Simply put, you love food. You love finding the right produce at the farmer’s market, buying your meat from the butcher, and installing a gas range in your home. Nothing makes you happier than preparing food for family and friends and finding the newest places to eat to give you ideas for your next culinary delight. But is culinary school worth it?
Whether you’re coming straight out of high school or looking for a career change after 10 years in the rat race, if food is your thing, a career in the culinary arts is appealing for many reasons. The fast pace of a kitchen rush, selecting the right ingredients for the day, or developing your own menu has an undeniable allure.
At least, that’s your dream. But becoming an executive chef in a fine dining restaurant, a line cook at a hipster hotspot, or a pastry chef in your own shop doesn’t happen overnight. While attending a weekly cooking school class for an hour (and maybe tasting more wine than food) is certainly a nice hobby, it’s not going to jump-start your career.
For a true culinary education, you may be thinking of applying to a real cooking institution, learning a variety of cooking styles, cuisines, and kitchen systems. But do you need a culinary degree to join a kitchen staff? Can you just work your way up from busboy?
Is Culinary School Worth It?
If you are seriously considering a career in the culinary arts, either as a cook or in some other capacity, attending culinary school is probably a good idea. Although many consider cooking a creative endeavor, there are still very specific rules and best practices that you’ll need to follow to find work and keep your job.
In that respect, a culinary school can give you the foundation you need to build a career, more so than watching cooking shows or watching YouTube videos. You can certainly try to piece together what it means to be a professional cook through Google searches and hoping to find the correct information.
But a search history isn’t much of a resume for prospective employers. And while anyone looking to hire will want to see what you can do before bringing you on will need to see some proof that you have some background, even if it is only in an educational setting.
There’s also the cost of attending a school. If you’re looking at name universities halfway across the country (or world!), you could be looking at spending six figures before interviewing for your first job. You’ll need to know ahead of time that those student loans will be with you for a while.
A Culinary Career
Even with a culinary degree in hand, you won’t just start out heading up your own kitchen. In many cases, you’ll begin at the bottom of the kitchen brigade food chain as a prep cook, earning minimum wage while working maximum hours. It can take a long time to reach an upper echelon (and better paying) position.
On the other hand, the restaurant industry is famous for turnover, so if you continue to learn about a working kitchen while doing your very best in your current position, there is room for advancement. In most cases, a combination of experience and expertise is what you’ll need to start reaching those lofty goals you set for yourself.
Which brings us back to the original question: Is culinary school worth it? This is much more than a yes or no question as the answer varies between professionals. Seasoned chefs may roll their eyes at the assertion while others wish they could have built a solid foundation or skill set before entering the industry.
Is Culinary School Worth Your Time and Money?
We think the better question is which culinary school gives you the best chance at a career in the kitchen without being saddled with student loans for years and years. At the Chef Apprentice School of the Arts, we strive to give you the best of both worlds.
We put you in a one-on-one situation with a mentor, a professional chef that will show you how the kitchen really works. You’ll work with them in their kitchen during off hours, learning your way around a real-world atmosphere, without having to compete for their attention.
Our six-month Gourmet Chef Program will give you a foundational skill-set, from choosing the right products to following recipes to different cooking styles. You’ll learn how to prepare the foods you’ll cook as well as safety protocols for food storage and handling. Your coursework will include cooking 60-70 meals at home and documenting your progress.
It all leads to a 20-hour stint in a fully immersive, live environment in your mentor’s kitchen. You’ll take your position on the line or brigade, preparing real food for real customers. This kind of experience just can’t be replicated in a practice kitchen, cooking for your teacher or other classmates.
Of course, there’s the financial aspect of education. If you want to know if culinary school is worth it, you need to know what tuition is, right? Our tuition is roughly the same amount as one semester of other culinary schools. You’ll get a world-class education, experience, and connections within the industry for a fraction of the cost and time spent.