Top 5 Things You Should Know About C-School (but Won't Until Afterwards)
Hey readers -
It's been a blast writing for the culinary student blog over the past year, but now that I'm a c-school alumni, it's time (as Padma says) to pack my knives and go. I'm not traveling far, though. You can find me answering culinary quandaries on this site's Ask a Chef section. Unsure of what to do with chicory, or even ask what chicory is? I'm your gal.
Before departing the culinary school section forever, though, I'd like to share a bit about what I learned at the French Culinary Institute. Schools like the FCI put out a lot of information about their programs, but there are some things you only learn, or fully realize, after graduation. That's where I can be helpful. And tell you how to make an excellent poulet roti grandmere, but you'll have to go to the other section for that.
Top 5 Things You Should Know About Culinary School (but Won't Until Afterwards)
- Don't go to culinary school to figure out if you want to be a professional chef First spend time in a restaurant, a catering company, a corporate kitchen, wherever it is you might be interested in working after culinary school. It's not like medicine – you don't need the degree to practice. So do a short internship or a stage before leaping into a program. There are a lot of students who cook at home and then "want to be a chef," but don't really understand the reality of working in a kitchen. When they're faced with it, they don't like it, or can't do it. *** So before spending thousands of dollars on a degree, do a little hands-on research first. It'll only help, and you'll be ahead of the game with a bit of experience under your apron strings on Day 1.
- Be a nerd And I don't mean wear onion goggles (though, admittedly, they're helpful).Cooks are a competitive bunch, so there's a natural inclination in the classroom kitchen to be the fastest, or show off by nailing a tarte aux pommes without any outside help. But the reason you're in culinary school instead of a restaurant is to ask those questions that would be pesky to a chef who's busy getting his mis done or dishes out the door. Yeah, it's nice to be the "experienced student" who doesn't need any help, but that student doesn't actually exist. If he did, he wouldn't be in culinary school. So ask questions! Lots of them.
- Take advantage Along the same lines of being a nerd, definitely take advantage of all the lectures, demonstrations, trips, happy hours, whatever the school has going on outside the classroom. It's easy to be tired after a long day and head home, but it's worth downing a coffee and participating in the activities. You can learn a lot by watching Jacques Pepin quarter a chicken, attending a scotch tasting or visiting a local farm. Moreover, it's a great way to make connections with fellow students or future employers. Any in is a good in, and I had friends who got jobs simply by approaching a chef after graduation and opening with something along the lines of "I really enjoyed your demo on Chilean cookery at the FCI, etc etc." Sounds silly, but it works!
- Speaking of jobs, don't have one I know it's counterintuitive to spend money without making it. But if you're a full-time student and can get through culinary school without a job, do it (part-time and night students are a different story). My classmates with night jobs suffered. They were exhausted, and didn't perform top notch in class or at work. They also couldn't participate in any extracurricular activities, or bond with classmates over post-school day beers. If it's kitchen experience you're looking for, get an internship for 2 days a week with negotiable hours, or sign up for the many volunteer cooking opportunities.But if you can't make it through financially without outside income, strongly consider going to school part-time.
- There’s a difference between a chef and a cook Alright, so the school literature says you'll be a "chef" after graduation, and you'll definitely have a respectable degree. But you’re not really a chef. Your instructors who spent years in the industry are chefs. The sous and executives at your restaurant are chefs (although they may never call themselves that). But in the eyes of the culinary world, especially in NYC, going to cooking school does not make you a chef. It makes you a cook. A better, more educated cook, but a cook all the same. It seems silly to quibble over terms, but the chef title connotes a certain amount of kitchen experience, expertise and deserved respect, none of which you have as a fresh-out-of-culinary student. The people who called themselves "chefs" minutes after graduation were generally ridiculed by other cooks in the program, and far worse when they got into the real world. Who knows what happened to the guy who got "Top Chef" tattooed on his arm (other than being expelled). In a kitchen, it pays to check your ego along with your street clothes.
*** In terms of "restaurant reality" in culinary school…I can't speak for other programs, but L'Ecole's kitchen at the FCI wasn't exactly restaurant reality. There were three to four students at a station that, in a restaurant, would have a single cook. You get a taste of what it's like in the real world, but it's more like riding a bike with training wheels before hopping on the big kid's ride. Nice and safe, but not the same.
Browse Culinary Arts Schools & Colleges
- 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.
- Flexible Scheduling
- Financial Aid
- Transferable Credits
- 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).
- Hands-on culinary education with focused attention on each student
- An ACCSC School of Excellence with multiple “Best Vocational Cooking School” awards*
- 15,000 graduates, including celebrities like Bobby Flay, David Chang, and Christina Tosi*
- Programs in Culinary Entrepreneurship, Professional Culinary Arts, Professional Pastry Arts, and much more
- Campuses in New York and Silicon Valley with nearby housing available
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.
- 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).
- Externship opportunities are available at numerous famous New York City restaurants.
- Campus is located near downtown Manhattan, within walking distance of many popular attractions such as the Radio City Music Hall.
- Flexible Scheduling
- Financial Aid
- Students get real-world experience through the required externship at the end of the program.
- Curriculum includes laboratory sessions, academic preparation and hands-on experience.
- Program objectives are to provide students with skills needed for cooking wholesome, attractive, food preparations and to assist graduates in obtaining positions in the food service industry.
- Accredited by the American Culinary Federation (ACF).
- Has campuses in Melbourne, Sarasota, and Tallahassee, Florida
- Has been training students in the culinary arts since 1946.
- Teaches hands-on culinary training in French, Asian, Mediterranean, Latin and American cooking, along with professional baking and pastry techniques.
- Helps students gain professional skills in culinary management.
- Offers an Italian Culinary Arts program where students get to externship in Italy.
- Its instructors are respected chefs who put their dedication and life experiences into their instruction.
- Flexible Scheduling
- Financial Aid