Terrified, excited and scared to death. That's the description of what I'm feeling right now. After 11 years as a Technical Writer and even longer working in the high tech industry, I'm ready to ditch it all and change careers. The thought of finding another job creating unread user manuals and documentation was more than I could handle. So I've decided to become a Chef. Yes, I'll be making less money, and I'll be going back into debt… but for once someone will actually USE something I've created. There are many other reason for this decision, but first and foremost is that I will be doing something I've always loved to do. (I DO love working in the culinary industry, but I missed the tech world much more than I ever thought I would.)
What worries me the most is the cost–$40K–for a degree in the Le Cordon Bleu program at the Texas Culinary Academy in Austin. I have a house and bills to deal with and working only part-time will barely cover that. But I'm going into debt anyway knowing that I won't be looking back when I'm retired and wondering why I wasted so much of my life doing work that I hated (I may be good at it – but being a technical writer in the semiconductor field just SUCKS). (Let's not start talking about my student loan right now. It's tough, but thanks to my brilliant husband, we are ahead of schedule.)
I did a lot of research on culinary schools and careers, and then went and visited a few here in Austin. Someone at TCA took the time to give me a tour of the school, introduced me to some of the instructors, and sat me down and showed how all the classes were structured and what I would be learning in each one. I left knowing that I had to get into that school somehow… maybe it was the atmosphere or maybe it was just the sight of all those gleaming student kitchens. I'm a sucker for a big beautiful kitchen. Yes, attending a LCB program is expensive, but it'll give me the contacts and networking opportunities that I wouldn't have with another local school. And I need that boost since I'm starting out in this career later than most people (and it doesn't hurt that it also comes with an Associates of Applied Science). My husband is freaking out about the cost, but even he agrees that this specific school is the best choice for me at this time. It's funny, now that I've set all of this in motion, my friends and family are asking me why it took so long for me to decide to become a chef. Ummm, if they all knew this was the job for me–why didn't someone mention it 18 years ago? Or was this something I had to figure out on my own?
Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I started on this path from the begining instead of wandering all over the place trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Part of it bothers me because I've wasted so many years. If I had known that culinary training was an option, my career choices would have been different. And I definitely would have started at a cheaper school – Austin Community College has a pretty good program – or maybe I would have gone to Johnson and Wales on the East Coast. I don't know why it never occurred to me that you COULD go to school for it…. man, I must have been a stupid kid. But on the other hand–it might have also been wasted on me at that time. Now I know that I have to put everything I have into my education, and I also have the drive, ambition and single-mindedness that I was lacking in college.
Tomorrow morning is Orientation at TCA and I'll finally get to meet my classmates and instructors. We were given a recipe to try and discuss there, and it was…. um, interesting. I'll talk about it tomorrow after I find out if it was a test or just crappy instructions. (It wasn't a test, and it wasn't a mistake. Some people just shouldn't be allowed to write recipes. I'll probably harp on this pet peeve quite a bit more as I update my archives.)