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Can I still become a chef if I do not have a degree from a culinary school?

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

I’m currently in an apprenticeship course to get my professional chef level 1. I have no problem working in a busy kitchen but the coursework is quite heavy and with learning disabilities it’s difficult for me to complete it. I’ve been contemplating quitting for the past month for various reasons but have stayed because I thought it was my only option if I wanted to become a chef. Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking and adore food, and I put everything into my work, I’m just a hands on learner and not very good when it comes to textbooks. I was hoping to have a career in the food service industry and would like to have my own little bar and restaurant in my hometown  in the far future. Would I still be able to have a good culinary job, ie not flipping burgers for the rest of my life, if I did quit and just tried to get a job in a kitchen?


 

post #2 of 8

I can't answer your question with any authority, but do you really need to be a chef to achieve your goal or would being a cook be enough? If being a cook would be enough, you can certainly learn that by working in restaurant kitchens.

post #3 of 8

Personally, and I've been in the industry for a few years AND I'm getting my degree, I think the degree helps but isn't mandatory. I've known several really good chefs who started out as dishwashers and worked their way up, learning and cooking, untill they got a head chef position. But I also know people who tried and tried to get into the undustry and couldn't because they lacked experience and a degree. It's a mixed bag... If you can stick it out, the degree will help you. If not, work your tail off and be the best you can be.


 

 

 

post #4 of 8

When I started out, there was only 1 school that I know of in the US.Back then I worked with some great chefs and nothing came in a box already made. So in answer to the question "Noo you do not need cooking school,but should have a basic knowlege of business, and finance in case you want to open your own place

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply
post #5 of 8



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by BrittanyDawnn View Post

I’m currently in an apprenticeship course to get my professional chef level 1. I have no problem working in a busy kitchen but the coursework is quite heavy and with learning disabilities it’s difficult for me to complete it. I’ve been contemplating quitting for the past month for various reasons but have stayed because I thought it was my only option if I wanted to become a chef. Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking and adore food, and I put everything into my work, I’m just a hands on learner and not very good when it comes to textbooks. I was hoping to have a career in the food service industry and would like to have my own little bar and restaurant in my hometown  in the far future. Would I still be able to have a good culinary job, ie not flipping burgers for the rest of my life, if I did quit and just tried to get a job in a kitchen?


 



 BD, Welcome to Cheftalk, I would have to say you sound just like I did 30 years ago. I didn't go to Culinary school, I started in Hawaii in Catering, Cafe lunch, Coffee Shop BL&D, Fine Dining, Steak House, Hotel Food & Bev mgr, Private Club Mgr, Water Park Food & Catering Mgr, on and on, you get the idea. I had the passion to succeed at everyone of these positions. Passion and drive will set you above the rest. You will run into many people who are just showing up for work, going through the motions, getting a pay check. Be the person that the Chef can depend on, the go to person when something has to get done, and you will advance in this business. You don't need a Culinary Degree to succeed, you do need, Passion, Drive, Determination, Personality, Character, Pride and integrity. I wasn't able to get an education, but I possessed these values that brought me from a Catering steward in Hawaii, to owning my own Food Service Management Company in Oregon. It's important to have as much passion and attention to quality and detail when cooking a Hot dog for your client or customer, as it is cooking and serving a Seven Course French Dinner.............................ChefBillyB

 


Edited by ChefBillyB - 3/27/11 at 10:50am
post #6 of 8

I went to school, not once throughout my career did a prospective employer ask to see my cert.

 

I agree with chefbillyb. During school I worked at a small French Bistro, was learning more at work than school, after school I worked anywhere and everywhere, learned all I could from whom ever would teach me. I always advanced quickly through the ranks because I had the drive and passion.

 

I even did a stint part time at a pizza/pasta joint that had an 80yr old retired chef from Italy come in on Fridays to make the marinara, fresh pastas and a few other things. He was a pita to work with, but taught me some thing I would have not learned anywhere else at the time.

 

I have also taken any position available in a couple of places, just to get my foot in the door because I knew that's where I wanted to be. Both ended up with head chef positions. One, a very large multi unit banquet operation I started as pt line cook,  fine dining in the other after starting as the lunch broiler position, was promoted to sous, then head chef within 6 months.

 

Get out there and learn all you can. I would hire experience before paper any day.

post #7 of 8

BrittanyDawnn:

My advice is that you do NOT quit the apprenticeship! Nonetheless, if you do quit the apprenticeship, you could try a community college. The schedule would not be as demanding as an apprenticeship, but you would still be reading textbooks. I also suggest that you work part-time concurrently as you attend school.

If you aspire to become a chef, realize that a "chef" is a boss. A boss needs to know how to run a kitchen. You mentioned that you aspire to own your restaurant/bar. You would then be a business owner. As a business owner, you would have to be proficient at running both the Back Of the House and Front Of the House and managing the books. Otherwise, you better hire someone who is honest to manage your books. Otherwise, you might find yourself out-of-business very soon after.

You would also need to remember that owning and running a restaurant/bar is running a business. It is not like having a party every night. I believe that that is the reason that many inexperienced restaurateurs failed, and continue to fail within months of their grand opening. They fail to realize that owning a restaurant is owning a business, but many of them think that it's a party every night, and they find themselves spending far more than they ever imagined. Their Operating Expenses outweigh their Profits. That's simply my opinion about you quitting the apprenticeship. Don't quit!

You could get a job in the restaurant industry without any degree, but if you ever wanted to work for any corporate restaurants, a degree does help a resume look better. Moreover, you would also gain knowledge in the pursuit of the degree. I have also made friends and gained contacts with others in the trade as I attended school. It is important to have work experience and education.

An apprenticeship gives you work experience, wages, opportunities to develop your skill-set, but you might also consider attending a community college to study "Restaurant Management," or "Food Services Management," or "Culinary Management," or whatever the school calls their program. Good luck. chef.gif

Buttercup: You mock my pain!
Man in Black: Life is pain, Highness! Anyone who says differently is selling something. -- The Princess Bride
Miracle Max: Sonny, true love is the greatest thing, in the world-except for a nice MLT - mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean...
Reply
Buttercup: You mock my pain!
Man in Black: Life is pain, Highness! Anyone who says differently is selling something. -- The Princess Bride
Miracle Max: Sonny, true love is the greatest thing, in the world-except for a nice MLT - mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean...
Reply
post #8 of 8

BrittanyDawnn:

My advice is that you do NOT quit the apprenticeship! Nonetheless, if you do quit the apprenticeship, you could try a community college. The schedule would not be as demanding as an apprenticeship, but you would still be reading textbooks. I also suggest that you work part-time concurrently as you attend school.

If you aspire to become a chef, realize that a "chef" is a boss. A boss needs to know how to run a kitchen. You mentioned that you aspire to own your restaurant/bar. You would then be a business owner. As a business owner, you would have to be proficient at running both the Back Of the House and Front Of the House and managing the books. Otherwise, you better hire someone who is honest to manage your books. Otherwise, you might find yourself out-of-business very soon after.

You would also need to remember that owning and running a restaurant/bar is running a business. It is not like having a party every night. I believe that that is the reason that many inexperienced restaurateurs failed, and continue to fail within months of their grand opening. They fail to realize that owning a restaurant is owning a business, but many of them think that it's a party every night, and they find themselves spending far more than they ever imagined. Their Operating Expenses outweigh their Profits. That's simply my opinion about you quitting the apprenticeship. Don't quit!

You could get a job in the restaurant industry without any degree, but if you ever wanted to work for any corporate restaurants, a degree does help a resume look better. Moreover, you would also gain knowledge in the pursuit of the degree. I have also made friends and gained contacts with others in the trade as I attended school. It is important to have work experience and education.

An apprenticeship gives you work experience, wages, opportunities to develop your skill-set, but you might also consider attending a community college to study "Restaurant Management," or "Food Services Management," or "Culinary Management," or whatever the school calls their program. Good luck. chef.gif


Edited by TheUnknownCook - 4/19/11 at 10:44am
Buttercup: You mock my pain!
Man in Black: Life is pain, Highness! Anyone who says differently is selling something. -- The Princess Bride
Miracle Max: Sonny, true love is the greatest thing, in the world-except for a nice MLT - mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean...
Reply
Buttercup: You mock my pain!
Man in Black: Life is pain, Highness! Anyone who says differently is selling something. -- The Princess Bride
Miracle Max: Sonny, true love is the greatest thing, in the world-except for a nice MLT - mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean...
Reply
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