When you look at Max Polyakov, a 34-year-old cook from Belgium, it may seem that he has spent his whole life in the kitchen. The way he cuts the vegetables and chooses the ingredients for a dish reminds creating a piece of art. This man is a confident professional that makes you truly believe that choosing a right career path does feel like hitting a casino jackpot. However, you would probably be shocked to hear that just a few years ago Max Polyakov worked in the office as an engineer and had no clue about his real passion. What could possibly lead an office worker to the kitchen?
Max Polyakov did not fall into an engineering career by accident. Since he was a child, he found a pleasure in exploring the world around him and understanding how it works. He was not a straight A student at school but he did have great results in math and science. The young guy was attentive to details and liked to explore the objects, their properties, and interaction. The recommendation from the guidance counsellor and career advisers to choose to engineer did not become a surprise and seemed reasonable.
At that time, like a lot of other high school graduates, Max Polyakov was not sure about his next steps. As he did not know what exactly to do with his life, he went with the flow and did what society expected him to do. Choosing an engineering career seemed to be a right decision.
It is worth mentioning that at his spare time Max Polyakov enjoyed cooking, trying some new recipes, and watching the TV shows like Masterchef. However, his interest in cooking was never something more than a silly hobby. Who does not like to have something exquisite for a dinner? Choosing cooking as a career seemed as unpredictable as playing a slot machine. Thus, Max Polyakov ended up getting a degree in mechanical engineering and experimenting in the kitchen just for fun.
After a college graduation, Max Polyakov started to look for a job making one of the common mistakes of young specialists. While hunting for a vacancy, he paid a lot of attention to the salary. Earning as much as possible quickly became the most important thing for a guy who started his independent life. A high salary became a priority while choosing a place to work. Max did not think too much about job satisfaction as it seemed optional. All in all, engineering is not gambling and does not have to bring excitement and joy. He did change his opinion about that a few years later.
Max Polyakov ended up his job search with getting a position at an Offshore engineering consultancy. He felt lucky to get a stable job with a steady income in a well-known company. There were obvious perks like a paid leave and healthcare. What else can you wish for?
While on the surface the job seemed perfect and Max made everything that was expected of him post-university, he felt unfulfilled. Going to the same office every day started to kill slowly his enthusiasm. The monotonous tasks made working hours seem endless. He kept checking his clock but the work time did not run any faster. His friendly colleagues eventually started to remind the robots in human clothing. The meetings felt like a total waste of time and seemed pointless. This day-to-day nightmare made Max Polyakov feel miserable. He was trapped in a lifestyle he built himself.
At first, his worries felt irrational and he did not take them seriously. Everybody gets tired of work sometimes. What is a big deal? He kept ignoring his true feelings and felt a little guilty. His apathy seemed to be laziness and he kept accused himself of being unproductive.
The idea of changing a job popped into Max’s head a few times but he quickly refused from it. He thought that people change careers either when the work conditions are not satisfying or if they have something better in mind. He did not have any good reasons to complain about his job. The salary was high, the office did not locate far from his place and the industry had a potential. The lack of interest did not seem like a serious reason to leave a well-paid job. In addition, Max Polyakov did not know what else he can do and what career can make him happy.
His sadness kept developing and grew into a real depression. Max Polyakov got absorbed with being unsatisfied with his job and anything else did not make him happy as well. He tried to run away from his problems trying everything from gambling to reading career advice books but it did not bring any results.
It is hard to say what exactly became a turning point but once his mental suffering became physical the change was inevitable. Max could not deal with insomnia, suffocation, and headaches anymore. He decided to quit. Needless to say, that this decision was not perceived very well. His colleagues kept repeating that it is stupid to leave such a great job. His boss was sure that Max got a better offer and could not believe that it is possible to leave such a great job without any further plans. His family was supportive but sceptical about this sudden change. Max was also scared of his unknown future but his decision was final.
After quitting a job, Max Polyakov felt a slight relief but he still did not know what to do and felt lost. The more he tried to figure out what to do with his life, the more clueless he felt. He thought through all his skills and interests but he still could not imagine how his dream job should look like. He was not sure if having a dream job is even possible in real life.
One day tired of numerous attempts to find his vocation, Max decided to take a break and went to a local café Murka to have a cup of coffee. It was not his first time in this place. He knew it very well and visited it from time to time. The relaxing atmosphere of a small Belgian café Murka made him forget about his troubles for a couple of hours.
Murka was a perfect place to experience cosiness after a long day. Thanks to its authentic and warm interior, it quickly became Max’s safe place. Apart from the relaxing atmosphere, Murka attracted visitors with its inventive cuisine and a variety of drinks. Max Polyakov did not forget his old hobby and loved to order different dishes trying to guess the recipe.
One day he was sipping his drink in Murka observing the staff working when an old-school sign Help Wanted suddenly caught his eyes. He did need some temporary job to make a living and run away from his frustration. Apart from playing online casino from time to time and searching for a new occupation, he did not have much to do. The job in a café was completely opposite to what he did before and it was exactly what he needed at that moment. He talked to a manager to find out the details and decided to try.
The next day Max Polyakov started his job as a kitchen assistant in Murka. The tasks were easy and did not demand any special qualification. The first few weeks Max was happy that his new job kept him distracted from his worries and disturbing thoughts. Washing the dishes felt like zen and he did not notice anything around.
A few weeks later Max Polyakov started to pay attention to the kitchen smells and noises. He discovered the whole new world. The kitchen crew worked like one mechanism. Everybody was always busy and spoke the weird coded language. The interaction between the workers reminded some kind of a chaotic dance. Max felt happy to be a small part of it for some reason.
It was nothing like the atmosphere in the office. The pace of work was faster and every minute something new happened. Each person made the contribution to the process. Max was amazed at how well-organized everything was and how the cooks always knew what ingredients and temperature to choose. The kitchen magic changed his vision of the café. Before he thought that the cosy atmosphere, lounge music and the comfortable furniture in the hall is a café. Then he realized that the real café magic happened behind the kitchen door.
Another thing he liked about cooking is that a cook can always see the result of his work and sometimes the visitor’s reaction. Max Polyakov realized that a cook’s job is stressful but also rewarding. Observing how a bunch of ingredients became a real masterpiece was really exciting. It was almost like playing a slot machine knowing you always win. The result of your work was not abstract and far, it was easy to smell and taste.
Max’s interest in cooking started to grow. While washing the dishes, he was not drowning in frustration anymore. He started to notice the new details. He knew when too much sauce was served or not all the bones were properly trimmed. He observed how the cook cuts the vegetables for different dishes, what spices he adds, what temperature is better for the pastry. Max Polyakov was thirsty for the new knowledge and learned from his new colleagues.
It took a few months before he realized that cooking became his real passion. Max kept to work part-time in a café Murka and started to attend culinary courses. Eventually, he began to receive the new tasks and develop new skills.
Although the job was enjoyable and it was exciting to learn, the career change did not go all smoothly. It was hard to adjust to the new schedule and working on Friday and Saturday nights. Certain tasks required some practice and did not go well at first. However, each day was filled with little victories.
There were a few embarrassing moments during some shifts. The staff laughed when a new worker cut a watermelon on the same cutting board that he used for cutting chili pepper and onions. It was embarrassing to accidentally slice the tip of the finger on the meat slicer. Despite these rare fails, Max Polyakov continued to work and learn.
The colleagues became an inspiration for Max. They were responsible, disciplined, and hard-working. He learned from them that coming to work in time means showing at least a half hour before your shift starts. He learned the importance of the right labels on the jars. The importance of the small details made every action meaningful.
The experienced from a previous job helped a lot in changing careers. Max Polyakov could not turn his engineering brain off while cooking and it worked well for him. His knowledge of science and math got the new meaning in the kitchen. He never realized that the knowledge of thermodynamics, biochemistry, and surface tension could help him to become a better cook.
If a few years ago anyone told Max Polyakov that cooking could become his real passion, he probably would not believe it. Changing a career from engineering to cooking took a lot of courage and effort. No one ever gives you a guarantee that a new career path will be successful and more rewarding. However, if you take the risk, you will get rid of the doubts and possible regrets.