Jaime Carmody wasn't your typical 14-year-old. Instead of starting food fights and trading her carrot sticks for potato chips at lunch time, she was savoring every bite and idolizing the lunch ladies.
Carmody loved cooking at home and found herself an employee of the food and beverage industry before she could even drive. She worked her way up from sandwich cook, prep cook, lunch line cook to dinner line cook by age 20.
"I love all five senses of food: The visual, the taste, the smell, the sound, the feel," she says. "I like to eat and to enjoy food. I like to see people's reactions to my food. I like to take something you wouldn't think is good and healthy, and make it so."
She decided to support these passions with a formal education. "I decided to go to culinary school to figure out what else in food I liked besides restaurants," Carmody explains. She chose to study at the Scottsdale, Az.-based Scottsdale Culinary Institute. The school was 12 months of 40 hours a week classes with a three-month externship at a spa in Southern California. "I realized that I love food and I love the food industry," she says.
After her externship, she spent time with local chefs in Arizona, such as Eddie Matney, Gary Sherear and Michael Hubard. She found herself happiest working for hotels, because of the opportunities and numerous culinary jobs available under one roof. "I have worked for Destination Hotels and Resorts, Marriott and Hilton," she says. "I even have a picture of me with Mr. Marriott."
As the executive chef at the Hilton Garden Inn in Carlsbad Beach, California, Carmody got her greatest breadth and depth of experience with management, banquets, catering, restaurants, room service and employees. As a well-versed chef, she was living a dream. But her heart longed for her other aspiration – to be a mom.
"I had always wanted to be a mom and a chef," Carmody says. "I knew that if stayed on the path I was on, I would be a great head chef, but not have too much time for kids."
She and her new husband decided to move to Ohio where they could live the lifestyle they wanted without having to work a corporate job. "I researched the personal chef field and decided it was a perfect fit. I could be a chef and a mom at the same time."
After having a taste of being boss as executive chef, Carmody knew she enjoyed being in charge. And coming from a family of entrepreneurs, she had a great support system when it came time to start her own business. Today, she is not only a mother, but also the owner of Out Of Thyme, Ltd., a personal chef service. She does in-home meal preparation – where she makes up to a month's worth of food for you, according to your dietary guidelines – as well as intimate dinners, private parties and cooking classes.
Carmody increases her business through happy customers, networking groups such as eWomen Network and the Web. She also got involved with a professional organization of personal chefs, the American Personal and Private Chefs. "I still do the networking, [but] my best form of advertising is cooking for you," she says. "Once you meet me and try my food, you are my best advertiser."
She has some advice for anyone looking to break into this business: "Be prepared to work long hours and spend money on good shoes." And she also has advice that's applicable to any business owner, in any industry: "Be open to new ideas, flavors and tastes."
Turns out, Carmody found a career in quite a healthy industry. "The job outlook for chefs, cooks and other kitchen workers is very good," says Dawn Rosenberg McKay, a career planning professional and author. "There are expected to be many jobs available for those seeking them through the year 2014. Competition for chef positions in high-end restaurants is supposed to be tough, however."
Earnings vary depending on where and in what type of establishment one works. But, for example, the median salary for a Cincinnati-based sous chef is $39,760 and a fine dining restaurant chef has a median salary of $41,155, according to the Salary Wizard at www.salary.com.