Cooking School Is Not For Everyone

September 14, 2007 55 Comments

Cooking School Is Not For Everyone

“Does my daughter need to go to a “big” named culinary school?”

Because of the number of popular culinary schools I have posted on my web site, a lot of email is sent my way from high school students and their parents wanting to know more about attending culinary school.

One of those emails was from Vicky, whose daughter is interested in going to culinary school for pastry/baking. Here’s what she wrote:

Hi RG! I have a 16-year-old daughter who’s interested in cooking school. We’ve started to look at this a bit and are curious if it’s necessary/best to go to one of the “big” schools–such as CIA or Le Cordon Bleu. She’s interested in pastry/baking and her goal would NOT be to work in a big name restaurant, but probably something smaller. Do smaller schools, tech schools allow people to get the necessary skills–and a job! — or is it a situation where you must go to a “name” school. Thanks for any thoughts you can share.

I immediately sent this email to Chef Leslie Bilderback, Certified Master Baker and author of Success as a Chef. Not only did she attend a “big name” culinary school, but also taught at the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, CA and then was the Executive Chef at CSC when it partnered with Le Cordon Bleu.

As she mentions in her response, her book Success as a Chef was written with questions like this in mind. I really appreciate her honesty in her reply. Chef Leslie doesn’t candy coat a career in the food industry. Just the opposite, she comes right out and states culinary school is not right for everyone and “most students are not the right type” to go to one.

Read her response to Vicky to see why and whom the “right type” is who will do well in culinary school and be successful in the food industry.

From Chef Bilderback, Certified Master Baker

Dear Vicky, first, without seeming like I am pushing my book, I really wrote it exactly for this situation, so if you get a chance to look at it, I think you should.  There is a lot of pertinent information for just this occasion.

I have a couple of points to make.  First, here is the low down on culinary schools:  They are expensive, and they do not necessarily prepare you for the real world.   Big or small, the education is generally the same.  Cooking skills don’t change much.  And the name of the school will only get her in the door.  It’s her skill that will get her the job.

Please understand, I went to a big culinary school, I taught at one, and I was the Executive Chef of one.  They can be terrific for the right type of person.  But most students are not the right type.

The right type knows exactly what their dream culinary career entails.  They have researched the job market, including job availability, salaries, and competition.  They know from experience what a food-service job entails, because they have already worked in food service, and they love it.  (They love the sweaty heat, the tired aching feet, the foul language, alcoholism and drug abuse, low pay, no paid vacation or health insurance”¦unless they join a union.)

They are comfortable working for someone else; they know how to take direction, and criticism.  Also, the right type of culinary student has no delusions of grandeur.  They know, and are comfortable with, the fact that very few culinarians become rich and famous.  (Most barely make it a year in the industry. Some hang in for 2 or 3 years before giving up.) The success rate of small restaurants and bakeries is pretty low, too.

The culinary schools are not packed with these kinds of students because they have little criteria for entrance.  We use to joke that all a student needed to get into our school was a checkbook and a pulse.  I know there are schools out there with integrity.  I’m just not sure which ones they are.  (In my book, I have lists of questions you should be asking these institutions).

My second point is that the best pastry chefs are good cooks first.  It is better for a career to know it all, and then specialize.  You are more marketable, more versatile, and more respected if you have a culinary degree, not just a pastry diploma. It’s like going to high school and only taking electives.  You won’t get very far.

One last thing…

As a food service professional, and a parent, I strongly encourage kids to at least get an AA degree, if not a full on BA.  If this means a couple years at the local JC, (perhaps while trying out a food service job) it’s totally worth it in the long run.  Many, many things change in the future, and no one gets very far, even in food service, without a degree.

And FYI mom, culinary school aint cheap.  And student loans are hard to pay back with a $9/hour bakery job.  Be sure to look into that end (also covered in my book).

Sorry to be kind of a downer.  It is a problem in our industry, thanks to food TV, that too many of the wrong type are flooding the market.  They graduate school, get a job, decide it’s not for them, and then quit.  The restaurant is then saddled with more recruitment and training costs, which in turn keeps overall salaries down.   We will never raise this industry to the level it deserves unless this stops.  So people out there”¦be sure it’s what you want!!

And if it is Best of Luck!


Last modified on Tue 31 October 2017 10:06 am

Filed in: Culinary Schools

Comments (55)

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  1. RG says:

    Here is what Vicky responded to me after reading Chef Bilderback’s response:

    “Thanks so much for the quick and thorough response! I appreciate it.

    This is good, helpful information and it sounds like her book would be an excellent thing to look at. I truly appreciate the real world perspective (even if it’s depressing!).

  2. Mrs. Waller says:

    I am an at-home mom, and recently I’ve been pondering the direction of my future. One idea I had was to go to cooking school to learn how to be a better cook and perhaps work in a restaurant or gourmet food store. When I checked into tuition, however, I was totally discouraged. Then I realized that I currently attend a great cooking school – the School of Hard Knocks. It’s free. I cook what I want, when I want, and I can miss days of school with no consequence.
    Two of the things I wanted to learn at an “official” cooking school was knife skills and meat carving, but I determined that I could buy lots of meat and chicken and knives to experiment with and still not spend the cost of tuition.

  3. Nikki says:

    Im 15 years old and im turning 16 soon. For the past year i have been experimenting with cake. I have made a lot for family and friends. Right now im making a porfolio of the cakes i made. But i need to get a job and i dont know what i should get a job in. Sould i get a job in cooking. I dont know what to do. I really want to be a pastry chef . Please help me and give some tips so i can acomplise my dream of becoming a pastry chef and one day oped my own bakery.

  4. Teri Jordan says:

    I am older (40 plus) and have been baking all my life. I am in the process of pursuing a cupcake cakery business. I have many years in retail management, but have never worked in a bakery. What would your advise be to me in starting a cupcakery business with out any pastry chef experience outside of my home kitchen.
    Thank you!

  5. Ciara says:

    I am sixteen and a junior in high school. I have always wanted to be a pastry chef.I have been cooking for a very long time, but I don’t know where to start.Do I have to go to a school with a big name? What kind of scholarships can I get?
    I would really appreciate some help.

  6. Gwen says:

    I agree with M. Waller. I’m 62, retired, and have a yen to learn about “real” cooking. So occasionally I think about the nearby Cordon Bleu school. And yes, years ago I did work in both food and liquor, as cook and as a bartender. So I know all about the harsh, nasty realities of the business and the incredible sleaziness of some of the people you might end up working for. I saw plenty of it. I guess that’s the School of Hard Knocks, although I usually refer to it as “Interstate University” or the “Truckstop Culinary Institute.”

    In short, I think about cooking school, and then come to my senses.

    There are plenty of opportunites to work in the industry without going to school. I’d advise everyone to do that first, and no exceptions!

    You can also learn a LOT on your own, if you just try.

    After doing all this, then maybe school could be a reasonable option. Maybe…

    Watch a show like “Top Chef” and pay attention to the skills and backgrounds of the contestants. Some have a lot of school, some have none. And it quickly becomes obvious that school is no guarantee that someone knows anything at all about food.

    Before spending all that money going to school, use all the free resources around you, invest in a little good equipment and maybe a few books, and above all, do lots of cooking!

  7. Quinn says:


    I am in college and have a semester left. I am slowly learning that what I am getting my degree (sociology/criminal justice) in is not what I would like my career to be. I have always wanted to own my own catering company (specifically desserts). Do you have any recommendations on books, websites, or any information that would help put me in the right direction?

  8. Robbie says:

    I’m a 57-year-old “chef” who’s worked in food service jobs all my life. I got my “basic” kitchen training from my Italian grandmother. My advanced kitchen training came from 6 years in the U.S. Navy including 1 year of classroom training (6 months first, then the rest as special seminars during my hitch) and 5 years in the Pacific fleet.

    Since then I’ve worked in “greasy spoons” and 4 star bistros… and I’ve enjoyed almost every minute of every day. For the last 3 years, I’ve been dividing my time between a very good Italian restaurant and an upscale steakhouse in the Napa Valley.

    In my humble opinion, the best way to learn is not at the culinary schools, but on the job with a good chef. My experience with most graduates of these schools echoes what Ms. Bilderback wrote, they weren’t the “right type”.

    I like working for others, as long as they stay out of MY kitchen, and I’m not interested in the headaches of owning my own bistro (been there, done that, what a pain, too busy running the place to do what I love, which is cooking).

    Other than the 2 years I spent pouring money I didn’t really have into the black hole of “MY restaurant”, I’ve loved just about every minute of every day. As someone “known”, at least locally, I can always find another job if the boss is too big a jackass, which hasn’t really happened it quite a few years now.

    Best bet to start out in the food business is to get a job at Denny’s, IHOP, or some other local, or chain joint where you can see if you’re cut out for the biz. They’re almost always looking for help. Kitchens are kitchens, whether chain or 4 stars, the only thing that’s different is the menu, (fried eggs are fried eggs, and steaks are steaks, no matter what you pay for them). Then check out the local community college, many have culinary programs (Napa Valley College has one that’s fair) which are far cheaper than most culinary schools.

  9. Shauna says:

    I am 17 years old and am nearing the end of my junior year in High School. I have recently become to wonder about the pastry sector of cooking and baking. The Master Chef’s advice really depressed me because I don’t have any interest in culinary arts other than baking and pastry. I want to pursue an associates or bachelors in the subject. I know it might just be an “elective” but I am only truly passionate about the Pastry and Baking.

    How can I ensure a lasting career (with a degree at a culinary school) and specialize in baking and pastry?

  10. Angie says:

    I am 17 and in my 10-11th year of highschool. I am a semester behind most of my classmates cuz I like to read. But I was wondering what paths I need yo take in order to reach my baking goal. I want to open my own little pastry shop just so I can see people try my desserts and smile about it. I like to help people and see them have a good time. I’ve been baking for about a couple months now at home. I live in Missouri and am trying to find some type of contest/s to help me along the way. Next year I will be taking culinary arts 1 and 2 because I already have the basics. I’ve read this entire site and I’m not going to change my future choice just because of what others say about their experience. Truthfully I am me and I might make different choices than what others would make. Like Shauna said on here; I am very passionate about pastry’s and baking. I love to bake and its fun. Especially when I get the inspiration for it.

  11. Angie says:

    Hi again. Visiting this website and others had inspired me more. My parents are getting tired or of the desserts that I am making its funny. Anyways I just wanted to say Hi. Good day!

  12. John Nguyen says:


    Thanks for this geat website…After reading all of these articles and read about what people think….this has help me thinking of what I should do …going to a culinary school or not…All of these great insight is slowly giving me confidence of what is the right path for me

    Thank you very much

  13. Asad Shaikh says:

    This is a awesome website…very helpful keep up the good work.

  14. Alejandra says:

    I just finish high school
    I am very passionate about pastry’s and baking.Also about cooking.
    After reading all this articles and
    reading about how it is. my dream is to become a pastry chef.I don’t have no experience in baking…I have cookbooks and i do alot of recipes…i like to follow step by step. every day i like to watch Martha stewart. thank you for the website.

  15. Zach says:

    I definitely agree with this article. First of all, most people think they can do it all in a restaurant. They want to make great food, and see the people enjoy it. As someone with 5 years experience in this industry, let me tell you. The people making the food really only hear the bad news. They don’t take the food to the table, and they don’t interact with the guests. They deal with stressed out and nasty FOH employees.

    Second, people think they can get everything they need by going to school. I have a BA in political science, and work in an environment with managers with a variety of education. The best ones are not the ones who went to hospitality management schools. They’re the ones who started out as bussers, hostesses, and stewards and worked their way up through the ranks.

    Finally, I work in a place where there are world class chefs. Honestly, nobody looks at where they went to culinary school. People look at where they were cooks, master cooks, and sous chefs before they were Exec. Chefs. People look at the chefs under whom they have worked, and the cuisine of those restuarants. Also, every single one of them could step outside their restaurant, and perform well with another cuisine. Yes, they each have their specialties, but a Pastry Chef should have a good understanding of cuisine, and an Executive Chef should know the basics of pastry.

    The difference between cooks who go to culinary school and cooks that don’t is this:

    culinary school cooks have the skills to succeed, but generally are overconfident, and kind of whimpy. They don’t last long because they can’t understand why they have to do things a Chef’s way, or a server’s way, or a guest’s way, or the manager’s way, when they’re already doing things “right.”

    Non-clasically trained cooks require more on the job training. They lack the basic skills (at least at first). But, they’re also humble. They’re willing to get yelled at, say “Oui Chef,” learn from it, and move on. They tend to outlast clasically trained people.

    Remember that this industry is all about personality. You can have the best skills in the world, but when you can’t say “I”m sorry,” smile, and move on (even if you think you’re right), your career will be short.

  16. Seth says:

    Hey there.

    I’m a junior in high school, and I have been wondering if Cooking school is really right for me.

    This site with all the respones has helped a lot with the thinking. I do a little cooking here and there. But mostly I’ve been watching how others have done theree cooking, in restuarants or even at home.

    I really liked seeing the responses on what people thought towards this.

  17. RG says:

    Hi Seth,
    I’m glad the information you are finding here on the Reluctant Gourmet Cooking Blog is working for you. There are many more articles and resources on my site about culinary arts school along with culinary schools listed by state.

    I hope if you decide to go to culinary school you will come back and tell us all about it.

  18. Timothy Foley says:

    I say its True Culinary School isn’t for everyone, People have Different Talents and Skills some are Multi-Talented but that a Rare Find, You gotta Find it in yourself If I can Cook I can Apply to Culinary School at a Local Community College or somewhere with a Good Track Record, or you can listen someone Not Just as an executive Chef or Maybe someone like your Mother who has Cooked for a Living as a Homemaker/Housewife she maybe your Best Mentor, Point is If you Work Hard at Cooking, If you have an Open-Mind and Love Cooking then You don’t Need Cooking School, You Can Impress someone in the Culinary Field No Specific Field by Cooking Something You know How to Cook and Try to see If you can work for them by that front, remember some Business People can Hire someone Even without any Experence but your own Cooking Talents You can Teach Yourself.

    Don’t waste Time and Money on Culinary School If you Can’t Cook, My Advice find what is your Talent not theirs.

  19. Shirley Chong says:

    Read your website & having mix feeling. I am a Biz Development Manager in my eray 40s. I am considering career change for 2 reasons. Istly, am passionate about desserts & hope to run my own biz . 2ndly, I wish to hone the skill so that besides the biz aspect, I would like to provide livelihood to the less priviledges in the 3rd world. I have been in the mission field for 1yr on contract in 2005 . My reason to do so was part of making a living for myself & to have meaning in my life. Hope to hear from you. Thanks

  20. Jessie says:

    I went to college and received a BA in Education, however since I graduted 5 years ago I didn’t go into teaching and instead started a baking business out of my home. I don’t think you have to go to culinary school! There are lots of small classes that you can take to learn a particular skill if you want, but this is a field that the sky is the limit. Embrace your talent and don’t worry about going “by the books”.

  21. leslie says:

    I am 48 yrs old and have been contemplating changing careers, i currently work as an emergency room nurse but have been cookin for my brother and sister since I was 12 and my mother was in school for nursing as well. I have always found myself singing in the kitchen and love to both cook as well as bake, lately myself and a good friend of mine started party planning which included cooking for small groups of people which i am thinking of doing. It has gone well with a few snaggs and a few minor losses. But we are not currently proffessional. My decision for going to cooking school is mostly to learn some simple basics and to really learn how to pair herbs and spices together to get more out of my foods. I do not have a desire to work in a resturant but I understand that a knowledge of management, and how to run a successful business is needed to learn how to make a financially sound decsion so that my retirement money doesn’t go to waste. I have looked at several culinary schools and currently am not able to attend due to the detication that is required as well as the money that is required to attend. I wish I could form my schedule to fit it in because even after reading the letter above I believe now more than ever that I am truly suppose to be doing this. They say the first time you find a career is for money the second one is for love and this my friends is true.

  22. Merri Cynthia Guevara says:

    I do know what I want. I am 46 and have waited all my life to finally be able to go to school and make something of myself. What kind of a degree do I need to be graduating as a Chef? Will an Associates do that or a Bachlors of Arts? I am selling everything I own my home and all… I want to know what school will offer me this… to become a Chef. I am a good cook but I want to be a great Cook a Chef. Please be honest with me… and tell me the depths of your heart. I want the real deal. I am not 16 or 20. I want the most for my money. Do I go to a school for the name and i.e. Le Cordon Bleu or the likes and go from there? If you had to do it all over again… what would you do? Please I am in need of the TRUTH and no advertizing I have read lots of books… Please just the truth on what you would do if given the second chance to do it again. Sincerely,
    Cynthia Guevara

  23. Steven Embrey says:

    I have a wonderful wife that loves to cook. She doesnt want a degree she only wants to broaden her skills. I wanted to do something nice for her for christmas and don’t know where to start. Are there any short one on one or small group classes that will help sharpen her cooking skills? I would need something in the local Northern Va or DC area.

  24. Matthew says:

    Hey I am 19 years old and am attending Georgia Southern University and I am looking to pursue a career in Charcuterie. I am having a difficult time in finding many schools at all offering courses realated to this. I would love to know if there is anything in my home state of Georgia or the Southest I can attend to help me pursue my goal?

  25. Shaniece says:

    So i’m a junior too in high school and I really want to go to Western Culinary Institute and they have the Le Cordon Bleu program. But know I don’t know if I really want to go to a big school now just for pastry. But I hope to have my own bakery some day in the future…I need some help!

  26. love to cook says:

    I am a homemaker with a bum back. I love to cook and everything about it.
    my kids are now older and I can go back to school. should I not be considering a job in this field of work?

  27. sonia says:

    oh man. how is the road looking for me though? i love food especially desserts but unfortunately i don’t have much experience with cooking nor baking. i’m a 2nd year college student right now who apparently can’t make up her mind about the perfect profession. i’m really interested in becoming a pastry chef, however. [i have time to think about it & all coz i am still attending a community college..] judging by my situation, do i even have a chance in the industry if i go for it? i could use some good advice..

  28. Vilhelm says:

    I also agree with this article.

    I am 26 years old, I took a 1-year course at a cooking school right after I graduated regular school. I’ve been working as a cook in restaurants for the past 6 years.

    At school, half the time we would study the theory and the other half was spent training in real restaurants. Training was the time where the “students” were separated from the “workers”. You can’t go to a real workplace and expect to only work regular school-hours. Some things the school teaches also don’t always work at the workplace. You have to learn to be fast and precise, and not spend too much time on every single thing which I learned after I finished the course and got my first job.

    The best way to learn professional cooking, in my opinion, is working in a restaurant. Start at the bottom and learn.

    The best way to get a job is showing the boss that you WANT TO WORK. Do as the boss says, learn from it. (You can argue with people when you’re more experienced)

    Schools can teach a lot of things, and good things too, but the real challenge is applying theory to real life.

  29. Linnette Montes says:

    I am a 19 yr old college student majoring in psych. but lately I’ve been thinking that I no longer want to major in psych. I love to work with my hands but after reading the article about pastry chef and reading the response to Vicky it discouraged me. I’m interested in becoming a pastry chef but I rarely bake and I don’t know much about baking. I’m not sure if I’m one of those people who aren’t the right fit for culinary arts. I do love baking when I do get the chance to bake but not sure if I’m the right fit because I never really tried different baking recipes

  30. robert chachere says:

    I just wanted to add on what Vilhelm said. he/she could not have said it better. I have yet to go to school but currently getting all that together. I’m currently 20. and been working for restaurants/hotel for 5 years. some things you might want to ask yourself if you have no experience or questioning if this path is for you..

    Are you willing to make sacrifice’s in life for this path?

    Would you be willing to work 16 hours shifts if something came up, someone got hurt/sick, or even a banquet order poped for 250 people that needs to be ready in 2 hours?

    I can go on with many situations, but in a nut shell there’s a 70% chance you will probably start off at the bottom and be tested not knowing it. With them feeling out how you would cope with stress and job performance.. Just word of advice. Your always Wrong don’t argue, even if your chef claims 2+2=5..

    Hope this helps …XD

  31. Michael Lemos says:

    I’m 22 years old and now I definitely have mixed feelings about going to a culinary institute. I do believe what the article says and I also do believe that it is a very stressful job. I DO want to learn how to cook well, but i don’t know if i would want to do it as a career at a restaurant or whatnot. I’m going to a culinary institute tomorrow to check things out. Hopefully only good will come out of this…

    Hi Michael, good luck tomorrow and please keep us up to date with your decision and if you decide to go to culinary school, your progress. – RG

  32. Michael Lemos says:

    so i was talking with my parents about everything before the appointment and we decided not to go =/ i explained everything i learned from this site and others about a culinary career to them and they agree and really dont want to spend LOTS of money on something im not 100% sure about. i know someone that is STILL payuing of their culinary schooling.. and he quit a few years ago already. he said it was just totally different then what he had expected and he wasnt prepared for some of the kitchen stuff. he knew how to cook but that was just one aspect of running or even helping out a kitchen for many hours.

  33. Jacolien Potgieter says:

    I’m 33 years old and have been passionate about baking since I was 10. I unfortunately did not have the opportunity to make baking my career and went into the insurance industry instead. I’m now looking to change careers and become a Pastry Chef. I’m also struggling to decide if I need the formal qualification that a culinary institute provides or not. It is very expensive! I am maybe looking at doing an informal ‘small specialized baking’ course to see if I really will be able to make my hobby my career! My husband is in the ice cream industry and wants to start his own ice cream factory, so maybe the formal Pastry Chef Diploma might be needed there after all….

    Hi Jacolien, you may want to try doing some part time work at a bakery before you make your decision to go to school to see if you like the working environment. – RG

  34. Claire Bennett says:

    hi my name is Claire (21) and I am in my last semester of college. I, like you said, thought it would be good to get my AAS in culinary arts before I go into baking a pastries. And now I’m finally graduating!! I have a very realistic view of the culinary field. have a job at a local hospital cooking for patients and its given me sooooo much experience. I’m not the best cook, baking is my forte, but i find it marketable that i have experience. I want to bake and decorate cakes and pastries for a living. Its hard and I get frustrated and no, its not for everyone. but i work hard and I’m getting a skill I will use for the rest of my life

    Congratulations Claire on all your hard work. Please keep us advised on your progress. Good luck. – RG

  35. now very confused says:

    okay so I’m not very good in a conventional school setting . I have always said that I’m not good at anything or if i am its nothing i can pursue a career in. Then one day i was sitting on my bed eating some food I just made enjoying every last bite of it and thought well duh silly you love to cook why not be a chef!? I got all excited and starting doing some research and found this site. I’m not going to lie i’m kinda discouraged and confused now. I’m eighteen years old and i just dropped out of a regular big named university because i really didn’t know what I was doing there. i really do love to cook and bake I take direction very well and when its something that i want I work very hard to get it. I love people and working with people, i love travel and food! so i guess my question is do I have the right stuff? and should I move forward in the culinary world by taking the next step and going to a culinary school.

    Great observations and even better questions. Let me know what you decide and how it works out. – RG

  36. now very confused says:

    oh and by the way . . . . i know everybody is saying that the school is very costly but for the people who have attended those schools, was it worth it? Even though your still probably paying your debt off?

  37. @confused says:

    Confused, I just started at the Culinary Institute of America, and so far I do not regret anything I have spent. I’m walking out of here in a mountain of debt, but if you love what you do, money is just something that keeps you under a roof. This is not a glamorous job. It’s not a well-paying job. If you’re not prepared to spend the next 10 to 25 years paying a debt of this nature off, then don’t do it.

    Whether or not it’s “worth it” depends entirely on you and how you feel about cooking. The CIA is an excellent school, but as above, it’s hard. They go through everything you have to learn quickly. They are literally cramming your head with knowledge every day. It’s a LOT of work, both in-class and homework, but I believe it fully prepares us for the reality of the workplace outside of our little enclosure.

    One of the first classes you have to take is Product Knowledge. For the final (the class is only weeks long), you need to be able to identify and explain the qualities of a number of randomly selected pieces of produce that the teacher takes out of the storeroom — which means you have to have a competency of every single item in there if you hope to do well on it. And that’s not even the hardest part of the school, by far…

    Thanks for posting your comment and congratulations on being at the Culinary Institute of America. Please drop us a line once in a while to let us know how your studies are coming along. – RG

  38. Tavondrea says:

    Well I’m 16 yrs old in i graduate in 2011. I would like to attend a baking/pastry school but every one tells me that I won’t make it because I’m not old enough but not matter what I will try my best to do whatever I have to get into a good school. I would like to be the first out my family to attend a good school and make something out my self. Maybe in the future I will open up my own business or work in another business for somebody else, but i really would like to open up my own business. So if you have any helpful information please contact me with the information thank you.

  39. andrew says:

    I’M 29 years old and I’m thinking about becoming a chef or a baker but from what I’ve been reading people are not happy after they leave school is there job placement after you graduate

    Hi Andrew, I think if you read all the comments, there are many people who really enjoy what they are doing after graduation. As for job placement, many schools do help but you need to contact each school you are considering to see what they offer. – RG

  40. Ana says:

    I’m 30yrs old i have been waitress for 13 yrs on & off but mostly on. I’ve always had a passion for baking ever since i was allowed in the kitchen. When I was 24 I enrolled to Johnson & Wales for their 4 yr pastry arts program, but i got scared & decided not to go. Everyday I think about the opportunity I just let go & wish i can turn back the hands of time. I know all to well about the long hours, no holidays off, no payed vacation (if any at all!), my feet kill me, my body aches from the long hours BUT i still want to pursue a career in pastry arts.

    Now I’m even older & fell I lost my chance at going to the school I always wanted to go to. I live in the city now & am about to check out the French Culinary Institute but I’m afraid it’s not going to give me all i need to make it in the industry. I’d be pursuing a career in NYC. Is have a degree really better then just having a certificate? Would I be crazy to just drop everything & go away to school at 30?! I’m still scared to death & don’t know if I’m college material but I’m ready to take the leap in trying something i always loved to do. I’m just not sure how big of a leap i should take. I know in the long run the decision is mine but any advice would be appreciated.

    Hi Ana, my advice is continue doing what you are doing. Speak with as many professionals as possible, read everything you can on culinary school and if possible, speak with students attending culinary school now. – RG

  41. crispychef says:

    I wish I would have read this article before going to school. I loved everymin of it. Time of my life I grew up in kitchens and thought I knew what I was getting into. Culinary school will teach you the skills but not the speed. and each restaurant is different. they each do things differently. So in the beginning I felt I paid too much money for too little. The experience in a real restaurant is very important.

    Hi CrispyChef, thank you for your comments. Where are you working these days? – RG

  42. dev neupane says:

    hi, this is Dev from Nepal. i am really interested in baking and my profession is cook. but not baker. i am about 33 now and i have finished my study and i don;’t want to study again in this age of life. i want to open my own bakery what do i do and what does it required from me. please if you give some advice and information i would be very glad. thank you . and i will look forward you letter or email.

    Hi Dev, great to hear from someone as far away from where I live as Nepal. I think if you read the recent posts about becoming a baker along with some of the other articles and posts, you will find lots of good information to get you started.

  43. Aubrey Granzen says:

    hello this is Aubrey from Iowa, 16 and a junior in high school. I have realized this year that i would like to start my own business in candy and pastries. I have my own little business in my school selling cupcakes and its pretty successful. So in the long run i plan to go to a college and get a pastry degree but will it be a waste of my time if i only do that degree? I really don’t want to study cuisine classes because I’m not interested. But does that then mean I’m not cut out for the business? I look forward to your answers, thank you.

    Hi Aubrey, there are plenty of schools that offer just a baking and pastry degree. You can check out my Baking and Pastry Schools page to find one near you. It sounds like you know exactly what you want to do and how to do it. I think getting a pastry degree would be a good idea but you may also want to get a degree in business or business management to run your business. As you have most likely already learned from your school business, making cupcakes is the easy part, selling and marketing them is another story. Good luck and please keep me informed about your business. – RG

  44. Thad Harris says:

    You have shared great points and ideas. Will browse your other work.

  45. Shannon says:

    Fully understand the whole being versatile thing thats what i had in mind when i first started at my culinary school. At first the whole thing was flash and lights with people like Bobby Flay and Paula Dean. Now while i love their shows i’m part realist and part optimist. though i know for sure it dosent work out that way in the real world, i’m hopeful that with the right amount of pressure and training those select few who want to give up after a year will continue on till they hit that mark their trying to reach. I remember many a time when i said “I cant do this!” Even now sometimes i still say it! But to be able to cook a child a nice pancake and egg breakfast with a little smiley face or to put on a nice show of kill with an open grill at thge resturant makes it all worth while.. if you really want it do it ! You wont regret it !

  46. lyn says:

    Thanks RG for your input, ideas and tips, which are obviously drawn from your sacrifices, persistence and hard earned success. I consider your advice and information part of my education. A couple of points. First, I only purchase food and merchandise at businesses that have a good attitude and are consistently nice to me and others. When it comes to my money and time, I could care less if a proprietor or staff have a degree, unless I am seeking medical or legal advice. The best taco I ever ate was at a flea market off of a country highway in Florida. What culinary schools offer is a set of standards, but your available income, gut instinct and your own sense of taste ultimately defines what and where you will eat. I feel this is a universal truth, and this gives anyone living in America huge huge choices. The biggest obstacle to opening your own bakery or cafe is money. It costs a lot to make it happen. So consider a mail order business, a partnership with someone else who wants to share costs and time, contracting with a bakery to make your own recipes (and then sell them yourself, known as “private label”), getting a home bakery permit (dept of health) and selling at fairs and festivals and special events, for example. Trying out these ideas will force you to meet many of the same requirements and place many of the same demands on you that a bakery or pastry job would. What I want to know RG, is a list of good resources to obtain data on American pastry eating trends (for example, sugar vs sugar free, organic vs natural products, gluten free, dairy free, whole wheat vs white flour, etc.) Any referral would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    Hi Lyn, great comments and I’ll see what I can come up with. – RG

  47. Alanna says:

    Hello, I am a sixteen year old and I am looking into possible colleges/career paths. I enjoy cooking almost as much as I enjoy baking. I wish to open up my own bakery one day and am looking for a college. I wish to go to a school that has a program like The Culinary Institute of America’s bachelor degree in Hyde Park, NY; but I want to go to school in San Francisco. Should I take a program like the one that CIA offers or should I take a short baking program like the one offered in the French Culinary Institute and get a business degree? Thank you.

    Hi Alanna, all great questions and unfortunately ones you have to figure out with the help of your parents and counselors. My advise would be to do your homework, learn as much as you can about the various programs you are interested in, speak with as many people as you can including the schools – graduates -current students and then sit down with your parents to determine what’s right for you. Good luck and please stay in touch and let me know what you decide and how you are doing when you are in school. – RG

  48. Lorena says:


    For as long as I can remember, I have loved food. When I was younger (4/5), my parents owned a bakery that I spent a good amount of time at. Dad would constantly introduce us to new recipes. One day he would come home with octopus, the next, he would be baking chocolate chip cookies. Basically, I love food, I love cooking, and I love baking.

    I recently went to a tour at a culinary school and was SO excited! As we walked around, all I could think of was, ‘I do this at home…in my free time…this is amazing!’. I have a habit of checking to see what is in the fridge and looking for recipes online. Or I may come across a recipe and give it a shot. These are things I love to do.

    The tuition…is what is stopping me at the moment. Already having student loans from my first degree, I can’t help but think that I will owe the government money for the rest of my life. The school is charging about $35,000+. I guess the issue that I’m having, is: is it worth paying all of that money to attend this school, or am I fine with learning skills at the Community College?! Are employers really going to be looking at what college I went to? Thank you!

    Great question Lorena and one I can’t answer for you. I get this question a lot and that’s why I post interviews, articles, comments so you can read them and decide for yourself. There are many pros and cons for going and not going to culinary school or baking/pastry school and I encourage you to do as much homework as you can before deciding. Reach out to a school’s graduates and see what they have to say. You may even want to start with a community school and see if you are getting what you want out of it and then decide if you want to take it to another level. The more information you have, the easier your decision will become. Good luck and please come back and keep me updated on your career. – RG

  49. Yvette says:

    GREAT article!!! I have been pondering this for some time, but I really don’t think it’s for me………..early hours (been there done that), on feet all day, low pay the list goes on and on. Thank you for being frank, you have saved me some $!! On to looking into more of what I’m cut out to do in changing careers!!

  50. kaylee says:

    im 14 and a freshman in high school and i want 2 pursue a career as a baker but am still kind of not sure if its the right career for me i need help making my mind up…

    Good news for you is you still have lots of time to explore, read, bake at home and research with your parents if this is right for you. There is lots of great information on the internet but ask your parents to take you to some local bakers to speak with them or at a local restaurant. Good luck. – RG

  51. Tabitha says:

    Hi my name is Tabitha im 14 and i want to pursue a career in making pastieres. I know im young and i could change my mind about it but i really wanna be one. My grandma shows me how to bake cakes cookies ect but i want to do more than that. I live in Ohio and there’s not many places around that like to teach how to bake pastieres. So i was wondering if you knew any and if you do please tell me. Thank you

    Hi Tabitha, you might want to ask your parents to help you with this. There may be some local community schools that offer cooking programs. If there is a Viking cooking school in your area for home cooks, most likely they have some pastry classes. Sometimes local stores offer classes and if they don’t, you could ask them to start one. Maybe get a few of your friends together and see if a local baker will offer the group some lessons. Be creative but be sure to ask your folks for some help. -RG

  52. Mrs. Martin says:

    Hi I never thought, i would write something online, but after reading all of this comments, I get a little excited but not sure if I can afford the tuition fee. I am interisted in baking but I like to cook too..I had experience in fast food chain for 12 months and retails for also 12 months My Boss loved the way I cooked and prepare the food, im a hardworking person and creative, I know how to follow instructions but i always want to do mine different and better. I appreciate any advice. thanks!

  53. Lola LB says:

    I stumbled into this post while checking around to see if CIA has a school in DC area (sadly not; had a wonderful meal at the CA location and still thinking about it 5 days later). I’m not looking to enter culinary school but I’m interested in learning all about what it takes into making a good chef. I spent my time reading the comments here and noticed that a majority of comments were from people who wanted to just learn baking.

    Well. I really do think you should learn all forms of culinary arts, not just baking. Maybe, just maybe you get a client who wants you to put together a custom meal. How do you know what kind of dessert you’re going to pair with a dinner that contains sweet/savory food? People are going to be “overdosed” on sugary food by the end of dinner and are going to want a dessert that is light, with just the right touch so you know it is dessert but not too sweet.

    And yes, if you’re going to be working in a restaurant, you’re going to have to be working with chefs who put together the menu for the restaurant, and you have to know enough about the particular cuisine served at the restaurant.

    I may not be a chef; I’m one who collects cookbooks, fixes dinner for my husband and me most of the time, and we watch cooking shows. But, there’s this little thing called “common sense” . . .

  54. Barbara Ann Scott Odoms says:

    Great info, thanks! My next “life/career” will be coming up in a couple years, preparing in the mean time. Doing my homework and collecting “guinea pigs” for feedback on my meals. Plan is to be a personal chef. Any comments, suggestions, direction? Love your website, still checking it out…
    Thank you! ~b.

  55. Jesalyn says:

    I really want to get into culinary arts for cooking and also pastry. I love to bake I always have . im 21 with who kids and I don’t want to go to college then back out, im waiting another 3 years after my two kids are able to go to school, and if I still want to become a chef then im going to go. I seen they have online classes but im not really into taking this type of class online. I cant wait to be able to open my restaurant . thank you for this article.

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