Making a change in culinary education may mean leaving the field.
By Adam Weiner, JD, CFSE
“Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”
Last month I wrote a column on the importance of changing how you look at why you are teaching what you are teaching. That also tied in with my August article on modernizing your curriculum. Let’s switch to something more controversial: modernizing yourself.
STOP! Don’t close this article. I am not going to tell you how to change your teaching or write about changing your style or personality. It is about changing your job! That’s right, it might be time to face reality and admit that with the start of the New Year it is time to consider moving up and out of where you are.
In January 2016 I asked if the love had gone out of your teaching? I gave a quiz and provided suggestions on how to fix your mojo if needed. There were nearly 3,000 hits on that article.
Four years later I am going to throw out a question to really make you think: Is it time to leave your job?
In my 16 plus years as a culinary instructor, I taught about the importance of passion and pride in professional cooking. I told the students that when passion, pride, and love for their craft was gone it will be time to find another job cooking at a different venue, change to a different type of culinary establishment, change out of cooking but stay in the culinary field, or move out of the food world completely.
Is it time for you to find another teaching job, or change to a different type of teaching job (such as switching from community college to high school, or high school to vocational)? Is it time for you to stay in education but leave teaching (such as getting into administration or counseling)? And if I can be so radically bold, is there a possibility that it might be the time to move out of education entirely?
Please note this article is written to get you to start thinking. If you have a retirement plan or will be giving up income, you need to do your research and make an informed decision on what is the best decision for you and your family. Plot spoiler: The odds of making substantially more money with a change are much higher than staying where you are currently employed. Most employers, including many culinary programs, tend to base raises on a small percentage of your current pay. As I used to explain to my students, the only way to get a substantial pay increase is to change positions within the company or change employers.
Burnout is real, losing your passion and pride for what you do is real. It does not mean that there is anything wrong with you, wrong with your students, wrong with your administration, wrong with your teaching institution. It means it is time to address the burn out (as mentioned in my January 2016 article referenced above) or look for something new.
I quoted from “The Lion King” in last month’s article, “Change isn’t always easy.” But, sometimes the change is required. If I can change, you can change too.
This past summer I took a new position. After 16 plus years of teaching at the same institution, I had the opportunity to move on. I also realized that because of my stage in life, moving on had to be then or would probably never happen before retirement. I took a brand-new position where I am responsible for training and development for a company that staffs almost all of the back and front of the house culinary positions for a major national high-tech firm. Other than the irony that the new position is less than one mile away from my previous position, the jobs are as different as night and day.
I no longer have students, order product, nor worry about equipment break downs. I no longer have students make my favorite dishes! I have taken on new tasks like creating programs, making them run, and supervising them. I advise and consult. I write white papers. I use skills I haven’t used in years. I get up each morning actually looking forward to going to work. [Query: Can you make that same statement?] My friends and family repeatedly comment (and more particularly to my wife) that I seem like a new and different person.
Ironically, in my new position, I bump into many graduates from my culinary program who passed through years ago. Some are cooking in the kitchens located throughout the multiple campuses. But, some are graduates who aren’t cooking. When I see them they sometimes look down at their feet, weave back and forth, and start apologizing. I remind them of the first day of class—as mentioned above--and I ask them if they are happy, if they like their job, and if they are supporting themselves? When they answer yes I then ask them why there were apologizing?
I hate to say this considering it is only January, but the school year end for most of you is just a few months away. It’s time to start thinking about what you want to do after that. If you still have passion, pride, and love for what you do then by all means keep doing it. If you feel like the Will Rodgers quote that opened this article—that you have sat on the railroad track so long and trains keep hitting you--it is time to consider a plan to move on.
When I walk around my new work campus, I see many posters of a child’s rocking horse with the caption: “Don’t mistake motion for progress.” If you decide to make this major life change of leaving your current position for another one, make sure you are really are moving forward. Don’t just shift into something that is exactly the same. That is not progress. That is just motion.
I have an interesting story with a photo about why we as individuals must make changes in our lives. I recently traveled to Boston for work. I ate dinner in the North End at a restaurant on a crowded street. Wanting to make it easier for the Uber driver, I walked a couple of blocks before ordering the ride. I stared in amazement at my phone when I realized I was standing in front of Paul Revere’s house. Look at the picture:
I started thinking about all the changes that have taken place in Boston since Paul Revere lived here. A few days later I had dinner at the Union Oyster House which opened in 1826. What changes have occurred in the kitchen in the 193 years between its founding and my having clam chowder and scrod? How many people started work and moved to different jobs in those 193 years? How many people started working elsewhere and ended up retiring at the Union Oyster House in those same years?
I want to end this article as I began it with a quote:
“If you want to be successful, it's just this simple. Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing. And believe in what you are doing.”
Start your step toward personal change by believing in yourself and your ability to make that change.
Adam Weiner, JD, CFSE, has been a culinary instructor in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than 16 years.