Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Whah?

Why do people need to do this sort of thing? I'm sure I could spin a half-dozen credible reasons that explain this kind of behavior, but no way could I explain it to my or to your satisfaction.

Feel free to chime in. I'm chiming out for now.

21 comments:

Tags said...

She looks a little young to be in such an obscene picture.

MessyONE said...

That is scary and....just wrong on so many levels I don't know where to go with it. I think I'd need to drink more to come up with anything beyond a sort of bemused sense of the oddity that humans can get up to....

Then again, I should talk...

Tell me, is it the act of a sane person to go to culinary school at the ripe old age of 45? My husband thinks not... but I'm not listening so far.

Cameron S. said...

Just shows you how out of touch people are with where their food comes from and how it is made. That pudding is quite disgusting looking. Hilarious in a bizarro world kind of way.

Bob del Grosso said...

messyone

I think that whether or not it makes sense to go to culinary school (or any school) has less to do with age and more to do with what you think you need and what you hope to do.

If you are sure that you want the knowledge and believe that school is the best way to get it, it makes sense to go. At 45 I would not be looking to go to school to become a restaurant chef. That would be nuts.

MessyONE said...

I have to say the tuition is insane. It's one of the things that weighs heavily in this debate. I'd have to sell my car, but that would only cover about half. (Want a gorgeous used car?)

My start date isn't until April. There's plenty of time for discussion before then. In the meantime, I have to decide just how far I want to go with this. I know for a fact I can do it, but you're right, I'll be the oldest person in the room a lot of the time.

Sigh.

Jennie/Tikka said...

I'll back BdG on this one, Messyone. As someone who went to culinary school at 35, I'd have to say that I wouldn't recommend it to anybody who wasn't planning on opening their own cafe or something.

Consider that you will only be earning $8 to $13 bucks an hour for many many years after graduation.

Consider that you will not be considered qualified to work in a good kitchen just because you went to school. You'll be lumped in with the 20 year olds for many years in mediocre restaurants as one of their peers until you have paid your dues. You will still have to start at the bottom and work your way up. It will probably be 5 to 10 years before you are considered competent.

You will be managed by people significantly younger than you.

Consider that working in food is manual labor. If you'd be comfortable making Thanksgiving Dinner for 300 for 10 hours a day in a kitchen over 95 degrees all the time (as well as cleaning that kitchen), 6 days a week - then you'd be comfortable with culinary work.

You will lose all weekends and holidays with your spouse because that's when people want to go to restaurants to eat.

If you open your own business, you'll be even MORE busy - and, in debt for both your school loan costs AND your business start up costs. You're in 6 figure debt at that point.

Really REALLY think it over.

When I was finishing school we used to talk about some of the older students (even older than myself). We referred to them as: Unemployable.

There are other "options." I found a job at a major university doing 700 covers a day when I first started. I was responsible for prepping 2 stations and working 3. After my first day of work I was so tired I fell asleep in my end-of-the-shift meeting with the Chef, telling me what he wanted me to prep for him at the beginning of my next shift.

MessyONE said...

Jennie, I know you're probably right.

Then again, my situation is somewhat different. For one thing, I won't graduate in any debt. That's one of the benefits of being - um - older.

The physical part of the job doesn't scare me in the least. I'm a Master Gardener and I've worked as a landscaper. Trust me, you don't know true physical punishment until you have to move a truckload or two of compost by wheelbarrow in June...in Texas.

We're planning to retire to Vancouver Island in the next ten years or so. I have a friend there (a chef turned professional clown, believe it or not) who thinks there's room for a sandwich joint. No complicated menu, just a choice of three or four sandwiches, no substitutions, open from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Probably you've succeeded in talking me out of this. We'll see. I have to admit that it grates on me no end that The Boy is willing to fund an MBA, but is balking at cooking school......

Jennie/Tikka said...

Messyone -

I hear ya. I paid off my loan in one lump sum 1 day before the first payment was due (a definite benefit to being "mature." ;)

If I was you, I'd start by writing your actual business proposal. That way you can see what you're really going to need to make the place you described work in Vancouver. Get actual quotes for your lease (or mortgage), figure out your equipment (new or used), get your demographics, see which purveyors will work for you and what they'll charge you for (if its like here, they'll do it by zip code and charge you more if you're new), etc. I'm really financially conservative so I wrote mine to assume I wouldn't be seeing a profit for the first 3 years, just to be sure. If the numbers work that's a good sign. If not.......

Jennie/Tikka said...

Other things to consider:

- Depreciate your capital assets over 5 years (i.e. your equipment). After 5 years time they're at their low "blue book" value. If you buy used equipment they're already there and you'll have to pay for repairs, so your Capital side of things is going to be low, versus you're income and expenses. The bank is viewing you based on what they can get out of you if you fail and they have to liquidate you - that's how they'll determine your interest rate. Unless you can prove that there's enough people out there who are likely to eat at your place - enough to cover depreciating assets, your loans, your 28% food cost, etc., you're setting yourself up for trouble.

- Restaurant insurance is a beeeyatch. You are responsible for any injury that happens....including if somebody trips and falls while walking past your door. One lawsuit can close you down. Maybe its easier in Canada. We can only hope.

- You absolutely have to have cash on hand to cover any cash flow problems. So on top of your culinary school loans, your business loans, your utilities, your insurance, etc., you may have to pull out some extra cash to pay off a purveyor who's demanding to be paid, or they'll cut you off. Say business has been slow for a week. You're low on income.

- Your salary comes from restaurant profits after expenses (if there's any left over) - Most food operations are lucky to see a 2% to 3% profit, after they survive their initial start-up costs.

I could go on.....

Running a food business of any sort is a very tough thing - very tough.

Sorry to be a downer but this is a really nasty business. Some thrive in it; others - most....wilt.

MichaelG said...

My wife and I (90% her) once operated a lunch place. At best you are buying yourself a job. Think how many sandwiches you have to sell to pay the rent. I hate to sound negative, but listen to Jennie.

Cameron S. said...

As someone who lives in Vancouver and goes to Vancouver island - where do you plan to go? Victoria, the capital. or the other end of the island between Nanaimo, Parksville/Qualicum Beach, Comox or all the way to the north western side of the island in Ucluelet / Tofino?

The demographics skew quite old on the island although I will say that it is growing fast in the Nanaimo region, as younger people escape the expensive life in Vancouver. Many restaurants over there are fairly pedestrian as well. Good luck.

Linda said...

Having been in and out of the restaurant industry for years, I agree with jennie/tikka completely. That being said, if you need to satisfy some personal desire for whatever reason by going to school, then go if you can easily afford that and the business. But the bottom line is, if you want to be a chef and you're willing to put in the hours and you can afford your own business, and you know you can produce really good food, then you can make it. It's all in the desire....

Mike Pardus said...

AS BDG said - "going to school has less to do with age and more to do with what you think you need and what you hope to do"

You do not need 2 years of formal culinary training to operate a small sandwich shop. Find someone who has a shop similar to the one you envision and offer to work for free for 6 months to see how they operate; work on you business plan; develop your sandwiches.

I suspect that this is not the real reason for wanting to go, just a justification. If you want to attend culinary school for the joy of doing it, to enhance your knowledge and skills beyond that of a self taught hobbyist, to fulfill a passion - then say so and you will probably get less resistance.

Please don't confuse the physical work of gardening with the combination of physical work, precision timing, concentration, and mental stress that comes with restaurant cooking at a high level; it's just not comparable to pushing around wheel barrows of compost....Unless you have 12 different types of compost that must be blended to exact specification for each wheel barrow, a sous gardener barking orders for 6 different wheelbarrows to be blended at the same time, need to coordinate your wheelbarrows with the work of 3 other garderners so that each of your work end up at exactly the same place at the same time and that the wheel barrow is meticously wiped clean before being sent to it's final destination, AND - if you don't get it exactly right - the wheelbarrow will be returned to you to fix properly while trying to keep pace with the new orders that just came in to be filled.You have to RUN to keep up with the pace.

You sound strong of mind, will, and body and will probably enjoy running a small shop and maybe doing some outside catering too.

Good luck.

MessyONE said...

Mr. Del Grosso, I'm sorry I took over your post. I promise I won't do it again.

Mr. Pardus, thanks for your kind response. You're right, of course. It's a justification, although the sandwich idea has been percolating for awhile. It's difficult at the best of times to find a good sandwich anywhere, let alone in Nanaimo. The demographic there has been skewed to retirees for so long that the best eating is at the pub on the way out of town.

I do a lot of things well. Want a vintage evening gown? Give me a couple of days, I'll knock one off for you. A perennial border? Sure. Gimme a crew of two and a week. A smart-aleck response to a bad essay? A couple of hours, please.

Going to cooking school is something I wanted when I was made to go to university instead. I didn't have a lot of choice in that. Working in restaurants was how I survived - they feed you, and I wasn't getting any money from my family.

I'm at that stage now where I can do pretty much what I want, and learning is something that I have to do - it's like eating for me. The Boy will come around eventually, I'm sure.

He's still making noises about selling my car, though. Blast!

PDPBanks said...

Looks like Japan. Asians love that pseudo-flan pudding stuff. Go to any Asian supermarket and they're chock full of this stuff. In Taiwan, there was practically a whole aisle of the stuff.

It was good enough - in a cup half the size of a Snackpack. This is a lot of insane.

Mike Pardus said...

what you and I would consider "slimey" is texturally appealing in most of Asia - okra, tapioca, agar, sea vegetables, birds nest soup, sharks fin soup...the list is endless. On the streets of Saigon and Bangkok it's common to see a vendor selling concocotions of coconut milk thickened with tapioca and garnished with agar gelled things of various flavors and colors as well as cooked beans (like kidney or adzuki)...to most westerners it's not appealing...but it's sure popular with the locals.

Bob del Grosso said...

Messyone
No need to apologize, this conversation is very interesting to me. Thanks!

Jennie/Tikka said...

Don't mind me, Messyone. The truth of the matter is that if I won the lottery I'd probably actually consider going through with my restaurant plan, even at 42. The problem is, the piece of land I want to purchase and build on is currently running about $2 million dollars - which is way beyond what I can afford.

By the way, Chef Pardus - I named the place Bistro Kerala. I wrote the business proposal back in '04 and even created some of the menu items.

Tags said...

I was thinking about starting a landscaping business, but if just the compost & wheelbarrows alone are that complicated, forget it!

Tags said...

:-)

MessyONE said...

Tags -

Like cooking, there's a lot of scut work that has to be done before you get to the fun parts of landscaping, and unless you have a big enough company that you can afford a large crew, it's a young person's game. It can be physically brutal.

That said, it's tremendously rewarding when you see the finished project, especially if you're a detail person like I am.

I'm still bitter, because we left Texas, where I had half an acre to play with and moved to Chicago, where the townhouse we live in has...less. A lot less.....