What Should I Look for in a Culinary School?

With the present obsession surrounding culinary skills, including a variety of reality shows and competitions surrounding food, the rise in interest in culinary schools isn’t surprising. Culinary professionals have become so popular that regular articles are increasingly big drivers to food-related websites. But with the influx of people wanting to enter culinary school, one big question remains: what should one look for in a culinary school? Here are just a few of the things that a potential student cook will want to keep in mind.

Related resource: 50 Best Culinary Schools in the U.S.

Accreditation And Reputation

Accreditation is vital when choosing a culinary school. The top accreditation awarded in the United States comes from the American Culinary Federation, also known as ACF. This accreditation is ridiculously difficult for a culinary school to earn; the program must go through a rigorous approval process that may take up to 18 months to complete. However, it is also considered a seal of approval from the industry, meaning that students who take the time and invest in their culinary schooling at an accredited institution will have a much easier time finding work.

Hands-On Instruction

Cooking is a craft; some would say that it has been elevated to an art form over the centuries. This means that hands-on instruction is the best way for student cooks to understand if they truly comprehend the information given to them in class. Hands-on instruction, whether in a test kitchen or a student kitchen, is extremely important. The supervision of the kitchen will allow students to understand how everything works in a kitchen, how it feels to make multiple meals at once, and how best to serve a dining room full of hungry customers. Most culinary schools will have student kitchens and restaurants, but students should be wary of any that don’t; a school can’t teach anyone to become a cook or chef without showing them how it feels to do it under stress.

Majors Or Specializations

Some culinary schools, especially those found in colleges, offer a general education in cooking. However, some private culinary schools will offer majors or specializations with their degrees. Since most students will have a general idea of what they want their focus to be in the kitchen, it makes sense to choose a program that has a major, and a reputation to back it up with, that fills that career pathway. For students who don’t know what they want to major in, the solution is to find a school with a variety of free electives. This will let them try new cooking methods and specializations without adhering to one for their education.

Facilities

One of the most important things to look for in a culinary school is updated facilities. The United States is relatively strict on restaurant standards, including the technology that is used in the kitchen. While old schools may be more affordable, they may also not be up to code with the standards in the industry; ACF accreditation will remove this doubt. Because facilities are critical, since that’s where students will spend most of their time, it is encouraged that they visit the facilities at the school prior to applying for the program. It would be difficult for students who were taught on outdated equipment to get a job in a restaurant that is up to code, so choose wisely.

Cooking is popular; everyone eats and so it has become a major cultural interest in the United States. But now the lives of line cooks, such as the one featured in this article by Bon Appetit, are also interesting because it provides budding chefs with a look into how the business works. The articles are turning those with an interest in the field to those who become students at a culinary school. But with the upcropping of new culinary schools, it’s important that students keep the above things in mind; the goal is to find a school that facilitates the dream of being a chef, not a school that just offers a degree.