Most entry and low-level positions in the culinary arts don’t even require a high school diploma. In these entry positions, you’ll learn about kitchen safety, how to prepare and handle food, how to keep the kitchen clean, and how to prepare food in a healthy and safe way. In the fast food and short-order industry, you may advance to a supervisor position after several years.
Again, however, these positions are only entry-level positions, and there’s generally little room for advancement at large restaurants unless you have more training in the culinary arts.
There are several options for further education in the field of culinary arts after high school. First, there are many vocational schools and community colleges that offer courses in cooking, food safety, basic cooking methods, nutrition, sanitation, and food preparation. These programs may also include some basic business classes and computer classes for those who plan to open their own restaurant some day. In many of these programs, you can transition from your vocational program to a summer internship at a hotel or restaurant chain. These internships are a great way to gain experience in the field, which helps both with getting a job and with getting into a higher-level education program.
In these more formal culinary arts schools, you may take classes from a couple of months to a couple of years, depending on the specific program you’re enrolled in. The longer programs award a certification in the culinary arts or – in a few cases – even a full associate or bachelor’s degree. These programs prepare chefs to work in upscale restaurants or to start their own restaurants. Students in these programs also have the option to specialize in areas such as desserts or international cuisine. While enrolled in one of these advanced program, you’ll take classes like advanced cooking, cooking for large groups, and various cooking techniques.
Today, many chefs are seeking training from a professional culinary institute instead of simply entering the profession and gaining skills while on the job. In fact, there are over 200 of these schools accredited by the American Culinary Federation in the US, so you should be able to find a program in your ideal location at a price you can afford.
Many cooks want to become executive chefs or open their own restaurants, and today that requires much more training and education than it did before. No matter what program you decide to enter – be it vocational or professional – you’ll be spending many hours in the kitchen learning recipes and practicing them. Take as much time as you need to practicing these skills – good cooking technique lays the groundwork for good food.
Succeeding in Culinary Arts School
Most career descriptions for culinary arts programs mention that students should have a love of food preparation. This is certainly the most basic quality to possess, but success in a culinary arts school will require much more than a love of food! In fact, many students will tell you that a culinary arts program requires dedication, concentration and a lot of hard work.
If you watch cooking shows then you have probably seen the ones where a master chef terrorizes students competing for scholarships or other awards. The master chef insults, screams, humiliates and shames the students. It’s not a pretty sight and not a scenario you want to participate in either. Real culinary arts schools are not so brutal, but you do need to start your education with an awareness that you are entering a demanding career that brings great satisfaction to thousands of chefs and culinary managers.
Skills You Must Draw On
A culinary arts school offers educational programs that include a mix of classroom study and hands-on cooking experiences. The degree programs are designed to teach you a lot more than just how to cook dishes. You will learn many other things like managing kitchen staff, menu planning and figuring nutritional content. You may not think of it in these terms, but you will have to do some math – counting calories, measuring, determining nutritional balance and so on.
Here are some more skills you will need to develop and traits you must possess and rely on in order to succeed in a school for culinary arts and even in your career.
- Ability to follow written and verbal instructions
- Organizational ability (work area, recipe preparation etc.)
- Communication skills for conveying instructions
- Leadership skills for managing and motivating others
- Creative and artistic instincts for design and presentation
- Willingness to work long hours
- Willingness to accept instructions and feedback
- Ability to stand for long periods of time
- Keen senses and especially of smell and taste
- Good health
- Eagerness to learn
- Ability to multi-task
- Ability to carry a heavy work load
- Able to socialize and work well with people
- Able bodied and able to do heavy lifting
Looking at this long list it might seem as if you need to be almost perfect when pursuing a culinary education! You don’t have to be perfect, but you do need to be dedicated. A chef must be a combination of hard worker, artist and manager. But it’s exactly this combination that appeals to those who want to work in the hospitality industry.
Skills for School and Work
The skills and abilities you need to succeed in a culinary arts program are the skills you will use throughout your career. High quality culinary arts training will prepare you to handle real world job functions. Concentrating on developing your skills while in school will make the transition from the school classroom to the restaurant kitchen smoother.
There is one more trait you need to possess if you want to be a successful chef or culinary manager. You must have a desire to always learn. Your culinary arts education should not end once you get your degree. Throughout your career, continuing education can help you stay abreast of new kitchen tools and equipment, new cooking techniques and new trends in the kitchen and the industry!
What Culinary School is Like
If you really want to pursue a career as a chef or a cook then you need to attend a culinary school. Going to a culinary school will give you the education you need and it will also give you an advantage in a competitive job market. But what exactly is culinary school like? Well, while no two schools are exactly alike, many of them are run in a very similar fashion. Here is a look at what culinary school is like.
First of all, there are three different types of culinary schools you can attend. There are culinary institutes, cooking schools, and cooking classes. Culinary institutes are certified schools that certify their students as culinary professionals when the students graduate. Culinary institutes usually give the best education you can get from a culinary school. Cooking schools usually specialize in one part of the culinary arts. These schools can be great for training a chef in one specific thing. Cooking classes don’t last very long and usually just teach a small portion of the culinary arts.
There are many different types of certificates and degrees that you can earn from a culinary school. You can take a class and simply earn a certificate or you can get a doctoral degree in the culinary arts. You can also receive an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, and a master’s degree. While you don’t need to decide how far you want to take your education when you first start out, if you think there’s a possibility that you might continue on then you should make your decisions accordingly. You certainly want to make sure that you will receive some type of degree and/or certificate when you are finished with culinary school.
What culinary school is like once you get into your classes varies from school to school. However, you can expect a lot of hands-on classes. You can expect to actually learn from doing. This means many of your classes will revolve around you making different dishes and learning how to perform all the necessary cooking techniques.
In culinary school you should also plan to have a close relationship with other students and the faculty. Therefore, you want to make sure that you choose a school that fits in with your personality and your goals in life. You want your culinary school to give you the education you want and need.
Finally, you should expect that your culinary school provides you with some type of experience. This means you are placed externally for some “real world” cooking. This will be very important to you as you move forward and look to land a job after school.
No two culinary schools are exactly alike. However, most of them are similar. Above you have gotten an introduction for what culinary school is like for the most part. In order to find out the specifics, you really need to do your own research into each and every culinary school you’re considering attending.
How to Choose the Right Culinary Arts Program
If you are interested in becoming a serious chef then you need to attend culinary school. You have to get an education that is right for you and right for what you want to do. Not only do you have to decide to go to culinary school but you also have to decide on the right school for you and the right culinary program for you. Here is how to choose the right culinary arts program for you.
First of all, you have to understand there is a difference between a culinary institute and a cooking school. Cooking schools offer specific and specialized training for future cooks. These programs range in length from 2 months all the way up to 4 years. Culinary institutes offer top-of-the-line training for people who want to become certified culinary professionals. The length of time for these courses range from 2 months to 4 years as well.
When deciding which culinary arts program to enter you have to first consider your own wants and needs. You want to make sure the school is in the right location, costs what you can afford and that it offers the program you want to enter. Once you have a small list of culinary arts programs then you can begin to look closer at each program.
One of the keys for how to choose the right culinary arts program is to visit the school. There is no way you can make a great decision without visiting each and every school. You need to see what everything looks like. You need to get a feel for how the school is run. And you also want to find out some other very important information.
First of all, you want to see some classes as they are being taught. Pay attention to what the students and the faculty are doing during the classes. Take note of how the faculty teaches and runs each class. You will be learning from these faculty members and you want to make sure they are knowledgeable and that they teach in a style that you like.
You also want to take a close look at the curriculum and the course descriptions. You want to make sure the school is accredited, and that they offer courses in the type of cuisine that matches your interests. You also want to make sure that the class sizes are relatively small and that there is a good faculty to student ratio.
Finally, you need to remember that your entire point in attending the culinary arts program is to find a job after schooling. So find out what kind of jobs students are getting after they graduate from the culinary arts program. Also find out what percentage of graduates find jobs within a few months. Make sure graduates are getting jobs just like the one you hope to land when you are done with school.
That’s how to choose the right culinary arts program. You need to focus on your own wants and needs and you also need to focus on how good the school is. The success past graduates have had with landing jobs will predict how successful you will be. And the classes that are taught and the faculty who teach the classes will determine how good of an education you receive.
Culinary Arts Baking School
You can attend a culinary arts school and learn how to become a professional baker. A baking culinary school teaches students the art of baking as a profession and includes instruction on the long history of baking too. The program will also include courses in pastry arts.
Baking programs are offered at culinary institutes, vocational and technical schools, and universities. You can earn a 2-year Associate’s Degree or a 4-year Bachelor’s Degree. The Associate’s Degree concentrates on baking and pastry cooking while a Bachelor’s Degree will be more comprehensive.
The 4-year degree includes business classes and teaches management skills to those who want to pursue a manager’s position or own their own bakery. A Bachelor’s Degree in Baking and Pastry Arts will focus on both baking techniques and production methods. You will enroll in courses that include management, business planning and leadership skills as well as a myriad of cooking and baking classes.
Some bakers and pastry chefs open their own bakeries and establish their careers as business owners. Usually they work for another business for a period of time to get real world experience before starting out on their own. Many people choose to work in restaurants, hotels, and cruise lines, or for event planners and caterers.
Learning the Fine Art of Baking
Say the word “baking” and people always get wonderful comforting images of bread loaves, cakes and pies. Say “pastry” and they picture delicately decorated sweet desserts that melt in your mouth. How do bakers learn to make such delicious treats and tasty breads?
The courses that culinary baking schools include in their programs are classes with titles like the following:
- Baking Principles and Techniques – bread fermentation, ingredients, baking methods
- Baking Equipment – handling and use of kitchen baking equipment
- Baking Ingredients – using a variety of wet and dry ingredients including flours, spices and much more
- Cake Baking – types of cakes and preparation methods
- Decorating – decorating cakes, tarts, tortes and other creations
- Breads, Rolls and Muffins
- Cookie Baking – baking and decorating
- Wedding Cakes – designing, baking and decorating
- Baker’s math – dry and wet measurements
- Food Safety
- Operating a Bakery – business aspects of running a bakery
Baking courses are also included in culinary arts programs. You can learn how to start a business, become a head baker, work as a pastry chef or run a catering business.
A Degree Can Boost Your Career From the Start
A degree can boost your career from the start. When you attend a culinary arts school and pursue a degree in baking, you will attend classes and gain hands-on experience in baking labs and externships. Upon graduation you have actual experience plus proof of industry knowledge which greatly improves your chances of employment.
There are many baking schools to choose from. The best culinary school of baking for you will be affordable, accessible, teach classes that have current information and meet industry standards, and offer post graduation employment assistance. A high quality school will be also be accredited by the American Culinary Federation in addition to traditional higher education accreditations.
Baking school expense can vary considerably depending on the school you choose to attend. Internationally recognized institutes can charge as much as $50,000 for a program. But you can find less expensive programs by doing some research. A good place to start is with the American Culinary Federation.
Best Culinary Schools
There is really not a single source for identifying the best culinary schools, but there are several websites that rank cooking and baking schools using pre-established criteria. When you are searching for a culinary arts school, you must establish some criteria too in order to find the school that best fits your budget and lifestyle.
Culinary schools are ranked by several sources. Because there is no “official” listing, it is good to review more than one ranking so you get a good information for decision making. Some of the popular websites that publish rankings include the following:
- The Princeton Review
- U.S. News and World Report
Another good source of school listings are those schools accredited by the American Culinary Federation Foundation Accrediting Commission or any of the 6 regional accrediting bodies. The 6 regions are represented by:
- Middle State Association of Colleges and Schools
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
A third source of schools offering culinary programs providing excellent career preparation is the National Restaurant Association.
Accredited schools meet established high quality standards in course content and instruction. You have some assurance that your education will meet industry standards too, and you will be properly trained to work in a variety of careers.
Defining the Best
There are some schools that appear over and over again on ranking lists. These are the best culinary art schools according to multiple sources. They include:
- The Culinary Institute of America
- Le Cordon Bleu
- Institute of Culinary Education
- The School of Culinary Arts – Kendall College
- Pennsylvania Culinary Institute
- L’Academie de Cuisine
- The Art Institute
- Johnson and Wales University
This is not a complete list of the best culinary art schools, and there are many other excellent programs. The criteria used to rank schools include:
- Depth and breadth of course programming
- Acceptance rate
- Graduation rates
- Class Size
- Quality of instructional equipment
- Industry recognition
- Number and types of degrees offered
- Faculty expertise and professionalism
As you can see there are many different factors considered when determining the quality of the culinary arts programs. But it is not just the schools quality that should be considered when choosing a program. You should also consider your personal needs to pick the best culinary school.
Does the School Fit Your Goals?
Before settling on a program, you will have to assess your personal needs and then balance them against the school factors. For example, if you need to attend a school within driving distance of home you will have to limit your choices right up front based on location.
You also want to make sure the programs offered fit your career goals. If you want to be a bakery chef then you need to attend a school that specifically offers a degree in baking and pastry arts. If you want to earn a Bachelor’s Degree than you would not consider schools that only offer Associate Degrees.
Choosing a culinary arts program is a big decision that requires a methodical approach. There are hundreds of excellent schools to consider so you want to spend time narrowing the list down to those that best meet your career goals and your lifestyle.
How to Pay for a Culinary Arts Degree
You have decided you want to pursue a Culinary Arts degree and now you have to find a way to pay for it. That is not nearly as difficult as it may seem because many schools offer financial packages made up of federal and state grants, loans and scholarships. You live in a day and age where the benefits of education are well understood and schools work diligently to help students find ways to pay for their school expenses.
How Much Does it Cost?
What does a Culinary Arts Degree program cost? The answer depends on where you attend school. The well known and industry recognized Culinary Institute of America website indicates it charges approximately $13,000 per semester for 8 semesters for tuition, supplies, board, and general fees for the 2010-2011 school year. There are university programs and other institutes that charge much less though and especially if you are an in-state student paying in-state tuition rates.
Of course you want to attend the best school you can afford. Though it may seem expensive to get a degree by completing one of the culinary arts programs, you are sure to recoup your money many times over as you enjoy a career that offers tremendous and varied opportunities. The degree will give you the knowledge needed to succeed in the hospitality and recreational industries.
Financial Aid is Available
If you need financial aid, then it’s important to choose a school that has been designated a Title IV facility. That means the school has been approved by the U.S. Department of Education as eligible for participation in federal financial aid programs. The federal government offers:
- Pell grants which you don’t have to pay back
- Stafford Loans
- PLUS Loans
- Perkins Loans
- FFEL Loans
Many states offer grants and loans also to encourage students to pursue culinary arts training programs at institutes, universities, colleges and vocational schools. There are varying requirements for the federal and state grants and loans but each school will have a financial aid office to guide you through the application process.
The process for applying for federal assistance begins with completion of the Free Application for Student Aid package (FASA). This application will be used to determine your eligibility for aid and how much you quality for. If you qualify, your aid package could be a mix of grants, loans and even work-study.
Another option for paying for a culinary arts program is to apply for scholarships. The financial aid office will have a list of private and foundation scholarships that fund culinary arts students. You can also search for scholarships on your own. If you are a graduating high school senior your high school career counselor may also have scholarship information you can access.
If you decide to take advantage of one of the schools offering a culinary arts degree online, you expenses will be significantly lower. Online schools generally charge less tuition, lower student fees, and there is no room and board expenses. The online programs are designed for students who want to complete classes through distance learning.
You will find most culinary chef schools quite helpful when you are searching for a way to pay for your education. When you first check out the cost of going to culinary arts schools, don’t be discouraged. The variety of aid that is available today means most people can pursue their dream of being a chef or culinary arts manager.