Chef Schools: Take Your Love of Food to the Next Level

Chef schools

Although some chefs claim that experience working in a restaurant is more valuable than a culinary arts degree, the reality is that many of today’s successful chefs also have degrees under their belts. Chef schools provide formal training to students in the art and science of food preparation. Culinary arts professionals work in restaurants, personal homes, and other places where food is served. If you love everything about food and want to transform your passion into a viable career, read more about what a culinary arts education entails.

Prerequisites for Chef Training

The admissions requirements for chef schools are typically a high school diploma or GED. Some schools may also require you to visit the campus in person and attend an interview. Culinary programs usually culminate in a certificate, associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree. It generally takes a few months to earn a certificate, two years to earn an associate’s degree, and four years to earn a bachelor’s degree. Although master’s degrees in the culinary arts exist, they are not as common as undergraduate degrees. Areas of the field in which students may specialize include some of the following:

  • Baking & pastry arts
  • Culinary arts
  • Food service management
  • Culinary nutrition
  • Wine and beverage
  • Hospitality and restaurant management

Chef training almost always takes place on traditional campuses, owing to the hands-on nature of the occupation. However, students who are more interested in the business/management side of the field or who already have professional culinary arts experience may be able to pursue training online.

What You Will Learn in Chef School

Chef schools teach everything from basic knife skills to menu planning. In order to prepare well-rounded culinary professionals, the curriculum of culinary programs balances creative artistry, scientific understanding, managerial and leadership skills, and hands-on practice in professionally equipped kitchen labs. Students typically work closely with expert chef instructors and complete internships at top restaurants in order to hone their skills. Some required courses might include the following:

  • Nutrition
  • Sanitation & safety
  • Stocks & soups
  • Sauces
  • Catering & special events
  • Asian cuisine
  • Latin cuisine
  • Classical European cuisine
  • Food & beverage operations management
  • Planning & controlling costs

A Career as a Culinary Professional

Although having a degree or certificate is not required for a culinary career, a formal chef training through a postsecondary education shows competence and may lead to higher pay and career advancement. Most aspiring chefs start out their careers as line cooks or station chefs and work their way up to becoming executive chefs, who oversee food preparation, direct kitchen staff, and handle other food-related concerns.

Depending on where your interests lie, there are also a variety of culinary career paths beyond those in a traditional restaurant. A graduate may go on to become a caterer, personal chef, cruise ship chef, food stylist, baker or pastry chef, among other roles. Some qualities that are important to have in the culinary worl include business skills, manual dexterity, creativity, a good sense of taste and smell, leadership skills, and time-management skills.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the employment of chefs is projected to experience little to no change from 2010 to 2020. In 2012, head cooks and chefs earn a median annual salary of $42,480 per year, with the bottom 10% having earned less than $24,530 and the top 10% having earned more than $74,120. Jobs at upscale hotels, restaurants, and casinos tend to pay the most, and opportunities are best for chefs with several years of experience, as culinary positions tends to be fiercely competitive.

From mastering the use of tools and equipment in a professional kitchen to learning how to prepare dishes that employ a variety of textures, flavors, and colors, pursuing culinary training equips you with the skills needed to become a sought-after chef. Think you have the business skills, creativity, and culinary know-how to become a successful chef? Expand your knowledge, improve your qualifications, and advance your career prospects by enrolling in a chef school today.

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