First try to become anything else. Seriously. Try random jobs in sales, customer service, and the government. Try being self employed, work from home, sell handmade knits on Etsy. Only after you’ve exhausted all other possible avenues should you even think about becoming a chef.
When you’re ready to start, go to school and begin studying for your bachelor’s degree. If you can afford it, graduate. If you can’t stomach going to school or paying the exorbitant fees, get a job as a waiter, or as a bus boy.
If you’re a woman, take some self-defense classes, build up muscle. You’ll have to be better and tougher than the boys just to get rudimentary praise. You have to know everything there is to know about the cooking world. Remember that as a female chef, you might be great but you will seldom be seen as noteworthy in an industry full of men.
If you still want to be a chef, subscribe to food magazines. Read them all, tune into Food Network whenever possible. Know and try all the restaurants in your neighborhood. Know the chef that works at the bistro down the street, by name. Try and be his understudy. Learn, experience, grow then move to a major city like L.A. or Chicago.
When you get home after work, cook for yourself because you can’t afford to eat out and you need the practice. Cook something different every day. Dip your feet into diverse cuisines, do all of this to find your style.
At work, move up in rank, try your hardest every day. Say yes chef, when those above you speak to you. If for some reason you aren’t moving up, go to culinary school.
When your friends ask if you want to go out to dinner say yes but only on Mondays-Thursdays, you can’t leave the restaurant when it’s busy. Whenever possible cook for your friends at home. Learn how to match wine with entrée, and have dinner parties. Serve mini caviar parfaits and bacon wrapped jalapeño bites. Grow basil and mint leaves. Experiment with different flavors. Make your friends your guinea pigs.
Acquire patience, especially if you’re a woman. Know that you might never get ahead. Be ready for new opportunities. When you hear of new restaurants opening and looking for head chefs, apply. Go prepared with your own recipes and ideas, but don’t be overbearing. Listen to your gut.
If work doesn’t play out how you want it, or if restaurants don’t serve the food you think is worthy of your pallet, open your own place. Save all your money. Design a menu, an ambiance, a future. Listen to your stomach. Understand that running a small café or sandwich shop as head chef will be difficult, especially if your other head chef positions didn’t work out. Keep going. Have hope. Maybe your cooking will be good enough, maybe you’ll make ends meet. Maybe there will be crowds outside your doors.
If all else fails, go back to working as a waiter or waitress, or maybe do something with your college degree. Try and work your way out of debt. Become a store manager, or go into customer service, answer phone calls for a busy executive. Tell everyone you meet to never become a chef. Drink.
At the end of it all, go home to your cramped apartment building and climb up the rickety stairs. Put your key into the rusty door lock and walk straight to your kitchen. Pour yourself another glass. As you cook yourself dinner, reminisce on the old days when you swept kitchen floors and worked alongside real chefs. Your elbows brushing theirs. Dream.
Eat your dinner and go to bed every night knowing that the only difference between you and those chefs is nothing but a bad egg, too much salt, and not enough taste.