Is Culinary School Really Necessary?

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Hey there good people!

I've witnessed so many people who've attended culinary schools struggle to succeed within the food service industry. That struggle has been made manifest in terms of income, job status, harassment, and student debt alike.

Not only have I witnessed what I would perceive of as the down side of the food service industry, I've also witnessed the upside, as well.

I've also witnessed dish washers with no formal training whatsoever, actually become sous chefs and one in particular, eventually became manager of a midsized pizza operation.

Therefore, I now honestly ask the following:

Is culinary school really necessary or even advisable?
 
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I think that in today's food industry, a CA degree is not necessary unless you are looking for a job in a hotel or resort etc. There are still many high brow restaurants that require a CA degree but, in today's culinary world, they seem to be the exception rather than the rule. I can't say for sure and I would defer to the members of this forum who have worked in fine dining for a better answer.

I never went to culinary school so, I can't give an opinion from the perspective of someone who has. I learned everything I know about food and cooking on the job over several decades. Therefore, when I hired a cook, I really didn't care if they had a CA degree or not. I cared about attitude, work ethic and their understanding of food and cooking.

Two of the finest and most talented chefs I have ever known did not go to culinary school. One was my uncle and the other is the chef that bought my restaurant after working for me for most of her adult life.

So, my answer about culinary school is from my own perspective. But, this is not a blanket answer that applies to everyone and every situation. There are still positions within the food industry that require a CA degree. Having said that, I suppose the value of a CA degree depends on the person and their goals.

Cheers. :)
 
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Is culinary school really necessary
No.

Culinary school can be a useful tool for some people depending upon their goals and situations, but it is not needed to reach any level in the profession. It is like a flattop grill.

A flattop grill can be a useful tool for some restaurants depending upon the restaurant's goals and situations, but it is not needed to produce any level or type of cuisine in the profession.

FYI: I went to culinary school after working in restaurants for a few years. For me it was a good decision. It gave me exactly what I was looking for and helped me to reach my goals later on in my career. Other people have had similar careers with no schooling.
 
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First off, what is your 20 year goal? Where do you want to be in 20 years?

Think of cooking as a transitional job—very few 45 yr olds you meet in the industry are rarely cooking, and even rarer still-cooking and earning a decent salary.

As sgsvirgil clearly wrote above, hotels and larger chains want to see some form of culinary school in higher mngmt. positions. I’d like to add on to that, and say many employers are looking for a culinary degree OR an accounting degree, OR an H.R. degree, or a business admin degree.
In the end you have to agree with the employer: The person they put in charge of a kitchen producing millions of dollars of product per year and supervising a large workforce ( and large payroll..) better have some kind of formal training.

I also agree with you your observations on culinary schools in N.America.

That being said, you won’t learn what you need to learn in terms of cooking from one employer, or indeed several employers. If a Chef is willing to “take you under his/her wing”, the odds are they see potential in you and will eventually groom you for mngmt. position, in which case you will need accounting and hr skills....

So... where do you want to be in 20 years?
 
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My $.02 here.
I DID go to culinary school, and management school, AND graduate school...8 years of my life, all of it for working, then teaching in the culinary field.
I tried my hand at teaching but found that to be impossible for me, so I worked as a line cook, then worked my way through the years, becoming Chef three times in my career.
As for school, I found that only one, taught me how to cook in a real-life scenario.
That was my technical college where I got my initial training.
All the rest was also very good, in that I learned how to read and write better with the required English classes. I also learned accounting, both basic, and hospitality geared. Human psychology, and personnel management were also something I picked up along the way.

So to say tell you that culinary school is not worth it would be wrong, because it's not all about cooking in school, but also the continued contributing to you knowledge and well being.
Judging by the number of people I've worked with through the years as my cooks, it would have been a good idea to go to school.
 
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My $.02 here.
I DID go to culinary school, and management school, AND graduate school...8 years of my life, all of it for working, then teaching in the culinary field.
I tried my hand at teaching but found that to be impossible for me, so I worked as a line cook, then worked my way through the years, becoming Chef three times in my career.
As for school, I found that only one, taught me how to cook in a real-life scenario.
That was my technical college where I got my initial training.
All the rest was also very good, in that I learned how to read and write better with the required English classes. I also learned accounting, both basic, and hospitality geared. Human psychology, and personnel management were also something I picked up along the way.

So to say tell you that culinary school is not worth it would be wrong, because it's not all about cooking in school, but also the continued contributing to you knowledge and well being.
Judging by the number of people I've worked with through the years as my cooks, it would have been a good idea to go to school.

Hi there, Chefross!

IMO

Your experience, though as valuable to you, still appears to be an outlier, unique, and singular to you.

However, from my observation, most chefs do better by learning on the job and thru personal development.

These days the cost of culinary school alone can cost upwards of $50K or more, unless you go online.

Then there's the problem of finding gainful culinary related employment, once you've completed your CA program.

Of course, the measly pay and exhaustive work hours simply add to your dismal fate, once you've learned that your social life is nonexistent and the loan you acquired to attend culinary school will most likely go unpaid for a very long time.

Many of those who complete a culinary program end up working in an impoverished state or condition, despite the long hours of tedious toil and depth of dedication.

If most could start over again, I'd just bet they'd give greater consideration to either catering or Foodtruck service.
 
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Yeah-butt....

As I’ve written above Bodhisattva, what you learn on the job may not be correct, or in the best case scenario, only specializing in one area.

Take for instance omelettes. Omelettes are made in a pan—no excuses. Yet in many N.merican kitchens, omelettes are done on the flat top, layered and or folded into a neat rectangle. Or doused with cheese and held under the salamnder untill they soufflé and are golden brown. Cooks are shown these techniques because the kitchen doesn’t have the infrastructure or equipment, or because the Chef, owner, or server doesn’t know any better.

Just last week I witnessed a cook make hollandaise by putting raw yolks in a kitchenaid mixer and dumping in hot butter, then placing this mix on top of the oven for service. When I questioned the cook, he said he had been instructed to do so by the owner and was puzzled why I would be angry about this.

Again, as I have said, you will find very few cooks past the age of 45 cookinq only for a living. So I ask again, and please answer the question, “where do you want to be 20 years from now?
 
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I don't think it's necessary if you set your own path for work experience. That would mean you don't get stuck in one operation with one method of cooking. You would need to move through the ranks in Hotels/ both Banquet and off premiss catering/ fine dining and somewhere learning scratch cooking.
I didn't go to Culinary school but I worked hard learning as much as I could from everyone in the kitchen. I learned the basics and then ventured out using my own imagination and creativity on how things should be cooked and presented. This isn't idea isn't for everyone but, if you have a good imagination and are creative it could work. I thought of my method as more of a Artists approach to painting. Give me a canvas and some paints and I'll paint you a picture.

Like I said this isn't an easy way of learning but, it worked for me and put me in a position to own two Food Service Management Companies and a Catering Business.

You'll need to set your own path and understand every move has a purpose. You don't need to peel a thousand potatoes in order to know how to peel a potato. Learn and move on and be aggressive and cocky and beg for my knowledge. Most Chefs will be eager to teach if they have someone that is truly eager to learn........The Best.........ChefBillyB
 
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I dunno, ChefBillyB.... You and I and ChefRoss learned qqqin kitchens a long time ago-a time when kitchens only could order 20% convenience products because that’s all there was available. Needless to say it’s different now...

Creativity for me is the Luxury of creating whatever I want. This is only possible if I am familiar with all techniques and methods.
All of us know of cooks who are afraid of hot emulsion sauces, of meat fabrication, farces, Choux paste, chocolate, etc. And those are the ones who will never use those techniques in their creations.

In any case, I asked the o.p. where they want to be in 20 years and there is still answer....
 
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I dunno, ChefBillyB.... You and I and ChefRoss learned qqqin kitchens a long time ago-a time when kitchens only could order 20% convenience products because that’s all there was available. Needless to say it’s different now...

Creativity for me is the Luxury of creating whatever I want. This is only possible if I am familiar with all techniques and methods.
All of us know of cooks who are afraid of hot emulsion sauces, of meat fabrication, farces, Choux paste, chocolate, etc. And those are the ones who will never use those techniques in their creations.

In any case, I asked the o.p. where they want to be in 20 years and there is still answer....

Chef, I agree we are in different world. I took the hard way and it was right for me. My attitude and eagerness to learn was welcomed by all the Chef and managers I worked under. I never said "NO" to anything. I worked all hours needed and took all catering jobs that no one else would do. It paid off in the end. I really wasn't a school kind a guy. I learned by seeing and doing......Take care my friend......ChefBillyB
 
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I dunno, ChefBillyB.... You and I and ChefRoss learned qqqin kitchens a long time ago-a time when kitchens only could order 20% convenience products because that’s all there was available. Needless to say it’s different now...

Creativity for me is the Luxury of creating whatever I want. This is only possible if I am familiar with all techniques and methods.
All of us know of cooks who are afraid of hot emulsion sauces, of meat fabrication, farces, Choux paste, chocolate, etc. And those are the ones who will never use those techniques in their creations.


In any case, I asked the o.p. where they want to be in 20 years and there is still answer....

Hey there, Foodpump!

I'm 66 yrs old. In 20 yrs I'd like to be running the 440 in the Olympics! :)

Namaste
 
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