Every year, hundreds of thousands of students begin formal training at cooking schools around the country. What drives them?
- On the surface, a middle-aged mother looking to jazz up her family dinners has little in common with a high school graduate looking to embark on a career as a professional chef. And yet, both students share a passion for food and an appreciation for the skills it takes to create something extraordinary from common ingredients from their own kitchens.
- We are entering an era where fewer people know how to cook, more meals are eaten out of the home, and many people barely know what a fresh fruit or vegetable looks like. And yet, it is also a time in which chefs are celebrated as never before, people spend enormous sums of money on specialty stoves and cookware, and food is readily available from all around the world—and with a freshness never before seen.
Cooking school can be the answer to questions like, “What sort of career do I want?” and, “How can I create a healthy, nurturing home life for my family?”
If you are interested in a career that has practically unlimited scope for creative and business opportunities, attending cooking school is a terrific option. In as little as a few months, you can acquire enough skill and knowledge to begin working in a professional kitchen. After a slightly longer time in school, you may jump ahead in the notoriously strict kitchen hierarchy. And if you are willing to devote four years to earning a bachelor’s degree is culinary arts, you will be prepared to serve in practically any capacity in the food service industry, or beyond.
Keep in mind, however, that the culinary arts remain a craft that demands long-term dedication and constant practice to master. You will not be able to bypass the long apprenticeship period by attending school, however long, prestigious, or expensive your training.
Reasons to Go to Cooking School
Cooking school is best seen as a complement to on-the-job training, not a replacement. What cooking school can offer, however, is a solid intellectual grounding that will make it easier to either manage a professional kitchen or transition out of one.
Cooking school is especially useful for those who are switching to the culinary arts after an unsatisfying career in some unrelated endeavor. If you have been working as an accountant or a construction worker for 10 years, but always had a yearning to try your hand at pastry making, cooking school may make this transition a lot easier.
Unfortunately, whether bright-eyed high school graduates or middle-aged job hoppers, many cooking school applicants have romanticized notions of what awaits them after they complete their programs. All too often, they are disappointed by long, grueling hours in a hot kitchen for very little pay. It can be a cold reality check, and one that forces some people to go deeply into debt to pay for.
Cooking school should be entered, if at all, with a logical, realistic attitude. It is not glamorous. It is a lot of hard work. It is not cheap. And there is no great financial reward or fame awaiting the vast majority of people who become professional cooks.
Approached with the proper level of respect, however, cooking school can offer great rewards. It can provide a creative outlet for those who never learned to cook or who are tired of eating food that tastes like industrial waste. It can offer a path out of a soul-deadening job and open the door to a fulfilling career, inside or outside of a professional kitchen.