Can you start culinary school in your 40's?
Timing is essential when cooking but it's also great when you are responding to visitors call out for some help. Yesterday, I received an email from Chris asking for some advise & encouragement he could give his wife, Patty, before she starts culinary arts school at The Orlando Culinary Academy (now closed) this October.
Patty is nervous because she is starting culinaryschool at 45 years young. She is concerned about her age and if she has the necessary skills. A couple of hours after I received Chris's email, I received an email from Chef Jenni Field, a graduate of The Orlando Culinary Academy who started school at age 40. Perfect timing!
Here's the email I received from Chris :
Hi, my name is Chris and I writing you from Orlando Fla. My wife Patty will start classes at the Cordon Blue Academy here in town. She is 45 years old and she is "frightened" about her age and very concerned if she will understand the course...like afraid of the high skills needed. I am helping a lot by encouraging her.
I think she is a very smart person and she absolutely loves food and cooking in the kitchen...but classes start October first and I really need somebody to help me here. She is an extremely responsible person and extremely concerned. Any help? Is it a real rocket science class?
Chef Jenni's response to "How Old Is Too Old For Culinary School?
Chris, can I just say that it is lovely of you to seek some help and guidance for your wife. I attended The Orlando Culinary Academy myself as a 40-year-old "freshman." Like your wife, I, too was extremely nervous.
"I've baked for years, but will I be lost in the professional arena? Can I keep up with the young guns? Will it just plain be too hard? Will I feel old and dumb?"
I stayed up many a night with my supportive husband patting my back. If this sounds at all familiar to you, I think I might be able to help.
Tell Patty to take heart. If she is passionate about cooking (I'm not sure if she will be taking the Culinary or Patisserie and Baking Program), it will shine through. The chefs at OCA are, for the most part, very supportive. They will certainly go the extra mile for the motivated student.
Just like at any school, the people attending come into the program with a broad spectrum of experience and expertise. I met Executive Chefs, Sous Chefs, line cooks, bakers and many, many people with no culinary background at all.
From Chef Jenni's Experience
It was my experience, entering as a passionate amateur with 20 years of reading/experimenting under my belt, that my self-taught skills placed me towards the head of the pack from the beginning.
In my experience, once in school, I was able to build on my existing skills. I came away with a well-rounded background in Patisserie and Baking.
I found that the older students were generally more serious about their studies, since most of us had already had a career and were serious about making a change "later in life." And most of us were paying out of our own pockets!
Also found that, (again, this is a generalization) because we had more life experience, as well as cooking experience, that it was easier to build a good working relationship with the chef instructors.
I'm hopeful that this has helped to quell some of your wife's fears and apprehensions. You might also look on the home page of my website, Pastry Chef Online, in the "So you think you wanna go pro?" section for more insight into working in the restaurant industry and attending culinary school.
Best of luck at OCA!
Chef Jenni Field
Read, Read and Read Some MoreOne of the best suggestions I have for anyone thinking of going to culinary school or just getting into the restaurant industry is to read everything you can get your hands on. Learn from professional chefs who have worked in the industry and those who have taught in culinary schools.
There are many great books available to get you started in your culinary education and I suggest you read as much as possible before making that big decision to make sure this is the right move for you. Below is just a sample of books you might be interested in checking out.
For a much more comprehensive list of books for aspiring culinary, baking and restaurant management students, I suggest checking out my post on books for future culinary students and chefs.
I know a ton of people that went back to culinary school later in life.
I just read your concerns about your wife starting Culinary School in her 40s and the response from Chef Jenni. I attended the Orlando Culinary Academy; graduated May, 2007. You know how old I was when I started? 59 years young and finished at 60!!! So, tell your wife she can do it. I was concerned when I started of my age, but I have a good rapport with people in general, and soon all my fears were allayed. I found it to be a great experience. I'm busy now getting my Catering business started and loving every minute of it. I wouldn't have changed that experience for anything! God Bless both of you.
That is not actual culinary school, that is 4 years
Culinary school is a 2 yr associate program. If you already have a college degree you can bypass all the academic classes and skip to the culinary labs which can be completed in 1 yr. I just did it.
I have a degree in Fine Arts (Interior Design) and was considering culinary school. I've not held a regular job since Kid #1 was born 18 years ago and have been fortunate enough that my husband's job has allowed me to be home and raise my kids --- but I am ready to become ME.
Is this true about adding on to the degree I have? We have Johnson and Wales in my city and it is pricey. Cutting some years off would be awesome. I'm not sure if I need the "best of the best" school as I do NOT want to pursue a high level career in a cutting edge restaurant and move from place to place. I want to work in my city (Charlotte) and would preferably like a smaller shop in which to work, ie specialty shop, bakery, food truck. I want to have "the usual customers" and serve food like it was my own home. I loved the French Laundry but I'd like to work at Amelie's.
I'm at the beginning of my search and finding it hard to get advice. I'm 41 and I feel ancient!
Thank you for that I am in middle 50's and want to culinary school you just gave hope
I'm almost 57 and thinking about going to the Art Institute of Atlanta's culinary school.....a career change. Am I crazy? I don't want to be a line cook at a local low-end steakhouse or waffle place! What are the possibilities? Any encouragement? Thanks.
I went throw the same question to myself after my 33 th birthday & just think been one of the best challenging desicion seens then; had started in Barcelona & now will continued my career in beatifull SYDNEY...so give it a go...you will love it!!!
Valerie Nutter Schonhorst
Because I live in a remote area, I haven't had any decent internet access until recently so I'm just now learning about all these great sites with loads of quality information and valuable to me. This one is awesome and I LOVED this article as well as the interview with Jenni.
At 53, I'm planning what to do when I retire from my "regular" job and because we've "accidentally" started a very small catering (legally "cook-for-hire") business, I've thought I should go to a cooking school.
Your insight into the lifestyle and struggles that accompany being a chef has convinced me I am not the right person for a restaurant job. But, I'm GREAT at catering - 20 hour days for short periods are fun. I love to organize and plan big events and don't think I should change a thing. I'll stick to the simpler fare and save my money. Thanks for the great advice.
Looking to take a cooking school vacation. Any ideas! Cooking is a hobby for me.
I cannot tell you how much I appreciated this article. I have wanted to become a chef for years but settled for the office life and, finally sick of feeling unfulfilled, at the age of 37 with a husband, family and friends all telling me "Are you barking MAD?" I have enrolled in a pre-apprenticeship course with a view to getting an pprenticeship (in Australia you go to culinary school once a week and work the remaining four or five days for three years).
I've had a lot of people attempt to put a real dent in my dreams and I found everyone's comments on this subject to be truly uplifting at such a crucially important time in my life.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. xx
I am thinking about entering culinary arts at age 43. I work full time as a collector and run a small catering company. I make alot of cakes but am self trained. I want to create all the beautiful cakes and pastries. I also would love to master the sugar arts. I encourage anyone to just do it. We only have one life and how do we know if we would have succeeded if we dont try. I face several challenges as my husband is disabled and I am the one who is responsible financially for my family.So yes this is a little scarry but I will allow my faith to carry me through.
I know it's been 6 years,but I would like to know if you went to culinary school,and what are you doing now?
It is so frustrating not to know. It'd be awesome to find out what happened to some of these people - did they do it? How did they manage the recession? Would they do it again?
I'm so curious, too!
Will be September 19. I too am considering a career change. Have worked in the finance industry for the past 30 years. Considering eenrollment at the Baltimore institute of Culinary Arts. and securing a position at a restaurant, hotel, or cruise line. Ultimately I want to start a B&B or restaurant onthe Mexican Gulf Coast (Yucatan).
Thank you so much for this uplifting article. I will be starting Culinary school in Aug.2008 at American River College in Sacramento. I am a 66year young girl. I will be taking the baking program . oo la la Patisserie
Congratulations on you back to school experience. I hope you can come back and let us know how your adventure is unfolding. I'm sure a lot of my readers would love to hear about your experiences in culinary school. RG
I'm also glad to here that I,m not the only 40 something year old person deciding to go to culinary school. I was suppose to start in 1-08, things happen, I got discouraged. This is my purpose of my driven life, now I,m enrolled in 11-08, moving to pheonix to attend culinary school
good to read all of your comments. I am 40 and have wanted to go to culinary school for YEARS. I will finally go next year, or so I hope. With a family it may be a bit difficult, but all things are possible. Thanks for the encouragement, and I encourage all of you as well!
I dig this post! I have an appointment to visit the local CAS in Pasadena this afternoon. I'm in my mid 40's and have been a Telecom Engineer for the past 10+ yrs. Recently laid off for the 2nd time in 8 yrs. The economy plays a huge roll in that industry.
I've always been somewhat of a cook since childhood. Family members have done it professionally: Chef, Seus Chef, etc. in the past. It's time for me to make the change.
Only today did I ask my self the the question of being too old. Found this blog and it helps me with the answer - NOT I'M NOT. So Thank's Y'all!
Tomorrow is my big day I sign up for my schooling here in Indiana.I am 55 years old and don't know what the future holds but I'm sure gonna give it a try.School starts in one week but after reading your articles from Chef Bilderback I'm not sure if I want to start as a Pastry Chef or go into Culinary. Great insight from a pro!It's just getting started and proving ones self no matter what the age.I finally set a goal that started from passion and now the dream is about to come true!
Congratulations and good luck with your first day of culinary school. Please be sure to come back or send me an email to tell us about your experiences.
Congratulations to all of you who follow your dreams! I have had a love of cooking my whole life. As a teen I would bunk school to go home and make apple dumplings, shortbread cookies and cake for my friends. I married and stayed at home to make sure the family had nutritious meals but loved to bake more. Soon I found that my home was full of people two to three times a week because they wanted what I was making. However, I chose Nursing school as a career becuase family members said culinary was too risky and there was no work in the field. I also worried that my age of 35 was too old to start. I too thought I would not be able to hang with the young ones and would be overlooked for a job. I hate Nursing school. I feel miserable and all I want to do is bake beautiful pastries and cakes and feed people. Now at age 38, I have started the process to go to Culinary school. With all the positive input, encouragement and feedback here, I feel more confident that I made the right decision. Thank you all for commenting and sharing your stories!
I would need an infinite amount of fingers to count the times I've thought about trying to become a culinary professional. But at 32, and on my third different career, I'm frightened by making another wrong career decision and living with more years of student debt which I already have from working as an engineer, and which I abosultely cannot tolerate any longer. I am not myself at work, I am miserable inside but put on a face for the people around me. Saying I feel like a fish out of water is an understatement.
Can I cook or bake? Yes. Do I love what I'm doing when I'm in the kitchen? Yes. Is it fulfilling? Yes. Almost everything turns out the way it suppose to.
I guess it really boils down to how I am sitting on the fence, waiting for someone else to decide for me if I should become a chef or not.
Anyone else felt this way? Nonetheless, its awesome to read about people doing what they want to do!
I know this reply comes 7 years after your post but I can relate. I am almost 30 and have been working as an accountant for 5 years. It sounds dramatic, but I feel each day that I am dying on the inside from it. It is soulless work and a thankless job.
Currently I am developing my baking skills at home. I love to cook and bake and it is a passion of mine. I will be starting a part time seasonal position in a bakery for the upcoming fall rush. I think that is getting a foot in the door! I am not sure yet if I want it to be a career but I know I need to try. I cannot imagine myself being an accountant for another 30 years.
I myself started culinary school at the Art Institute of Alanta in Jan/06 after being laid off (fancy word for being fired) from IBM after almost 17 years. I was 41. I took a weekend class at the Viking Culinary school to see if I really wanted to do it. I did it and graduated in June/07 with a 3.8 avg. and Summa Cum Laude distinction. I only struggled in one class. The rest were a breeze. As some of the others have already said, age does work out as a pretty cool advantage. You have commonality with the chefs and life experience is definitely on you side! Use it, you will be surprised how much the others will respect you for it. Believe it or not, even the "kids" will ask you for advice. Do it and enjoy the ride. Don't worry, you will be opened up to a plethora of culinary career options. Chekc out the school job fairs (if they have them there). Great way to find out whats available out here, and its good interview practice. Alle Cuisine!!!!
Hi Roger, thanks for your great input about starting culinary school as a second career. I receive emails all the time from people who want to start a food industry career later in life. I hope this gives them some extra encouragement. RG
at 49, I want to go to culinary school and start my next career, too. I am scared to death that I can't hack it and will be laughed out of the classroom by the young ones. I love to cook and try every kind of cuisine and recipe I can get my hands on. doing it all with 3 kids in school will be a supreme challenge, but I feel in my heart it will be worth it and will open up a new life for me. any ideas or comments?
Thank you! this is amazing! it actually seems like late 30's to 50 years old is the PERFECT age to go to culinary school 'cause look how many of us are doing it or WANT to do it! I just have to convince my husband now. My big question is...will a local community college certificate be okay to do or do I need to shell out the big bucks and go someplace like the French Culinary Institute. I live near both but still paying off my student loans from years ago and cannot possibly consider taking on more debt.
this site has been very encouraging, i want to master the art of the pastry world, i like to play with all sorts of reciepes no matter what, i'm considering the french culinary school if i can get the financing and because i can complete the course in 6 months going full time during the day, the living expenses is what is so so scary, any advice you could give me or someone else could give me
I turned 50 and decided to attend the Culinary Arts program at my local community college, I still wonder why I didn't do this earlier in my life! I am having a blast, and finding I'm not the only 'older' person in my classes. I decided to go the jr. college route because of fiances, but the program is highly recognized, and I feel I am getting great education here. I hope to find a job in the field when I have completed the required course, after 30 yrs. of being out of school, I have to work hard at getting my A's, but I am so proud of myself when I do it! "Go for it"!
That's great Vicki and thank you for sharing. Please keep us informed with your progress through culinary school. What is the name of the community college? If you have time, let us know what a day in the life of a culinary arts student is like. RG
thanks Vicki for the "food for thought". I am 60 and didn't know which way to go with this but the idea of community college is a good one and I will further investigate the community college in my back yard. thanks for the positive outlook. sounds like fun to me!!
First I would like to commend Chris for showing great support to his wife. Patty understand you are never too old to do what you are most passionate about. Keep good people in your immediate circle, lean on your husband and most of ALL prayer! I am 32 year old woman working toward my ultimate passion of food and creating smiles! I truly wish you well and take a deep breath!:)
Wow I'm not alone, After years of dead end manufacturing jobs and never truly being happy with what I have done in my life. At the age of 33yrs old I asked myself what is it that I would do for free. Thanks to my girlfriend for her wonderful encouragement I will start Le Cordon Bleu in Nov. I'm scared at what might happen but I'm going to jump right in and grab life by the spoons. To those of you who have done it God bless and to those of us that are about to. Good luck!
Hi Carmen, great to see you are trying something you really enjoy. I worked on Wall Street for years and hated it. Now I'm writing about food and cooking, meeting all sorts of great people on line and enjoying every minute. Which Cordon Bleu are you going to attend? I would love to hear from you when you get started and if you like and have time, get a weekly, monthly update. I'm sure the people who visit this blog would enjoy hearing about your adventures in culinary school. Good luck and have fun. RG
I graduated culinary school last December at age 58. Best move I 've ever made. I was a cook in the Army at 25, so I've finally come full circle. I enjoyed every minute of it!
Hi Carolyn, that's great to here and I'm sure an inspiration to other people thinking of going to culinary school.
This site has been a god send. Some of the messages I've read are "my messages". I am 53 and have been in the corporate world all my working life. I have an undergraduate degree in computer science. Did that for a little while and did not like it. I always wanted to teach school so I went back to college and got my graduate degree in Instructional Design and Development. I enjoy the field but don't like doing it in a corporate environment. It leaves me very unfulfilled and frustrated day after day. I am constantly trying to determine what it is I want to do when I grow up.
I remember when I was young my mother who was the best cook and baker taught me how to bake cookies. I loved it so much that one summer a friend of mine and I baked cookies almost every day and sold them around the neighborhood. The money we made from the cookies we donated to CARE. That was the best summer. While working I often would make cakes, cookies and pies and take them into the office. It got to the point that people would ask me all the time to bring goodies. In my most resent job I have not done that because I don't have the time with a 90 minute commute each way. I am desperately looking for a way out and finding that one thing that is my passion that I can do basically until I leave this earth. I like many others on this site have felt that I was too old. My other obstacle is trying to find a program that I can enroll in and still work. I am also trying to determine if this is truly my passion. It is!!!! My dream is to be able to open up my own small bakery selling specialty items. Because I love animals, I thought it would be fun to also include dog and cat goodies. I guess the first step though is going to school.
I know that I like to bake because I have a personal chef business that has not been very productive lately. Although I enjoyed cooking when I had clients, what I really enjoy is baking.
I just wanted to know being 59 yrs old and going to culinary school what are my chances of being hired, I was told that businesses don't like to hire older people is that true.
I can't say if restaurants do or don't hire older people and maybe some professional chefs can weigh in on this subject but I guess the question really is what do YOU want to do with your culinary education.
I would like to open my own business, but I would have to work for awhile to put funds together. If I could find a website to acquire a govt. grant that would be the answer to my prayers.
thanks everyone for the insight.I'm a 42 year old single dad and my 4 year old son told me to go to cooking school instead of audio engineering because i like to cook so much! I'll post again and let ya know how I'm doing!
Patrick, please let us know how it is going. What school are you enrolled in?
I'm considering going to La Cordon Bleu Atlanta in January and wanted to know if any graduates can give me any reviews of this school, it's placement program and the overall experience, thanks for any comments.
Hi Derek, I would contact The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Atlanta directly and ask them for a list of graduates who would be willing to speak with you. I'm sure they get asked for this kind of information all the time. And hopefully a past graduate will read this post and leave a comment for you.
I'm going to do this for all the reasons in all the comments and more. Thanks for everybody's imput and sharing. I would say more, but I gotta get cooking.
I'm not enrolled yet. I'm going to an info session next week at Hudson county community college in jersey city, NJ. They're supposed to have a very reputable culinary arts program!
Hey everyone, went to info session, I will be applying for the spring semester at hccc culinary institute. Hopefully the financial aid will go through! I am worried about the college placement test! I'll keep ya posted!
Good luck Patrick - RG
Well, You go ! guys and gals. You have a passion? Heck with the age. For myself, A BIG 59 and heck with it all I'm going to pastry school. To old to get a job? Oh watch me! You young ones can also learn from us. So live once and going for my passion, young or old.
You go Val, congratulations and please keep us up to date with you progress. We would love to hear about your adventure. - RG
I'm with val i think if you have that passion then go for it. I have been cooking for over 30 years got out of the business to have kids,now they are gone and i am back. Now i am teaching culinary arts and love it more than ever before. good luck to all
Hi Val, that's great. Where are you teaching culinary arts now? - RG
I feel like I just hit the jackpot with this site. I'm 46 and have been wishing that I could go to school to be a chef for so long! After reading all of your posts I want to enroll in culinary arts schooling to study. When I mentioned this to my husband he said, "but honey, you already ARE a chef" ....because cooking has always been my passion. I'm always in the kitchen every spare minute. It's "therapy" for me. I have worked a lot of different jobs in my life to make ends meet..and haven't really enjoyed any of them. So now (late in life) I want to "make ends meet" doing the one thing I love the most. Cooking! I live in Minnesota...So the question now is, where do I start???
G. Stephen Jones
Hi Mia, congratulations on deciding you want to do what you love most. I would start by looking going to http://www.reluctantgourmet.com/culinary-career-path and look at all the articles about going to culinary school, read the chef interviews filled with good advice, go to the library or buy some of the books about becoming a chef. Mia there are lots of other ideas and tips in the articles and interviews, but this would be a good start. Good luck and please keep us up to date on your new adventure. - RG
Just an update letting you all know i'm starting classes on friday! I'll keep ya updated about this 42 year old freshman single dad of a 4 yo who turns 5 next month!thanks and best of luck to everybody!
Hi Patrick, first of all good luck and yes I am looking forward to hearing about your culinary classes. Is this the Hudson County Community College culinary program you are attending? Looks like a great school.
Enjoy and keep in touch. - RG
I'm 49 and have been in the business for years cooking in fish markets to country clubs and I have a personal chef business right now. The goal has always been to receive a degree from a culinary institute. It's been a long time coming but I'm filling out my application for the CIA in Napa for this fall. I can't wait!
Congratulations Marci and good luck in school. Please come back and tell about your adventure. - RG
Hello everyone! This is a great site with lot's of encouragement and support. Myself turned 40 last September and my career within the last 17 years has been in construction, which in the Sacramento area is now nearly non-existing and my company closed it's doors. I'm enrolled to start Le Cordon Bleu next month for my new career change. It's been a really tough decision. Starting over is probably the hardest part for me, especially when I worked really hard to make it to the top in my past career, and my age doesn't help either. However, I'm a type "A" and I'm determined to make it to the top again! I've always wanted to become a professional chef and now's my chance. I'll keep a weekly update on my progress thru school if anybody out there is going thru the same thing. Life is short, live it to the fullest everyday!
Hey Mike, congratulations on your new career choice. I'm very excited for you and would love to hear about your experiences and progress. Send me an email and we can even set up a special place on the blog for your updates. - RG
Sounds great, I'd love to blog my experiences for anybody out there that interested. Let me know. Also, I start on April 5 and end on December 17, and I'm very excited to start. However for some reason, part of me wants to keep pursuing the construction industry, probably because it's all I know and I'm good at it. I think a lot of people my age that are changing careers due to circumstances face the same fears as I do, which is the unknown. This is the most difficult part of this process and that's switching back and forth about my decision.
Hi Mike, been there so I know what you are talking about. The good news is you are never going to forget what you already know in the construction business. What would be cool is if you can figure out a way to combine both worlds. - RG
Like a lot of people on this post, I'm not a spring chicken (52 years old). I was laid off last month, after 21 years. I think I want to follow a passion of mine. I love to cook and try new & different foods. I've been looking at a local culinary school, Liaison College. They have small classes and the Chefs (teachers) bios seem to be impressive. I have/had similar feelings as everyone else who posted: am I too old to go back to school, will I feel like a fish out of water with the younger students, can I get a job after paying all that money for the classes? This blog has helped me with my decision. Thank you.
Hi Janet, congratulations and good luck at Liaison. Please keep us informed of your adventure. We would love to hear about your culinary programs. RG
Great to see there are many out there with the same passions and dreams. After 16 years teaching I was told that my position might be cut due to the dismal budget picture in the district. At first I was angry but after some time I decided to take the lemons I was given and make lemonade. I am going for an admission interview at the Cambridge School of Culinary Art next week for a program that starts im May. This is something that I wanted to do for years. In a way I am happy that even though I may loose my job I will get to pursue a dream. By the way I am 51 and have never let my age come in the way. It is just a number. However, I do hope to get hired when I graduate and that is my only concern. I know I can do the job but I need someone to give me the chance.
Hey MDR, congratulations and good luck with your new career choice. Please keep me informed of your status and I would love to hear from you when you get into school. - RG
Considering going back to school is NOT my problem.....the old mighty dollar is.
I've worked in the restaurant/hotel industry my entire life and I'm going to be 49. I live (or try) in Maui and the restaurant trade is down in this economy. I haven't been about to find a job in 2 years. I'm flat broke and love to cook and bake.....whats a guy to do?
Hi Logan, great point and yes the economy is hitting the restaurant industry hard like many of the other national industries. Look what it's done to real estate and the car industry. Hopefully we are on the way to some sort of recovery. The stock market is almost back to where it was and that is a leading indicator. Have you thought about using your skills in some other area of the food industry besides restaurant work. I thought I had a list of all the other possible careers available to trained cooks like catering, food service, teaching, personal chef, and more. I'll work on it and post it on my site. - RG
I'm 50 years old and have always enjoyed cooking. I have worked the past 30 years in health care but now forced to make a career decision. Living 20 miles west of Fort Worth, there aren't too many culinary schools close to home, however Fort Worth does have the Culinary School of Fort Worth (csftw.com) which offers a chef certificate. There are notable chefs teaching but the website did not indicate accreditation. Is anyone familiar with this school and is the program considered to be acceptable and respectable training in the culinary world or must I obtain a true technical degree? I'm willing to commit the time and money if anyone can validate. Thanks!!
Hi Mary, it's great that you are doing your homework and really checking out this school. I will do some research and hopefully some one will see your comment who has graduated from there and reply. - RG
Thank you so much! I am attending an admission session this week...any advice please on what questions to ask...other than accreditation, placement rate and what type of job I can expect post graduation?
Thank you again!
Hi Mary, congratulations and good luck. Please check out my article on choosing culinary schools - RG
I'm just following up on the comments and questions I had in April of 2010. I did change careers 🙂 and am graduating May 15, 2015 from the University of North Texas with a Master of Science degree in Hospitality Management. I am currently an Operations Manager for a major hotel brand and oversee Food and Beverage (restaurant, banquets, and meetings)and Front Office operations. You are right RG, one is never too old!
The Reluctant Gourmet
Thanks Mary for getting back to me and letting me know about your schooling and new job. Congratulations and best of luck to you in your new career. Would you mind if I contact you for a short interview about your experience?
My sincere apologies for not responding sooner. It has been a whirlwind! If you would still like to discuss, please contact me by e-mail. I thank you so much for your website that I found by chance(?)or luck (!!!!!)and for being so responsive with your replies. I am truly grateful.
Sincere and kind regards,
Wow, I'm so glad I found this website. I recently told a friend I was going to go to culinary school to see if I could finally find a career I love to be doing. They told me it's suicide if you are over your 20's. I'm 37 and it's incouraging to see all the posts of people my age and older going to culinary school. I'm glad I found this page. I have two interviews tomorrow with culinary schools in nyc. My ultimate goal is to open my own restaurant.
Thanks for all of your posts. I am now much less fearful of going to culinary school. - D
You are welcome Denise and please keep us informed about your progress. - RG
I was delighted to read such an encouraging letter. Although the advisors at Le Cordon Bleu have been very reassuring, you still have to realize they do want your tuition, so it's good to hear positive words from someone else. Coincidentally, I too am 45, just as Patty is. My age has been a weighing factor about FINALLY directing my life towards what I'm so passionate about...cooking! Of course, since I've lost the bulk of my hearing, a lifechange was sort of thrust upon me, and the worries about a, for the most part, deaf person at my age jumping in with both feet is astronomically frightening. So, thanks for the encouragement, I'm sure I appreciate it as much as Patty does!
Thanks for the letter CJ. Please keep me up-to-date with your decision. - RG
I am a new student at Le Cordon Bleu in Orlando, I will be 48 this year, I have worked in the QSR industry for the last 30 years, and the last 4 years I was a franchisee but I hated it because it did not allow me to be creative in any way, I love to cook for family and friends but have never worked this side of the industry, I do know where I want to go but without this education it would be difficult, sure there are the younger ones that mommie and daddie are paying their tuition but guess who has the higher grades, besides gaining all the knowledge my experience has been wonderful and I know it will greatly benefit my future business endeavors, you should GO FOR IT, you are never too old to learn and I am currently studying under a Master Chef that has greatly reinforced a lot of the basics you must know if you want a successful business or career in this industry.
Hi David and congratulations for finding your way into culinary school and enjoying your education. And good luck with all your future business endeavors. Sounds like you are off to a great start. - RG
am so glad to read all these comments. am 33 years old and just making a career switch from 11 years of advertising in to the culinary world. am moving to a new country, a new career...its all exciting but at the same time, I've been nervous about leaving behind the comfortable life. these comments have really brightened up my day. i truly wish all of us the very best
Good luck Malini. Let me know where you end up going to school or working. - RG
Its been really inspiring to read all your life-stories. i am 22, working in a software company and am miserable as I find no pleasure in it. I want to go back to my first love, ie., food. I am from India. can you suggest me some good culinary schools in India.? Any suggestions or ideas will be most helpful. Thank You.
Hi Sagar, this is the first time I have been asked for culinary schools in India. I don't know of any but will do a little research and see what I can find. - RG
I thought that I was going to br the oldest one to ever go back to get my Culinary Arts degree. I'll be 44 when I start in September. I gave up CA school when I get pregnant with my daughter 22 yrs ago. She is standing behind me giving me the push that I need to do this. I was thrilled to find these posts and proud to add my name to the over 40 list of Culinary Arts students going back to fulfill my life's dream.
Way to go Dawn! What school will you be attending? Please come back and tell about your adventures. - RG
Thanks for this article. I am 34 yrs young and thinking about attending Natural Gourmet Institute in new york. I have worked in finance for past 10 years and have realized it is not for me. Reading this articles makes me realize I am not tool late to switch careers.
You are very welcome Anie. Please keep me up to date with your experiences. - RG
I enrolled in culinary school 2 years ago at the age of 32. I will be graduating shortly , I currently work in a restaurant with a big reputation Chef. My body aches and I am always tired. The reality is that the work in the kitchen is hard , the hot line requires a lot of stamina , the heat gets to you and the long hours on your feet can be painful. But i would make the same decision again, because even though I am older than most people in the kitchen, I am passionate about my chosen career and that makes me shine from the younger cooks who care more about going out at night after work then the work that they perform. Someone once told me that you are as good as the last plate you put on the window. That is how I view my every shift.
Hi Marcy, thank you for sharing your experience in the kitchen. I would love to hear more about them and your culinary school experiences as well. I will contact you through your email. When I worked in the film business, we had a saying you are only as good as your last movie. - RG
I'm 48 yrs. I always wanted to go into culinary arts, but didn't have the $$. So I was attending a job fair in Riverside, CA and had some time to wonder around the parking area, I walked to back of the building and on the side corner there was small restaurant from the local community college (Riverside Community College/RCC) Culinary Arts/Hospitality Program it was closed for graduation for their students. I went in and the instructor said they were starting another class and to come to the orientation on that day in 2-hrs. I attended and wanted for the next enrollment for period 3-months later, there was a long waiting list and they only could take 40 students for the freshman class. The list went fast cause some students were not 18 yr yet. I was unemployed for already 2 years and my kids always pressured me go back to school already, so while waiting on the list. I took 2 courses of math and english to keep up a little. It really help alot. I also had to get my cost for attending the Culinary Arts program which cost approx. $2000 for 1-year included my uniforms and knives and to start in was about $600 with class fees, books were approx. $300. I apply for scholarship with my church $600 and recieved another $600 from an unknown donor. The program was a one year program, but it took me longer. I stopped attend for 2-semesters, due to my lack of patience and nerves working with young people. But I bounced back had to retake some courses, cause I didn't learned as fast as my younger classmates and I finished in 2008. I learned everything I would have if I attend those expensive cooking school by world-class chefs and instuctors. I worked full-time as cook while attending school and is still working in the same place for 4 years now and loving it. I got my training at school and work. I started in the front of the house and now I'm in the back of the house. The moral of the story is have lot of patience and before spending all that money, take a course in baking class or take a tour of different school or universities.
Great story Diane, thanks for sharing it with us. Please keep me up to date with your career. - RG
What an intriguing website with perfectly served information and especially exciting reading about that's almost never late to switch into really matching career, to study and become a professional cook being over 40. I made it to this inspiring website finding first an uncomprehensible word BRESAOLA in Ian McEwan's book 'AMSTERDAM', in that exotic word's Wikipedia's explanation found another unknown verb to BRAISE and then thanks to the internet happly ventured here. And already brood on changing career despite being 43. I have to admit I fear losing something, don't know completely what particularly, maybe some grade of my personal freedom if I won' t succeed. I can hear you saying look at the bright side of life and see what you can gain instead. That's right. Thank you for an excellent website and lively and encouraging discussion.
Romsn, Sweden, EU
You are very welcome Roman. Thank you for commenting - RG
Well, I've read some of these comments, and I think that I'm discouraged, if the 40 yr olds think that they are to old, I don't have a chance, I'm 65yrs old and I would love to go to school, I'm interested in a catering business. I don't feel I'm to old, would a school except me?
Hi Rose, don't be discouraged but please do your research on starting a catering business before launching into one. You may try working for a local catering company first, one to gain a little experience and two, make sure this is what you want to do. It is a very strenuous job for people of all ages. Saying that, I think most schools will take you if you can afford them, but you will need to check with the individual school. - RG
I've just read a few of these so thought to add my two cents.
I'm off to the CIA next week for a few courses, traveling from the Caribbean. My biggest concern is the schedule I've committed to, 7 am to 9pm, doing two Pro Chef Level 2 courses together. I've never been to cooking school but have recently started my own private chef business and feel I've found my niche. I'm hoping to acquire knowledge and confidence. I didn't think much about being too old, although I'm 61.
So I'll let you know when it's over, you in your 40's and 50's with concerns about age! (BTW - Seems the check book and pulse did it for me)
Hi Becky, thanks so much for posting and please do keep me informed with your experiences at the CIA. I can't wait to hear some of your stories. - RG
Hi Becky. It's been a while since you wrote this but please follow up on how everything worked out up to the present. I'm 52 and am applying to the CIA with the goal of starting a catering company. I'm curious to how things worked out for you. As you know the CIA is no inexpensive investment but the value is there. However, at my age I have to start considering my later years when I'll physically not be able to continue working and worry that with a $60,000 payout for the AA degree, moving, renting while paying a mortgage too, etc, might make it so I'll be worse off financially when I can no longer do the work. Don't get me wrong. I'm planning on going to the CIA and opening the business for the passion of it. I love cooking and was a line cook for about a decade in my 20s. So, I'm not looking to see if I'll get rich doing this. Just will I be setting myself into a bad position when I have to retire. An update from you would be ideal. Thanks.
G. Stephen Jones
Hi Ted, thanks for leaving this comment and best of luck when at the CIA. Please keep us updated while you are taking classes.
Hi, I would love to go to culinary school, but I do not believe there is one near by. I live in Kingwood, West Virginia and believe the nearest is in Pittsburgh, that is way to far to go. I am 31 married with 2 kids, 1st and 5th at home. Jobs aren't great here. A local restaurant who also caters is hiring cooks, but line cook...thats just like at home! What can I do? Thank you very much.
Sorry to hear there are no schools near you. How about Mountain State University? Unfortunately, even those who graduate from culinary schools typically start out as a line cook so I suggest you do some more research, read everything you can, talk to as many professional cooks as you can and decide if this is something you really want to do. Good luck and keep us updated. - RG
Doing a lot of research on funding. Graduated from law school in 2003, and love to cook. Thinking of changing careers now and 32 years old. Very worried though and have been to the Le Cordon Blue in Boston and Minneapolis and like both, but an international student and would have to pay out of pocket. These schools are very expensive, does anyone have ideas on funding for international students? This helps, this was one of my concerns visiting the schools.
I have information about culinary grants and scholarships on my web site but I'll have to do some research for international students. Thanks for bringing up this topic. - RG
Don't let age bother you. Go on to school no matter which one. I went to cosmetology school at age 67 and right after open heart surgery to replace a valve and quadruple bypass surgery. I finished and passed state boards with a 96 overall grade in Kentucky. You can do anything you want at any age. Good luck. I am age seventy now and would like to go to culinary school too. I may look into it. I still feel good.
Hi Minnie, thanks for posting your story and good for you. Let me know when you start culinary school. I can't wait to follow your career. - RG
Oh my, I just want to say a big THANK YOU to you all. I have been wanting to go to culinary school since I left high school but was discourage by other female chefs who told me that its a male dominated world and I should consider other options. Believe it or not, I struggled with this for over 20 years. I've achieved all the degrees and climbed the corporate ladder but nothing makes me happier than being in my kitchen. Now I am 42 and just started taking cake decorating classes as a step towards culinary school. I am so ready but with all my student loans, I will need to find a scholarship to assist me with tuition. I am so happy I stumbled upon this website. Thanks again.
Hi Beth, you are very welcome and thanks for commenting and please keep me up to date with your culinary future. - RG
AFTER 23YRS AT THE SAME JOB AND ABOUT TO BEE 40, I'M ALSO SCARED ABOUT TRYING TOO START A NEW BEGINNING IN COOKING
Hi Mark, very understandable. I suggest you do as much research as possible so you are well informed when you make your decision. - RG
I am so happy I found this website. I too will be 50 yrs old next year and after being in the corporate business world for so many years, dealing with the stress and sleepless nights, I have signed up for the Baking/Pastry Arts at MATC Madison. I'm also thinking of piggybacking the Culinary Arts program as well. Any thoughts out there if these two programs will be a good combination. Thanks!
Hi Pam, congratulations on your new career choice. I can't wait to hear from you once you start school and I hope you come back and tell us about your adventures. I do not know the programs at MATC Madison but would advise you to ask the school for the names of a few current students taking the combined courses as well as a few graduates and go and speak with them. Who better to help you get an idea for the programs than the students themselves. Good luck and please keep us updated. - RG
I will keep you posted.
I've had a blast reading all the letters from prospective chefs. I read Karen, September 2009, and for a minute thought it was me accept for the age and the part about the animals and catering gig. I am 45 years old and a science teacher by profession. I left teaching a year ago to pursue a career in nursing and while studying for an anatomy and physiology test I was overcome with the need to follow my passion - baking. I was getting "A's" in my nurse prep classes and feel that I can get an "A" in almost any course if I put my mind to it but what is it that I wish to major in, this late in the game, that will bring me some joy? I love to practice baking and have made a variety of goodies for people in my spare time. I find baking and cooking cathartic and I'm in awe of how certain flavours and spices marry with one another. So what am I gonna do about it? Well, I will do some substitute teaching in January - to make some money to save for future bills - and I will enroll in Culinary classes full time next September. I am excited about it and I will be 46 years when I enroll. After completing culinary courses at Bermuda College, I hope to enroll in some courses at the prestigious Johnson and Wales University (courses here in Bermuda are accredited and transferable there). Like most persons changing their careers, I'm scared too to embark on a new career. I'm praying this change will give me some happiness and peace of mind. I liked teaching but I didn't love it ( unlike my sister who loves teaching - a math teacher and is passionate about it). Anyway, I am in search of my passion and I hope the Culinary Arts will allow me to realize it. The only downfall I experience is the murmuring from elderly family members wondering why would I want to change my career. But like one reader said - this is the only life I get and I want to have gather some happiness from it before I leave this Earth. I already looked into the future when I was a teacher and was not at all happy with what I saw - an old, resentful, bitter woman. Who could live with that?
Hi Pilar, great comment and thanks for sharing it with us. Please keep me updated on your decision and once you get into culinary school. I'm sure my readers would love to hear about your adventures. Thanks and Happy Holidays. - RG
Just keeping you posted. I just enrolled in the Baking/Pastry Arts program at MATC Madison. My question is, I am seeking one or two part-time positions in a small bakery and would like to bake my 'buns' that everyone raves about and deliver with a cover letter. Is this a corny idea? I did this once before when applying at a local sourdough bread baking company, and it worked really great, as the master baker was there and able to taste my bread. Do you have any suggestions on how to create a cover letter; most of my previous experience is in HR, but I have worked in a bread baking business for approx. seven months. Any ideas would be appreciated. Thank!
Hi Pam and congratulations on enrolling in a baking class. I don't think it's crazy at all. You are applying for a bread baking company, why not show them what you can do. As for a cover letter, do a quick search on line for cover letters and you will find hundreds, if not thousands of good examples to work from. Good luck and let us know how school is. - RG
Hey everyone, Thanks for the sincere honesty. I am approaching 49 this year and seriously considering attending the Le Cordon Bleu culinary arts program in Seattle. Scared as hell to jump off that edge but also very excited. I am entrepreneurial by nature and have had my own design business for almost 20 years. Now my biggest fear is, "will anyone hire me?" and "what does this economy hold for a newbie the the restaurant business and what should I expect?" Any insight would be appreciated. Thx, Ron
Great questions Ron and I hope you get some helpful comments from chefs and restaurant owners who may read this blog. I'll do some additional research for more statistics as well as talk to a few friends in the industry for their take on what's going on. - RG
I work as a cook and baker and at 50 I can tell you it's no easy task. Sure I love it, but it's hard on the body. You get exhausted and if you have to work 8 to 10 or even more hours a day, it's deadly exhausting. You will also start by doing Grunt jobs for a long long time. I'm still taking courses and studying because I love it, but I'm also studying to be a Paralegal because I don't think I will make enough money being a Chef. Also because it will eventually be too hard on my body 8-10 hour days. Part time sure, but that won't pay the bills. Maybe cook books, but again can't rely on high risks. The best pitch would to get ones papers and start a catering business and hire others to do your bidding.
Hi Reba, thanks for contributing your thoughts on this. I have talked to many chefs and many of them say it's not about the money. Yes, they have to make a living but as you say the work is long and hard so there must be something else. I'm guessing many professional cooks are in it because they love working with food and offering their customers a great product. Please come back often and tell us about your adventures. Where are you currently working? - RG
I am turning 50 in June. I started culinary School Last Summer at age 49. Before that I was being a wife, mother and caregiver to my disabled mother. Before she passed away she made me promise her that I would do something for myself. So I did and I have not regretted it one minute of one day.
The only thing I do question is if my body will hold out long enough to allow me to finish the program. I've had 2 knee replacements and an ankle reconstruction. Some days the pain is unbearable but I keep pushing on. I have decided to take this summer off and let my body and spirit heal.
When I started culinary school I had just gotten my daughter married in May, Then in August I found out my husband was having an Emotional affair with another woman. I started feeling guilty. telling myself it was my fault because I wasn't at home like I should have been. I have since realized that none of what he did had anything to do with me. It was all his decision to have the EA. It was one of the hardest times of my life, but what saved me from loosing it mentally was having school to go to. It kept me sane. It gave me a purpose.
Something that I realized I had not had since my mother died and my daughter got married.
Women need to feel needed and wanted. When we don't we begin to feel useless. Go to school. And remember. If you can't pass the classes there are not going to be any food police coming to you telling you to turn your apron and spatula in. You will still be able to continue to show and give your love to people through your food. GO FOR IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Hi Kathy, thank you so much for sharing this with me. You are an inspiration. Please keep me updated with your school progress. - RG
This is an update. I wrote back on March 13, 2010 that I made the decision to go back to school. Well, I have completed my courses, graduated (with honors) and have had my first job experience working at a restaurant/food-services trade show. I'm also set up to work at a Wine & Cheese show coming up at the end of the week. Still looking for that full-time gig, but happy I've started getting work. I enjoyed school, the instructors were great and feel I'm on the right course.
Congratulations Janet with finishing up culinary school with honors. I will contact you directly to see if you are interested in an interview about your experiences at school for other potential cooking students to read. Please keep me updated on your career. Thanks - RG
hi I'm a 23 year old and I really want too do a chef course .. I am finding it difficult to find a suitable place to do a course . Is there anywhere too do a course in a year or less? I was looking into failte Ireland but they are not doing the courses at the moment .. i would really be grateful for a reply. yours sincerely Tanya Brady
Hi Tanya, not sure exactly where you want to study but if you are looking for a 1 year culinary program in Europe, keep searching on the Internet but be specific and then contact the schools to see what they offer. Everything you need to find is at your fingertips with a computer. Just takes time and effort to find them. Good luck and let us know how you do. - RG
This story meant a lot to me as I will be 50 years old in July and have just started school at Le Cordon Bleu in Minneapoliis/ St. Paul. You are never too old to follow your dream and I am enjoying being an almost 50 "freshman"!
Congratulations Sue, please keep us up to date with your experiences. - RG
At 43 I am going back to school and I can't decided on Culinary or Patisserie and Baking Program. I love both, Which one is more in demand, also which one is easier for a older new guy to get into.
Hi Shawn, I don't have the stats but I'm sure you can find them online. I'll dig around a little but I would think there is a bigger demand for Culinary because there are so many more options. Which one is easier? I think it has more to do with what do you love to do - cook or bake? It makes sense to try to position yourself with whats more in demand and easier but in the end if you don't love what you're doing, it doesn't really matter. - RG
I am 49 years old and start culinary school in 5 days! The truth, I cook and cook well, but do not have a super, super passion as others. I am really interested in health, wellness & nutrition and would love to learn to cook well and professionally to teach others how to cook and eat well, Nervous about starting, and will be attending the community college. My question, is the kitchen super hot, because at 49 years old, I make my own heat, (ladies!) and am so afraid that I will not be able to tolerate the heat. any advice? I am so excited, and have read my text front to back, everything is foreign, but I am excited. p.s.--I am a former Paramedic and Esthetician.
Hi Daya, don't think I can answer this one so I hope one of my readers has some input. - RG
Hi,well after reading all these post my concern about being in my late 40s and starting le cordon blu in Orlando has been answered. I really enjoy cooking,I just don't get to since I drive a truck over the road.I am excited about starting and would like to have my own little cafe.
Hey Paul, congratulations and please keep me updated with your progress in school. Would love to hear about your adventure. - RG
Too old for culinary school...argh! I started in October, 2008 at the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Atlanta and graduated last Saturday with an Associate's degree in Culinary Arts....did I mention that I'm 55+...if I can do it....EVERYBODY can do it! Right now I'm planning on my bachelor's degree...I just can't decide where. I plan on getting a master's and a doctorate! By then it should be free!
Congratulations Sidney. Please contact me by email. I would love to hear more about your experience and learn more about your future plans. Great to hear you found your studies successful. - RG
I am 46 and have just quit the corporate world after being a public relations consultant for 20 years. I am now a free-range human. I started day one as an intern in a restaurant kitchen - read my blog extravirginchef.blogspot.com and I am about to sign up in a culinary school called at-sunrice academy in Singapore. Nervous and excited all at once and so happy to find friends here. Students in Asia schools are all super young and at age 46, I will be the oldest in the class.
Hi Luan, please keep me up to date with your experiences in culinary school. - RG
Hi RG, yes, thanks, I will continue to document this journey at my blog for those who are interested to follow. I have an interview with the culinary academy tomorrow. Wish me luck.
Hi Luan, good luck and one plug for your blog is quite enough. Let me know how the interview goes. RG
Some truly choice articles on this web site , saved to fav. - The absent are never without fault. Nor the present without excuse. Benjamin Franklin 1706 1790
Hello, I am 55 and would like to know what are the opportunities for me in the Pastry Chef field. I would like to contract out to large corporations, do a direct mail business and wedding cakes which is truly my passion. I'm looking at the Art Institute of Charleston. What are my chances of succeeding in this business...
Hi Gwen, I receive lots of emails from people over 50 interested in culinary school and starting a second career. You can see from the comments here from some of those folks what they have to say. Will you succeed? I have no way of knowing your chances of success since there are just too many variables but I can say you have no chance unless you give it a try. I would suggest you really do your homework when looking at schools, talk to as many students, graduates and teachers as possible to find out what they think. Hope this helps. - RG
It is so inspiring to read about all the people that are recreating themselves in their 40's, 50's, and 60's. I have been baking for the past 40 years, cookies are my passion, and baked Christmas cookies for people when my kids were young. People always told me why wasn't I doing this for a living. I have such a diverse background, was a secretary, stay at home mom, librarian, baked in school kitchen, retail, worked in Las Vegas serving, owned 4 businesses, but never had the time to pursue my real dream of becoming a Pastry Chef. At 65 I'm very energetic, hard working and want to learn how to decorate, plate desserts,
do it the right way. I feel I have so much to offer and want to learn new techniques. I keep putting this off, because of my age, I don't feel old, and have good repoier with young people, my kids are in their 30's, and would be so proud to see their mom become a Pastry Chef, as would my husband. I want to bake cookies, pastries in a store front, or on-line, my own business. Does this sound crazy?
Not at all Patti. I'm not sure which is the best education avenue for you but I do think people should follow their passion and do what feels right and makes them happy. I worked in the insurance industry, the film industry and on Wall Street but doing this web site and being home to raise my kids has been my biggest success. Whether you go to a major school, community college or apprentice at a bakery shop with a master pastry chef is something you can research and decide on, but following your dream is a decision that comes from the gut. Good luck on whatever you decide to do and please keep us informed of how it goes. - RG
I am very interested in being a chef, thought my age would be a negative factor but I see it shouldn't be....25 years with a "climb to the top" career our company folded and I find myself without steady income. Please consider me at age 47 for a grant or loan to get a career going again as a chef. Thank you!
Hi all you guys stories really help me to decide to become a prof chef, I thought it was too late for me I'm going to be 34 soon. Thank you and to think I just google is it to late to become a chef at 34!!
I will be attending Johnson and Wales/ Miami in 2012. I am 39yrs old and really love cooking. So glad to see so many folks with the same passion. I say go for it.
I too, am a "never grow up" & never give up, youngter.
I will be 60 this month, and in the beginning stages of my Le Crdon Bleu baking program.
I retired from Interio Design and was looking for new avenues with pastry..
I hope to have my new dream of owning a shop someday, come true.Yee HaH!!
First, I love your website. Very informative. I learned a whole lot. God bless people like you. Reading post from so many people (especially the ones already in their 40's making career change into Culinary Arts) inspired me to change direction career-wise and follow my passion for cooking and baking. I, too in my early 40's, recently laid off from my office job. I have been trying to find a job in the semi-conductor industry, the industry I've been in for 15 years but the road is long, tough and result is futile. So I made up my mind to follow what my heart so desire for the longest time - passion for cooking. I have been researching for culinary schools for sometime now when I stumble to your website. To start, checking out few Culinary schools this week. I'm taking the plunge so to speak. I figure it's now or never.
Hey Juliet, thanks for posting and I wish you the very best in finding a way to fulfill your passion for cooking. - RG
I surprise at the number of people that are facing the same challange that I am facing.
Going to culinary school in your 40's . I have miss out on a lot of my dreams since I was in high school. I refuse to miss out on this one. I love cooking and baking and I want deeply to go to culinary school. Iam 42 and have no money. It seems impossible, but I am going to make the impossible the possible.
sorry for my English, but i am Italian and i writing from Italy too. I turned 41 few days ago and i finally made a decision to became a chef after thousand of different annoying jobs I've done in my past. I come from a very highly educated family, and my dreams was to be a chef since i was a child, but i couldn't do it because was too ashamed from my family to be a chef. Now i was checking out some point of view and i found this lovely website and i am really sure this is my way. I love cook, i always make people happy when they eat my food, and i love be creative and just when i talk about it i feel happy. In Italy is still old fashion because i am too old already..but thank you all of you..you are really open mind..and this is the reason I've checked this web site. Thank you all.
Hi Stef, thank you for sharing and good luck with your future career. - RG
this is an encouraging article honestly and thx to all u guys that have contributed. Can i have chef jennys email address.thx
You can find Chef Jenni at http://www.pastrychefonline.com/
I, too, am in my 40's and enrolled. I am going to my local "community" college. I am still working on my prerequisites at the moment. I won't begin taking any culinary related class until Fall of this year. I clearly have a love for food, and the art of food. I'm obsessed with it, to put it mildly. I am determined to do this, despite my age and gender. I've spent the better part of my life caring for husband/children. Now that my children are older, I decided I needed to act. I hope to complete my college in Orlando, FL, where I feel more opportunity would present itself, instead of here at my local college. Ultimately I would take any culinary job as long as I am happy. 🙂
Hi Melissa, thanks for sharing your story and good luck with your culinary adventure. Please keep me up to date with your experiences. - RG
My case is a little bit different. am a Nigerian who lives in Lagos Nigeria but have a passion for continental food,pastry and cooking art and would love to be a pro chef and own a restaurant someday. i recently contacted a culinary school in South Africa, but i am a little skeptical about attending again because all the western recipes are all strange to me and i can't even pronounce some of them. so i begin to ask my self can i fit in? can i get a job at 32? will i be able to perfect the skills that ill equip me for the industry. pls. help me
I'm a 46 yr old female,having masters in Russian language & literature.i want to change my profession & want to study culinary arts.but here in India every institution has age limits & the ones which are private(i.e. not run by government) are very expensive.I'm looking to study outside India but doesn't have savings enough to afford overseas education.tell me if there is any organization or institution that can provide scholarship to me to study culinary arts outside India. I'm a brilliant cook at home as i have been cooking since the age of 10.this is my passion & i want to take it further.
Param, not sure I can be of much help to you. Maybe one of my visitors can provide you with this information. - RG
I attended culinary school and received my certification about 1 1/2 years ago. I am Serve Safe certified and looked diligently for a position in food service after my externship gave me experience working the line in a hotel restaurant. I was 54 when I graduated. I am currently employed at a "desk job" but have not been able to make the move to a food service position due to the low salaries offered and because I believe very few are willing to take the chance to hire an older worker. I live in the northeast and would appreciate any input or suggestions. I don't want to feel that getting an education was a waste but it is beginning to feel that way.
I'm 45 myself and contemplating a career change from corporate law. I didn't get really into cooking till I was in my 30s and met my husband - my mother didn't teach me much and the single girl's life I was leading till that point in London didn't require much more in the fridge than milk for coffee. But once I got into it I've become hooked, and read cookbooks like novels. There's lots I can do - I can make mayonnaise, roast a chicken, butterfly a leg of lamb, decorate my kids' birthday cakes, cook broccoli to just the right tenderness - but I want some serious technique. My husband loves cooking as well and has fantasies about opening an "upmarket B&B" in the West Country in England that serves good local food to its guests. Well, I refuse to uproot myself and my family to go be a chambermaid! I proposed attending Le Cordon Bleu in London for their Grand Diplome in Cuisine and Patisserie to my husband and to my surprise he said he would support it if it was what I wanted to do. I haven't applied yet - though I am signed up for a day-long taster course there in September. We'll see then if it's something I want to pursue further. I can't wait!
Oh, and I'm not so worried about being too old to do something new - I went to law school at night (though in my 20s) and lots of my classmates were in their 40s and 50s at the time. You make a much better student when you're paying the bills yourself and neither relying on Mom and Dad or the government to fund you!
I have been in food service my entire working life and know nothing else really...while I was young I tried exploring other fields but kept coming up short and ended up right back to the beginning at my food career....as thick-head as I was I didn't want to go to college needless to say that I finally took the plunge a couple years back and decided to go to culinary school at 41 but needless to say due to health reasons I had togracefully drop out...now at 43 i am still trying and I am enrolled in a four year culinary university praying that my health concerns dont override my decision...I am excited and nervous to actually be on the road to becaome an official chef...I cannot wait for that diploma!!!!
WHATEVER AGE YOU ARE YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER THAN TO THINK THAT AGE PLAYS A FACTOR IN EDUCATION....SHAME ON YOU....EVEN IF YOU DONT OFICIALLY WORK FOR A RESTAURANT THEN DO IT FOR SELF -SATISFACTION...
when I treid taking up law classes I saw a few ooooolder people in their 60s and 70s just doing it for self-satissfaction....
Anywho....good luck to all no matter what your age...!!!!!!! <3
I am 45 years young and have been going to JC for accounting/Business degree. I was in the healthcare profession my entire life & thought going back to school for business would be a way to go as it is in high demand. While getting my prerequisites out of the way my mind is telling me this is not what I should be oint. My husband as well tells me this s not something he sees me in. He keeps telling me “I see you as a chef.” The reason for my career change from nursing to business is that I injured myself and was advised by my doctor to change careers. I thought a desk job would be great. My injury has been a year now and I do see myself as a cook…to sous chef or even maybe a Executive Chef. I have always worked hard and do not see myself as a “desk job” career. I have gone to the International Culinary Center in California and loved it, however the price of schooling is beyond my resources. I am currently looking into Le Cordon Bleu or California Culinary Institute. Does anyone have any advise of which school is better? I am looking into the certification course. Thank you in advance for your inputs.
OMG!! i can relate to many of you..Been wanting to pursue my culinary dream for quite sometime now..been contemplating..desiring...aching and longing to materialize it one day!! Until, recently the ache and the itch to pursue it is no longer controllable..Im nervous, but Im gonna give it a GO!!!! Im 43 years old and if im not gonna start now, when will it be, RIGHT!! Im a fertility Nurse in Columbia Medical Center here in NY. ..I love Nursing but the passion and the love for food is too much for me to bear...Thanks to all who put their thoughts and inputs in this site. You all cleared my mind and I know Im in the right track. Planning to enroll at natural gourmet institute this year. Good luck to all!!
this is gaurav from India.May I get your e mail id for your kind opinion about culinary and various herdels to face as late age joining to this profession.
One bit of advice for my fellow career changers in the culinary arta...school really isn't the issue here, it's where you choose to work.
High-volume production environments probably won't be suitable for most over-40's...I am a single fortysomething who tried to work full-time at one of them, and it's a good thing I didn't have a family, because I ended up sleeping the rest of the day! And, I'm in pretty good shape physically. I ended up having to drop out of school just to be able to work, which massively screwed up my plans until I ended up transferring to a cashier's position so I could go back to school and actually have a life again.
It isn't the individual tasks in these places that are the killers, either; it's the budget-crunching. These places want God's amount of product from a small handful of workers, and the result is high turnover and squabbles between hardworking employees and slackers. As a 'mature' worker, no exceptions will be made for you, and, in fact, you often will be expected to pick up the pace, while younger workers take multiple breaks and leave work over for the next day's crew.
There are other factors in high-volume environments, too, such as a lack of proper equipment due to penny-pinching, godawful noise levels from multiple machines, high, high heat levels, and, sadly, management's tolerance for letting EVERYONE play their iPhone music all at once...simply put, the environment can be hellish.
Your best bet is employment in small specialty bakeries with less volume and more opportunities for creativity, but you're less likely to get one without your education. Better to take a 'transition' job like I did while you're in school and wait until you get your degree to go job-searching.
That's exactly my thought. I don't want to work at that level. I want something smaller: a bakery, a food truck even. I just want the experience of having a career that doesn't begin with Mom as the title and I want to fulfill my passion for producing an awesome plate of food and knowing someone is rolling their eyes in ecstasy.
Thanks for your comment. I'm glad I'm not the only one who doesn't want that type of life.
I'm 51 yrs old and wanted to follow my dream to be a professional cook, but changed my mind (If your too old @32 you're definitely too old @50!)
According to Anthony Bourdaine:
How old are you? Nobody will tell you this, but I will: If you’re thirty-two years old and considering a career in professional kitchens? If you’re wondering if, perhaps, you are too old? Let me answer that question for you: Yes. You are too old.
G. Stephen Jones
Hey Steve, I'm not going to agree or disagree with Anthony Bourdaine, but remember, it is just one person's opinion. I would ask 10 to 20 professional chefs and then make a decision.
Hi guys my name is Simba Shelton I'm from mozambique. I'm 27 and I want to pursue a career in culinary arts. I want some advice on how to apply to a right school and to know what are requirements to enter a school in america or canada. Any advice you might will be appreciated. Thank you in advance
The Reluctant Gourmet
Hi Simba, my advice would be to read the articles, follow the links to the schools or sites that offer more information and then use them to contact the schools you are interested in. Because you are out of the United States, you may have to contact the schools directly by searching for them and contacting them directly. good luck.
I am so glad I found this article! I am almost 30 and have been working as an accountant for 5 years. I do not enjoy it and cannot imagine myself doing it for another 30-40 years! Cooking and baking is a relatively new passion of mine. I started in November of 2013 and really love it (when I moved out of my parents and in with my fiance is when the love of all things Kitchen started). I am not entirely sure if being a chef is my true career passion but I want to try. I got a part time job at a bakery where I will be making donuts, this job is just for a few months and after that wraps up I will be applying to other bakeries.
I am considering going to culinary school but not for a few years. I cannot afford to take on more debt at the moment. So for now I will just keep developing my skills at home, get part time jobs, and take free/cheap local classes. Sorry for the ramble, best of luck to all!
The Reluctant Gourmet
No apologies needed Barbara and I'm glad to hear you have found a new passion in cooking. When you decide to go to culinary school, please check back and let me know about your experiences.
It's wonderful to read that there are so many who have the same desire at an older age. I am 56 and newly retired after a long career in teaching. I am enrolled at the local community college and will be starting with a patisserie and bakery certificate. Plan on learning sauces, etc., on my own but may go for a culinary AA later on. Not sure how I will apply it other than nourishing my passion and the appetites of my family and friends, but it's exciting to get to do what I love. For those of you who will be taking it into the profession as a chef, GO FOR IT! Never let age be a block to anything you want to do in life.
The Reluctant Gourmet
Hi Nola, great to hear you are pursuing your passion. Please keep me updated on your progress. Would love to hear some stories about patisserie and baking classes and what you think of going back to school at 56. Good luck with your courses.
So glad to find kindred spirits here.. I had a rude awakening last year which got me into thinking, why have I been avoiding my life's greatest passion --- FOOD! Looking back at my childhood, toys did not fascinate me. Cartoons did not strike my fancy. But cooking shows did! Maybe during that time, cooking was not considered as a profession. It's either you are a lawyer, doctor, engineer, teacher. But cooking? It was in the "hobby" category!
It is difficult to admit it at this point in our lives. In our late 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond... That we have dedicated most of our adult lives in an occupation that was not our calling. I've been a lawyer for 13 years, and have done a lot with my law degree. I think I am good at it, but it does not make me jump out of bed in the morning. I asked myself, is there more to life than this? I answered yes, I needed a change. And I need it NOW!
When asked in my interview at the ICE in New York, are you sure you want to start from the ground up? And throw out your lawyer's hat for something new? And I said emphatically, "hell yeah"...
The tuition fee at cooking school seems to be the hardest hill to hurdle. But as they say, knowing is half the battle!
The Reluctant Gourmet
Thanks for sharing Michelle and please continue to share your experiences from culinary school with me. Would love to follow up and hear how you are doing on your journey.
Prior to enrollment at the tender age of 56, I cooked exotic meals for over 40 years. Cooking has always been a love of mine and, with the help of the VA (I'm a veteran), I enrolled in my community college's culinary program. I was permanent fixture on the Dean's List for my entire matriculation and graduated with honors. I'm also proud to say that out of 180 students in my class (90% dropped out after a month), I was the only student that received a certification in Nutrition 2.0.
I worked at a senior retirement facility for a year and moved on to a young, hip restaurant, that unfortunately, woke me up to the reality of true restaurant work. The pay is extremely low, the work is backbreaking, and the hours are very odd. Sometimes, I worked 10 days straight, 10-12 hour days a week. Sometimes I was called in on my days off because they were shorthanded.
As of this weekend, I'm going back into my original corporate-type job where I can earn a decent wage, work regular 9-5 hours, join a gym, and replenish my savings account. Cooking will always be my second love (interior design is my first), and I'll hang my restaurant management and all the other certificates on my kitchen wall. Even though I've cooked prior to school, my skills were definitely refined.
Good luck and I wish you much endurance and fun!
I forgot to say first and foremost, I missed the heck out of my dear husband!!!!
The Reluctant Gourmet
Thanks for sharing this Linda.
If I may, my desire is to go to Cordon Bleu next year. I am 62. I realize my age, as well as my physical skills and limitations. I have an MBA from Paris and a former life as a Fortune 500 executive. I started a cafe in Paris during school and it thrived and I both loved and hated it. I am in good health because I work hard at it, including running marathons. I have an acquaintance here in LA, who is in his mid eighties, cooks the most amazing lamb chops in smoked thyme with roasted tomatoes and potatoes among dozens of other dishes in his restaurant, where he cooks in his shorts and gators. He is typically over booked, at $100 a plate including wine, when he and his daughter decide to open. He cooks to live, and his is life is rich beyond what people imagine and tell him every time they leave one of his dining experiences. He finishes each night with a Cuban and a glass of his favorite. If I am so lucky at to be fulfilled at that point, then I have chosen correctly. I am not out to change the culinary world, rather to entertain folks in a way they will remember. As a matter of fact, I am doing that now, and have been for awhile. Cordon Bleu is just for me. Salut!
G. Stephen Jones
TK, what an amazing story. Please send me your friends name so I can interview him here on my site. He must be loving what he is doing and to enjoy that time with his daughter. Wow. I'm assuming you want to go to Cordon Bleu in Europe because they are no longer offering programs in the United States. It is a terrible loss to the future chefs of the world but lucky for us, there are still some other good programs around. Please stay in touch when you get to school and tell me everything you are experiencing. Sounds amazing. I'm a little jealous.
G. Stephen, Thanks for responding.
I will provided that name as soon and he grants me his approval, and, yes, I am planning CB in Paris. To add to my tale, when I went to school for my MBA in 1983, I lived in the Fondation Des Etats-Unis, a building donated by the Rockefeller Foundation to support study abroad. I was asked by the director there, to create a way to unite the American student population, which in Paris, was about 10,00 at the time. After discussions, we decided, I should initiate a cafe from scratch, using a building in the area. It was a a great success and paid for my education abroad, and became part of my schooling. I hired two American chefs who had just graduated from CB, and they are what sparked my interest to attend SB one day. I ran the house, did the purchasing and books, and they cooked and it became on of the best food and beverage establishments in the area. Because it was an American theme, we attracted patrons from all over Paris. I would be on a metro and people would recognize me and call out, "Le chef!", or the chief. Unfortunately, I had to return to the states upon graduation, and had to give up the cafe.
The desire has remained in my blood, and it is time. I think when people have the desire to go into a culinary profession later in life, they need to think about what they really want. The thought of working in a large kitchen is not for me, but as I learned from my friend, the right size, menu, location and atmosphere, can create an experience without becoming a slave to the kitchen. A la prochaine ~
G. Stephen Jones
Thanks TK. You have so many great stories to tell. We will have to find time to speak by phone so I can hear more of them and hear about your adventures in Paris. Good luck and happy holidays.
There is no age for learning as such. I have students in Culinary Arts who come for short term courses and are above 50 years. So don't think about the age think about what you want to learn and achieve. You are never late to learn and specially in Culinary Arts when we can teach and train young people at the age of 15 years I don't think teaching people who are above 50 is difficult.....Start moving and Join immediately
Counsellor & Career Advisor
Culinary Academy of India.
Prathmesh ravindra kadam
Hello,my name is Prathmesh. I have completed my 3 weeks of basic culinary program (HFY) from India's best Institute "CULINARY ACADEMY OF INDIA",Hyderabad. It was a great experience for me. I learnt new cooking style and techniques. It will help me a lot for my career. Thank you for a great opportunity.
Thank you all too ,i'm 55 and i wanna go for my all life dream Culinary school .Just readding this help me too. Thank you all.
I'm 27 yrs old now. Is there still any hope to join any culinary arts courses in future does it create any problems relating to my age and jobs
G. Stephen Jones
Wouldn't think so Daniel. 27 is not old.
As a chef Instructor I can say that one does not has to worry about age is he/ she wants to learn cooking.I can say with confidence that only qualification required to be a good.cook or chef is "passion to cook".If you give your mentor, trainer, and instructor then that's more than enough for them to turn you into a pro.Wishing you all the best and strat today and don't look at your age.....it's just a number.
Culinary Academy of India
Thanks for the tip to read as many culinary books as possible. A ton of people might assume that culinary programs are where you should start. But studying up before you go could help you get ahead of everyone else.
This is to all the saps willing to shell out big bucks for culinary school. I spent 40 years in pro kitchens on the east coast and you might as well pay to be a coal miner. The life is nothing like the food network Or an episode of great chefs..its going in for 12 hour shifts in 120 degree kitchens ..putting away 200 case deliveries from Sysco...prepping all afternoon then getting your butt kicked on the line until 10pm then cleaning the kitchen for an hour after you have been on your feet for 11 hours straight..then doing it again day after day..month after month..year after year until your back and knees ate totally shot..and forget about sick days..
Your expected to show up sick and if your mother just died yesterday...even the navy seals and coal miners get a lunch break
.not in a pro kitchen.
Your lucky if you can go pee on a shift..dont be a sucker and chase some BS dream..stay in your office job