Any tips/suggestions maybe?
What? Shatec is now offering degrees in cooking?
Look, a restaurant's mandate is to make money. If it makes sense for cooks to make "omelettes" on a flat-top, then the cooks do it. You might not neccesarily learn the "right" way of doing things, but you will learn speed, organization, and thinking on your feet.
A culinary school's mandate is to teach the curriculum, that's what you pay for. You will learn the "right" way of doing things, but probably will not learn about speed or thinking on your feet.
You need both.
Javis. Ya know, all I can share is my experience,strength and hope. There are so many variables and It truly boils down to the individual.. When I finally went to school, I already had about 10 years exp. working in many different "styles" (breakfast cook,line cook,free-standing restaurants,country clubs,hotels) of kitchens. So just by the education of O.T.J. training, I began to come to the realization that Yes, this was Not going to be the easiest occupation in the world but I also knew that I picked up on things pretty darn quickly and that when it came to the "basics" of cooking ,to me, it truly came down to listening to what the pros were showing and telling me and simply using my own God given Common Sense. Now that being said, I also knew that the people getting "up the ladder" were often times the ones who had a formal education backing them up. Remember what I said about "common sense" though. When I went to a very prominent Culinary School on the east coast, i was horribly suprised to find students there who didn't even know how to spell the word 'Chef" never mind being able to handle a knife. It was actually a rather amazing discovery to find that they had gone to a school with very little ,if any,kind of training. So then it came to me that instead of standing there watching them,standing there watching a pan on fire(,and not knowing what to do about it) I would help them. "Hey,turn the fire off". And so I discovered a great new asset for myself. Anyway ,I digress. I suggest you take what you've learned,carry it with you, Watch,Listen and Learn and go for the degree. Expand on that and you will come out the other side a much more well rounded professional.
You need both. When you go to school, you need to go to the best school you can find. There is a right way and a wrong way to do many things. A good school will teach you the difference. You may not encounter the same level of instruction in a job. In short, school will give you a lot of exposure to many things you may never see on a job but that you need to know and you will learn these in a relatively short period of time. A good culinary education simply provides a good foundation for all the learning you will do later.
You need work experience so that you end up actually cooking. In many schools, you may be given lessons but not always the opportunity to actually do something with the lesson. Only work will teach you how to cook under pressure, work well with others and find out what the real world limitations are for some of what you learned in school.
Before, during and after you graduate, you should be reading and studying on your own. Cooking, in its broadest sense, involves many areas of knowledge and expertise, including but not limited to; basic cooking techniques like frying, roasting, poaching, etc but also baking and pastry, sauce making, butchering, sourcing-where food comes from, canning and preserving, menu planning, cultural influences and much more.
Many non professionals and beginners assume that cooking is a simple matter of throwing things together for dinner and do not grasp the complexity of the profession. When and where you begin learning is not as important as recognizing early that you are at the beginning of a long and fascinating journey. You can and should continue learning more about cooking throughout your entire life.
You will never lean it all. Just enjoy trying to.
My first post here. I hope it helps.
I never went to school to learn to cook. It's natural. Give me a dish, I will tell you what's in it, and like as not if I need to, in 24 hours (OK, maybe 2 days if it's exotic) I'll be able to reproduce it. So I went out one day confident that I was the next Gordon Ramsey... blagged a job... and 120 covers. I coped, but only because the owner realised that whilst I could cook, I had no real idea how to actually run a kitchen. Fortunately she did.
School isn't an essential to cook, but it sure helps to running a kitchen.
I've been searching cooking forums for the exact same reason Javis. as a young cook myself, all i know is that i want to make this a career but should i got to school or hope hard work will pay off? from what i read and conversation with my sous chef and my coworkers that went to culinary school, it seems to me that you don't have to go to school to be a chef. i enjoyed what chefwriter wrote, the opportunity to further educate yourself should not be over looked. i would much like to go to a nice culinary school, but i live alone, work full time, and taking a huge loan does not seem like the best thing to do at this point in my life. never stop learning.
Javis and Candy.
You should keep in mind that school is not an all or nothing situation. there are many ways to accomplish it. You can take one course at a time. You could become employed at the school in some capacity to take advantage of employee discounts/education benefits. You do not have to do a two year course in two years. Take what you can afford as you can afford it. Just make sure that each course you take counts toward a degree. Look into employers who are willing to help in exchange for a work agreement. Look for grants and scholarships. Retraining programs at your unemployment office and other government agencies. If necessary, look into changing your living situation.
Many universities now have food related curriculums, not directly cooking related. Ethnography, culture, history, etc. If you live near a college or university, even it they do not have a culinary department, pay the membership fee to the library to give you access to their collection. Kansas State has one of the biggest cookbook collections in the world.
Whether or not you attend school, you can further your education by reading cooking and food related books and magazines. There are more and more all the time.
Practice at home. Knife skills, organization, cleanliness, techniques you read about. Making dinner for yourself and others with a professional approach is great, relaxed way to discover many things about cooking.
Visit farmers markets, farms to learn about seasonality, origins of vegetables and fruits, crop yields, etc.
In short, be active in your learning all the time. No one area can teach you all of it but nothing is beyond your reach if you make the effort.
I've been working industry kitchens 10+ years and have learned a lot through the experience. Learning from different chefs, cooks, and staff, and being in different kitchens will provide you with a wide variety of skills and on the job training. You work an actual service, learn how to interact with experienced co-workers, an operation of a real kitchen, etc. I've done everything from kitchen manager, line cook, purchasing and inventory of 50K worth of food a week, expediting, etc all without a culinary degree.
That said if I ever get the time and money, I would like to check out a culinary school just to see what it has to offer. During a brief (thankfully) job search, I noticed places looking for new hires saying they require or prefer culinary degrees which was disheartening for me at first. Funny enough instead of emailing out my resume or filling out an online application, I just did it old-school and went and talked to somebody at this one place during their off-time. Got asked to come back for an interview the next day, couple days later I got the job.
If you have the resources and time to get a culinary education, I say go for it. From my own experience you'll get by without one.
'A fool can't act the wise, but the wise can act a fool...' - Kweli
'A fool can't act the wise, but the wise can act a fool...' - Kweli
I'm kind of in the same boat as you, Junglist. I have 15 years experience, worked a variety of positions. A few KM and sous type positions. Even owned my own food truck business. No school. Just a lot of experience. I checked out a few schools in recent years, looked into the curriculum and realized I'd have to take a 4 year degree and be bored to tears the first 2 or 3 years to learn anything. I'm starting to think about taking some type of Restaurant Management course or Hospitality Management course if I can find something like that around here (mainly the first one). I think that's the only thing that would pay off for me. I don't need to learn how to cook. I already know how to cook. But that tends to be the focus of most of the "culinary degrees".
Most of the EC's, HC's, and KM's that I've worked with tend to prefer work experience. If you've got legimate experience in a kitchen, they KNOW you can hack it, if you completed a culinary program, they have to guess as to whether or not you can hack it. Everyone's different, though. If I'm hiring staff, I need some experience, a culinary degree is a bonus, but I want someone that's been field tested already.
So please clarify this for me?? why is this false?? It is my position culiinary schools are for profit ventures these days. I have not been too impressed at the last few "big culinary" school graduates I have worked with lately.
Culinary school does not make one a chef. It does, however, offer a very expensive education on many different methodologies that one would have to travel great distances to learn and, in my opinion, allows the individual to progress faster. Also, you are introduced into other subjects such as nutrition, management, and cost control. Culinary school lasts two years. The same school of hard knocks can take over a decade
Because that is such a silly broad brush statement.
it's the same as if I say, oh, go work at any place that has an Executive Chef, you'll learn just as much as if you worked for Escoffier, except you'll get paid more.
Aren't all schools in business for profit? but hey, go to a nursing program at a local CC, it's the same as going to (insert $80,000 school here) just cheaper.
Were those cooks top of their class? did they come out humble and ready to grind, or did they think they know it all? because we weren't taught to be anything but humble and ready to learn once we left school.. and since all schools are the same, i'm surprised they didn't get the same memo I did.
Yup. They (schools) are!
But so are restaurants.....
One of the first places I worked at--before taking a 1 yr culinary school course, instructed me to make omelettes on the flat top. Another place roasted off a prime rib rare and left it cold, slicing off a portion, heating it up with a bit of jus in a pie pan a'la minute.
What I learned from restaurants is this: If it makes sense--practical and economical--to do things the "wrong way", then do them, we're here to make a buck, pay the rent. Those who don't, go belly-up.
The schools are judged by their curriculum, and how well they instruct. Those who don't do well, go belly up.