Career Profile: So you want to be a chef?

Javier Zenteno, Reporter

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So, you want to be a chef.  

There are 19 schools in the area that offer an associate degree in culinary arts in training. The least expensive seem to be Illinois Central college which is in East Peoria, Illinois, and Richland Community College which is in Decatur, Illinois. The tuition for Illinois’ Central College is around $8,160 a year. Richland Community college is around $5,769 a year. The best economic option would be to attend one of these schools. Lastly, beware of Illinois Institute of Art which is a 4-year college. It is a proprietary school and it costs around$18,000 a year. It is more than twice as much of the costs of Illinois Central College and Richland Community College. 

Javier Zenteno has worked as a cook for 16 years. He works in Weber Grill.  

  1. Tell me about your job. Is what you do different in any way from others in the occupation? 

You spend all day in the hot kitchen. You stand all day. You must know how to work with others, so the dishes come out how they’re supposed to. It is also dangerous because you can get burned or cut.  My job is different compared to other chefs because I mostly work on grills only other different chefs like chefs for a Chinese restaurant.   

  1. Can you tell me about your background and how you got into this field?  

When I came from Mexico, I didn’t know how to cook but I needed a job and the closest one was in a restaurant. I started off not knowing anything but with time I was able to gain more skills and work more efficiently.  

  1. What personal characteristics are required for someone to be successful in your job? 

You must be able to handle stress, must be able to handle criticism, have to be organized, creative, must be flexible, and must be able to multitask.  

  1. How much job security is there for people in your field?  

I would say it’s moderate. We have first aid kits for minor accidents. When something big happens they usually send the person to the hospital or to rest at home. It depends on the situation.  

  1. What other jobs could you do with the skills you’ve gained in this field?  

You can work in almost any restaurant you would just have to be passionate about what you want to do. For example, you can go to work in Italian restaurants, Chinese restaurants, etc. You just must learn different things since not all restaurants run the same.  

  1. What do you think the future holds for people in your occupation?  

I believe it holds many other job opportunities because everybody loves a good dish. There could be many other dishes that have not been tried. There is always room for improvement. People could work towards higher ranks in the future.  

  1. What are the biggest challenges in your job?  

Having to work on Holidays because I can’t spend time with my family, long hours, working on weekends, getting cut or burned, having to wake up early and getting home late, standing all day.  

  1. Are there many opportunities in your field? What should people do to get started?  

There are opportunities for people who have a passion for cooking. People should take class such as culinary arts because it will give them a feel of what it is. Also, since they are always looking for people with cooking experiences.  

  1. How do you feel when food is sent back? 

It feels awful since you could not meet their expectations, but you can always learn from your mistakes.  

  1.  Are there any perks of working in a restaurant? 

They sometimes allow you to take food home that wasn’t used in the day, for example, I sometimes bring deserts home also they hand out gift cards to employees of the months and employees of the year.  

  1.  How long have you been working as a cook? 

16 years.