Want to Become a Chef? Here’s What It Will Cost
Do you love food and dining out? Do you feel you would excel in a hospitality environment where you can provide patrons delicious dinners or inspired brunches? If you’re looking for a new career and answered yes to the previous questions, you’ve likely considered becoming a chef.
However, you may be asking yourself the questions, “Do I really need culinary school to become a chef?” and, if so, “How much is culinary school?” If you’ve ever considered becoming a professional chef, here’s what you need to know about the costs involved with a professional chef.
What’s the Difference Between a Cook and a Chef?
Do you want to be a cook or do you want to become a chef? There is a difference. A cook is someone who prepares food. If you make pancakes for your family on Saturday mornings, you’re technically a cook. Those who cook for a living may perform tasks such as doing prep work, frying burgers on a line, or preparing sauces. Often cooks get paid based on where they work and according to their rank.
A chef is the person who actually runs the kitchen in a restaurant. In most environments, the chef will perform fewer cooking duties than those who work under them. The chef comes up with new recipes, ensures that the kitchen is running smoothly, and provides guidance and vision to those in the kitchen. Some chefs own the restaurants they work for while others do not.
The Difference Between Culinary School and Cooking Classes
Culinary schools teach you how to be a chef and manage a kitchen as well as cook many different types of cuisines. Cooking classes, on the other hand, are usually limited to one type of cuisine and are intended to help you become a better cook at home. While cooking classes are perfect for the hobbyist or food lover, they will not prepare you to work in a restaurant.
Culinary School or Community College?
Many community colleges offer an education and degree in the culinary arts. These programs tend to be less expensive and easier to get into than dedicated culinary schools and offer a basic education that will suffice for some students.
Culinary schools are more selective and provide a smaller teacher-to-student ratio than community colleges. They also boast a higher caliber of teaching staff and have connections with award-winning restaurants around the world as well as with resorts, major companies, and cruise lines. If you are dedicated to becoming a successful professional in the world of cooking, an education at a culinary school is the best path.
What Will Culinary School Teach You?
A culinary school will teach you everything you need to know about being a professional chef and running the kitchen of a busy restaurant. But what does this include? Culinary school will take you through the basics of kitchen and staff management in addition to actual cooking skills. Though not a comprehensive list, here are some of those skills you can expect to learn in a top-notch culinary school.
- How to read, write, and follow a recipe. Every great dish starts with a well-written recipe and you’ll learn how to gather the ingredients and follow already-written recipes as well as how to create your own when you attend culinary school.
- Knife skills. Have you ever watched a celebrity chef cook and are in awe of how they handle a knife? You’ll learn how they do it in cooking school, as well as how to choose the appropriate knife for different tasks and how to keep your knives sharp and in good condition.
- The effects of heat on food. You’ll learn what temps evaporate moisture, caramelize sugar, coagulate proteins and more in your classes.
- How to master cooking methods. Braising, pan frying, roasting, submersion cooking…you’ll master these types of methods as well as dozens of others during your course work.
- Prep skills. Prep is known as mise en place in the culinary world and it involves organizing everything you need before you start cooking to ensure success of your dish.
Do You Need Culinary School to be a Chef?
Before you ask the question “How much is culinary school?” you should first determine if you actually need it for what you want to do. If you want to learn how to cook meals for your family and friends or host impressive dinner parties, you don’t necessarily need to go to culinary school.
Taking some home cooking classes or watching a series of YouTube videos may do the trick if you are only cooking as a hobby. If you want to manage a high-end restaurant kitchen and provide award-winning meals to patrons, however, an education at a prestigious culinary school is the best preparation.
How Much is Culinary School?
So how much is culinary school? It depends on the caliber of the school and where it’s located. For a prestigious school with good connections and a stellar staff, you will likely pay around $30,000 for your education.
Many programs offer financial aid and scholarships to offset these costs, though the competition for them is often stiff. If you are dedicated to making a career as a chef and want to compete for jobs at the most renowned restaurants, this investment is well worth it.
Why Should You Consider Culinary School?
Still on the fence? Culinary school is not inexpensive, but it’s worth it if you are serious about becoming a chef. Here are the most compelling reasons why you should consider attending culinary school:
- You will learn management and business skills. Being a chef is not just about the food. To run a kitchen effectively, you need to learn how to manage a staff, maintain financial records, manage inventory, and place orders. In culinary school, you’ll learn these skills as well as how to keep up on licensing requirements, inspection, and tax information, and how to manage payroll and abide by employment law.
- You’ll be exposed to different cultures. When you attend culinary school, you’ll learn about a variety of cultures and have the opportunity to cook with and taste ingredients and dishes from all over the world. This will not only broaden your palate and horizons, but it will also help you narrow down what type of restaurant you eventually want to work for or own.
- You will get assistance with apprenticeships, internships, and job placement. The best culinary schools have high placement rates for their graduates and can assist you when it comes to finding apprenticeships and internships. You would not have access to these opportunities if you attended a cooking school or community college.
- You will get the most comprehensive education on the basics of cooking. In culinary school, you’ll learn everything you need to know about kitchen safety, using the tools of the trade, maneuvering the kitchen, the science and chemistry behind cooking, and the psychology of managing a kitchen in addition to a well-rounded education about actual food preparation.
How Do You Choose the Right Culinary School?
Have you decided that culinary school is right for you? The next step is choosing the right one for your needs. When choosing a school, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the school or program approved in compliance with state standards? This will ensure you will get a high-quality education from a given school.
- How long has the school been educating students? The longer a school has existed, the more connections it has made and the more alumni are out in the field. This means more opportunities for job placement after graduation. The track record of a school is also a good indication whether it’s running smoothly and turning out accomplished graduates.
- How much of the instruction is hands-on? The best way to learn how to be a chef is by hands-on experience. This means that a low teacher-to-student ratio and opportunities for real-world service are key.
- Where is it located? Some culinary students want to stay close to home while others prefer to experience a new city during their culinary education. Determine which is right for you before starting your culinary school search.
Contact Us Today
Have you decided that culinary school is right for you? Train at a professional school that boasts an immersive student experience and apprenticeship programs at top local restaurants. Contact us via phone or email and learn more about the Culinary Lab Contemporary Cooking School experience today.