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Becoming a Chef – Culinary School or On the Job Training?

So you are interested in the possibility of becoming a chef? You probably have many questions and are probably wondering what route to take. Are there any requirements for becoming a chef? What education is needed for becoming a chef?

As the title of this article suggests, you basically have two options toward becoming a chef and learning the fundamentals of cooking. There are really three options, but we will discuss the third later in this article. You can either go straight to Culinary School and learn the art of cooking under the close supervision of educated Chefs, or you can head out into the real world and learn hands on cooking techniques in a quick paced restaurant setting. We will now discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both options.


The Advantages

The traditional method for becoming a chef was quite different years ago. One did not attend a Culinary School first before they started working. Instead, a person learned by working from the bottom up. This gave the cook hands-on real world experience, something not readily available in cooking schools today. This real world experience is more respected then a student fresh out of Culinary School, and I am sure you can know why. A restaurant owner is not going to be impressed by a resume filled with all of the classes you took in cooking school. He or she will be more interested in whether or not you can perform in a busy and stressful kitchen environment, and you will only gain that experience by living and doing it on the job.

The Disadvantages

Working on the job also has its disadvantages. In a restaurant environment there is one main objective and that is to prepare quality dishes in a timely manner so that the customer is satisfied. Your head chef and co-workers do not have time to clarify how a dish is made, or the history and culture behind the food that is prepared. It is simply too busy. So you will have to seek out your education on your own, unless of course someone is willing to take the time and teach you, but this is rarely the case.


The advantages of Attending a Cooking School

Culinary school can be a truly rewarding experience if you keep your eyes and ears open and apply yourself. There is much to be learned and exposed to. This is where the history, culture and techniques regarding the preparation of the food comes into play.

You can learn where the dish came from and the variety of ways to make certain dishes. You can learn how to buy and store your ingredients. You get to work together with other students as a team, which is a very vital factor in the success of your career. You may never see or prepare these dishes again, but the techniques that you pick up in Culinary School can be applied to many of the dishes that you make in the future.

Depending on the school you attend, your curriculum may include topics like pastry, nutrition, management, butchery and more. You can also receive job placement help. You will learn more about the various culinary organizations out there, scholarships and other programs that may be useful.

The Disadvantages of Cooking School

For the most part, a Culinary school education is theoretical learning. Cooking school is not going to prepare you for the busy and stressful environment of a real world kitchen, and this lack of preparation may present a problem when you start looking for a job.

Culinary Students have also bought a terrible reputation over the years unfortunately. The well loved opinion is that graduates from cooking schools are in no way prepared to handle the stress of a busy kitchen. Why have Culinary Students been given such a terrible reputation? It is because many have tried and quit when the going got rough. So the only way to overcome this is to prove yourself. You will have to dedicate yourself no matter how hard things get.

Lastly there is the cost associated with a Culinary School Education. It can be very expensive. Not only do you have to pay tuition, but you also have to pay for your books, tools and other accessories. Things can really add up. If you choose that it is not the right career path for you, you will have lost a lot of money.


Now on to the third option that I told you we would cover later in this article: working on the job while you are attending cooking school. The advantage to this option is that you will be practicing what you are learning in school. You get to truly experience it and not just read about it in some textbook.

This is by far the best option of course but not for everyone. There will be many sacrifices when taking this route toward becoming a chef. Holding a job while going to school will be very hard. You will be exhausted both physically and mentally, and if you do not work extra hard, your grades will suffer. If your grades suffer, then you may get less attention from your instructors. On the flip side, you may impress your instructors with your hard work and interest.

So whatever path you choose, remember the most vital thing is perseverance. Without staying power and patience you will have a hard time making it as a chef. I wish you all the best and God Bless.

Ralph Serpe is a passionate cook and writer for chef-ability.com chef-ability.com. Visit today to learn more about chef-ability.com becoming a chef.

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