Culinary School: Weighing the Pros and Cons
With the costs of secondary education on the rise, many wonder if the price is worth it. The same applies for those considering a culinary school degree. Many ask if a simple apprenticeship program can’t give them the same skills and experience as a formal education while some say that nothing can beat the advantages of a degree.
Professional Chefs Say ‘No’ to Culinary School
Many high-profile Chefs, including Anthony Bourdain, say that there’s no need for a formal education. Bourdain contends that while attending a culinary school can be worth it, it really only counts if you’ll be going to one of the ‘big three’- Culinary Institute of American, Johnson and Wales, or the French Culinary Institute. Bourdain maintains that a culinary degree from anywhere other than the big three will be worth less than the real-life experience you could have had working in the industry instead of attending school.
Bourdain also suggests that some may not be suited to the profession. Starting salaries for those working in a kitchen are low. On average, you can expect to make anywhere between $15,000 and $25,000, annually. So, if money is important to you and you’re comfortable in your current career, you may want to reconsider culinary school and the food industry entirely. Something else to consider: your age and physical fitness level. It may not seem like it now but working in a restaurant is grueling and physically taxing. Long hours are spent in a hot environment with a lot of lifting, bending over, and carrying. Injuries like burns, strains, and cuts from sharp kitchen tools are common.
To Some, Culinary School Indispensable
On the other side of the argument, you have those who will tell you that walking into a kitchen off the street with no experience and no formal education is scary. Culinary schools can you give you valuable education and a degree, the main pro of attending. Even more important, you’ll be able to learn the basics without any of the added quirks that might come from being taught by a seasoned chef (as in, their way or no way). Knowing the basics will make you more valuable to any future employers since they won’t have to spend time teaching you.
For many, culinary school also offers you knowledge that will make transitioning into a paying position a lot easier on you and your co-workers. For example, knowing to say ‘behind’ when you’re moving behind another chef and how to take care of and sharpen knives are both skills that you’ll need to know and that culinary school can teach you. Weigh the pros and the cons of both culinary school and on-the-job experience so you can ensure you’re making the right decision, for you.
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