Sunday, November 27, 2016

Is a Culinary Degree Worth It?

Today’s post was inspired by Chelsea Fagan’s article 3 thoughts I've been having about money. She writes about her uncomfortableness with the personal finance community and middle-class privilege, but the line "why the f*** is a woman in as prosperous a country as America six figures in debt for a Bachelor’s degree in the first place?" resonated with me. She goes on to write:
And what can we do, politically and personally, to ensure that more people do not end up in the same situation, rather than simply explaining the best and most efficient ways to crawl out of it?
I immediately decided to write about Alyssa, a line chef working at Huertas in NYC, who I learned about in my latest read Generation Chef: Risking It All for a New American Dreamwritten by Karen Stabiner.* Alyssa owed close to $80,000 in student loan debt incurred while she attended CIA in Hyde Park, New York. She paid for her entire bachelor’s degree with student loans; at the time she thought the degree was essential because she hadn’t gone to college. She was well-paid for a line cook at $13 an hour – most New York City line cooks earned an hourly rate of between $8 and $12. Making ends meet after her loan repayment’s temporary reduction expired became impossible.

She ended up moving back to her childhood home in Southern California to live with her mom. Her first food job had been at a restaurant on the Disneyland property in Anaheim. She hoped to return to one of the Disneyland restaurants. They paid well and offered sizable benefits. She figured with no rent and no food costs she would be able to make a sizable dent in her debt in two to three years.

Other annual salaries mentioned in Generation Chef:

Sous Chef $36,000-$38,000

Jonah (restaurant owner) $50,000.

Is a culinary degree worth it?

The chefs featured in the article Chefs Weigh In; Is Culinary School Worth It? say it is not. Jonah, Huertas’ owner, describes culinary school as a “parochial” experience and is wary of graduates, although he feels hiring Alyssa was an exception.

Then there are articles like this one: Surprising jobs with $100K salaries -- after only a two-year degree. The #1 career on the list is pastry chef.  I was touting the earning potential of pastry chefs, to a friend when she brought me back to reality. Her niece made $11 an hour as a pastry chef only because she worked for another family member. After that restaurant closed, the niece moved to Denver where she now works at a popular restaurant earning $9 an hour frosting cakes and cupcakes.

Then there is the 14-year old daughter of an acquaintance who dreams of going to culinary school and becoming a pastry chef. Her father’s advice: become a software engineer, work in Silicon Valley earning $200,000 a year for 20 years, then retire and open a bakery as your second career.

*In Generation Chef: Risking It All for a New American Dream, Stabiner follows Jonah for a little more than a year as he fulfills his childhood dream of opening a restaurant. His journey isn’t for the faint of heart; despite all his planning and positive reviews, he faced staffing shortages, $700,000 of debt, failed liquor license approvals and not enough customers. If you have dreams of someday owning your own restaurant I recommend reading Generation Chef for a reality check.

What do you think: is a Culinary Degree worth It? 

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Sunday, November 06, 2016

Life of the Party by Bob Kealing

I have to admit I had never heard of Brownie Wise prior to reading about Bob Kealing’s book Life of the Party: The Remarkable Story of How Brownie Wise Built, and Lost, a Tupperware Party Empire on Blogging for Books.

What is this book about?

Long before Martha Stewart, Mary Kay and other celebrated mavens of domesticity, there was Wise, the face and genius behind the iconic Tupperware Party. In “Life of the Party: The Remarkable Story of How Brownie Wise Built, and Lost, a Tupperware Party Empire,” we learn the remarkable story of how she built — and abruptly lost — a Tupperware Party empire.

My Thoughts:

I love a good historical business book and Life of the Party is a good one. It begins a little slow as we learn about Earl Tupper (Tupperware’s inventor), Wise’s early years and her life before she was promoted to sales manager. Once Wise moves to Florida the story becomes more interesting and I found the last half of the book which includes her rapid rise as the face of Tupperware and her eventual demise fascinating.

I also thought it was interesting to learn Tupperware’s home party division made their home in the Kissimmee/Orlando area of Florida long before Disney moved in. Florida was still quite racially-segregated in 1951, but land was cheap and it was thought it would be easier to convince salesman to combine family vacations with business seminars saving the company money.

Brownie Wise was an astute business woman ahead of her time, but if you are looking for a how did she do it type of book you will most likely be disappointed. This book is more of a “what she did” type of book than a “how-to.” Though there are snippets of business and marketing lessons scattered though-out.

I like this one on recruiting that could still be used today:

If she (a potential Tupperware dealer) isn’t eager to devote enough time to her first training, you should not appoint her. Beware of the applicant who thinks she doesn’t need thorough training. The odds against her are huge. (Pg. 76.)

Bottom Line:
I recommend if you are interested in business history, reading about business and career women, the 1950’s, trends in business and of course Tupperware and the home party concept.

Life of the Party: The Remarkable Story of How Brownie Wise Built, and Lost, a Tupperware Party Empire would also make a good selection for a business book club.  Bob Kealing remained unbiased when he described what happened to Brownie Wise, which in my opinion could lead to a great discussion.

Have you heard of Brownie Wise? If you've read this book, what did you think?

"I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."

Note, some of the links included in this post are affiliate links.