Go to school, or just hit the books??

Joined Jan 9, 2002
I have no plans to pursue a degree in culinary arts- my greatest aspiration is to be a mother (which I am twice over) and have a small family farm.

I love to cook and I've been thinking seriously about taking some culinary courses at the local college, but I'm wondering if I might get more for my dollars if I buy some really high-quality cooking books (with more than just recipes).

Joined Dec 4, 2001
roon, I am a self taught cook (not a professional) and my sources have been wide and varied.
Books are good. You can pick up some gems of information and techniques from watching the likes of Jaque Pepin on TV. You can ask the dozens of excellent and talented people on this site for advice and information. Much of my knowlege comes from trial and error over the years. I believe that understanding food (food science) is essential to aquiring a standard above that of the average home cook. There are books available for that too.
But you know what? I'd give anything to go back 30 years and get a formal training in the culinary arts. As much as I know, I am painfully aware of what I don't know.
I know you said that you are not looking for a carrer in the business. So maybe you could look into short (weekend) courses to add to your knowledge base. You can learn a lot from books and other resources but to be taught by a professional is a whole other experience.
Good luck whatever you decide.

Joined Feb 17, 2001
Roon, I too am a mom twice over. I do want to do this professionally, however. But, I have decided that even if that doesn't happen, I am still glad I am taking these courses. One of the most important thing we have learned is costing recipes. I am using some of this information (philosophy of it really) in my household budget now, and I don't think I ever would have gotten that from just the books.
Joined Feb 17, 2001
(Sorry about that - hit submit instead of preview!)

Anyway, what I am trying to say is that even if I don't end up in the business, I am learning a lot about the history of food and the food service industry, how and why it works the way it does, and a whole lot about food science, as well. I love this kind of stuff. The biggest thing that taking classes has done, though, is surround me with people who love food as much as I do - no offense to my family, but they get excited when I make crescent dogs. So, I think if you really enjoy it, then a few classes certainly wouldn't hurt anything. There are so many great cookbooks that are definitely worth the money, but they are just not nearly as interesting as hands-on experience with other people who are as into it as you are.

Good luck,
Joined Jan 9, 2002
With 25 years of exp. in everything from 4 star to mom and pop I can tell you this, I have seen some folks come out of some pretty "prestigious" places. They cant dice onions and wouldn't know a mother sauce if it spanked 'em up side the head. On the other side of the spectrum, a couple years of good schooling will greatly excellerate a motivated persons career.
You get out of it, exactly what you put in it.

For someone who in'st going to make a life sentence out of it I would suggest the following:

Look for cooking classes offered by area chefs. Take some of those.

Ask if you can "voluteer" to help out in their kitchens. We once had a lady come in at 4am to watch us bake. Why? I still don't know, but she seemed to enjoy it and stayed awake and asked a lot of questions.

Pick up a few proffesional cookbooks. Professional Cooking or the New Professional Chef is a good place to start. Look for books that show more pictures of techniques than pretty end product pictures. Pick up books that are written by chefs not someone who assembled a bunch of recipies.

Me, I am from the school of hard knocks. What is dis sheet you doan take care for za food like dees! Merde!
Ummm, Sorry Chef. :rolleyes:

Good Luck!
Joined Jan 9, 2002
Roon, I would certianly encourage you to take the classes. I have not had the opportunity to do that, but I would if the occasion popped up.

One magazine that has a lot of good instruction as far as terms and step by step visuals is Taunton's Fine Cooking.

It is an expensive magazine so I scan to make sure the copies I buy are ones that have the articles I want. The Library also has them so I can read the others that I don't buy.

I think this web site will be some of my better spent time.

I just didn't think to look before-duh!
Joined Nov 29, 2001
You certainly can learn from a well-written, tested book with illustrations, especially if you have cooking experience. But there's no substitute for that 3-dimensional, hands-on learning environment.

A basic course, supplemented with some great books can be a foundation for you. If you're interested in classical terminology and technique, the classroom cannot be beat.

I've been able to reproduce ethnic food based on having it in a good restaurant, then getting a book and following the recipes. I haven't had any courses in international cuisine except for French. I'd go for a class and back it up with some books.
Joined Jan 9, 2002
Thanks! My community college offers some classes, so I'll look into those. Since I'm doing general studies, I can take them as electives and they'll still go with my degree plan. :D
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