At some point, while staring at your slate-gray cubicle walls, you've dreamed about leaving it all behind to follow your real passion: cooking. Too scared? Not sure where to begin? As back-to-school season gets in full swing, take pointers--and inspiration--from folks who went from the cube to the kitchen.
Name: Gina Howie
College degree: bachelor's degree in environment, textiles and design, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2000
First career: residential and corporate interior designer, furniture designer (7 years)
Culinary training: French Pastry School, six-month L'Art de la Patisserie certificate program; six-month internship
Current career: co-owner/baker at Lovely
Why she switched: "I always told myself that I wanted to work for myself by the time I was 30," says Howie. "I wasn't burned out, but I needed a change." Howie cut back to part-time at her design job in January 2006 in order to attend pastry school. After Howie completed a six-month course and a six-month internship, she and business partner Brooke Dailey (the two met at pastry school) opened Lovely in June.
Previous job skills that come in handy today: design, branding and presentation, and a focus on the "complete aesthetic package"
Tastes of success: Want to see if the switch paid off? Try one of Howie's hand-decorated cupcakes ($2.50) or seasonal-ingredient mini pies ($4-$4.50).
Name: John Manion
College degree: bachelor's degree in English literature and political science, Marquette University, 1991
First career: public relations (1.5 years)
Culinary training: six-month course at Kendall College
Current career: executive chef and co-owner of Mas and The Motel Bar
Why he switched: Before becoming one of the city's most well-known chefs, Manion was just a grunt at a public relations firm. "I was just trading my time for money," he says. Though he'd worked in restaurants and enjoyed it, he never considered it a career choice. But by 1993, he says, he figured it out: Cooking could be a career. He starting working at restaurants to get experience and to save money for culinary school. In 1995, he enrolled in Kendall College's program. He opened Mas with business partner Hubie Greenwald in 1998.
Previous job skills used today: Manion says his public relations background served him well when promoting a new restaurant. "You've got to market yourself as a brand," he says.
Taste of success: chili-cured pork tenderloin served with Great Northern beans and sauteed swiss chard finished with white truffle oil ($24)
Name: Rachel Glaser
College degree: bachelor's degree in communications, Northwestern University, 1998
First career: marketing and business development for a law firm (5 years)
Culinary training: French Pastry School, six-month L'Art de la Patisserie certificate program
Current career: cake decorator at Sweet Mandy B's
Why she switched: "Initially, I thought I wanted to go to law school, so I found a job in legal marketing," says Glaser. She quickly determined that law wasn't for her. Plus, she wanted to start a family, so she was looking for a more flexible schedule. It wasn't until she and her husband signed up for a culinary class at Sur La Table that she realized a career in pastry was for her. "It hit me like a ton of bricks," she says. In 2003, she attended the French pastry school's six-month program. "I'm not making as much," she says of her current career. "But I'm much happier for it."
Previous job skill used today: listening with empathy to a customer
Taste of success: Glaser says her designs for birthday cakes, including the puppy-print design she created for her daughter's first birthday, are the highlight of her cake-decorating career.
For more info. on becoming a chef:
900 N. North Branch St.
312-752-2000 / 866-667-3344
French Pastry School
226 W. Jackson Blvd. Ste. 106
Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago
361 W. Chestnut St. 312-944-2725
[ Chris LaMorte is the Metromix dining producer. ] email@example.comCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times