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Hands-on learning and group projects are ways you might learn in your cooking classes

by Olivia DeWolfe
CulinaryEd Columnist
February 15, 2011

Group work is common in culinary school.You may love to cook, but will you love culinary classes? Different culinary degree programs can take different approaches with their curriculum in their journey to teach students how to develop successful culinary careers. Here are some examples of what you might see in your courses:

1. A focus on hands-on experience versus academic work

Depending on your program, you may have a little or a lot of hands-on cooking classes. An intensive-certificate program in baking and pastry arts may have you covered in flour most days and allow for only a few hours of lecture about using math in baking. The hands-on classes in an advanced culinary-degree program may occupy about two-thirds of the curriculum, with the other third focused on academic classes such as menu-planning, restaurant design, cost-control and food safety.

Online culinary arts degree programs, on the other hand, tend to focus on subjects, such as business and management, that are best learned on the computer. Although there are exceptions, an online degree means you may spend more time reading and writing rather than cooking.

2. A focus on individual work versus group work

Most culinary arts education occurs in group settings. This could mean critiquing recipes made that day, learning about wine or preparing consomme. However, usually you are asked to practice and demonstrate your newly-acquired skills on your own. This can be a good way to evaluate your own abilities.

Though some culinary-school graduates, like personal chefs, work alone, most are part of a team. The ability to learn with and from others is a critical part of your education.

3. A focus on required classes versus elective course

Many advanced culinary degree programs offer standardized curricula that do not allow you to individually select your coursework. Of course, there are exceptions, but those usually come in your final year. There are, however, certificate and diploma programs available to you that might help you pursue more specific goals. These programs may focus on subjects such as nutrition, food-writing, restaurant design or wine studies.

Getting a sense of what culinary arts classes are like may help you to decide whether culinary school is what you may be seeking in your life.

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