Q: There are so many cooking and food-travel shows now Do you feel like these shows have created a false impression of what it’s like to work in a kitchen?
Bourdain: Yeah, sure. But anybody who goes in laboring under the assumption or thinking it’s going to be easy or glamorous is going to be very, very quickly dissuaded. They were not going to last. But that was always the case. There are always delusional people who thought it would be a great idea, who decided to “follow their passion.” This was always a lethal instinct. Or almost always a lethal instinct. And I think the genuine problem is that there are a lot of cooking schools around the country who, in a predatory way, have contributed to or have essentially knowingly encouraged people who, in good conscience, should not be encouraged, and leading them to believe that, at 35 years old, they will be able to roll out of this third-tier cooking school, saddled with a huge and often punitive debt, and somehow ever get out from under.
I mean, they’re not telling them that, if you’re 35, you’re going to be grandpa in the kitchen. You’re going to be, chances are, the oldest person in the kitchen. That it is physically hard, and that you’re going to be getting paid shit, if you’re lucky, for the first few years. And if you want to be really good, then you will insist upon getting paid shit, because what you should be doing is working for somebody really, really good for as close to nothing as they’re willing to give you, in return for the experience. So that’s something that I think it would be useful to point out. That if you have a good job, you’re 35 years old, and you think it’s going to be easy, or that you’re going to make a good living, you at least need a realistic picture of what the business is really like before you make a jump or a commitment like that.
I mean, I admire anyone who wants to cook and knowingly enters the field. It’s a hard thing. But, you know, look before you leap. Because I’ve seen that so many times, kids coming out of cooking school and working in my kitchens, and literally two weeks in, you see it. You look behind the line, and you can just see the dream die. This terrible information sinking in, like, “Oh my God, this is nothing like they told me it was going to be.”