JWU Student Blogs

What it Takes to Become a Culinary Professional

A culinary professional is a person who has superior knowledge in handling foods as well as knows how to make a profit off of that knowledge. In order to gain this knowledge, a person must have reputable experience in the culinary field, be highly committed to gaining this knowledge and good management skills. Many people in the world today think they have what it takes to be a culinary professional. Because they are able to manage a starving, bias, loving party of four (their-self included), feeding hundreds of starving, demanding, unthankful citizens couldn’t possibly be that much harder. Everyone knows a family member who believes that they could open a successful restaurant with almost no problem. All they need is the money to start up. According to H.G. Parsa, an associate professor in Ohio State University stated that though his research that one in four restaurants fail within the first year of business. Within three years, three out of five restaurants fail. Why? Lack of experience, commitment, and management are the three main reasons why most restaurants fail. This is why a culinary professional must have a superior knowledge in handling foods as well as knows how to make a profit off of that knowledge.

One culinary professional that is technically not a chef is Mr. Fuchs. Mr. Fuchs is a culinary instructor who teaches the Skills of Meatcutting at Johnson and Wales University. Unlike many culinary professionals, Mr. Fuchs does not enjoy cooking. However, his superior knowledge in handling foods is just as good as other many chefs, and his ability to make a profit off of that knowledge is far beyond superior. Almost a year before I enrolled in Johnson & Wales University, around April of last year, I heard about Mr. Fuchs. When another upcoming Johnson and Wales student asked a currently enrolled culinary student “what is the hardest lab and who is the hardest teacher”, the culinary student immediately responded “the Skills of Meatcutting and Mr. Fuchs”. I encountered his name once more during Johnson & Wales’s Orientation in July when a student asked an Orientation leader the exact same question. The student was given the same response. In that split second I was terrified, I thought to myself that “I hope I don’t have his class and even worse, I hope I don’t have his class first. Once school officially started and I had received my official schedule, what I thought would be merely impossible turned into a reality. I feared that college for me, luck would never be in my favor. The first day of class, as I waited in line to be inspected, while he scrutinized every inch, every flaw, every wrinkle of each student’s uniform, I began to second guess my entire decision of majoring in culinary arts. During six hours of information intense lecture, as the entire class pinched their skin, balled their knuckles, and gazed at anything in order to keep them dozing off into a coma like sleep, I was almost certain that there was no way I was going make it out of Mr. Fuchs alive (I was afraid I was going to fail). Every day I had to drag myself out of bed (the only place I felt safe), and convince myself that the next day would be better than the yesterdays, only to reveal that it was only getting worse. On the last day, the truth was revealed. Mr. Fuchs Explained to the class why he does what he does – what motivates him to come to work and be happy. He does what he does because he understands how expensive this education is and wants to give us the best education for every penny we invested. Mr. Fuchs wanted us to realize that the culinary world is a tough field and no matter how tough the class is, only the tough could push through the suffering, to reach glory. Some teachers in the United States provide students with a very limited education. Mr. Fuchs provides and education that will last a lifetime. Having Mr. Fuchs as my very first teacher was the best thing that could have happened to me since I began college.

Every great culinary professional have certain skills and traits that make them good at what they do. Creativity, having an open-mind and confidence are just a few of the necessary skills and traits of a culinary professional. Creativity helps create a better presentation when plating food. Creative food plating helps create a great dining experience. All culinary professionals have to be willing to try something new at all times. Being open-minded allows one to do so. One of the most important skills & traits that all professionals should have (even not in the culinary industry) is confidence. If a professional does not believe in their-self, it will be hard to convince anyone else to believe in him/her. Having confidence in oneself lets others know they can trust him/her to complete a task with anyone second guessing his/her abilities. If a culinary professional lacks all three of these skills/traits he or she may not make it very far in their career.

As an upcoming culinary professional, there are many strengths and weaknesses I currently have. Like many culinary students my age, one of my biggest strengths is being open-minded. I am willing to try anything that is presented to me and will do what I am told with very limited disbelief. I believe this is why younger individuals have a higher chance in this field than older individuals. Other strengths I have are a strong work ethic and a will to be successful. I try my best to complete all tasks as soon as possible while ensuring it is the best quality. I also set great expectations for myself. Sometimes in which others may think I am over working myself. I have a strong belief that overworking oneself is the moment in which it is physical and/or mentally damaging and borderline impossible to move on in same condition. If one has not reached that point, then he/she has not overworked their-self.

With every strength a person has, there is a weakness. Some of the weaknesses I have are a lack of confidence, simplicity (inability to take chances), and lack of experience. I believe that the cause of my lack of confidence and simplicity is due to my lack of experience in the culinary field. With experience comes confidence. With confidence, comes the ability to take chances. With the lack of experience, comes the lack of confidence in oneself, and second guessing oneself which leads to simplicity. In order to improve my strengths and minimize my weaknesses it is essential that I never miss a day of class unless it physically/mentally impossible for me to make it to class or I may cause others to get ill. It is also very important for me to take more risk rather than playing it safe with everything I do. Taking risks is quality that all leaders have. In order to be a leader one must have the ability to take risk. I will also take time to award myself after I have reached an accomplishment. By doing so, I will relieve stress and take the time to relax and reflect on my accomplishments and failures in order to find a way to improve in the future. Ways instructors can help me attain my goals is by providing opportunities and information outside the lab in order to help me learn more than what could be taught in short nine days of a lab. If I manage to strive towards my goals there’s only a matter of time until my dreams become a reality.

One organization that will help me achieve my goals is the Research Chefs Association (RCA). The RCA is a professional community that focuses on the practice of culinology – blending culinary arts and science of food. This company allows members to connect with peers that share the same expectations/situation and discuss various topics. Once qualified, the RCA offers the opportunity to enroll in the Certified Research Chef and/or the Certified Culinary Scientist Program in order to receive a certificate that can open new doors in which you may not be able to open without them. According to survey conducted by the RCACC, a RCA certified employee enhances product speed to market, increases product quality, increases team functionality, and increases their chances of earning a higher salary. I am already a RCA member and as soon as I am eligible to apply for certificate I most definitely will. In the mean time I will stay updated with all scholarships and upcoming events this organization offers. I already know many people who benefited from this program (Chef Crawley being one of the many few) and I am positive that the RCA can benefit me the same way as I expand.