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The Pros and Cons of Local Cooking Schools

Aug 18, 2007
If you are pursuing a career as a professional chef, you will need a degree to help you get the job of your dreams. Local cooking schools offer a culinary education that is convenient and sometimes less expensive, but a local school may not necessarily be the best choice for your career. Knowing the pros and cons to local cooking schools can help you make your decision.

The Pros of Local Cooking Schools

Convenience
This is a biggie for most people. There is something to be said for being able to go to school without a major move and a new city to disrupt your life. For some a long commute is even worse. Local cooking schools, on the other hand, will save you money on moving, student housing, and/or gasoline for long commutes.

Local connections
Another advantage to attending a local cooking school is the local connections it offers. Cooking schools often have relationships with local businesses, so that they can offer student internships or post-graduation job placement. Attending school in your hometown can help you get a job nearby, too.

Local reputation
The reputation of local cooking schools can often be comparable to that of the top nationally known schools. Although the quality of the school may not actually be any higher, local businesses are often loyal to institutions in their area. Furthermore, they probably see more graduates of local programs than they do of the top culinary schools, giving them more basis for forming an opinion about the local schools. As a result, if you plan on staying in your hometown for a while, you may get a lot more mileage out of a degree from a local school than you otherwise might expect.

Lower tuition
The top cooking schools may be able to offer you the best culinary education available, but high quality, specialized education can be expensive. On the other hand, many local schools are smaller and less well known, which also means that their tuition is usually lower. If the cost of your education is a major concern for you, this may be a benefit you want to consider.

The Cons of Local Cooking Schools

Unqualified instructors
Local cooking schools are less likely to have the highly qualified instructors you will find at major schools. The reasons are many: smaller school usually means smaller budget, not to mention a smaller pool of applicants to choose from. It is not necessarily the local school's fault, but ultimately you need to decide whether it can provide the best education to support the career you want.

Substandard equipment
Similarly, many local cooking schools don't have the same quality of equipment available for their students. Keeping up with the latest technology in cooking equipment requires money, and since local schools are often small, many of them just don't have that option. Learning your trade on equipment that is ten or even twenty years out of date just isn't going to help you when you look for a job in the real world.

Limited reputation
Just as the local reputation of a nearby cooking school can work for you, it can also work against you. While your local school may be well known and respected in your area, businesses outside of your area may not have even heard of it, and may doubt the quality of the education you received there. If you plan on moving, especially before you are able to acquire several years of experience in your career, you might consider opting for a larger and better-known school instead.

Limited student services
A small local cooking school may not have the same student resources as a larger school. For instance, a large school is able to cultivate relationships with many businesses in order to provide students with internships, part-time jobs, and guaranteed job placement after graduation. Small schools are less likely to develop a large network, and may not be equipped to handle the responsibility of ongoing graduate job placement.

As you can see, there are many conflicting reasons as to why you should or should not include local cooking schools among your options. Your decision should begin with what is most important to you. If you cannot move or make a long commute right now, a local school will be your best option. If, on the other hand, the local schools cannot give you the quality of education you feel you need, you may choose to sacrifice convenience for the sake of your career. Whatever decision you make, just make sure it is the best one for you.
About the Author
Andy West is a freelance writer for The Culinary Institute of Virginia College. Culinard offers two outstanding culinary programs. For information on cooking schools, please visit http://www.culinard.com .
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