It’s the same question every high school senior–or anyone looking to start a new career for that matter–has to ask themselves: Do I need to go to school to do what I want to do? That applies to those looking to make a living in a professional kitchen as a chef or in some other capacity. So, then, the next question is usually what is the best culinary school?
It’s a fact of life in some professions–where you went to school is just as important as what you went to school for. A medical degree from Harvard, a law degree from Yale, and other traditional degrees from other schools that have ivy-covered buildings. And that’s fine, there are certain standards that must be met for those professions and a classroom is the best place to learn them.
But becoming a chef is just as much about feeling and creativity as it is about knowing at which temperatures (and for how long) to best cook a filet mignon. So much of what makes a great chef is learning by doing while still following traditional methods of choosing which ingredients to use or how to prepare them.
What is the Best Culinary School?
When choosing a school, it’s important to consider what they offer. If you’re interested in baking and pastry arts or farm-to-table best practices, does the school offer those courses or programs? Depending on what you want to do with your culinary arts career, you may be able to weed out some schools from the start.
There are also real-world decisions to think about when choosing a school for your degree in culinary arts. There are costs to consider, not just with tuition and associated fees, but if you have to move to attend the school. In some cases, schools will provide room and board as part of the tuition, but you can expect to pay a lot more than other institutions.
But cost shouldn’t necessarily equate to value. If the school only teaches you a certain region of cuisine, but you’re looking for something different, even free tuition doesn’t make a lot of sense. Another thing to think about is reputation–are you paying for the school’s “name” or do they actually graduate the best chefs in the world?
What is the Best Culinary School? The One That Gives you Actual Experience
Our Culinary Boot Camp, in-person attendance, at-home assignments, and documentation of everything you’ve done lead up to the moment of truth: a 100-hour externship in your mentor’s restaurant or professional kitchen. This is everything you’ve been learning about, preparing for, and working toward during the 22-week program.
This is the cornerstone of what our programs include. The CASA Gourmet Chef Program prepares students for the fast-paced environment of a real-world kitchen–and then puts them to work! You’ll still be under the watchful eye of your mentor, but you’ll be working with others that are professionals at what they do.
Why work alongside other students when you can work with people that are making money doing what you want to do? It’s a high-stress situation to be sure, but it’s how an actual kitchen works. The hustle and bustle of a lunch crowd or the carefully orchestrated dinner hours.
And that’s what our programs offer: Real. World. Experience.
In the real world of food service and hospitality, experience, and ability are what matter. Don’t get us wrong–a piece of paper saying you went to school for six years (and spent a ton of money doing it) may open doors for you when you’re done.
But we’ll put you in a learning environment that gives you real-world skills, the opportunity to prove yourself to potential employers, and connections with others in the industry. We do it all in six months so you can spend your time getting the professional experience you need to start building your career.
Think about it, two, four, or even six years in the classroom or almost as much time in a working kitchen, learning by doing, in a professional environment. Ultimately, the decision is yours–but we like to think it’s a pretty easy one. Apply today and begin your culinary journey.
Time Considerations for Your Education
In many professions, the amount of time you spend in school plays an important role in where you enter the workforce. Many restaurant managers or hiring personnel won’t give you a second look if you don’t have some kind of culinary art certification or program degree.
Frankly, that makes a lot of sense. In many situations, aspiring cooks will be hired at entry-level positions so they can learn on the job and get the experience required to move beyond prep work. Learning these basic skills before looking for work will save you a lot of time and rejection.
The question then becomes how much time you need to spend on education for your chosen career. In some cases, you may need a certain amount of schooling from a particular school to even attend a different school! Think about your end goal and move backward from there.
The very top schools offer Master’s level programs, but you can expect to spend close to six years before eventually learning everything you’re supposed to know. Here’s a quick rundown of the different degree or certification programs available to you, what you can learn, and how long it takes to complete.
Culinary Arts Certification Programs
These are ideal programs for people who are just starting their educational journey in the culinary arts or already have some experience with the food arts. These programs take the least amount of time–anywhere from six months to a year–which makes it easier for those who can’t just put their life on hold.
You’ll learn the basics of the culinary world, such as fundamental cooking methods, safe food handling and cleaning, standard restaurant operations, and other building blocks of working in a kitchen. These programs will help you if you want to get into a real-world kitchen ASAP.
Associate’s Degree Programs
Similar to AA degrees in other industries, this is the shortest degree program available to aspiring cooks, chefs, restaurateurs, and others. Many students will already have a background in the profession or finished a certification course before entering these programs.
These degrees usually last two years and expand on restaurant operations while giving students a well-rounded culinary education. By this, we mean math as it relates to a restaurant, food science, nutrition, and an initial understanding of the hospitality industry. This broad knowledge base can be taken almost anywhere, including the next stage of culinary education.
Bachelor’s Degree Programs
Where the Associate’s Degree program took a broad approach to learn about the food industry, the Bachelor’s Degree Program will allow you to focus on certain aspects of your career. In some cases, a Bachelor’s degree will allow you to step into a management role at a restaurant, avoiding entry-level positions.
These programs take time to complete, however. In most cases, a Bachelor’s program will take four years to complete. In addition to cooking, you’ll also learn about restaurant management and the business aspects of running a kitchen. If you have the time (and money), these degrees will allow you to side-step entry-level roles.
Master’s Degree programs
The creme-de-la-creme of culinary education, a Master’s Degree Program will improve your technical skills, teach you international cuisine, and increase your knowledge of other top-shelf culinary abilities. These degrees are for those that want to start a culinary arts career as a caterer, a restaurant owner, an executive chef, and other leadership positions.
In some circles, a Master’s Culinary Degree is the highest credential you can receive in the culinary field. Not only will it allow you to slide into leadership roles, but you can also use your knowledge to become a food critic and any other food-related career that demands an extensive understanding of the culinary arts.
What is the Best Culinary School? Does it Matter?
If you’re getting into the culinary arts to land a cooking show on TV or to become a reality show superstar, you may not need a culinary arts education at all. You will need experience, however, whether it comes from your family’s restaurant, working in positions closely related to the industry, connections within the industry, or just a little luck.
Take a look at some of the biggest stars on the silver screen today: Guy Fieri, Rachael Ray, Bobby Flay, and Gordon Ramsey. Only Flay actually attended and received a degree from a culinary school–the others have degrees in different disciplines or just picked up what they needed to attain stardom through perseverance and determination.
A common thread they all share is the experience they picked up while working with others. Yes, they had family connections or family friends they used to great effect. It also took some time before they realized what they really wanted–but that time wasn’t necessarily spent in the classroom.
Experience, with liberal amounts of ability, can make all the difference in the world. Yes, the vast majority of us will not have the family connections or ability to travel abroad for a year or so to get that experience. So finding the school that gives you the basics or can build on what you already know is key.
What is the Best Culinary School for You?
When you search for what is the best culinary school, your search engine may return results like the Culinary Institute of America, the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, or The Institute of Culinary Education. But in reality, the best culinary school in the United States, and even the world, is the one that works for you.
If you’re serious about making a career in the culinary arts, you will need some kind of formal training–it’s unavoidable. But does that mean you need to spend four years of life (or more), move to another country, and spend six figures to do it? Of course not: There are plenty of cooking school certification programs and hospitality management degree programs available to you.
When choosing “the best culinary school in the world,” think about what makes the most sense to you. Does it make sense to be sitting in a classroom or practice kitchen, competing with other students for the instructor’s attention, while going into student loan debt for the privilege? The Chef Apprentice School of Culinary Arts thinks there’s a better way.
Learn from the Pros
There are many standard procedures in any kitchen–food handling, kitchen sanitation, nutrition–but cooking is largely a creative endeavor. But you can’t develop a cooking style by reading a book or watching a YouTube video or other online tutorial. You learn by putting on the apron, grabbing ingredients, and getting to work.
And that’s what The Chef Apprentice School of Culinary Arts is all about. We pair you with a mentor, a professional in the food industry, to give you a one-on-one education on how modern kitchens operate. You get immediate feedback on your progress, answers to your questions, and suggestions from someone who does this for a living every day.
And you’ll do it from an operational, real-world kitchen. A classroom kitchen may have all of the trappings of a commercial kitchen, but it just can’t emulate an actual working environment. You’ll learn from your mentor in their kitchen, during slower open hours and other downtimes.
And though cooking is creative, we have a very structured curriculum developed throughout the years from mentors that have been in the business for decades. Learning the different stations of a kitchen, understanding what a brigade system is (and how to implement it), and differentiating different knives and other kitchen utensils.
However, we understand you may already have some experience in a professional setting or other aspects of the food business. Your mentor, Academic Facilitator, and you will work together to make a schedule that fits where you are in your journey to becoming a professional chef.