One question asked quite frequently is how to determine what major is right for you. Many students today have a hard time determining whether culinary or baking and pastry arts is right for them. After my three years at Johnson and Wales, along with talking to many students as to why they chose their major or even why they switched, I have come up with a few factors to think about when deciding.
The first question to ask is simply: What major is more appealing to you? If you feel strongly about one or the other than there is your answer. This is a career that is all about passion, so following what feels like the best choice will most likely be the right choice.
If Culinary Arts Is Your Specialty
Do you like being able to just mix flavors? Do you like working more on the fly? Do you work best in a very hot, stressful, and fast-paced environment? Do you like how adding one flavor over another can change the whole dish?
When you cook, you can create a dish solely based on the tastes of the ingredients and not the process of mixing or heating. If the flavor of the dish is off a bit or needs something, you can easily add more salt or more cream to perfect the dish, whereas in baking this is not possible.
Culinary professionals work in a very fast paced environment and need to be able to work under pressure. If you can handle burning your hands while working on 6 dishes, having your chef scream in your ear, and all the while turning out some amazing tasting food, then culinary arts is your avenue.
If Baking and Pastry Is Your Passion
Are you good at math and science? Do you like the structure of both subjects? Do you love the perfection of one amazing tasting ingredient, like great chocolate or a ripe strawberry? Are you very creative and artistic and committed to seeing a project through from beginning to end?
When you bake, you need to have perfect math and science or your product will not turn out correct. Some recipes leave room for tinkering, but for the most part if you do not follow a formula exactly, your product will not bake properly.
You need to have the artistic skill to pipe chocolate onto a cake, braid bread into challah, and stop cooking the caramel just at the right moment for perfect candy. When you work as a baker, you are responsible for starting a project from scratch and working on it all the way until you artfully place it on a plate,whereas chefs may only work on a part of the finished plate.
Where Do You Want to Work?
Another factor to think about before making a decision is that all-important question: What do you want to do with your life? If working late hours every night and on the weekends isn’t your cup of tea than culinary arts may not be the right avenue. If you are a morning person who likes to have the rest of your day to do what you want, then working in a bakery may be perfect for you.
Before you make any decision, you should do you research and discover which avenue would be right for you. While you may have thought at first that one path was what you want, you may realise that you fit better in the other.