The best reasons to pursue an education at culinary schools are not unlike the best reasons to pursue romance: Attraction, curiosity, desire to learn more, desire (plain and simple), and eventually, love. For a lifelong relationship exploring all that food has to offer "creating a variety of delectable treats from comfort food staples like macaroni and cheese to innovative cuisine such as bone marrow infused with basil and mango salsa "there's no better way to nurture that love affair than through an education in culinary schools".
With more than 200 accredited culinary schools and programs throughout the country, foodies everywhere have no trouble finding the right educational opportunities. There are even culinary schools offering online courses. Look for institutions that are accredited through the American Culinary Federation, which promotes "the professional image of American chefs worldwide through education of culinary students at all levels." For more information, visit the American Culinary Federation website at acfchefs.org.
Like all specialty schools, culinary schools offer total immersion into all things food (and wine and spirits, if you'd like). Students take the perfect blend of classes designed to develop a chef's creative and practical skills. They flex their artistic muscles through innovative cooking and baking, experimenting with tastes and textures. culinary students also hone their business and professional skills with instruction covering inventory, purchasing, payroll, front-of-the-house training, and general business. Training regimens vary from informal cooking classes for the extreme hostess who enjoys throwing over-the-top dinner parties (serving buffalo roast with chipotle roasted garlic jus, a classic recipe from Le Cordon Bleu!) to Certified Master Chef, the PhD-equivalent in culinary training.
For those unsure of which delicious path they will ultimately pursue "sweet or savory, food artist or restaurant manager" a good place to explore a variety of options is a culinary school's Certificate Program. These programs offer fundamental training and the possibility of graduating in less than a year.
As the next goal, an associate's degree at culinary schools takes one to two years to complete. The courses develop skills and techniques necessary for any beginning chef. Many students use this degree to launch careers as entry-level chefs and preparatory cooks in restaurants.
Students attending culinary schools to pursue managerial positions enroll in a bachelor's degree program, which includes training in business and marketing. This degree can focus on a variety of culinary regimens including food and beverage management, hospitality management, culinary management, culinary sciences, and culinary arts. Management diplomas are well-suited to those looking to work as a manager of a bar, restaurant, hotel, or catering company. The curriculum combines considerable front- and back-of-the-house training. Graduates may be eligible for entry-level management positions throughout the hospitality industry. They may also pursue a master's degree in business to qualify for upper-level culinary or hospitality management positions.
Reasons to Go to Culinary Schools
Why did Michael Jordan initially begin his training as a basketball player? What inspired Eric Clapton to pick up his first guitar? How did Wolfgang Puck decide to spend the majority of his life creating gastronomic delights in the kitchen?
The answer is the same across the board: For the love of the chosen art form.
Like Chef Puck, maybe you are smitten with food and the art of creating cuisine that keeps your taste buds smitten with you. And this, in a ginger/lime-infused nutshell, is the most significant reason for you to pursue an education at culinary School.
In some ways, you've already absorbed an invaluable education by spending time on your own cooking and baking. Out of curiosity, you've pursued new recipes. You've even perfected a few original dishes. But you may find yourself limited in your ability to think outside your own sugar-coated boxes of creativity and ability. Enrolling in culinary School is the logical next step in pursuing your craft as a hobby cook who enjoys creating impressive meals for friends and family or a professional chef who eats, drinks, and breathes a life of producing culinary delights.
Doesn't that sound attractive? But wait - there's more. Some formal education is mandatory for pursuing a culinary career. You may know your way around a crepe pan but do you know your way around an inventory sheet? You've been told you make the best marinara sauce outside of Italy; do you know how to recreate that recipe for a restaurant that seats 200 people? (It is more difficult than simply adjusting ingredient measurements.) It gets hot in your kitchen when you cook. Will you be able to stand the more than one hundred degree temperatures in a professional kitchen for six to eight hours at a time?
Consider culinary school as a kind of boot camp to make sure you really have "the stuff" to make it - and more importantly, to discover if this is the career path you really want. In culinary school, the romance of your passion will be tried, fried, curdled, and perhaps even burnt to a crisp. While attending culinary school, many courses will be boring, monotonous, and challenging. You will share, perhaps for the first time, a kitchen with other chefs, and you will have to deal with personality differences as a result. There will be aspects of culinary school that you may not enjoy, but you need to know what to expect if you're going to take your passion from curious amateur to well-prepared professional chef.
The most important lessons you'll learn in culinary school aren't offered in Inventory 101 or Julienne Knife Techniques; you'll find them in your personal evaluation of how well you absorb all your coursework and practical training, from the fun and informative to the boring and distasteful. Are you turned off by the unromantic side of culinary arts? Does the tedium of calculating the amount of broccoli needed for your signature stir-fry take all the joy out of preparing the dish? Do you feel like you might jump out of your skin if you have to fillet one more piece of salmon? Will working next to Jane, the "I-Make-The-Best-Chicken-Florentine-Ever" culinary student drive you to a new level of crazy? If so, perhaps you need to rethink your career path.
But for aspiring culinary students who understand that the less-than-glamorous aspects of culinary arts are necessary ingredients in becoming a successful chef, baker, and restaurateur, the experience of attending culinary schools will cement their fervor in pursuing the art of cuisine.
Last Updated: 09/06/2012