Mom, Dad….I want to be a Doctor….no, a Chef

CLICK ABOVE TO PLAY MUSIC

Music – “When I Grow Up” from Here We Go by Melissa. Released: 2006

One day, little Billy or Susie is asked what he or she wants to “be”. Little Billy answers, “a chef”. Little Susie says “a doctor”. Mom and Dad begin to do some research and give up the cigarettes and booze to start college funds.

What can Billy expect if he makes it to being an Executive Chef? Well, he can essentially control a kitchen and has the opportunity to work in many different venues and locations, depending on his skill set, for example, Pastry Chef, Culinary Nutritionist.

An Executive Chef gets to wear stylish chef's coats, like Gordon Ramsay and can give orders to everyone

An Executive Chef gets to wear stylish chef’s coats like Gordon Ramsay and can give orders to everyone

An Executive Chef gets to create flavourful, beautiful food dishes

An Executive Chef gets to create flavourful, beautiful food dishes

The Executive Chef might end up in a fancy five-star hotel, or on a high end cruise ship. He may open his own restaurant and charge exorbitant prices.

Executive Chefs get to hang around wine cellars and sample fine wines.  Conversely, it is not a good idea for a Doctor to be sampling wines, especially when with a patient

Executive Chefs get to hang around wine cellars and sample fine wines. Conversely, it is not a good idea for a Doctor to be sampling wines, especially when with a patient

The Executive Chef may have artistic license to a degree, to experiment with recipe development, menu creation and experimentation. For the most part, he won’t be stuck in a tiny cubicle, chained to a computer. He may achieve status through professional certification, which will increase his chances of making more money.

Culinary schools in the US do not come cheaply. A four-year Bachelor’s degree from The Culinary Institute of America (Hyde Park) will cost you approximately $106,000. Coming in slightly less is a four-year Bachelors degree from Kendall College in Chicago, at approximately $90,000. At Johnson & Wales Culinary School, Billy (or rather, Billy’s Mom and Dad!), can expect to pay around $28,000 per year and they offer both two-year and four-year degrees.

The Executive Chef's ingredients may be crabby:  so may the Doctor's patients

The Executive Chef’s ingredients may be crabby: so may the Doctor’s patients

Is there a down side to becoming an Executive Chef? Well, according to online surveys and discussions, the employment opportunities for Executive Chefs is expected to decline by approximately 1% between 2010 and 2020. The competition is stiff, both in acceptance in culinary schools and in finding an Executive Chef position. Often, more time is spent in administrative tasks, rather than focusing on cooking and there are the long, long hours (12 hours or more per day is not uncommon), plus the irregularity of schedules. Then, there is the hot, crowded and potentially hazardous kitchen conditions.

Hazards associated with being an Executive Chef

Hazards associated with being an Executive Chef

More kitchen hazards

More kitchen hazards

Some of the Doctor's tools are less scary than those of the chef

Some of the Doctor’s tools are less scary than those of the chef

In addition, the Executive Chef often performs Human Resources roles as well, having to hire and fire, and deal with Prima donnas and temperamental cooks, unlike the Doctor, who only has to deal with Medicare, HMO’s and Obamacare.

Learning proper knife skills is essential for the Executive Chef

Learning proper knife skills is essential for the Executive Chef. Doctors should have these skills as well, particularly surgeons.

So, what is the average salary of an Executive Chef today? There is a range, which differs by location and culinary degree (associates or bachelors), but the average range, based on most website comparisons is typically between $50,000 and $85,000. Naturally, the newly minted Executive Chef cannot expect to start out at the high end of the range, and he or she may earn considerably more after a few years of experience, but that’s the typical range, for 2012.

Now, for little Susie, who wants to be a doctor, and for her purposes, we are calling her a General Practitioner (GP). First of all, she will need to complete her medical training. A brief summary of 85 public medical schools in the USA indicate that the average tuition (not including fees, etc.) is approximately $28,000 for a first year medical student. Private schools, although not included in the summary, generally cost more. Susie can expect to be in medical at the very least, five years, possibly longer.

What can Susie expect after she becomes a GP? Well, on the plus side, she may have the satisfaction of helping people, assuming she’s not just in it for the $$$.

Susie can make a lot of big bucks as a Doctor, probably more than Billy will as an Executive Chef (but that's not why she went into medicine)

Susie can make a lot of big bucks as a Doctor, probably more than Billy will as an Executive Chef (but that’s not why she went into medicine)

There is the potential for high earnings, and even more, if she continues on to specialize. She will probably have many opportunities to work in various facilities and locations. There are opportunities for personal growth, and “respect” (everyone respects the medical profession, right?).

On the down side, Susie will have to be licensed and board certified. She may spend a long time in medical school to achieve that status and admission to medical schools remains competitive. She will have to keep up with new trends and advances, through continuing education.

Sign in an Executive Chef's kitchen.  Doctors have their own signs, such as "cover your mouth when sneezing"

Sign in an Executive Chef’s kitchen. Doctors have their own signs, such as “cover your mouth when sneezing”

She will likely have an erratic and unpredictable schedule, as people just don’t get sick to fit a schedule.

A Doctor gets to work with whiney sick children

A Doctor gets to work with whiney sick kids

While the Executive Chef has a kitchen with sous vide equipment, pots and pans and exotic appliances, the Doctor has an office full of sick people with exotic afflictions

While the Executive Chef has a kitchen with sous vide equipment, pots and pans and exotic appliances, the Doctor has an office crammed with sick people with exotic afflictions

Susie will have to fork over a lot of big bucks for medical malpractice insurance in order to avoid or minimize the potential for bankrupting lawsuits.

If an Executive Chef misplaces his favourite kitchen scissors, it's not a big deal.  With a Doctor, not so much

If an Executive Chef misplaces his favourite kitchen scissors, it’s not a big deal. With a Doctor, not so much

In addition, Susie will be stressed if she can’t cure a patient, or worse, loses one. Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?

However, Susie will have the opportunity to make considerably more than her brother, Billy. The average GP in the US makes between $168,000 and $174,000 annually. That seems like a pretty good incentive.

So, Billy may spend $105,000 to attend his culinary school and Susie will likely spend more to become a GP. But, when Billy graduates, he could expect to earn a salary in the neighbourhood of $50,000 to $85,000 a year, depending on his experience and location of employment. Susie, on the other hand, can expect to do considerably better, earning an average of $168,000 per year, possibly more or less.

Generally speaking, although the recent culinary art graduate or GP shouldn’t expect to start at the high end of the pay school, the salary discrepancies between being an Executive Chef and being a General Practitioner are wide. Both will be able to wield knives. Both will cater to the individual. Both will be able to advance their skill sets: Billy can set his sights on being an Executive Pastry Chef: Susie may opt to be a Psychiatrist. Either way, they will probably have to engage in continuing education. But, Billy won’t have to deal with puking patients, or screaming children, or death certificates (unless it’s Death by Chocolate) and most Executive Chefs probably don’t have to worry about being sued by the family of a restaurant patron, who died after eating the chef’s food.

This could be "food malpractice" if the Executive Chef ran this kitchen

This could be “food malpractice” if the Executive Chef ran this kitchen

The pay may be less, but I’d be willing to bet that Billy will be less stressed than Susie, who will probably burn out, abandon her career and sign up for online culinary arts courses. Then, she can a get a job working as a line cook for Billy.

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About vintagecookbookery

Cookbook lover and collector with a burgeoning collection of cookbooks. Reading and researching food trends, history of cooking techniques and technological advances in cooking, what we eat and why and cookbooks as reflectors of cultures is a fascination for me. As of November 7th, 2013, I hold the current Guinness World Record title for the largest collection of cookbooks: 2,970 at the official count on July 14th, 2013 (applaud now, thank you very much!) The current (unofficial) number is now 6,037. What next? More shelves!
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