Working in a professional kitchen can mean being on your feet for long hours, sometimes deep into the night. As a head chef, you’re back at it in the morning, looking for only the freshest products to bring back to the restaurant and preparing ingredients for the day’s menu. Working in a restaurant kitchen can be equal parts stress and satisfaction, dealing with an assortment of personalities while ensuring you prepare a dish that’s a feast for the eyes and the stomach. And if you’re good at your job, you may be preparing hundreds of meals a day. But what is culinary school like?
Being a chef or a line cook can be a difficult job, especially if you have little to no training. A culinary school will also remove some of the mystery of preparing food. Even those that have no intention of working outside of the kitchen at home, cooks of all kinds can benefit from some kind of course.
What is Culinary School Like?
There are almost as many different kinds of cooking schools as there are ways to prepare a potato–which means a lot. At one end of the spectrum are the monthly courses offered at kitchens where students learn how to cook a single type of food (and wine may or may not play a part) over an hour or two.
At the other end is a cut-throat world where aspiring chefs fight with other students to curry favor with the instructor over months or even years of training. This atmosphere can be just as stressful as a real-world kitchen, only without the benefit of a paycheck.
What to Expect from Culinary School
If you’re wondering what to expect from culinary school, think first about what you want to get out of your culinary education. Nobody starts out being an executive chef (usually because it takes years of experience to attain that position) and nobody expects to be a garde manger (pantry chef) for their entire career.
So ask yourself why are you attending culinary school in the first place? Do you want to work your way through all the stations of a five-star restaurant in a major city or impress friends and family with your prowess in your home’s kitchen? Or maybe you’d like to open a boutique bakery.
No matter your career aspirations, it all starts with building your skill set–this is where a cooking school comes into play. From understanding the basic brigade system, food safety, and proper handling of ingredients to the final plating and presentation. Regardless of the cuisine you’re interested in, you can expect to learn these basic functions.
Culinary degree programs should also include different methods of cooking, how to use the equipment in a kitchen, knife skills, and measuring techniques. While it may seem rudimentary, a good chef instructor will make sure you have these basic building blocks of the kitchen.
While you may be interested in just one type of cuisine, a well-rounded chef should be versed in all forms of cooking. If this is what you want to do for the rest of your life, you should expect to learn how to prepare a wide variety of foods.
You should also be prepared for the real world. Learning how to saute vegetables in a test kitchen is one thing, but learning how to do it in the hustle and bustle of a professional kitchen is a different beast altogether. And while you need a solid foundation of skills, experience is the ultimate teacher.
The Chef Apprentice School of the Arts (CASA)
At CASA, it doesn’t matter if you’re fresh out of high school or looking to change careers after a decade or two in another field. You won’t be expected to have prior experience or have a culinary degree from another school. All you really need is a love of cooking and the determination to put in the work.
What separates us from the majority of other culinary schools is the one-on-one training you get from your mentor. There’s no dueling with other students, waiting for your chance to ask a question or to get feedback on your work. It’s just you, your mentor, and the food you’re preparing.
You’ll also work independently, preparing dishes in your home and documenting your processes. Coursework includes online tutorials, demonstrations, required reading, and quizzes. At the end of our program, you’ll be placed in a working restaurant/kitchen for real-world experience that just can’t be matched in a classroom.
You will be scheduled for several hours of work in a professional kitchen, working with other line cooks and your mentor. This is when all of your prior learning, preparation, and work comes to fruition. Prove you belong here and you can jump-start your career, in your mentor’s restaurant or at another location based on your mentor’s recommendation.
The CASA Difference
CASA believes a culinary school should be accessible, not exclusive. Becoming a chef may be your career goal, but you still have a life to lead in the meantime. Being forced to uproot your life to move to New York or Los Angeles for years of training, while taking on six figures of debt for tuition, doesn’t seem very accessible to us.
Our Gourmet Chef Program lasts six months or less depending on your needs and costs up to 75 percent less than those “name” schools. We offer locations around the US for in-person training as well as remote learning options for our students. Financial aid is available in certain situations as well.
Your mentor and Academic Facilitator will work with you to develop a curriculum that develops your strengths and a schedule that works with your life. The best part? You’ll be getting real-world experience with a professional chef, proving you can hack it in a professional setting.