What You Should Ask Before Deciding on Culinary School
We thought it would be helpful to share a variety of questions found on various culinary school websites FAQ pages. We encourage you to visit the websites of any culinary schools you are interested in attending and look for an FAQ page where you can find answers to some of your basic questions.
While these questions and answers are specific to the individual schools and institutions they come from and do not apply to all schools in general, they should give you a better understanding of what to expect from most schools you may be interested in attending.
After doing your research, check our website for the school you are interested in, fill out the form and a representative from the school will contact you to answer any other questions and explain the application process.
Can I become a chef without going to culinary school?
From C-CAP (Careers through Culinary Arts Program)
You can, and there are some advantages and disadvantages:
You can earn money right away.
You will begin building your career right away.
You will not have the expense of culinary school to pay off.
The culinary industry is competitive. You will be competing for jobs with people that may have more experience, skills and knowledge than you do, including culinary school graduates.
Commercial kitchens are about production, not teaching. You will only learn the skills and techniques required to produce the dishes on your restaurant’s menu.
You may have to work longer in the industry to move up through the ranks.
Who is your typical student?
From Escoffier School of Culinary Arts
We enroll students from all backgrounds and from all parts of the country and the world. Ages range from 18-55 and beyond, but our average student age is 28 years old. A typical student is passionate about food and cooking, mature and focused. Roughly, students fall into three categories: individuals already pursuing a career in the hospitality industry who seek to hone their skills, career changers and students beginning their first career.
How much cooking experience should I have before entering the program?
From Chef John Folse Culinary Institute
Some students come to CJFCI to sharpen their cooking skills, while others enter school with little or no cooking experience. What’s most important is creativity and a passion for food.
How does the admissions process work?
From Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Scottsdale (now closed)
The Admissions Representatives at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Scottsdale’ are dedicated to helping you make the right academic choices. Our Admissions Representatives are available to answer all of your questions and concerns. We also encourage all prospective students to obtain a copy of our current catalog, which includes more detailed information about our admissions process.
Diploma program versus Degree program?
From the Arizona Culinary Institute
While many students choose to pursue a four-year degree program, there are those who thrive in smaller schools where they can pursue a lifelong passion. A diploma program at an industry-specific school allows students to actively learn through hands-on training in real working conditions.
At Arizona Culinary Institute, students work to earn a diploma in Culinary Arts, Baking and Restaurant Management. ACI’s pragmatic education encourages a hands-on learner to succeed in ways that aren’t available to them in other programs and has a proven history of success in placing over 90% of our graduates.
How much time is spent in the kitchen versus the classroom?
Also from the Arizona Culinary Institute
Culinary schools employ different strategies in balancing time in the kitchen and time in the classroom. Arizona Culinary Institute’s teaching model incorporates a full spectrum of learning styles: hearing, seeing, doing, tasting and discussing.
While some schools have had students spend as little as 20% of their time in the kitchen, ACI’s curriculum calls for 80% direct kitchen time. Students are graded weekly, with both written and practical quizzes, to provide benchmarks for their progress, and exams evaluate the students’ overall competency. Upon completion of the course, ACI graduates are comfortable and competent in the working kitchen setting that lies ahead in their future careers.
What is the importance of ACI’s accreditation?
One more from the Arizona Culinary Institute
Accreditation provides assurance that culinary schools are engaged in continuous outside review of their curriculum, instruction and placement. Accredited schools are required to meet nationally endorsed standards in the profession and are kept accountable for achieving the goals set out in their respective charters. A prospective student should always make sure any culinary school they consider attending is currently accredited.
Read, Read and Read Some MoreOne of the best suggestions I have for anyone thinking of going to culinary school or just getting into the restaurant industry is to read everything you can get your hands on. Learn from professional chefs who have worked in the industry and those who have taught in culinary schools.
There are many great books available to get you started in your culinary education and I suggest you read as much as possible before making that big decision to make sure this is the right move for you. Below is just a sample of books you might be interested in checking out.
For a much more comprehensive list of books for aspiring culinary, baking and restaurant management students, I suggest checking out my post on books for future culinary students and chefs.