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Deciding Whether To Opt For a Culinary Institute Or a Cooking Class

Aug 17, 2007
A culinary institute, or cooking school, is an excellent option for gourmands, chefs, or even would-be chefs. However, this program of study is also intensive, expensive, and time-consuming. If you love food and have been wondering whether to enroll in classes, it is important that you consider your choices carefully.

A culinary institute offers degrees ranging from Bachelor's and Associate Degrees in Culinary Arts Management to Baking and Pastry Arts Management. Cooking schools also offer practical hands-on training, career counseling and other career services. For culinary professionals, culinary schools offer professional development classes. For those who are not interested in professional courses, many schools offer non-degree programs or cooking courses.

If you want to work at your local small restaurant or fast food chain, you will not require cooking classes for your employment. On the other hand, if you want to become a professional chef, pastry cook, or want to work on cruise ships and other top flight environments, a degree from a good cooking school can help. The first step towards deciding whether you want to take part in cooking school has to do with your personal goals. You should also consider the cost and time commitment needed. If you want to become a professional chef but are now working full time, you may need to scale back your work hours in order to accommodate the rigorous school schedule. Although many cooking schools offer some scholarships, you will also want to consider savings or loans to cover the cost of your education as well.

If you decide that a culinary institute will help you turn your love of cooking into a career, you will still need to select the right type of cooking school for you. If your degree is an investment in a future career, you need to make sure that the time and money invested will give you the best chance at a good job after graduation.

To begin, look for a culinary institute that has a good reputation. Read about or speak with chefs who are already working in jobs that you would enjoy. Which schools did they attend and which chefs did they work with. Secondly, look for schools that offer hands-on culinary training in kitchens and bakeshops. Ideally, look for a culinary institute that allows you as much training as possible both in on-campus kitchens and in actual restaurants. This will give you the best experience base possible. Consider the classes you will be able to take. In general, good cooking schools offer a host of classes that allow you to gain experience in pastry cooking, food preparation, the hospitality industry, the food service industry, and much more. A wide range of classes gives you more options and gives you a broader-base education, which may make you more attractive to prospective employers.

Finally, take a look at who will be teaching classes and whom you will have a chance to work with. Good cooking schools should have a host of educators, most of who should be actual chefs with hands-on experience. Look for a culinary institute that has American Culinary Federation-Certified Master Chefs as instructors and, if you can, try to get your degree from a school that allows you to work with well-known chefs. These can be great references later on when you are applying for a job.

A culinary institute is best for those with some experience and with a true passion for food. A gourmand with limited cooking skills and little interest in a cooking career may not be the best candidate. On the other hand, if you are ready to take your cooking career to the next level, a good cooking school can be a great option.
About the Author
Andy West is a freelance writer for The Culinary Institute of Virginia College. Culinard offers two outstanding culinary programs. For more information on one of the most prestigious culinary institutes in the U.S., please visit http://www.culinard.com .
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