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message: My son who is a junior in college just informed us that he might want to make a major change and seek out a culinary career. We've been researching frantically trying to decide the best course. It's confusing. There are schools such as FCI that claim to offer everything you need to begin your career in 6 months. Is that possible? Then there is CIA offering 2 & 4 year degree programs, but it's quite expensive. Much less expensive are community colleges. In the state in which we live two offer 2 year degree or 3 year apprenticeship/degree programs leading to accredation by the American Culinary Federation. Are programs such as FCI better to take after gaining a degree or are they more of an introduction that could help you decide if that's what you really want to do? Please Help!

OK mother this is the big question which school and how much to spend. In short the CIA is a great school and if your son is serious - then it is a good investment for the future. If he thinks being a chef looks interesting but is not 110% committed then perhaps start with a less expensive option like community college to find out what it is really like. Another good option is to go and work in a restaurant for free for a month or two to see the realities of the business - no Saturdays off, working all the holidays, no thanks from your chef (that is me), low entry level pay etc., etc. On the other hand the hectic crazy life is what some people love.

So -do not rush in to choosing a school until he is really sure what he wants to do, when that is solved if the money is there choose the school that will fit your budget.

Hello, I graduated from Culinary school about two years ago. I am from Mexico. My concern is how can I get an opportunity to make an international career, getting a lob position outside my country. In my experience I have seen employers does not give those chances, most of the times because they do not sponsor working visas, therefore How can I get experience outside my country. Besides I love cooking, I wanted this career because I thought I would have the chance to travel around the world, but now I see is more difficult than I thought. Thank you for your time an help. Best Regards, Edgar.

Speaking as an English chef working here in the US, I can sympathize with your dilemma. The only advice I can offer is to contact all of the hotels within companies like Four Seasons & Ritz Carlton. Mail each one (find their address on line) and also contact their human resources head office. They may be able to offer you a J-1 visa which is good for eighteen months and is not too hard to obtain. The other option to meet your goal might be to consider working for one of these companies outside the USA and after two years transferring with them to the States. This would be on an L-1 visa, which is designed for international managers...... It's an up hill struggle but a worthy one. Good luck, Jeremy.

How can I get a raise? - Jerzy

This is the toughest challenge of all... First, make sure that you are the chef's right hand "man". Second figure out why you should get an increase. The thing with negotiating a salary increase is that quitting your job if you do not get any more money, is the real polite threat that you are laying on the table. So look around for a new position, speak to your boss, be professional never threatening, explain why you believe you are worthy of an increase. If this does not work, then you have to choose, find a new job and tender your resignation in the hope of a counter offer or stay where you are. It is not the best advice but is pretty realistic... Let me know how it goes, I might try it myself! J

My name is Rachel. I am 17, a Junior in high school, and I have a passion for cooking. I plan on going to culinary school soon. I am doing a research paper for my Composition class about what career I would like to have in my future. One of the requirements is a one on one interview. I live in a small town and we don't have any professional or trained chefs that I know of. I have gained permission to interview online from my teacher. If there is a trained chef out there that would answer my questions I would really appreciate it.

1. Describe a typical day at your job.
It is always rather varied, however I normally start work at 10am. The first thing I do is go around the kitchen and say hi to every one and make sure every one is on track. Then I check my e-mails and voice mail. I have a meeting at 10.30 with the other culinary departments. During the course of the day I will spend time writing menus, training staff, sending out large banquets (up to 600 people) cooking, interviewing prospective employees, ordering food and a couple of other meeting. A normal working day is 10 - 12 hours...

2. What kind of person is best suited for this job?
Someone who is very dedicated and wants to do things really well. You need to be able to deal with stress, and even enjoy it. You have to enjoy learning and not take criticism personally.

3. What kind of skills will I need for this job?
An open mind, and being a little artistic is a big help.

4. What are the educational requirements? Degrees? Licenses?
Many kitchens prefer a culinary degree, but dedication and enthusiasm is far more important....

5. Why did you choose this career?
When I was thirteen I was cooking a BBQ with my best friend, he said he was going to be a chef, I said me too. He is now a stock broker, and still my best friend. I was also not very academic (a little dyslexic) when I was at school, so I knew I needed to do something practical, a chef seemed like a great idea. My friends gave me a hard time, but now they eat their words.

6. What are the advantages to this career? Why? Benefits?
You get to eat out for free in a lot of places, and cooking is a skill that allows you to travel. The hotel company that I work for allows their employees to stay at the other hotels within the company for free!

7. What are the disadvantages? What is the hardest part of your job? Why?
You work over the holidays, Christmas New Years name them all. The hours can be very crazy and you never know what days off you will have, so it is very difficult to plan things.

8. What role does technology such as computers play in your career?
Its role is increasing. A lot of internal communication via e-mail. Many hotels order all of their food on line. It is also a good thing if you can use word and excel, as this comes in to play a lot more. For me personally I have my web site so I must spend 20 hrs a week at the computer...

9. What is the future outlook for this career? What about job security? Do you know of any possible changes in your job in the future?
The economy has slowed a little for us, but their is a shortage of chefs so things look fine and should stay that way.

10. What is your specialty?
This is always a tough question for me - Fruit and Vegetable carving... I love making fresh pastas and raviolis.

11. How long have you been interested in this career?
How long have you been cooking? 19 years and I have been cooking for 16.

12. What culinary school did you go to or where were you trained? Where or what type of school would you recommend?
I went to school in London (England). I spent three years at school. In the US the CIA is good, but very expensive.

13. What advice would you give someone going into this field?
If you social life is more important than a career do not become a chef. For the first six years in this business it is just about working and learning. So when you start working in a kitchen be quiet and inhale the good stuff. Choose the best learning opportunity. Work in the best kitchens that your situation can afford, but look behind the marketing before you join them!

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