Does it make sense to go to culinary school?

Cooking School

Amy McKeever over at Eater recently took a hard look at The Pros and Cons of Culinary Education.  As her introduction reads, "

"The best known culinary schools in the country come with price tags that range anywhere from$35,000 to $54,000 for a two-year associate's degree or up to about$109,000 for a bachelor's degree. All this for a career path that traditionally starts with a $10 an hour job doing back-breaking work for insane hours and over holidays. And, while the salary does improve with time, cooking is rarely going to be a lucrative profession.

So is going to culinary school worth it? There's not one right answer to the long-debated question. It depends on a lot of factors, including the costs of culinary school, the alternatives, career aspirations, and temperament. There are passionate arguments on all sides.

Chefs, restaurateurs, educators, students, and newly-minted line cooks from across the country shared with Eater their thoughts on the value of culinary school. They all agreed that education is valuable, but their opinions differed on how to get it for the greatest value. What lies ahead is a look at the pros and cons of going to culinary school."

It's a lengthy article that deals with all the pros and cons and delves deeply into curriculum, reputations, alternatives (including business degrees and no education), and perhaps most importantly, setting realistic expectations. Well worth reading if you , or someone you know, is considering getting a culinary education.

4 Comments

  • Dmitriy Pinchuk  on  7/15/2013 at 1:27 AM

    Just thought I would share my opinions about culinary school. To start off short and simple, it is a huge waste of time and money. For the simple reason that in culinary school, students cover all aspects of cooking at most 2-3 times. Which means, if you are to learn how to butcher meat in class, you would only butcher 1 chicken (MAYBE 2, because god forbid the school buys an extra chicken), then move on to rabbit or duck, but point is you would watch the demo, then practice ONCE, and that's it, move on the next subject. Most definitely not enough time to become even moderately skilled on the topic at hand. And this process continues until the end of the session and what you end up with is just a faint memory of how to do everything. Then afterwards you end up with a ton of debt, and I wish you the best of luck paying that off with the 12/hour salary of a line cook (but most likely garde manger at first). If you are really passionate about cooking, which will probably change after you're first job as a line cook. then pick up Julia Child's The art of french cooking or what ever it is, or the other million books on how to cook and just practice. Then the other apparently not so obvious tool is YOUTUBE, yes effing YOUTUBE. World class chefs, like Marco Pierre White, Thomas Keller, have instructional videos on how to cook. knife skills? took three days at culinary school, at $20000 for a 2 month session, total days minus weekends... blah blah....comes out to about 400 a day. Grab a cutting board, a knife, and youtube search knife skills...BAM Thomas Johnson ....made 2 videos on basic and advanced knife skills. Watch, follow along, and practice. What to do with all the veg you just cut up??? youtube search how to cook vegetables. Cook some veg and enjoy a healthy low carb meal and about 1200 dollars worth of information, which btw you can watch over and over again. These videos are better than the instruction I have had at culinary school. And if you think that you need a culinary school degree to work at a restaurant, then please think otherwise. The restaurant industry had such a high turn over rate that you can get an entry level job no problem. Just speak to how passionate you are about cooking and start at prep. or if you're confident, come in for a trail and just do what you're told with speed and confidence, you will be rolling around in 500 dollars a week(before taxes) of cold hard cash before you know it. That's right baby, welcome to the salary bracket of poverty. Most people will tell you to really think about it and weight the pros and cons, but I tell you to not even give it a single thought.

  • sir_ken_g  on  7/15/2013 at 8:27 AM

    Best advice is stay out of the restaurant business. If you like cooking do it for friends and family.

  • dneilson2  on  7/16/2013 at 12:31 AM

    Thank you for sharing your experience. For years I coveted culinary school believing that special skills acquired there would be esoteric among chefs eventually propelling you in the world of culinary stardom with the likes of Flay, Lagasse, Keller, etc if you worked hard enough. . This makes me feel tons better about not attending. In fact I think I'm ready to take it off my bucket list.

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