Which is Better: Big Name, Chain Culinary Schools or Smaller, Locally-Owned Culinary Schools?
Choosing the right culinary school can be a difficult undertaking. In addition to considerations of cost, location, and the length of the program, there are literally hundreds of culinary schools to choose from. Some of them are well-known (such as The Art Institutes), while others are small and locally-owned, rarely making even the local headlines.
For most students, the appeal of attending a big name school is pretty evident. With a recognizable brand, a large national following, and often years of experience in the field, it may seem like a safe bet to stick with the schools you know.
However, many chefs graduate from smaller, less-known schools and still have great success in their careers. It’s all about determining what it is you want out of your culinary school experience and finding the location—big or small—that can offer it to you.
Pros of a Big Name Culinary School
In addition to the benefits listed above, the larger culinary brand names can offer:
Instructors who may be well-known in the field
Larger and more diverse pools of students
A curriculum that has been tested over time
The ability to transfer to a campus in another location
An education recognized by accrediting councils
In some schools, you might also find more flexible payment options (offered through their own financing company) and internship opportunities in restaurants you know and recognize.
Pros of a Smaller Culinary School
If you’re considering smaller, local culinary schools owned and operated by an individual chef or group of chefs, you can look forward to:
A more personalized, one-on-one culinary experience
Lower tuition rates
Greater flexibility in completing your course
Placement and relationships with local vendors and restaurants
Good local networking
As you can tell, the focus here is a lot more on making a personal connection—with your instructor, your school, and your community.
Making the Right Culinary School Choice
There are pros and cons to any education decision, and culinary school is no different. Determine what you want out of your career and talk with the companies you hope to work with in the future to see what they look for in candidates. Culinary school can be a great or not-so-great experience; the difference is usually in the amount of research you do ahead of time.