Make Sure You Take A Tour of the Culinary School Kitchen
When you’re narrowing down your list of culinary school options, one of the first things anyone will tell you is to be sure and visit each campus to decide which one is right for you.
You can tell a lot about an educational facility by how much they welcome your visit and how open they are to showing you the ropes; the best schools offer tours, allow you to sit in on classes, invite you to take a look at the inside of the housing facilities (if they have them), and, most importantly, welcome you to see the kitchens.
No matter where it is you go culinary school, the majority of your time will be spent in the kitchens. Culinary programs are very much a hands-on learning experience, and many schools even lecture in the kitchen, allowing students to sit at their stations and practice as the instructor lectures.
Because so much of your time will be spent in the kitchen, it should be the first place you visit on a campus tour, and it should be what sways the largest part of your decision-making process. Things to look for include:
Clean and Spacious Workstations
You may work individually, with a partner, or as a team—all of these learning styles are common in culinary school. The workstations should be large enough for everyone to work together, and cleanliness should be apparent from the moment you walk in the door.
Updated and Commercial Kitchen Appliances
Learning on outmoded kitchen appliances and tools isn’t going to prepare you for the real working world. Make sure all materials are in keeping with what you find in restaurants today, whether that means traditional bamboo rice steamers or liquid nitrogen for a molecular gastronomy finish. Remember, updated doesn’t necessarily mean cutting edge; it also means in good repair and in good working order.
The Complete Culinary Process
In the culinary world, there are several steps between the delivery of ingredients to the final plating. Make sure the kitchen is equipped to handle the entire process, from prep work through the actual dining experience. Because you never know if you’ll be hired on as a sous chef or a fry cook after you graduate, you need skills in all areas.
Mass Production Capabilities
If you intend to work within a large-scale production capacity (a bakery, catering company, or industrial food production plant), make sure the school has the ability to teach mass production. Cooking one dish is very different from cooking five hundred, and you should be trained in both skill sets.
While your final culinary school decision will depend on a variety of factors, the kitchen should figure in your list—and somewhere near the top. You can only be as well-trained as the materials you learn on, and the kitchen will soon become your home for four to eight hours out of the day.