In November 2009, I was pulling six figures. In September of this year, I began my new professional culinary career in the dish pit. I've since been promoted to prep cook, and I have every reason to expect a bright future. Proof of identity (and more background and details) at my username dot com. AMA.

Edit: Okay, I have to get ready for work. I'll be back on by midnight EST or so to see if there's anything interesting and not yet covered. Thanks for all the great questions!

Comments: 972 • Responses: 23  • Date: 

shutz2290 karma

So I guess I'll be the one to ask: why?

phrits229 karma

I've always enjoyed cooking, and my IT career pretty much fizzled out when the banks collapsed. I was laid off in November 2009 and found myself in a downward spiral: 18 month contract, 6 months or more of unemployment, then another contract for less than the one before.

With my experience, and even with my age (46) working against me, there may be a good IT fit for me out there somewhere. Finding it, however, conjures visions of Fermi's Paradox. I'd rather be moving up from the bottom than falling down from above.

Edit: Fixed backward bracket. Thanks, Flammy.

spamgobbler34 karma

" I'd rather be moving up from the bottom than falling down from above."

I'm going to quote this on my facebook feed... words to live by mate. Good luck... I also love to cook but have a good paying position I am too scared to quit. I dream of a day when my balls are as brassy as yours...

phrits34 karma

Aww, shucks, now you went and made me blush. I wish I could take full credit for big brass ones, but there's a lot of "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose" in there too.

Flammy20 karma

You've got a swapped bracket on that url.

What do you regret, if anything, about the change? Did you miss anything right away?

phrits36 karma

No regrets, nor do I find myself really missing anything. I do keep seeing things I could help with, though. I work for a small company with only a handful of restaurants, and I can tell they really want to grow their business properly. There's a company-wide cookbook I could improve in all sorts of ways, for example, and they really have no idea how much good I could do as they begin to formalize and document their processes.

watitdew41 karma

Good luck ever getting them to consult the dishwasher on their information formatting and procedures.

phrits21 karma

I understand that it doesn't occur to them to do so, so I take no insult. One of the important pieces of advice I garnered on the way in was to shut the hell up and pay attention. That's probably good advice for any new endeavor, but it's part of kitchen culture and I haven't been around long enough safely rock any boats.

My opportunity will come. Or it won't. No matter. I'm happy cooking.

darkonex105 karma

So many times I've thought about leaving IT and becoming a janitor, would be so much less stress

phrits158 karma

When you leave after a hard day in IT, you usually have loose ends to tie up, reports to write, managers to mollify, and far too often the same bad day causes await your return. At the end of a hard day in the kitchen, your next shift doesn't usually have anything to do with your previous one.

SirDolo9377 karma

That's weird, I am doing dishes on the side of trying to peruse a IT career.

phrits21 karma

IT was good to me, but I got in early. I worked tech support for a small software company and because I missed my Usenet feeds from school, I nagged them into getting connected to the Internet and helped them do so. But the career was always about automation, so I think I'd jump off a roof before I took a tech support job in today's scripted environment.

IMO even folks with mad programming skills have numbered days, and what little cable pulling remains with even wireless power transmission on the horizon will be handled by bots before we know it. IT will always need a few people, just as the NFL will always need players. Many will enter that lottery; few will win. Good luck!

empT337 karma

I switched from the culinary field to the IT field around 7 years ago and I couldn't be happier.

Just like washing dishes, doing prep and other inglorious work in the kitchen, unless you've got a degree in computer science and some giant brains then you're going to spend the first part of your career in the trenches on a help-desk.

To be honest, most people never make it off the help-desk at all and if you find the right place then that's okay.

  • Try to find a place that does internal support (not support for Joe Schmoe and his virus ridden laptop full of 80's porn) for their own employees, you'll get better and more varied experience there.
  • Start out by being a jack of all trades, learn about infrastructure, every type of server you can find. Get certifications when you can (a lot of employers will pay for these so long as you pass).
  • Watch your resume, if you don't have an engineering degree then your experience is your only ticket to an interview where your competence can shine. Your resume needs to show consistent growth and new skills all the time.
  • Learn to troubleshoot, I know guys who've been on the helpdesk for decades because they think IT is about all the stuff that you know and they have no idea how to solve problems they haven't seen before. **hint: troubleshooting is basically the scientific method applied to practical problems.

The biggest shift for me from the line to a desk was the change in culture. Working in a kitchen you're going balls to the wall at all times, most IT guys have never had to do this so you have an immediate advantage. Stay off Reddit and spend your time learning cool new stuff in your downtime.

btw OP: I frequently dream of leaving behind the IT world for my own restaurant but the money's just too good where I am in the tech field. Props for having the balls to pull the trigger.

phrits8 karma

Thanks for the props. The other factor in IT, though, is that no matter how broad or specific your skillset, someone in an overseas market will do a good enough or better job for less. So to your bullets I would add

  • consider finding and staying with a small company. Off-shoring requires a large investment up front, so your chances of a long career improves.

edit: "oversees"? Really? Sorry 'bout that.

soi81243 karma

Chef, here. Not going to sugarcoat it at all:
1. You're too old for the professional kitchen if you want to cook at any level above casual dining.
2. You are likely seen as a liability to everyone else in the kitchen.
3. Your idea of being able to teach after 3 - 5 years is laughable. Most people never reach Head Chef in five years, how do you expect to teach it?
4. The grass is always greener on the other side but the professional kitchen is easily one of the most stressful jobs out there. Given your age, body type and general lack of knowledge in this business you'll be broken within a year.

phrits29 karma

Point by point:

  1. That's just stupid. I'm taller than the average Mexican, stronger than the average woman 20 years my junior, and smarter than the person who thinks age alone could be such a barrier. My potential is limited only by my desire and experience.
  2. No, I was seen as a risk coming in but I have since allayed those reasonable fears. I routinely have folks from the back and front of the house—co-workers and waitstaff, kitchen managers (chef and sous chef equivalents), expediters, FoH managers, and company-level muckety-mucks—take me aside just to say "hey, you're doing a great job; I wish [whoever] could or would do that". I am knocking off socks throughout the organization.
  3. Becoming a head chef is not my ambition. To teach someone, you need only know more than they do. To teach someone well, you need to recognize and understand what they don't, then communicate that knowledge in a way they can understand. I'm not just now learning about food; I'm learning about food in a restaurant environment. Education is about knowledge transfer, not war stories.
  4. Different stresses affect different people different ways. I had a pretty good idea about what I was headed into, and I've handled it even better than I'd hoped. I'm standing on greener grass and seeing prettier sunrises than I ever have before.

I'm one hell of a cook, and I know the science behind the craft. The things I lack most—speed, volume, and a few twists on organization—I am gaining every day.

life-happens35 karma

I did the opposite, cooked for many years and went to IT, I now make great money, don't work weekends, and have tons of vacation. Why would you give all that up?

phrits21 karma

Money has never been my primary driver. And without going into detail—I have no secrets, but some of the other players in my past might become annoying—I had already lost that game. At least until some of my automatic payments catch up to me, I'm actually taking home a little bit more each week than I was at the end of my IT career.

I do miss vacation, paid holidays, sick time, etc. but I'd also been without all of that for about 3 years. Being a contractor sucks hard. I expect I'll come to dislike working so many nights and weekends over time, but by then I hope I'll have gained what I need to make whatever my next step is. There's a big world of Food outside the kitchen.

killer8332 karma

I've worked the support/engineering side now for the past 13 years, and there are plenty of long days, nights, and weekend work. Any of the hands on IT positions can have long and odd hours. Thankfully I am moving out of that space, and into an executive position. That being said, if i start over I'd probably be a mechanic or chef.

life-happens2 karma

I do work some long nights and weekends. Cooks/chefs work every weekend.

phrits4 karma

I have no ambition to become, say, an executive chef. I don't mind working hard. I don't want to work all the time. If I'd wanted 70-hour work weeks, I probably could have climbed into IT management along the way. No thank you.

YouAreAllJerks24 karma

Is it worth it? Would you do it again?

phrits46 karma

Worth it financially? Not even close, at least not yet. But I've never really had any problems that couldn't be solved with money, so that wasn't much of a decision input.

It has definitely been worth it in every other regard. My back no longer hurts, I've gone from slightly overweight (maybe a 28 or 29 BMI) to barely overweight (not quite 26), and I absolutely love being pretty good at and continually becoming better at my job. I'm learning every day and working shoulder-to-shoulder with many kindred spirits. Life is good.

amazingstill11 karma

How much do you make now? How old are you.

phrits10 karma

After about 2 months, I received the largest percentage raise I've ever had: $1/hr, from $8 an hour to $9. I suspect it tops out at around $15 where I work, but I don't really know. Kitchen managers are salaried at what I'd guess to be not higher than the low $60s.

I am 46 years old.

partyatyourhouse10 karma

very uplifting story, thanks for sharing. what kind of food do you work with?

phrits10 karma

It's American food in a "casual fine dining" restaurant. That means it's upscale food with prices to match, but vacationers from nearby Lake Norman are warmly welcomed even when they show up in shorts and flip-flops. Check it out if you like.

danogburn9 karma

Salary is slavery.

phrits7 karma

All things being equal, I'd rather be salaried. But I long ago learned to say "no" or "hey, boss, I can't get all this done; what's my priority?".

nerdsgym7 karma

I have been in IT for 10 years and realize what a hell hole it is. I am going to school to be a teacher. IT still pays the bills for now but that will be a sweet day. Culinary was my second option. Good on you!

phrits2 karma

Teaching high school math was my second choice. I even took the Praxis tests a couple of years ago. I found that I'd forgotten a lot of math and don't know the first thing about formal pedagogy. It's a plus for me that working in a kitchen pays more than going back to college.

doingalotofnothing7 karma

Did you have any culinary experience (professionalish) before or were you just a good cook? Happy so far? Plans for the furture?

phrits7 karma

I worked fast food back in my youth, and there was still a little bit of cooking from scratch going on. I carried those Customer Service lessons with me throughout my IT career, but all those years boiled down to a single line on my resume that are already essentially irrelevant.

I'm very happy so far.

As for the future, I don't really see myself cooking forever. (Famous last words, from what I've read.) Once I have some experience and credibility, I think I'd like to write, teach, and/or evangelize. I figure that's at least 3-5 years down the road, though, so for now I'm just learning everything I can and enjoying the fact that my bosses are more knowledgeable of the esoterica than I am.

pherring7 karma

That seems like a radical switch. Are you happy now?

phrits10 karma

It was. I've never worked harder in my life than when I was in the dish pit. I'm very happy.

bambamboogie7 karma

while this is in fact a big switch, part of me is not surprised as people just get tired of their careers. What were some of the things that lingered for years that made you switch? Me personally, I could never be in IT because I really couldn't fathom sitting in front of a computer all day everyday . . . for non-personal entertainment reasons that is

phrits11 karma

Sitting in a cube began to suck my soul. Sitting at home "working" remotely began to melt my brain and destroy my body. I'd pretty well worked my way out of a job, but the writing was on the wall about future downsizing. They kept me around to answer questions and keep my efforts running, but it required almost nothing out of me to do so. When the bank mergers came along, my position was simply no longer justified. I left with no hard feelings or burned bridges.

hedgecore774 karma

How did IT change from when you first got into it, and what made you finally make the jump to a more rewarding career?

(I'm 10 years in and every day feels like they're trying to constructively dismiss me.)

phrits6 karma

At least as far as my own career path went, IT became bureaucratized. Dilbert is seldom fiction, y'know? I decided to make the jump when I finally understood that my IT future was at best downwardly mobile.

cheeseburger_humper4 karma

How did you discover that you wanted to be in the culinary world?

phrits9 karma

Food is a calling I ignored for years. I'd gone into IT because I liked computers. After souring on IT, I didn't really want to risk turning myself off of food. But a calling it is, and I needed a job and to do something I could be good at, so I answered.

I've been cooking at home since I was about 10, and when I had my own place for the first time, I became obsessed with food, real food, food science, food politics, all sorts of cuisines, all sorts of techniques, etc.

tl;dr. It was more a matter of admitting it to myself than discovering it.

cheeseburger_humper3 karma

To follow up, did working in IT burn you out on sitting in front of a computer in your personal life?

phrits7 karma

It really hasn't. I spent all day in front of a computer at work, then came home and played EQ, CoH, WoW... I'm not really playing anything right now, but I'll be one of the first subscribers when the Skyrim MMORPG comes out.