I have been cooking since I was 8 years old. I have an advanced degree. About 10 years ago, I really regretted going to grad school instead of culinary school, but as I had a small child and lived far away from a culinary school (and an hour away from the nearest community college program), it just was not possible for me. Instead I did whatever I could to educate myself at home-- I have read DOZENS of books on the science of cooking, spices,various types of cuisine, etc. I have cooked my way through the cookbooks of top chefs and an older edition of the CIA "Professional Chef" textbook. I try new recipes several times a week, focusing on technique.
At this point in my life, culinary school is still not in the cards for me. I have arranged to work part time for free at the best restaurant in my semi rural area-- it should turn into a paying position soon-- so I can get experience.
My goal is to open my own catering business sometime in the next year or two. I have access to a professional kitchen, which is attached to a banquet hall that is often used for weddings, etc. I know the owners of the hall/kitchen and they are interested in working with me.
My questions are about online/correspondence schools that confer "diplomas" or "certificates" in gourmet cooking and catering. Has anyone here gone through such a program? Was it helpful to you? Why or why not??
My general sense is that these programs probably can't teach me anything I don't already know. What I probably need most is to learn, in person, from a professional chef. But if there is something else they can teach me to help me to master this craft, then I am totally open to pursuing one of those programs.
Thanks for any input.