Quick Recipes and Easy

Finding the Right Culinary School for You

Have you ever thought about the possibility of going to culinary school to become a professional chef or start a new career in hospitality management? Maybe you want to go to school just to be a better cook at home? The excellent news is there are a lot of fantastic schools and colleges in every state to help you accomplish your goals.

Based upon the number of cooking schools opening each year, there must be a lot of folks interested in getting into the culinary world. I recently read an article in our local newspaper about the growth in local culinary schools, and the numbers surprised me. It appears that supermarkets, gourmet stores, local restaurants, colleges, ex-chefs, and just about anyone else who has the room and expertise is putting on an apron and opening a school.

Many of these schools are there for absolute beginners who just want to learn how to boil water and get around in the kitchen without hurting themselves. These classes tend to be more fun where you watch a professional chef prepare a meal and then you get to share it with the rest of the class. It’s a excellent way to meet some fascinating people, learn a few culinary tricks, and taste some tasty food.

And then there are schools for home cooks who have some experience but want to build upon their skills and learn some new techniques. These schools tend to have classrooms with individual stations where the students learn by doing. Often these classes will specialize in one particular technique or cooking style.

But what about the individuals who wants to make cooking their career and go back to school for a degree in culinary education? They may want to learn about hospitality management to master the skills needed to run a resort, restaurant, or theme park. Or they may want to become professional chefs and cook in some of the best restaurants in the country.

Lucky for them, there are now more than 500 vocational, college, and university programs scattered around the country with more schools opening each year that offer first-rate educational degrees in this field. The larger question is: how do you choose the best culinary school for you?

Here are a few steps to help you narrow down the field and simplify your choice:

Step 1 – Figure out what you want to do after you graduate.

Do you want to start a catering company, make pastries and fancy desserts, or how about manage a restaurant? Once you have an thought of what it is that you want to specialize in, you can limit your search to only those schools that offer the necessary classes.

If you have no thought what you want to do in the culinary field, be sure to go to a school that offers a number of choices in every field of the industry- sort of like taking a liberal arts’ approach.

Step 2 – Determine what’s most vital to you in a school. Some topics you may want to reckon about before choosing a school are:

Entry requirements
Length of program and class schedule
Costs and financial aid
Class size and student-to-faculty ratio
Classroom facilities
Class schedules
The school’s faculty and reputation
Degrees and accreditations
Externship opportunities
Location and housing
Schools contacts, job placement, and/or internships

Step 3 – Make a list of schools to contact for more information.

You can start with your local yellow pages but if you don’t find a school close enough, or one that strikes your fancy, try doing a search on the Internet. Just type in “cooking schools in [your state]“, or “culinary schools [your state]“, and you will find hundreds of leads to schools worldwide. Type in culinary schools with a city and it will narrow down the field even more.

There is also a listing of top schools listed by state at The Reluctant Gourmet web site. Go to reluctantgourmet.com/cooking_schools.htm and click on the state of your choice and pick a city of interest.

Once you find a few schools that look promising, read a small about them to see what they have to offer. Most sites will provide a small form that you can fill out for more information. Once you fill out the form and send it back to the school, someone will call you within a day or two to answer your questions, provide you with additional information, and offer to send you some brochures and an application.

Be sure to have a list of questions you want answered when you speak with a school’s representative. You might also question for a list of current students and graduates to contact for their assessment of the school.

This is also a excellent time to question about scholarships and what the school has to offer. If financing is going to be an issue, it’s better to find out alternatives now rather than wait until you have been accepted. Remember, the school representatives are there to help and most, I’ve found, don’t push too hard–although it is their job to sell you on the school.

Step 4 – Narrow down the field.

Once you look over what the schools have to offer and have spoken with the representatives, start eliminating those that just don’t fit in with your needs. Maybe a school is too far, too costly, or just doesn’t offer the courses you are interested in taking.

Step 5 – Visit the schools that fit best.

In my opinion, this is one of the most vital steps you can do to make sure that you are going to be pleased at any cooking school. You want to see the actual classrooms you will be attending, see some of the teachers and students in action, and get a feel for the surroundings to make sure you will fit in.

I once made the mistake of taking a new job on Wall Street with a competitor without ever seeing the offices I’d be working in. Sure the money was better and I thought I would make quicker advancement, but when I arrived for my first day of work, I couldn’t believe the conditions they wanted me to work in. The office space was ancient, dirty, and outdated compared to where I was working. I was horrified and only lasted about four months!

So, make sure that the school in which you are thinking of investing your time and money is as excellent, if not better, than the brochure they send to you.

Step 6 – Apply to your top picks.

After you make your visits, narrow down the field to your top choices and prepare the applications you were sent. Be sure to be clean and complete, and provide the schools with everything they question you for. If you have any questions about the application, pick up the phone straight away and get answers. You don’t want to be sending in incomplete forms.

Step 7 – Choose your school.

Once told by the schools of your acceptance, you can choose which school works best for you. Because you did your homework and followed the steps above, this final choice should be simple.

Be sure to inform the school of your choice that you will be attending, and find out what steps are required to get you enrolled and what you will need to start school.

Although this article was written for those of you interested in going to culinary school, you can follow these same procedures when choosing any continuing education degree. If you reckon about it, it’s just like getting everything prepped and ready to go (mise en place) before starting to prepare a meal.

Copyright © 2005 G. Stephen Jones, The Reluctant Gourmet

G. Stephen Jones made the Reluctant Gourmet back in 1997 as a leisure activity to help other novice cooks who may find the art of cooking a small daunting. As an ex-Wall Street broker and Stay-at-Home Dad, he tries to explore cooking from a different perspective.

Visit reluctantgourmet.com reluctantgourmet.com/ for more tips, techniques, recipes and a fantastic reluctantgourmet.com/cooking_schools.htm listing of culinary schools

Webmasters – Please feel free to add this article to your site. Just remember to ensure the links remain live and static back to reluctantgourmet.com reluctantgourmet.com/

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