PICK OF THE CAREER CROP
I have no regrets at all about having a career in food and catering early on. Plenty of late comers to the industry I met or worked with along the way are very pleased they finally found their niche in life after first exploring other jobs that were just not for them. When I was starting out it was a conscious decision, I had received the calling so to speak. As a child the thrill of strawberry picking in summer, the joy when eating out the very rare occasion or the fascination watching my mother cook all moments that cemented my destiny.
These days food and hospitality is struggling to attract students and workers as modern life has thrown up more career options, even with the prospect of AI stealing human roles never mind the thoughts of having to spend years learning a craft. Then working hard and long hours when everyone else is playing. The profession just does not hold the allure of bygone years. Yet people have never bought so many cookbooks, watched more TV cookery shows or eaten out so much, yet domestic kitchens have never been so redundant with people cooking less and less at home or eating so badly for that matter.
In China they are testing kitchens to be completely manned by robots so maybe the chef will be a future thing of the past. For anyone considering a career in food my advice would be do not hesitate, go for it. It will be the best decision you will ever make. The first principal is that you are creating pleasure and making people feel good by eating and this is one amazing feeling. The buzz generated in the process of creating the food is also just as intoxicating.Then you have the variety of areas you can work in, regular hours are available in many types of catering where weekends and nights are actually your own.
There is also the myriad of cuisines you can decide to specialize in; the world is literally your oyster. When we are young in our twenties we also want to see the world and there is no greater passport to travel than the ability to cook, it’s an international language. You can land in any kitchen in any country and chopping an onion is the same.
Position wise you do not have to be chasing a career ladder to the top rung, plenty of people are just happy to work away at a level where there is not the pressure to be a boss or deliver on targets or even have your own business, that works only for the driven few who are keen to be at the top, as in every trade. I could not wait to run my first kitchen at just twenty five. Catering is the perfect team job.
The best way to go about getting into cooking is still the same as it ever was by being an apprentice and college student. Formal college tuition teaches the basics, followed then by a few stints in places that are in the sector of the industry you wish to work in long term.
Try and stay on the same path, it is very easy to wander off in food, if you want to work at a high level then all your jobs must be at the high end for example. If you want to work say in industrial catering, then get in there from the outset. If you are finding catering late in life then try working for a few weeks in a friends place first to see if you like it, then decide whether to pivot to food as a career.
Like all the truly great careers that give guaranteed job satisfaction the rewards are not always material, ask the other creative professions, the artists, the writers, the musicians, the actors, they all do it for the love first and foremost. It becomes a vocation, a healthy one and you will earn enough to live comfortably and you certainly won’t go hungry but you will have had a full life knowing you gave pleasure to the masses.
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