As more professional Chefs become celebrities and as a career in the kitchen and restaurant industry gain credibility, more and more people are thinking about cooking school as a way to become Chefs and restaurant owners. Before signing up for one of the many cooking courses out there, you need to consider a few important issues.
First Steps to a Culinary Career
First, you need to decide what you want to do after you graduate from cooking school. Do you want to open your own restaurant or catering company? Do you want to work as a cook in a famous restaurant? Do you want to cook ethnic or special dietary food? Or maybe you want to be a food writer or restaurant reviewer? Make sure the cooking school you choose offers courses that directly apply to your future goals and that the school's graduates are working in your chosen field. In the culinary world, connections are king and the schools with graduates who already work where you want to work are going to be your best resource after graduation.
When you consider a cooking school realize that the name of the school does matter when you apply for a position in a restaurant. A degree from The CIA (Culinary Institute of America) is much more appealing to a hiring Chef than a no-name school, even if the no-name school is every bit as good or better than The CIA. Some famous cooking schools that you may wish to research are; The CIA, French Culinary Institute, Institute for Culinary Education, Le Cordon Bleu or Scottsdale Institute.
Consider the cost of the school. Entry level cooks don't make much, regardless of the school they graduate from and some culinary schools are expensive. Some offer financial help and ICE offers a free work-study program. A great way to save money on a culinary education, while gaining important exposure to a foreign cuisine may be to look at international cooking schools, where tuition can be a lot less than schools in the US.
The length of professional cooking diplomas can be up to four years, such as The CIA or as short as 6 months for smaller regional schools. Experience does matter, so the longer a course is the more experience a young graduate will have. Also make sure that the school offers internships which allows the students to work in professional kitchens, either while they attend school or after they graduate.
Before making any decision on where to apply, visit the school. Any worthwhile school will let you sit in on one or more classes to see if the school is for you. See if you feel comfortable at the school. Find out how the classes are taught, you want a mix between discipline and experience over pure fun. Remember a professional cooking class is still school. Don't choose a school simply because the classes are fun.
Becoming a professional Chef is difficult, long hours for low pay, but the rewards can be equally great. If you love food, have a thick skin and love to work hard becoming a professional chef may be for you.