Is Culinary School Right for You?
Picking a college major can be very stressful. It's basically a commitment to something you could possibly be doing for the rest of your life. It's a really big deal! Are you considering Culinary School? If it interests you, make sure you know the facts before applying.
The Restaurant Industry
The restaurant industry is not what you see on television, and if you are hoping it is, please choose another career path. Working in Restaurants is a lot of hard work, and it takes a ton of determination to become a succesful chef.
I am going to be completely honest with you, I went to Culinary School. And I don't regret it for a second. But, many of my former classmates have moved on from the culinary lifestyle, even some of the more successful chefs I graduated with. This happens because loving to cook and working in restaurants are not the same thing. If you love to cook, but haven't worked a day in the restaurant industry, consider running down to a local restaurant and applying before jumping into a culinary school. You just may thank me later.
Why it's different
Cooking at home and cooking in a restaurant are extremely different. Cooking at home, you can go at your own pace, start and stop as you please, and generally just relax and have fun with what you are making. In a restaurant, you have a short time frame to make a plate, you obviously have no say in what you are going to be making (unless you happen to be the executive chef,) because menus rarely change other than the occasional special.
This means you will be making the same plates for the entire duration at the restaurant you end up at. This is not for everyone. You may cut off fingers, (I have cut off my left index finger, but got it re-atratched,) you will burn yourself (my arms, and even my legs and feet are covered in burns.) You will be exhausted. Will it be worth it for you at the end of the day?
Restaurants want consistency
And culinary school really does not teach you this. They want to show you as many methods for cooking something as possible. If you are working in a restaurant, you will be making dishes the same way, day in and day out.
Restaurants thrive on consistency, as this is what keeps customers coming back. So shaking things up with your fancy culinary techniques will not always be appreciated. Most restaurants want their dish to look the same every time it goes out, regardless of who is preparing it. You will also not be able to use much of your culinary training at first once you start working, as you will, for the most part, be following other peoples recipes (if you think you can walk into a restaurant and be hired as the executive chef, after only culinary school, you aren't going to get far.)
Not all great Chefs go to Culinary School
Many (if not most) of the best chefs I have worked with in my career never set foot in a culinary school. I believe the biggest reason for this is, you learn much more on the job than you ever will or possibly could in a classroom. You will also not make as much as a cook or chef as you may think you would. Television is not an accurate representation of what happens in a kitchen, it is closer to blue collar work than anything else.
People always ask me why I chose to go to school if I feel this way. Well, To me, going to Culinary School was basically a commitment to stay in the restaurant industry. There have been many days where I thought I couldn't do it any more, and think back to the time I spent in school, and how much of a waste it would be if I just gave up now. Many chefs ask me if Culinary School was worth it, and I always say yes. Because it is what made me stick with this crazy career of ups and downs over the years.
Many chefs who choose to attend culinary school and go on to work in popular restaurants burn out quickly. The reason for this is, they don't understand the amount of work there actually is to be done in a kitchen. (Lunch break? Yeah right.) For 8+ hours, (my usual day is actually 10 hours, for 5 or 6 days a week.)
You will be constantly moving, lifting, standing over the hot grill, and preparing dish after dish as fast as you possibly can. Grueling day in and out. This is what is expected of the average restaurant worker, and does not even begin to explain how to get recognition from your boss or co-workers. This is what is expected of you. Anything less, and you will not make it.
Regardless of your choice, I wish you good luck in your schooling and eventual career choice. I hope you can find something you love, like I did. This article is not meant as a detterant for you, I really just want people to know what working in a restaurant is, and how it is different from school.
If these points don't bother you, then congratulations! You may be ready to fill out that culinary school application and be on your way to living the life of a chef. It will be hard work, but it really is worth it for those of us who couldn't possibly do anything else. I truly love what I do, and I wish the best for you on your culinary adventure.
Thank you for reading my article! Are you going to culinary school? Did you go to culinary school and love it, or maybe you even feel it wasn't necessary after all? Or, maybe you just flat out disagree with me! Well, Please let me know either way! I would love to read your feedback. Thanks again for reading. Sincerely,