7 Things to Know Before Choosing a Culinary School

The culinary arts have come a long way. In today’s highly competitive world where restaurants, hotels, resorts and foodservice businesses fight for talent, well-trained chefs are becoming more and more in-demand. Add to that, there are different types or levels of education now available depending on what your goals will be.

Culinary Institute: These offer the highest level of education for those who are serious about becoming certified culinary professionals. They typically offer degree, diploma, or certificate programs, ranging in length anywhere from a couple of months to four years.

Cooking School: These are like culinary institutes but smaller for cooks who want specialized training. They usually offer certificate or diploma programs only. Program lengths range from two months to four years.

Cooking Classes: While cooking classes don’t award certificates or diplomas, they are great for serious cooks who want to learn more about cooking. Short seminars range from just a couple of days to a couple of months.

You can see that cooking schools can be found in all sizes and shapes. Apprenticeships and other culinary training are also available in large numbers, leaving individuals a broad selection of programs and degrees to choose from. (And we’re not even including the millions of online cooking classes available out there.)

However, with the vastness of programs available, discovering the right one can then be difficult. It can be challenging for newbies who are not yet used to the size and scale in which the cooking industry operates. There is always more, and things move fast.

We’ve listed some basic things to look for to help you find the best culinary education that’s right for you. Without further ado, let’s dig in!

1. Choose Your Specialization

What kind of Chef do you want to be? When looking for the ideal culinary or cooking school, it is best to look at what area of specialization you are interested in. Will just a few classes be enough? Or would you like more in-depth training? 

Many schools and programs may offer a wide range of professional training options. Already knowing the style or specialty you prefer (ie: French baking, sushi, Italian, BBQ, etc,) will help you narrow down the programs that are the best fit for you.

Also, keep in mind that most programs are general in nature and only offer fundamental knowledge. Ask plenty of questions before spending money.

2. Compare Culinary Arts Programs

It’s smart to develop your own list of criteria for finding the right program. Think about everything that might be involved. Consider the schools’ accreditation, industry prestige and degrees, internships and certificates provided, class schedule, class size, costs, entry requirements, the professors and staff, financial aid, and the location. 

Also, ask about things like graduation rates and job placement assistance. 

Aside from these, it is also best to take a look at the schools’ ideology, objective, safety records, program dependability, and flexibility in class schedules. Assess all of these and you’ll increase your chances of finding the best fit.

3. Visit Culinary Schools

Well, there’s no better method to do this than to visit the cooking arts or cooking schools personally. Go to see the classes in action, live. Compare student to faculty ratios. Look over the course curriculum and course descriptions. 

Consider what kind of vibes you have. Talk to students, are they finding work after graduation? Are they working where they would like to work? What should you expect?

Make sure that the cuisine focus matches your interests and goals. 

4. Compare Tuition Rates

It’s easy to get caught up in the hype. You may have already started calling around to various schools only to get a high-pressured salesperson telling you lots of nice things to get your money. Take your time. Ask for a complete list of expenses. 

5. Check Financing Options

Many people overlook this in all of the excitement of selecting a school. Be careful not to take on too much debt. Some schools are now charging upwards of $60,000-$100,000 for a culinary arts degree. Keep in mind that many entry-level positions often don’t pay that well. 

Also, be sure to note how many years it will take you to pay back the loans. It’s a common practice by shady salespeople and admissions people to show you a smaller payment and conveniently forget to tell you that you will be paying that payment for many years longer than you expected. Just be sure to get all the details, first.

6. Location is Important

To begin your career, you may want to look for schools close to popular restaurants and busy urban centers. Chances are better that you will be able to meet and network with other people in the industry. You will also increase your chances of finding a paid internship or even a full-time position.

Yes, big cities can pay big money but that comes with a higher cost of living. You may be surprised to learn that some small rural and resort towns pay chefs better than the big cities. It just depends on the lifestyle you prefer the most.

For example, if you live in Mississippi, West Virginia, or Kentucky that’s’ good news for you. They are some of the highest paying states for chefs per capita. Being a chef means you can work anywhere in the world people eat, which is everywhere.

From exotic resorts to running your own diner in a quaint little town, so think ahead.

7. Consider Online Alternatives

Did you know that many of the world’s top chefs didn’t go to culinary school? They either learned on their own or apprenticed under a mentor. If you followed the steps above and realized that you don’t have the time or money for school there are other options. 

For example: Right now you are just a click away from having Gordon Ramsey teaching you how to be a better baker on youtube. All done at your own pace from the comfort of your home. 100% free of cost.

There are also numerous online cooking classes available for a very low cost compared to cooking school those that prefer a more structured curriculum. Some even offering live webcam demonstrations and instructors to help you learn and gain valuable hands-on experience.

With the numerous culinary programs available, discovering the ideal one can get confusing. Just take your time. It’s important to do your research before you spend any money.

Have questions? Let us know!