Is it worth it?

Joined Nov 22, 2009
Many years ago (about 20) I held various positions in a couple of restaurants, mostly bar-n-grills.  Over the last year I was the kitchen manager and head cook at a retreat center.  I recently left that position and now am looking for work.  Most restaurants won't hire me because of lack of experience in restaurant cooking.  I really enjoyed cooking for the last few years and was wondering if I should seek education at a culinary school to make my skills more marketable?

So what do you all think?
Joined Sep 9, 2010
Hey Techno,

The first chef I worked for said this to me when I asked the same question.

"Get a job the biggest hotel you can and learn everything you'll be light years ahead of the interns working here."

He taught classes previously in a culinary school in Colorado and had never been to a class himself.  Cooking is a craft AND a trade, with that, experience plays a large roll. 

The flip side to that coin is how far do you want to go?  My first management job for a corporate restaurant would have been a lot smoother with some formal education to fall back on. Culinary school offers classes that teach you how to manage budgets and subordinates.  Controlling food cost,  communication,  and sanitation.  All of these things I had learned from the viewpoint of a line cook.  Conveying thoughts and direction to a staff in the manor of a drunk sailor doesn't boad well to restaurant owners and corporate suits. lol

I'm positive there are arguments that pull both side of the rope with strong points.  IMO there is no right answer accept the one you make.

I have not gone to culinary school and I can cook circles around every intern I've worked with.

I've worked with culinary grads who have been in the industry for many years and they cook circles around me.

I'm always learning.  Reading.  Cooking.  Eating.

Good luck on the job hunt!


p.s.  Hotels are not what they used to be IMO.  They have dumbed down food to the point that a monkey can 'cook' it.  I've been job hopping the cafes and mom and pop joints to keep my chops fresh and keep in the trends.  Maybe you can ask for a working interview and see what's what?  I believe that the french word for it is "stodge".  I can't spell it but that's how it sounds.
Joined Apr 28, 2003
Problem I find is that many places want that piece of paper called a degree or a certificate which states that you are qualified.  Not that I regret going to chef school but I regret not taking a job in the field before or during that time. 

Did you do any networking while working?  If you haven't burned any bridges with your old job placements, maybe someone there has connections to what you're looking for which is another thing I found that I honestly don't like about this field.  Most of the times, its about who you know rather then what you know.  I had a couple of opportunities to leave my current job but I turned down a couple of them because I'm an honest guy, I doubt I could have delivered on what would have been expected of me but because I knew someone who knew someone, I was able to skip a few steps of having my resume scrutinized amongst a pile of dozens.  References help, referrals from within the same company is like gold.
Joined Sep 18, 2008
... Not that I regret going to chef school...
Hm, I wasn't aware that there was a "chef school". I am somewhat familiar with culinary schools and even cooking schools and I know there are universities that have hospitality degrees as well as restaurant management degrees, but "chef school"?

I'd like to learn more...
Joined Nov 20, 2000
Ken a very succint and well spoken response. Not a bad first post. Not a lot I can add except that Techno, the answer may lie in what it is that you want to eventually do. I would always take experience over technical education in terms of line cooking, but with respect to management and purchasing skills I would lean towards an educated person. That doesn't mean you couldn't get a job in a food service position and take some business classes at a local community college and kind of kill, oh say, 2 Ortolons with a Yukon Gold /img/vbsmilies/smilies/thumb.gif

Either way good luck, work hard, and ask lots of intelligent questions.
Joined Sep 9, 2010
Just because you go to culinary school , it does not mean you come out as a Chef.  Culinary school is to learn the professional end of the food service business, technique and science of cooking.  It does not guarantee you are going to be a great cook.  Cooking comes with experience.  Also if you don"t go to culinary school is does not eliminate your chance of becoming a chef.  Techno called it exactly- it's a craft and a trade.  You need to know how to cook well, proficiently, quickly.  You need to delegate, deal with all types of personalities and be computer literate and balance a budget.   You are not a "Chef" until you are recognized by your peers as such.  I have been in this business for 20 years - 5 star restaurants, corporate food service, catering and I still laugh when someone wants to know if I am hiring chefs.  If you are a line cook don't overstate your position.  It takes me about 10 minutes working with someone to figure out how much experience they really have.  There is no quick route that makes you a chef.  Long hours, low pay, and learning as much as you can along the way.  If you are working someplace that makes soup by just adding water to a product then find a place that makes stock in house. My best piece of advice:  don't burn bridges and no matter what your position is - learn something from it.  After my first restaurant  job, every other offer I received came from recommendations.

It's not easy but it can be highly gratifiying.
Joined Sep 9, 2010
Sorry, I referred to techno when it should have been Ken.  Ken, you summarized the industry well.  Attitude is what I look for most when hiring then skills on the job (I also have a catering co.)  Wanting to work, learn and being reliable trumps any kind of schooling in this industry.
Top Bottom