To train or not to train: this long-debated question finds successful chefs and culinary workers on both sides of the issue. While culinary school cannot guarantee a career, the training in a professional cooking program can enhance skills and inspire future interests.
Pastry chef David Lebovitz, author of Room For Dessert, Ripe For Dessert, The Great Book of Chocolate and The Perfect Scoop, notes the difficulty of committing to a culinary school. "Going to professional pastry school is a big and sometimes expensive commitment," he wrote on his blog. "Only you can tell if the cost will be worth it." Lebovitz worked professionally for 20 years before taking any classes, but honed his skills with culinary training. "At that point, I had learned the basics and knew what I wanted to focus on, which became chocolate and confectionery," he recalls.
Note that there is a broad range of options for culinary training, so it should be possible to find a program that fits a busy schedule--and a budget. Lebovitz also mentions Eric Shelton, a respected pastry chef in San Francisco, who trained at a local community college culinary program.
As in all competitive industries, job performance impacts future success more so than any diploma or certificate. A culinary degree gives no guarantee of a job or high salary. However, professional training remains as a unique way to enhance culinary skills and guide a career.