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Brief stories behind a few world-famous chefs

by Olivia DeWolfe
CulinaryEd Columnist
February 23, 2011

Julia ChildCulinary school is a serious commitment of time, energy and money. But if you have enough resourcefulness and passion for cooking, culinary school can be a smart career move anyway. To add some perspective, you many want to stop and think about what others before you have done. Consider the unexpected careers of these inspirational chefs.

An unexpected career change

In 1948, at the age of 36, Julia Child traded in her career as a government research assistant after World War II to attend culinary school in Paris. Child banded with two of her classmates to form their own culinary school, L'Ecole de Trois Gourmandes, and to write a cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Not only was their hefty volume voted the best cookbook five years running, it became the standard for Americans learning French cuisine.

Two degrees can be better than one

Ming Tsai spent his junior summer away from his undergraduate work to attend a culinary school in Paris. After cooking under pastry chef Pierre Herme and sushi master Kobayashi, Tsai went back to the U.S., where he earned his master's degree in hotel administration and hospitality marketing. These experiences may have helped him kick off the enduring success of his award-winning restaurant Blue Ginger.

Big break in the spotlight

Jamie Oliver graduated from a catering culinary school in his native England. After some time working in France, he went on to cook at the famed River Cafe. It was during this 3.5-year stint that he landed his hugely successful "Naked Chef" BBC television series, emphasizing Oliver's bare bones culinary arts style.

Taking the high road

Anthony Bourdain is a New York chef who went to one of the most famous culinary schools in the country. Some highlights of his distinctive career include his international bestseller and its insider's take in "Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly" and his Emmy award-winning television series "No Reservations," where he scours the culinary arts world in search of edible adventures.

What's your story?

You don't need to have ambitions of being a world-famous chef to start a culinary arts degree program. However, with the skills and knowledge such a program can teach you, who knows what might happen? Perhaps you might be the next chef we're scrambling to feature on this very page.

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