Kitchen Before Classroom?

One of my biggest questions when considering culinary school had to do with experience. How much kitchen experience is ideal to have before beginning a program?

Like most others, my 20-person class at the FCI is a mix of kitchen novices, seasoned cooks and everything in between. During the first week, it was obvious who had professional cooking experience. The restaurant managers, food writers, career-changers and "avid home cooks" hunched over their boards, fiercely gripping their knives in concentration. The experienced students – backs straight, grips controlled yet relaxed – worked faster to produce better results, typically accompanied by a yawn. But as the weeks went by and the daily assignments became more complex, the playing field evened out. Even if a student worked in a restaurant for five years, it didn't mean he had filleted fluke or made crepes a l'orange. Students who had line experience maintained an overall advantage, but the difference between them and the first-timers was less stark.

That being said, I think it definitely helps to have some sort of professional cooking background. Even if it's only a year's worth of experience like I had, it makes a difference. I compare it to having done the required reading before attending class. If you've done your homework you'll get more out of it, because you won't waste time figuring out the basics. That's not to say that complete amateur students haven't been successful. But if you want to be a cook, and one day a chef, it helps to at least know that you like professional cooking before signing up for a pricey school.

In the end, though, it all comes down to attitude. An enthusiastic, open-minded novice will probably do better than a seasoned cook who goes in with the mentality that he has nothing left to learn, only a degree to get. Like any educational program, you inevitably get out as much as you put in.

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            • 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.
            Good for Working Adults
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            Baker College is the largest independent college in Michigan with the most focused approach to education and training available. Our mission is to prepare you for meaningful employment.

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            • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • Lets undergrad students try classes before paying any tuition.
            • Has an average class sizes of 18 for undergraduate and 13 for graduate-level courses.
            • Offers numerous scholarship opportunities that can help students save up to $750 per term on their tuition.
            • Tends to educate degree-seeking online and campus-based students who are adult learners with families and students who work while pursuing higher education.
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            • Received the 2015 and 2013 “Cooking School of the Year” Award of Excellence from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
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            • Campus is located near downtown Manhattan, within walking distance of many popular attractions such as the Radio City Music Hall.
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            Salter College , West Boylston
            • Offers training programs in preparation for professional careers in business, health care, and computers.
            • Provides associate and certificate programs in medical assisting, massage therapy, culinary arts, and more.
            • Places students in externships to gain real world experience before completing their respective program.
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS).
            • 2 campuses in Chicopee and West Boylston, Massachusetts.
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            • Gives students the opportunity to earn their associate’s degree in the culinary arts field in less than 15 months or bachelor’s degree in the food service management field in 2.5 years through their year-round schedule.
            • Located in Norfolk and Newport News, Virginia.
            • Offers externship experiences to students for experience in the field.
            • Hosts regular career fairs for employer recruitment.
            • Has student housing available.
            • Accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC).
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            Sullivan University is a private institution of higher learning dedicated to providing educational enrichment opportunities for the intellectual, social and professional development of its students. The institution offers career-focused curricula with increasing rigor from the certificate through diploma, associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree levels. Throughout those curricula, the university seeks to promote the development of critical thinking, effective verbal and written communication, computer literacy, and teamwork as well as an appreciation for life-long learning, cultural diversity and the expression of professionalism in all activities. At the graduate level, the university also seeks to promote a culture of research.