cook, but kinda in limbo as for what i should do. I don't know if my interest is just a nice hobby or could make a great career. I guess I just would like a little inspiration and creativity where I feel that my current career is lacking. thoughts?

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  1. Don't quit your day job.
    Are you willing to work weekends, nights, holidays for little or no benefits?
    Food industry is tough work and isn't for everyone.

    2 Replies
    1. re: monku

      I work nights, weekends, and holidays. But I do get benefits. I guess there's not a lot of money in food blogging or writing is there?

      1. re: porkbutt03

        "I guess there's not a lot of money in food blogging or writing is there?"
        I don't know about that, but I guess you could try it in your free time.

        I got out of the restaurant business at 30. Managed restaurants for 7 years and never regretted leaving the industry.

        I know people who have been nipped by the Food TV bug and went to culinary schools and ended up with debt and start at a $10/hour job in a restaurant working nights, weekends and holidays without showing any of their creativity. Maybe it could be different for you.

        You have a decent paying job now, I don't think you'd say the same about the food industry for quite some time.

    2. Get yourself a stage (unpaid work) at a local restaurant. Don't quit your job - just try pulling 60-80 hours a week for a while and see if working in a restaurant still seems like fun. Long hours are common in the industry. That's a serious suggestion, BTW. You might love it- hard work, mindless repetition, low pay and all.

      Some of my best friends are in the restaurant business. They love it, but they didn't quit good-paying jobs at 30 to get in either.

      Personally, I love cooking and I'm decent at it, but there's no way I'd get into the restaurant business.

      Quote: "I guess there's not a lot of money in food blogging or writing is there?"

      There is for some. Getting a bit of that money is the tricky part. If I could help you here, I'd already be doing it myself. I suspect personal connections help.

      3 Replies
      1. re: cowboyardee

        I've been wondering the same thing as the poster. I've run out of my unemployment, been trying to "think out of the box" as far as making a living. I'm a very decent home cook. BUT -
        I'm 53 years old, have never worked in the restaurant business, and I don't have a lot of energy to begin with.
        I think I know what the answer would be whether I would be good in the restaurant business or not!

        1. re: aurora50

          I cooked professionally and managed kitchens for 20 years. I took a job as a waiter and got a degree and joined the real world. I loved it while I did it, but at 49, my knees aren't up to 14 - 16 hour days. And my paycheck is a lot bigger than when I was in the biz.

          If you're 53 without a lot of energy, the restaurant biz is not for you.

          1. re: chileheadmike

            Anthony Bourdain addressed this question in his latest book, "Medium Raw." Basically, he said the same thing which you did, Chile Head Mike. At least for cooks, if you are over 30, he does not recommend getting into the restaurant business.

        1. As far as a career move, I think to switch to the food industry when you have a solid career going (and one that has benefits!) is a poor decision. Especially in the current economical climate.
          I think food/chef tv shows have seriously romanticized professional cooking.
          Professional cooking also isn't something you jump into w/o expecting to put in many years of grueling hours for little pay, in the name of experience. I have a culinary degree, working towards a bachelors in culinary management and I've made peanuts for the past few years. My only saving grace is a spouse who makes enough to cover our bills. It's purely a labor of love for me and tbh, I'd probably end up hating and resenting it if I had to depend on it as a source of income.

          I'd say, keep being a foodie as a hobby.

          1. Anthony Bourdain wrote a chapter in his new book Medium Raw addressing people thinking about switching careers to the restaurant industry. I'll summarize his main point: don't do it!

            3 Replies
            1. re: Nicole

              I was collecting unemployment and had a severance package a few years back. I decided to go to culinary school. While there I started having doubts, it was reading kitchen confidential that assured me I did NOT want to pursue this career.

              1. re: Nicole

                If everyone who read that chapter didn't do it....we wouldn't have any future culinary superstars....i have worked in kitchens off and on for 20 years and yes, it takes a special person to work in one...are you that person? You don't know until you try it for at least one solid year!!!!

                1. re: Nicole

                  I'd also recommend reading Heat, or, to use its full title, Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford.

                2. i also would not quit your ft job with benefits. you can have a very fulfilling food *hobby,* esp if you don't rely on it for the bills. if your hobby leads to something more, great-- but the vegas odds are not good that you will get rich and happy with a food-related career change, in fact most folks would bet on the opposite.

                  so don't put a lot of pressure on it, that way you can't screw up and every success will be sweet. :)

                  food writing? sounds great! find a blog or an in-print publication that you really admire (take the time to do research), send in a few writing samples, ask if you can do a piece for them for free, or help them via an internship to dip your toes into the biz in your spare time. work with the responses you get, decide if you love it. get experience on someone else's "label," get some connections, build your skill level, find the niche you like to explore through writing. then, after you are experienced, maybe get some friends together and go out on your own, with minimal expectations for cash. people will like your stuff and pay attention to you, or they won't. the ad dollars should be secondary to you building something you enjoy and are proud of. if it's really special, the hits and the ad bucks should start to come in, and you can look at your hobby as growing into a real income. this will take good ol' time, luck and talent, though.

                  1. As much as I love all these chef shows, I wouldn't dream of having to actually be a chef. It looks grueling. The pay isn't that great to start with and the hours stink. Besides, there also a lot of unemployed chefs out there.

                    As for food blogging and writing, those that don't want to be chefs seem to try this. Some get lucky, some don't.

                    Read Anthony Bourdain's new book. He has a whole chapter for those that are considering going to culinary school to become chefs.

                    1. If you want to get into the food industry and enjoy writing, try freelancing as a food writer/critic.

                      Working in food prep (as others have noted) is sort of like enlisting in the army after living all of your adult life in the lap of luxury. In your less lucid, or very drunk, moments it might seem like a good idea -- even a patriotic one -- but a couple of weeks into basic training, you realize you've ENLISTED, voluntarily!!!

                      1. Well, there are other areas of "the food industry" besides being a chef. I was taught to cook by a great chef who wanted to retire from her 20 year elite restaurant career by going into private service where she could be more creative. I really lucked out and she came to work for me! But there are a lot of different kinds of chefs. Some executive chefs only cook occasionally. But for most of them, they had to do a LOT of cooking to get where they are.

                        A lot of people really mean owning their own restaurant and doing most of the cooking when they talk about becoming a chef. I have never found that idea appealing simply because you have to make the Dover sole and Pomme Puree EXACTLY the same night after night or your repeat customers are going to throw rocks at you. But if this is what appeals to you, then go for it. With a vengeance!

                        If you like more creative areas, there are options. I don't know if I would want to do it forever, but being a "food stylist" (those folks who spray strawberries with fake dew drops or make sure the asparagus tip is glistening just right and laying in the proper position on top of the tenderloin before it's photographed) sounds like it could be a lot of fun.

                        Then there are a lot of people who seem to have carved huge niches for themselves from such humble beginnings as food bloggers. Then there are outright paid-from-the-get-go food journalists. And the fabled (but I don't know if it's possible to land such jobs) anonymous diners who rate restaurants for the likes of Guide Micheline and other famous restaurant rating publications. I would LOVE to have to eat in four star restaurants every night to make a living. But the job better come with healthy health benefits because I would only be able to work three months of the year, then diet the other nine months to undo the weight gain! But it's a fun job to think about!

                        Going to a great culinary school, then becoming a great culinary teacher could be a lot of fun too. Teaching is a blast, and I would assume that if you taught cooking classes, you could sample a lot of great student food in order to determine their grade. '-)

                        But my bottom line best advice to you is find yourself a career where you just can't wait for the alarm clock to go off so you can get up and go to work because it is such fun. Working at a ho hum job leads to an early grave. Save yourself! '-)

                        1. food business is incredibly hard! my friend grew up in her family's restaurant (working) and now owns a bakery. she wakes up at 3 or 4 in the morning and works until at least 6 or 7 at night--seven days a week. it is HARD work. she's on her feet the entire time, running around, sweating, etc. it is never ending and it's hard to make a huge profit so that you can hire more people and get a break. low profit margins and a product that will go bad if you don't sell it.

                          you may want to approach a small business to see if you could moonlight one or two days/nights a week and see what it's really like.

                          or you could take some classes at a local extension/community college.

                          1. Ever considered the food service area of healthcare? Given you're already in healthcare, it might be a quick side step to garner some skills to build from. Food service industry is not uber shek...but you're likely to have a few in house connections.

                            Consider per diem work for a local caterer, market or large deli.

                            I'm not sure how much practical commercial experience you have but think big bang for your skills training and don't quit any job for a food career unless you are 110% sure you can stand the physical and mental challenges.

                            good luck!

                            1. I know a woman who lives in a city with a lot of young professionals. She advertises on Craigslist, and makes a weeks' worth of home-cooked lunches and dinners for her customers (who are all males in their twenties who miss their moms). I'm sure it's totally illegal but she loves it and it lets her dabble in cooking and baking while still keeping her day job. I'm not recommending you do THIS, but it could get you thinking outside the box!