Before I started grad school, I worked as a cook in a fancy French restaurant. After working there full time (and then some) a year, I had to decide if I wanted to go seriously into cooking (and get a second job, to gain experience) or go to grad school. I chose grad school, but I think I could’ve been equally happy (in different ways) doing either one.
When I got hired, my only food service experience was working as the sandwich person in a shit cafe for five months. That job was hell, and I wanted to get more into cooking seriously, so I applied to about 7 different restaurants that were hiring kitchen staff. I got interviews at 4 places, and was offered a job at every place I interviewed.