Napa Valley Cooking
Name: Ellie
Career: Cook
Company Field: Restaurant Industry
Located In: Napa Valley, California
Grew Up In: Moorestown, New Jersey
Graduated From:
Majored In: Hotel Administration
Graduated In: 2011
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After College Lifestyles

Ellie is a cook in Napa Valley, California, the food and wine capital of the United States. It is clear that she loves her job from the way she describes her daily tasks. It is inspiring to read about her life surrounded by food enthusiasts. Ellie's dream is to one day open her own restaurant and she is in the best place to do this!

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Name: Ellie
Career: Cook
Company Field: Restaurant Industry
Located In: Napa Valley, California
Grew Up In: Moorestown, New Jersey
Graduated From:
Majored In: Hotel Administration
Graduated In: 2011

Quick Stats on Being a Cook

Work Hours/Week: 46 hours
Work Hour Flexibility: Low
Quality of Lifestyle Outside of Work: High
Work Stress Level: Medium
Level of Routine Work: Medium
Interaction with Co-Workers: High
Pay Level (out of 5): $$

Life of a College Grad Cook


I am a cook on the line of a small restaurant called Cook in St. Helena, California. I am responsible for preparing the ingredients necessary to make pasta dishes on the menu, including weekly specials. After the ingredients have been prepared, I cook pastas to order, plate, and garnish them. I work with three other cooks each night, which gives the job a strong team atmosphere.

Cook's Daily Routine:

10:00 AM Wake Up, have breakfast

11:00 AM Exercise (usually yoga)

12:00 PM Have lunch, read

1:00 PM Run errands, check email, do laundry

3:00 PM Drive to work, begin shift

4:00 PM Prep for service

6:00 PM Service begins

10:00 PM Clean up the kitchen, pack up to go home

11:00 PM Watch television, catch up on household duties, read

1:00 AM Sleep!

Cooking as a profession after college
How To Get Into The Field
In college, I majored in Hotel Administration with a concentration in Independent Restaurant Management. In this major, I was able to take a range of classes focusing on food – Restaurant Management, Restaurant Entrepreneurship, Food and Wine Pairing, and Cultures and Cuisines. These classes fueled my desire to be in restaurants—cooking, managing, and eventually having my own business. After college, I enrolled in a culinary certificate program through the Culinary Institute of America to further develop my culinary skills. Fortunately, I was able to move right into my work field right after college then become a working cook after culinary school.

What Do You Really Do?
My job as a line cook begins in the early afternoon when I arrive at the restaurant for prep. In prep, all of the line cooks assess what is needed for the night’s service—is there enough pecorino cheese to be grated for the tagliatelle pasta? Will I have to sweat more leeks for the gnocchi? This process takes about two hours, and at the end I am ready to begin taking orders. Service lasts from around 6 to 10 pm, where I cook pastas to order—all timed with dishes my fellow line cooks create. At the end of service, we clean the kitchen and put away all of the ingredients for the next day.
Pros/Cons of Your Job
I enjoy my job for so many reasons: the camaraderie of the cooks, the ability to create beautiful food for diners to enjoy, and the unending process of learning that I experience every day. There are a few frustrating aspects of the job, including the stresses of re-firing orders, long hours, and tired feet at the end of the day. Those who find pure joy in cooking food, work well in a team, and are attracted to the adrenaline of a busy night will find a fun career in cooking professionally.

Tour My Napa Valley Studio Apartment:

Quick Stats on Napa Valley, California

Job Opportunities: High
Competition for Housing: Medium
Housing Cost: Medium
Population of Young People: Low
Nightlife: Low
Safety: High
Biggest Industries: Hospitality, Wine, Agriculture

The Life of a College Grad In Napa Valley, California


Napa Valley Studio Apartment

What's it Like to Live Here?
Northern California is perfect in just about every way! I live about an hour north of San Francisco in Napa, which is pretty much a bubble of foodies and winos. The area is covered in vineyards and produces some of the best wine in the world. I really enjoy this atmosphere, because people get excited about good food and wine – it attracts some fun people to live here. For the most part, the people are down to earth and active. The weather can best be described as beautiful and sunny about 90% of the year, a warm 75 degrees and dry. Aside from the city of Napa, the valley is rural and beautiful with mountains on either side of the valley with a few large lakes to the east. It’s great to get out and enjoy the outdoors here.

How Did I End Up Here?
I have lived most of my life in Moorestown, New Jersey which is a suburb of Philadelphia. I went to public school and developed a passion for cooking, restaurants, and hospitality – which greatly expanded when I went to Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. In my last semester of senior year, I applied to an 8-month program through the Culinary Institute of America at its Greystone campus in St. Helena, California. I had never been to California and was excited for a chance to move west and experience an entirely different part of the country (because I had spent most of my life on the east coast). I had heard about the amazing restaurants, excellent wine, and laid-back atmosphere of northern California and was eager to start the next chapter of my life there. After the program, I decided to stay in Napa valley because of the abundant opportunities for cooks such as myself to learn more about food and cooking.
My Set-Up
I currently live in a little studio on the bottom floor of a condominium, on the edge of downtown Napa. I live by myself, and it’s the first time I’ve never had roommates or lived in a dorm. The studio is one large room with the living room, bedroom, and kitchenette all in the same space with no partitions. My landlords live in the top two floors and we share laundry facilities, which is fine because they’re super laid-back and very nice. The only downside is that I only have a hot plate, microwave, and fridge to call my kitchen – a bit of a bummer being a cook!

Closing Advice


After graduating from college, I wish I had known how important saving money is! There are all kinds of new expenses out in the working world that I hadn’t encountered in college, and they really do add up. Setting aside money each month in case of a car repair, unexpected doctor’s appointment, or apartment security deposit is definitely a good idea. I wish I had been more conscious to spend less on leisure activities and saved more for a rainy day.

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