Cooking Classes

A Culinary Education

Portrait of experienced chef giving culinary lessons to female trainees

The recent upsurge in the celebrity chef culture has seen hundreds of people sign up for cooking lessons. Many applicants are keen to learn new skills and wish to work in a top kitchen, spicing up dull everyday dishes whilst others simply choose to learn in order to cook as a hobby.

Many traditional chefs hold the view that the best way to learn is through real experience within a working kitchen of a restaurant rather than in a classroom. However, as of late more and more professional chefs hold a culinary degree suggesting that while experience is invaluable, so is an education in cooking. Successfully acquiring a culinary arts degree can give you that edge when it comes to finding your dream job as head chef.

Culinary courses enable students to gain an insight into the demands of a career in hospitality and provide the training needed to succeed in desired culinary positions such as the chef de partie, sous chef and head chef. Trying to pick the right school to develop your talent can prove quite difficult as there are so many to choose from, each offering their own uniquely styled course. So, what should you look out for?

Four things to look for when picking a culinary school:
  • Cost - Culinary school can be an expensive option and may require you to take out student loans. Many accredited courses at certain colleges are provided at a reasonable price, whilst those without accreditation can be extremely pricey. It is important to research the cost of the course in comparison to its value.
  • Is the school new? - An increasing demand in culinary education has seen the opening of many new schools, however this does not mean that they are better.
  • School Facilities -  Newer schools may have a greater budget to provide students with the latest, high-tech kitchen facilities to work in. That said, some may think that shiny new kitchens do not adequately prepare students for the 'gritty realities' of working in a kitchen, so the standard of facilities may not be of extreme importance rather more preference.
  • Hands-on Experience - Good culinary programs will offer students the chance to get hands on experience working either in a student operated restaurant or through a compulsory work placement/internship in industry. Through this experience students can begin to prepare for the real pressures and demands of industry kitchens.

Although a culinary career can be extremely rewarding, some may find it quite difficult when working their way up within the kitchen. It is important to understand that following a path in cooking can be extremely hard work, make sure you are aware of what will be expected of you before you continue.

Things to keep in mind:
  • Culinary school requires a lot of expenses and can be quite pricey!
  • After completing culinary school, students tend to start off in the back of the kitchen running errands and serving the kitchen's chief chef.
  • The level of pay when just starting out can be low and around minimum wage.
  • Kitchen work can entail long hours and some unfavourable shifts.
  • A lot of cleaning is involved - you will need to carry out some form of hygiene training.

Learning your craft and working your way up in the industry is a long process, yet with perseverance it can be achieved. Be sure when picking a culinary school you check the focus of the training program as some schools devote their curriculum to more the business side of running a kitchen than cooking itself. It is important to consider which area you would like to develop in to pick the right course accordingly.