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The Challenges of Culinary School

Updated on October 5, 2015

The Challenges of Culinary School

From Uniform to Toque: Tasting the Challenges
of Culinary School

So, you think you can cook, huh?

You may have been a "mom's assistant" or "grandma's helper" if you are reading this, someone who's fond of watching your mom prepare your sumptuous dinner after school, watching your dad master the grill on the weekends, or watching great chefs on television serve world class delicacies. You realize cooking is such one of the most fun and rewarding jobs in the world, and you decide to go to culinary school.

But I have a newsflash for you: it takes a lot more than that to cook with the big boys! The fact that you like to cook is only the tip of the iceberg.

One major cause of dropouts from culinary schools nowadays come when students understated the demanding job of being a chef. Too focused on fun, many students don't realize the challenges it takes to become a professional-- a tough curriculum and a challenging field with a lot of pressure, and a lot of criticism. So before you plan of becoming one of the greatest chefs in the metro, you may want to read a little about the bitterness inside every academy for culinary arts.

Becoming a Chef?


Take a Test Drive

Entering a culinary school means bringing with you the expectation of being prepared for learning, not just cooking. Being prepared means having a first-hand experience to the field you are going to enter into. In the case of culinary arts, it is not enough that you know how to cook, but you must know how to manage the kitchen. Cooking in a professional kitchen is not like cooking for yourself or your friends for fun-- it's very demanding, tiring, you must be good and consistent, and you must know the health codes and regulations.

You might want to consider an entry-level job in restaurants or catering first to see what kind of a life you will be in for. And when we say restaurants, they must be restaurants of clinging plates and utensils, in that way you get the realistic picture of what you are going to have before putting all the expenses in to tuition fee.

While not a requirement, it pays to know what you're getting into-- before you waste your time, and pile up on student loans and school expenses. There's no greater teacher than experience, and testing yourself before entering into culinary school will help you make an informed decision.

Cooking Under Pressure

Once you have decided to go for it, be prepared to go in full force. Under the culinary school, there's no such thing as "good enough", has to always be "delizioso". No one wants to pay for mediocre food, and no restaurant wants to hire a chef who is hit or miss. From the day you begin school, you begin developing a reputation. You are in competition with your fellow students, because when you seek an internship or potential employers call, it's the best of the best who will get the shining recommendations.

Therefore, "good enough" is never "good enough"... this is a career in which those who rise to the top give it 100% every time. Skill will come with time, but effort is a required ingredient-- always, unconditionally. In culinary school, this goes for everything from chopping onions to your final exam. It also includes all of your studying and written work.

Go beyond expectations. Putting yourself one step higher than the standard will get you off to a good start in a career in which employer and client expectations will be high.

Toughen Up!


Culinary School is No Place for Wusses

If you now understand the kind of pressure and the kind of expectations that will be piled upon you, then you can see that culinary school is not for the faint of heart. From written tests to peeling potatoes, you're going to be expected to perform exceptionally.

You're also going to be expected to shrug off the 'occupational hazards', so wusses need not apply. Everyone will understand if you have a serious mishap, but keep in mind that cuts, burns and bruises are going to happen practically daily on a minor scale. You'll be expected to power through the pain.

Culinary school makes everything extreme to set the foundation of the real world; therefore you need to learn to deal with things and move right along with your day.

The small and hot work space, noisy and fast-paced activities, different deadline limits, and long hours of hard work are there to boil you up to your limit. You're going to get hot and sweaty, you're not going to get a smoke break or time to have a cup of coffee, and your feet are going to hurt. This is not just for later, or when you're head chef-- this is something you're going to experience early on in culinary school. It's time to learn to operate under pressure, and learn to put up with discomforts and inconveniences.

Cooking Under Pressure


Don't Be a Sourpuss

Instructors at culinary schools are usually accomplished and respected in their field... these are not people to be trifle with, because connections and word-of-mouth recommendations can go pretty far when you get out of school. You need to keep in mind that they're not just standing around to hand you recipes and praise your finished dishes-- they are there to give you a dose of reality, of what you're going to be dealing with when you get into a real kitchen. They're going to be hard on you, or they won't be doing their job to prepare you very well. They're also there to judge you, to judge not just your extraordinary talents, but how you actually work in the kitchen and how you work with others.

Many students tend to cook for themselves at home are used to the praise of family and friends. It can be hard to hear a bitter remark from their instructor. Sometimes, it is a matter of humility and trust; an expert tongue knows better. It's better to hear these things from your instructor in culinary school than from diners, or your future boss. So try not to be resentful if you don't get the glowing reviews in school that you expected-- no matter how good you are, your instructors are going to try to challenge you to make you better. In fact, good instructors will be even harder on students when they recognize exceptional talent, because they will want to help bring you up to your ultimate potential.

Instead of making a sour impression by being rude, cross or giving up, take the opportunity to prove to your instructors that you can take criticism. Remember- praise makes you feel good, but criticism is what helps you get better.

Do Your Research:

Be Your Own Worst Critic

Remember, your biggest competition inside the culinary school is not your instructors or even your classmates-- it should be yourself. You need to set your mind to improve in all areas that involve managing a kitchen, from figuring out the budget to dealing with your co-workers to producing superior food.

Self-esteem and confidence are assets, but they will truly be tested. If you can pass the test of culinary school, you'll have no problem with a career.

Culinary arts is not only about cooking, but it is a discipline of satisfaction. It requires a disciplined individual to learn it. There would be more challenges to come into your journey from a junior cook to a master chef in the future. For the meantime, all you have to do is to enjoy every moments that you are to indulge inside your culinary school along with its accompanying bittersweet challenges.

Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts - Las Vegas

Le Cordon Bleu London School-Full Version


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