With shows like “Chopped”, “Food Network Star”, and “Iron Chef America” many people have chosen the path towards a job in the restaurant industry. Culinary programs are being reinvented as the increase in students only seems to get larger. One problem a chef calls into question is, “Do they really want to do this?”
“It’s not an industry for the faint of heart, and you really have to have guts to make it in it.” -Chef Grant
Benjamin Grant is the executive chef of the Sociable Gastropub in Newmarket. With almost two decades of industry experience, he says he’s noticed a decline in the quality of staff, and the willingness to put in the effort in order to accomplish what newcomers dream of.
He believes there’s a direct correlation between Food Network shows that highlight celebrity chefs, and the new attitude brought to kitchens. He expresses that some culinary hopefuls don’t appreciate the years of grueling effort, and the process of how to climb up to the coveted chef position.
“You know that’s entertainment, and that’s what its designed to be.”
Culinary programs are seeing more students enrolling, but the dropout rate is higher. Chef Patrick Hersey is the first year coordinator for Fanshawe’s culinary and baking programs. Chef Hersey says that inexperienced students are sometimes surprised by the reality of the programs.
“They have these illusions of culinary school, and it’s not quite what their vision was.”
Chef Hersey says that one task that instructors have been struggling with is finding ways to keep inspired students enrolled to continue their pursuit of becoming a chef.
“Sometimes I think we see slightly higher levels of attrition, people saying, ‘You know what? Maybe this isn’t for me.’ It takes a special person to succeed in this industry.”
Some students have tackled the industry by choosing an entrepreneurial avenue. With brick and mortar restaurants costing upwards of $500,000 or more, food passionate graduates have taken to being their own boss. Chef Hersey says that some students are not at all interested in working in a restaurant or hotel, they would rather work for themselves on their own schedule. Pop-up installations at markets, catering opportunities, and even food trucks, have become a major development on a older system.