Alexa Rostovsky Addresses the Financial Aspect of Pursuing a Culinary Career

According to Alexa Rostovsky, a student at the Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles, California, one aspect of becoming a chef that is routinely overlooked is the financial cost, especially when considered in the context of timely return on investment.

The past two decades have witnessed the glamorization of culinary art, with chefs becoming the new rock stars and cuisine going haute couture as channels like The Food Network and countless gourmet Instagram pages make cooking seem like a romantic and action-packed adventure. Amid all this excitement, celebrity chefs such as Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsey, Alex Guarnaschelli, and Bobby Flay serve as an example to many aspiring cooks, providing a massive boost to culinary schools, which have seen applications surge in recent years. The problem is that many young people are literally buying into the dream without having a realistic notion of the hardships and sacrifices required to establish a reputation in this demanding industry, according to Alexa Rostovsky, a student at the Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles, California. One aspect routinely overlooked is the financial cost of becoming a chef, especially when considered in the context of timely return on investment.

The immense popularity of TV cooking shows and these Instagram pages has made culinary schools a highly desirable destination for school graduates on a career path. “While the inspiration and motivation provided by successful chefs are undoubtedly good things, most young people have no idea what they are opting for,” says Alexa Rostovsky. The culinary industry requires as much character as it does acumen for the pace is frenetic, the demands grueling, the hours merciless, and the pay still minimal, at best. It rivals theatrical arts in terms of physical toll and competition severity but offers far less recognition, glamor, and support. In all probability, culinary school graduates will leave with a heavy debt burden and face several years of 12-hour working days on minimum wage.

As a student well aware of her options, Alexa Rostovsky is wisely "trying before buying.” The insightful teen notes, "I love being able to create with food and watch others enjoy it, and I love having the freedom to add my own kick. However, I understand that, as a career, it takes a long time to earn that freedom, and that is a big decision for me." Given the importance of the choice, she is placing a strong emphasis on direct exposure to the environment. "I attended a culinary camp called Explo Chef specifically for the experience of learning in a live restaurant kitchen. This past summer, I interned at Jar Restaurant in West Hollywood as I think it is one of those industries where you will learn as much on the ground as in class," Alexa Rostovsky adds.

Culinary schools are recognizing the bias of perception and modifying their application process to overcome this issue. The Culinary Institute of America now requires of applicants to have had at least six months of experience working in a restaurant, front or back of the house, knowing that this length of time is enough to burst any enthusiastic bubbles. Jodi Liano, the founder of the San Francisco Cooking School, talks personally over the phone to every single applicant to gauge the real reason behind their ambition, and those who fail to convince her of having a genuine passion for the craft stand no chance of admittance.

An exemplary student and dedicated volunteer, Alexa Rostovsky donates much of her time to community service and social initiatives supporting various worthy causes. Recognized by her school with the Humanitas Award, she is involved in numerous projects at different non-profit organizations, including The Grossman Burn Foundation, AHEAD WITH HORSES, and a remote reading program for children with learning disabilities. In her spare time, Alexa Rostovsky indulges her passion for the flute, culinary art, dance, and horseback riding.

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