Where Do I Start?

Chef deciding where to start

You love the hiss of the stove and the clang of the pots and pans. You can stand the heat, and you want in to the kitchen. You are ready to launch your culinary career, and that means you need to earn a culinary degree. So you’ve made the decision; it’s time to go to culinary school. But how to begin? We’re here to help. Below you’ll find the Who, Why, What, Where and How of studying the culinary arts.

Who

You, of course, that’s who. What do you want out of culinary school? Do you have a specialty in mind? Take some time to consider things. Do you prefer working with desserts and sweets? Do you want to work in a four-star restaurant, or would you prefer a hotel or some other institution? Do you want to manage other chefs, or be left free to work on just your special area? Are you good at taking direction, or do you prefer to lead the way? Knowing where you want to be in the kitchen is critical—your culinary degree will help lead you in the right direction.

All of these are important factors to consider before moving forward. A good exercise is to sit down and write down answers to the questions above. Culinary school is challenging, and knowing your strengths and weaknesses before you go in is key. Take the time to really dig deep and understand yourself before taking the next step.

Why

This is important: WHY do you want to go to culinary school? Are you fulfilling a life-long dream, or simply following the expectations of your parents or friends? Are you hoping for a stable career and a culinary degree is the next step down that path? Whatever your reason, if you are doing it for yourself and the dreams you hold for your life, you are more likely to succeed.

What

As we already discussed in the “who” section, the “what” of the culinary arts all comes down to specialty. There are so many options in the culinary world that you need to take some time and consider what it is you love about the culinary arts and study that area closely.

Many of you may have already been working in a kitchen as either a short-order cook or a line chef. If this is true for you, then you already know that if you want to rise through the kitchen ranks you will need to earn a culinary degree. But what is your long-term goal? To be sous chef? Executive chef? Master Chef? Or would you rather open your own bakery? Maybe you’d like to be the one that transforms that elementary school’s menu into something all the kids will like, day after day and every day.

Whatever your hopes and dreams, it’s important to spend plenty of time considering them and making sure that you are starting down the path that will lead you where you want to go. For instance, even in you love making cakes and pies, studying to become a pastry chef will never get you the title “Executive Chef.” Be clear what it is you want to achieve, and then use your culinary arts degree to do it.

Where

This question is just as important but much more practical. Do you want to stay close to home, or are you eager to explore other places? Does your culinary specialty have a preferred institution, or can you attend anywhere? Do you want a place where you can live on campus, or would you rather live off-site?

The first step, of course, is to find out the best institution for your specialty. Then you can check out the best local options as well as visit other locations. What culinary school offers the flexibility you need? When visiting an institution, be sure to check out the surrounding neighborhoods and the services they offer. After all, if you are going to spend a lot of time in that area, you will need more than just what the culinary school offers—after all, you’ll also need to eat and shop!

Secondly, you should spend some time researching how the institution assists its graduates. Does it have a h2 career center? How about their job placement office? Once you’ve graduated you’ll need some assistance taking that next step. Check out how they will help you.

Once you have all this information, you will know which culinary school is the best place for you.

How

Ah, how may seem like the biggest question. How will I get in? How will I pay for culinary school? How will I manage to work while going to school?

Luckily, in this day and age there are as many diverse options for earning your culinary degree as there are students. You can go to school part-time and keep that good job. You can go to an accelerated degree program, and possibly even take some courses on line.

Financial aid is readily available to anyone who needs it, making a culinary degree a reality for everyone. The admissions counselors at the institution you choose can help you navigate the paperwork required and provide guidance on both financial aid and your course load.

To study the culinary arts, all it takes is you making the commitment and taking that first step. Good luck, and good learning—and good eating!