Can Culinary School Help You Make the Cut?

by Olivia Tacelli
CulinaryEd Columnist
July 23, 2010

If you love cooking and want to make a career out of it, you may be wondering whether or not to apply for culinary school. It may be tempting to spend your time instead looking for an entry-level position in a restaurant, then working your way up over time, and several people do in fact approach their careers in this manner. However, taking the time to earn a degree first can help you find a better starting position for yourself, and may also offer more room for potential growth over time. Much like making healthy choices over easy choices in eating, earning a degree may be the more difficult but healthier choice for your culinary career in the long run.

The Educational Advantages of Culinary School

A culinary degree program is meant to educate students on the basics of the culinary arts, such as culinary trends, techniques, nutrition and food safety. The option to specialize in particular areas -- i.e. wine education, wedding cakes and French pastry -- is especially important, as these sophisticated arts require in-depth knowledge that is difficult to acquire "on the job." Similarly, if your goal is a position as a head chef, a culinary degree program can introduce many relevant managerial and business concepts that you might not have been able to learn otherwise.

How Culinary School Can Help You

Earning a degree from culinary school is an accomplishment that can show commitment and follow-through that is often sought after by employers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, having a post-secondary degree may also increase your hireability as a head chef, a position where the job market is more competitive and your earning potential may be higher.

In addition, many programs require students to complete externships at a restaurant. The connections made through these projects may be able to help students find interested employers after graduation, or the externship might lead to a job offer itself. Culinary school can also offer excellent networking potential, if your goal after school is to start up your own restaurant, catering company or retail food business.

While the real determining factor is your talent, blood, sweat and tears, attending culinary arts school is a smart choice when you know you want to make a career out of your passion for food.

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