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Turning 40 is a milestone that can be accompanied by major life and career changes. You can change your career whenever, but as you get older it may become harder to find the one you want to spend the next 20-30 years at. When you’re younger, you don’t always have the same opportunities or resources to follow your dreams, and for food-loving dreamers, becoming a chef falls by the wayside.

So now you’re 40 and thinking about becoming a chef—is it too late?


It’s Never Too Late

If you’re passionate enough, it’s never too late to chase your culinary dream—there are many chefs that started late. It’s important to know that when you enter the industry late, you will face challenges that can only be overcome by someone who is completely devoted to cooking because you will start from the very bottom. Just because you’re 40 doesn’t mean that you can skip the ladder. The Culinary Arts industry has a strict and competitive hierarchy of positions, so you’ll have to prove yourself by starting as a dishwasher or line cook.


Benefits of Being 40

Sure, you’re getting older, but that’s not the only thing you have going on. You have 20 more years of life experience than the average 20-year old working in a kitchen, and while this won’t give you superiority, there are definitely benefits to your age. Here are some positives to think about:

  • You know how to work with a variety of people
  • You know how to navigate a variety of tough situations
  • You have experience beyond the working world
  • You have a unique, developed palate
  • You have savings or dual-income so you won’t mind the low wages
  • You have a well-rounded employment background
  • You have experience cooking for your family and friends

Challenges that Come With Age

When you get older, your body doesn’t quite work the way it used to, so you’ll face more challenges than the average 20-year-old in the kitchen. Here are some negatives to think about:

  • 80-hour workweeks
  • Work is fast-paced and demanding
  • Lack of family time
  • Physically demanding
  • Your supervisors will be younger
  • There will be loud music
  • You will start from the bottom
  • Low wages
  • Steep learning curve

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Best Options for Middle-Aged Aspiring Chefs

Whether you should switch your career to the Culinary Arts at 40 comes down to a few basic questions: why do you want to be a chef? What do you want to do with it? How much do you want it? If you’re just looking for a different job, don’t do it. If you’re truly passionate and interested in becoming a chef, there are a few paths you can take.


Get Cracking

So you’re seriously considering becoming a chef at 40, but you’re not completely sure where to start? At this age, becoming a chef with no experience is going to be nearly impossible, so enroll at a culinary school! Culinary schools offer courses and degrees that will teach you everything you need to know about food. While having a Culinary Arts degree isn’t required for most kitchen jobs, it will prepare you to work in a variety of kitchens and may get you a higher starting wage.


Why Go to Culinary School?

Sometimes kitchens see a 40-year-old aspiring chef as someone experiencing a midlife crisis and may reject an application solely based on that. It would be best to obtain a culinary arts degree before applying to kitchen jobs—it shows that you have the passion and drive to go through the hardest parts in order to reach your goal. Attending a Culinary Arts school will put you on the direct path to creating a rewarding, long-term career. Starting culinary school at 40 won’t be easy though since the average age of a culinary student is 28 so you’ll need to be alright with working alongside and taking orders from a younger crowd.


Become Your Own Boss

If you’re worried about employers rejecting you based on your age, it might be time to try something different—start your own business! You’re never too old to start a culinary business and your extra years of life experience will come in handy. Becoming a restaurant’s executive chef after 40 is a tall order, but being the head chef at your own business is completely doable! Right now there is a huge cultural boom around food trucks, so it might be the perfect time for you to looking into starting your own food truck business—instead of following orders, you’ll be making them.

RELATED: Culinary School vs Restaurant Experience: Why They're Both Important


Why Go to Culinary School for Management?

Going back to culinary school for a management degree is a great idea. Certain programs like our 64-week Hospitality Management AOS Degree can prepare you to run your own culinary business. When you go out on your own, the possibilities are endless!

You could run a catering company, start a food truck business, become a private chef, open a franchise, start a restaurant, etc. Knowing your limits and setting your own standards, schedules, and expectations will help you achieve success in the Culinary Arts.

RELATED: How a Culinary Degree Can Help You Become a Restaurant Entrepreneur


The World is Your Oyster

Here at the Oregon Culinary Institute, we offer several options for prospective chefs, regardless of age. Learn how to manage so you can prepare yourself for running your own food truck business, or enroll in a program specifically catered to becoming a chef. You’re never too old for culinary school!


Take the Plunge

Check out our course offerings!