By Justin Chao
Many famous chefs, such as Heston Blumenthal from the Fat Duck, never went to culinary school and have found great success in the restaurant industry. In fact, I’ve heard many people say that going to culinary school is a waste of money. In my experience, however, culinary school was very useful and has helped me to become a better pastry chef.
Although going to culinary school worked out well for me, some of my classmates from culinary school did not end up becoming chefs. Many of them did not like the long hours, the stress, and the physical demands of working in a kitchen. In addition, the pay for working in a kitchen can be low when first starting out.
If you have the time and money, I think that culinary school can give you a big head start in learning technique as well as finding a job. However, I advise people to try to find an internship or a job in a kitchen before going to culinary school. By getting some work experience before culinary school, you can see if you like working in a kitchen before you invest a large amount of time and money.
In addition, I noticed that those who had professional experience got more out of culinary school. They were able to concentrate on learning the fine techniques—while I was concentrating on learning the basics.
One of the advantages of going to culinary school is that you get to dedicate a large chunk of time to learning the craft in stress-free environment. In addition, many culinary schools also will set you up with internships at prestigious restaurants. This can be a large advantage when looking for your first job. The disadvantage of culinary school is the large investment of time and money. Many people leave culinary school with a large amount of debt.
What do you culinary school graduates think? Was culinary school a worthwhile investment?