When I began culinary school earlier this year, I took to it much the way I took to college: a self-induced coma of reading books, studying notes, and learning techniques all while sitting at my desk listening to the Fray.I know I know, the Fray you ask?But why?Because they are great to study to.Hardly the point.The Fray have nothing to do with this.What I am trying to say is that nothing is better for your culinary training than to work while going to school.
Guess what?Culinary school.Not that hard.Really.Yes you will be doing some basic algebra for your costing classes.You will be doing some memorization for your food safety classes.Eventually you will be forced to recall every minute relationshiop between flour and eggs or bones to mirepoix to water.But guess what?That stuff becomes second nature when you do it every morning.You are given a menu of what to prepare, which tells you the type of concepts you will need to be familiar on, which tells you which ratios to look over the night before.
Culinary school will give you that jump start to assist in your training as a cook.By making this knowledge of pasta dough proportions and brown sauce recipes second nature, you will be able to do your job as a professional cook so much more thoroughly.You will walk in and know how to make a bouquet garni (bay leaf, thyme, parsley) or the proper proportions for brown veal stock (8# bones:1# mirepoix: 1 sachet: 1 gallon water).You will have more culinary knowledge than most sous chef's I have worked with.You will be able to tell you fellow line cook three more names for a monkfish than just Monkfish.You will have the knowledge.
What you will not have is the experience, and unfortunately, the experience is what you need.Knowedge is great, don't get me wrong.I definitely would not change the fact that I went to culinary school.It got my foot in the door, gave me a lot of exposure to everything in a short amount of time, and taught me how to be clean.But what really makes great cooks, what really transforms you into a great chef is working.Coming in everyday and getting the point where you just kill it.Where you could stand around for the last hour of prep and shoot the shit (not that you would) because you are so far ahead of the game.Where you are watching everyone around you all the time and picking up on everything you can.Where eventually the chef is asking you to work more and more and giving you bigger and more important tasks.What you really need to do is work, because school is cooking with floaties on, right before you get tossed into the deep end of the pool.
Culinary is the fastest way to build a foundation and understanding of culinary techniques that will allow you to map your work experiences on to.If you are in culinary school, I ask that you continue to work while in school.Nothing will make you better, faster, or cleaner, than applying the knowledge you get everyday while making food for customers and working for a boss.