I get asked a lot of questions about culinary school, the most popular being is it worth it?
When you go to culinary school, you pretty much sign your life away for a year and a half (or more!), along with your bank account, waistline and overall well-being. It’s challenging, it’s intense, it’s expensive and it’s long.
It’s also wonderful, rewarding and a whole lot of fun!
First of all, I did not go to culinary school with any intention of ever being a chef.
Yeah, that probably sounds weird, but I really just wanted to learn everything possible about food so I could write about it to my best potential. I went to culinary school to learn classic French cooking and baking techniques so I would have the ability to, someday, develop my own recipes.
Basically, I wanted to know what I was writing and talking about.
And it was very important to start with the basics—what makes a good sauce? How do you make a classical genoise cake? What goes into homemade puff pastry?
So, when I was twenty two years old, I took out one hundred percent student loans, traded in my heels for clogs and got going.
One week later I wanted to quit.
It was so much harder than I ever expected and I felt like everyone else had way more experience that I did. There were hardly any girls at all in my program and the chef instructors weren’t exactly warm and fuzzy.
However, I’m very glad I stuck it out. It was a decision that I’ll never regret, even though my student loans desperately cramp my shopping style and I still have major issues chopping onions…but that’s another story.
I guess you could just say that I’m really in love with food—the whole process and art of it. It’s what makes me tick and I do believe that going to culinary school has helped me get to the place where I am now.
Now, that all being said, do I think you need to go to culinary school in order to be successful?
Some of the most successful chefs and food writers that I know never had any formal training. They learned by being go-getters in the industry. Experience is often valued more than eduction in this world, and if you think you have what it takes to be a successful chef without going to school, go for it!
Start from the bottom and work your way up. Work for free. Make sacrifices. Take big risks. Do whatever it takes to get in the company of someone who has made it big, and then learn how they did it.
It’s all about the passion. Like anything in life, you’ve gotta really want something bad in order to make it happen for yourself.
Before signing up for a very expensive culinary program, make a list of your goals on paper.
I decided to go to school because I’m very education-orientated. I LOVE being in school and learning. It was important to me to have another degree and, selfishly, I wanted that degree to be from Le Cordon Bleu.
Don’t ask me to cook rice though. Now that’s another story.