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Lessons For Rookies

What You Won't Learn in Culinary School

This has been the most difficult, yet educational pieces I have ever written.

Culinary Arts

Becoming a chef is hard work, and many of the more tough situations you'll be forced to deal with are beyond your control. You have to learn to adapt, carry on and-as always-improve your craft.

Lets get started from a same common ground shall we? All people are mammals and therefore bonded in some way, yet there are so many differences that make us unique. Our backgrounds, goals and philosophies differ, and nowhere is that more apparent than when we're all sweating it out in the same high-stress kitchen for ours on end. One of the difficult things you must learn to manage is the difference in people's personalities.

Butting Heads as an Asset

Conflicting personalities exist in all workplaces, but with the type of work we do as chefs, it is critical to be able to deal with every boss or coworker you ever have. It is not hard to recognize who around you shares a different type of personality. The #1 mistake people make is assuming differing personalities will lead to bad working relationships. Naturally, chefs have their own approaches to more or less everything, but we must find a way to communicate with one another on some level.

Young chefs must realize that they not only have to work with these people, but should LEARN from them! When I go into restaurants to help build teams, I don't only look for true leaders-I want chefs with different personalities sharing the same philosophy for success. This creates a team of people that work well together, but can solve problems differently. Learning how to manage our differences is an asset!

3 Rules for Becoming a Great Chef

I believe we all learn lessons along the way. I share a few that impacted me early on.

  1. Get Your Priorities Straight. I knew since I was a very young child I wanted to be a chef. Like most teenagers, I loved to go out, stay up late with friends-you get the idea! I quickly learned that to really be a great chef, I had to adapt my entire lifestyle to suit the kitchen. This job takes focus, dedication and 150 percent commitment each and every day.
  2. Make Hospitality a Lifestyle. Those new to hospitality, especially culinary business, quickly learn that it is never just a job-it's a lifestyle. The hours are long, tough, and at times mentally challenging. Know that you WILL WORK holidays and weekends, though other people are playing. This makes having a regular personal life a challenge. KNOW this going in!
  3. Learn to Multi-Task. My first chef once told me (as I was peeling asparagus) that having a full plate would make me a better chef. In a professional kitchen, multi-tasking is breathing-you must do it at all times to survive. I tell my cooks the sooner they get their mise en place completed, the more I will teach them. It is amazing how quickly they catch on. With a bit of practice, you'll get it to.

Lessons Culinary Schools Can't Teach

Culinary school is an absolute necessity. You not only learn how to cook, but how to work as a team. You learn a bit about working in the industry from your instructors, who will likely share their real life experiences with you. Unfortunately, there are some lessons that an only be learned through real work experience. Here are a few of them:

  1. Learn to Juggle. Staying organized while working on several projects at once is a critical skill only mastered through experience.
  2. Become a Master of Communication. This is the MOST IMPORTANT skill you can learn. Learn how to communicate with your peers, chefs, customers, and business partners.
  3. Understand Kitchen Politics. Let's face it, chefs are politicians. You have to know how to play the game, smile, and be genuine-but be smart. Sometimes others may be jealous of and try to limit your success.
  4. Buff Your Management Skills. Learn how to lead, motivate, and inspire a team. Good leadership encourages good employees.
  5. Manage Your Dough (and I Don't Mean Brioche). When you graduate from culinary school, you'll be eager to land a job-and a paycheck. Be responsible. I see cooks all the time blow their money, then starve until they get their next check. Set a budget.

Do as I Say, Not as I Did

This concludes my "lessons for rookies." I think this is a good start for anyone who is entering the industry or is new to it. I really hope you benefit from these little tidbits of advice. Trust me... I did not always learn them the easy way!

Featured Culinary Schools

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5 Program(s) Found
  • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
  • Has a team of about 4,000 faculty members focused on helping students tap opportunities in a marketplace driven by ideas.
  • Offers programs in design, media arts, fashion, and culinary.
  • Provides program coordinators who work with students to ensure they have the learning materials, assignments, facilities, and faculty to get the most out of the program.
  • Over 50 campus locations nationwide.
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Good for Working Adults
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
5 Program(s) Found
Le Cordon Bleu Schools of North America , Online (campus option available)
  • Its first location, in Paris, officially opened its doors as a culinary school in 1895.
  • Teaches students by having them spend significant time in the kitchen practicing precision techniques.
  • Provide hands-on training from instructors who are certified, master chefs.
  • Offer flexible schedules and online programs.
  • Has 30 schools worldwide, spanning 5 continents, including 17 campuses in the U.S.
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Good for Working Adults
  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
1 Program(s) Found
  • Provides students the opportunity to train at home in their spare time to get their high school diploma, train for a new career, or enhance current skills.
  • Offers programs in psychology/social work, business management, medical billing, criminal justice, and more.
  • Member of the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA), the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE), and the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE).
  • Features a fully flexible schedule with no classes to attend, leaving the study pace up to the student.
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  • Online Courses
1 Program(s) Found
  • Offers more than 150 self-paced, career-relevant programs that are connected to a supportive 24/7 online community of students and faculty.
  • Profiled in many publications such as The Boston Globe, Fox Business, and  Inside Higher Ed.
  • Nearly 25,000 graduates each year.
  • Accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).
  • Founded in 1890 in Scranton, Pennsylvania    
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  • Online Courses
  • Founded in Southern California in 1998 by dog training expert Steven Appelbaum.
  • The largest independent dog training company in the United States.
  • Offers 11-stage programs that feature an in-home study component along with a hands-on training module.
  • A member of the MyCAA Financial Assistance program, which offers eligible military spouses up to $4,000 of tuition assistance that can be used towards any of their courses.
  • Helps graduates find employment and coaches those who are looking to start their own business.
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  • Online Courses
  • Ranked among the Best National Universities in 2014 & 2015 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Ranked #7 Best College for Veterans in 2015 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Has over 240,000 alumni on record, including Joseph Biden, Stephen Crane, Dick Clark, and Joyce Carol Oates.
  • Offers study abroad programs in several countries all over the world.
  • Has achieved accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
  • Its main campus is located in Syracuse, New York, with extended campuses in a number of major metro cities including Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, New York City, and more.
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Good for Working Adults
  • Accredited
  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Accelerated Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
  • Has students attend one four-week class at a time and take their final exam before moving on to their next class.
  • Offers 24/7 online tech support, with a typical response time of 4 hours or less.
  • Has online help centers that offer assistance with writing, statistics, medical assisting, and more.
  • Provides job placement assistance to all its students and alumni.
  • Researches trends for growing fields to tailor a more effective curriculum.
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Good for Working Adults
  • Accredited
  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
  • Ranked among the Best National Universities in 2015 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Designated as a 2014 Military Friendly School by Victory Media.
  • Houses one of the largest library systems in the Pacific Northwest, with 3 libraries on the Pullman campus and a library at each regional campus.
  • Accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
  • Has 5 Washington campuses in Pullman, Spokane, Tri-Cities, Vancouver, and Everett.
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  • Accredited
  • Online Courses
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
  • Some campuses host low-cost medical and dental clinics, where students can get real-world experience.
  • Designated as 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media.
  • Approved A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) since 1976.
  • Campus-specific accreditation from the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC), and the Council on Occupational Education (COE).
  • 16 campus locations across the United States.
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  • Financial Aid
  • Ranked #11 in the 2015 Best Graduate Schools in Social Work by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Offers more specialization opportunities than any other social work program, with 10 concentrations and sub-concentrations and 8 dual-degree programs.
  • The first elite researching university to offer a Master of Social Work degree online.
  • Has 4,000 field internship opportunities that give students real-world experience.
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  • Online Courses
  • Accelerated Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
  • Ranked 25th among the Best National Universities in 2015 by U.S. News & World Report.
  • One of the world’s leading private research universities.
  • Its student-faculty ratio is 9:1, and 56.8% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
  • Has an average freshman retention rate, an indicator of student satisfaction, of 96.8 percent.
  • Dedicated to a strong tradition of integrating liberal and professional education since 1880.
  • Its faculty includes National Academy members, Nobel Laureates, MacArthur Fellows, and more.
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  • Online Courses
  • Students can complete an entry-level technician program in about a year, and manufacturer training and graduate in as little as 18 months.
  • Provides technical education training programs for automotive, diesel, collision repair, motorcycle, and marine technicians.
  • Partners with many well-known manufacturers, including General Motors, Porsche Cars North America Inc., and BMW of North America LLC.
  • Offers internships to students and alumni for first-hand experience.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
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  • Financial Aid
  • Offers several scholarship opportunities for students who qualify.
  • Laptop computers are issued to each student at the beginning of their program.
  • Provides programs in health care, business, information technology, and graphic arts.
  • Respiratory Therapy program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC).
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
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Good for Working Adults
  • Accredited
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Accelerated Programs
  • Financial Aid

•        Designated as a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media.

•        More than $14 million in scholarships and grants are available per year to students who qualify.

•        100% online programs include 7 baccalaureate degrees, 11 associate’s degrees, 7 diplomas, and an MBA program.

•        Holds partnerships with many business and organizations to help create beneficial work opportunities for students and graduates.

•        Regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association (NCA).

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  • Online Courses
  • Gives students the option to choose from day, evening, and weekend classes to fit their schedule.
  • Offers public spa and salon services at all campuses for students to gain real-world experience.
  • Provides short specialty programs and workshops open to non-students as well.
  • Has 60 campuses across the United States.
  • Accredited by the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts & Sciences (NACCAS).
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  • Accredited
  • Financial Aid