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Do you need a degree to become a good chef?

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
Hey guys just wondering if you need to go to college/ university to become a professional chef?
post #2 of 22

What's YOUR definition of a "professional  Chef"?

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #3 of 22
No you dont, but the right education helps.
post #4 of 22

how many times has this been asked? the short answer is no

post #5 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lagom View Post

No you dont, but the right education helps.


I absolutely agree with Lagom and wanted to add experience which is basically the same thing.

FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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post #6 of 22
Experience is not the same as education. There is no subsitute for an experienced instructor, IMHO. You can make it big in the industry without any formal training, however in my opinion it requires alot more work. There are also quite a few benefits to attening a school... Really I'd say if you have the financial means to obtain formal training, NOT doing so is a massive mistake. You may pick up more practical technique and experience "on the job" but the width and breadth of what is generally covered in formal training can take years and years of industry experience to match... though again mileage may vary.
post #7 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpoiledBroth View Post

Experience is not the same as education.

 

Education is not the same as experience.

 

A wise hunter has a full complement of arrows in his quiver. Even though it takes only one arrow hitting the mark to bag the evening's meal, many times more than one shot is required.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #8 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by cheflayne View Post

Education is not the same as experience.

A wise hunter has a full complement of arrows in his quiver. Even though it takes only one arrow hitting the mark to bag the evening's meal, many times more than one shot is required.
That's a false comparison. I am talking about developing a solid theoretical base of knowledge (eg. you may be able to emulsify butter and eggs long enough to get a hollandaise on the plate, does not mean you are executing even remotely correctly) in a "working for experience" type situation versus a "formal training" situation. There is no comparison in my mind. Unless you are lucky enough to work at a place that does higher quality rotating menus that are redrawn year after year you're simply not going to get the kind of expoure to a wide array of techniques nor will you have such inexpensive access to expertise and ingredients. Most practical experience consists of reproducing a 20 or 30 item menu tens of thousands of times.

I'm not saying you can be even a poor chef with formal training, nay, you are but a cook once completing formal training.
post #9 of 22

Basically I was saying that I believe that education and experience are the optimal tool set to possess in an ideal world. False comparison to you, firm belief to me. The world goes round.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #10 of 22

I'm not moving to a city to be a Chef. I'm not going into debt to be one just to have a handful of places within a reasonable commute I could work at (if a job was available). A paid education would be a waste on many of us. This is still a profession where people can apprentice. If your apprenticeship doesn't work out; you're not out anything. If you have student debt; you're likely boinked, or stuck working for a butthole. I really have no desire to be an Executive Chef (Jefe, boss) anyway. I'm happy to just cook / prep.

 

We don't live long enough to make educations worth it imo. I've been working since I was 14, and if crap didn't happen; I could have semi-retired in my 30's. Crap happens whether you get an education or not. Experience always seems more valuable when it comes to getting hired (not just this field but any that don't require a degree). I've had a good employer tell me they wouldn't hire anyone that went to college (they paid more 20 years ago than I'm making now).

 

If you know what it means to be a Chef, you're willing to relocate, commute, or do whatever it takes to be one; then maybe the education is for you. Just consider how many go to school for it each year, and how many available jobs are there waiting for them.

post #11 of 22

As someone who has seen both sides, I have to agree with Cheflayne on this one.

But.....to add this...

In my years working in kitchens with both formerly trained cooks/Chefs and the school of hard knocks theory guys and ladies, I'll tell you this;

 

Using SpoiledBroth's example, the un-schooled line cook may very well make a sauce that would hold its' own against any other cooks, but

would that line person know why the eggs, and butter created that mixture?

 

AND......does it matter to that un-schooled line cook anyway?

He/ she can make the sauce, time and time again, make it well, make it consistent.

So to him /her knowing why is immaterial.

 

OTOH.........The schooled cook may very well know how to make that sauce cause he studies it, made it in a class with 3-4 other people in a group workshop, only once or twice.

 

Now the young inexperience cook goes out into the world of cooking, and is blind-sided by what he sees.

Many of the ideas and techniques he learned in school are already outdated when he gets into the kitchen.

He sees shortcuts to justify the same means that he learned a while back.

He sees cooks that did not go to school doing things completely different then what he saw in school and the Chef is okay with it.

Now what?

The good little educated cook starts doing things the way he was taught and tries to correct others or brings it up to the Chef. Then he is either shown a different way, ridiculed, or worse yet shown the door.

 

 

I am a firm believer of education plus experience. Even after that you really never stop learning. Life itself is learning.

post #12 of 22
Im not a firm believer in cooking school. If you have the money and time for it then of course it wont hurt to go to a quality program. However it really doesnt make a difference a few years down the road. To me, speaker of American english, there is a big difference between a chef and a cook. I know and have worked with a multitude of amazing cooks that dont have it in them to be a chef. They are the well paid, well treated, well respected coworkers that we all depend on every day. A chef, in addition to have chops on the line needs to be able to manage a business. Everythig from personal, customers,vendors, product and all the other stuff that goes with it. Complience with haccp,health dept, p&l responsability, all things that come eaiser with some formal training. A few business mgt courses help, education from the tax man and labor dept and local health depts all make life eaiser. You dont need a degree.
post #13 of 22
Plus in the USA a few spanish lessons wouldnt hurt either.
post #14 of 22

I'm personally not so sold. I think experience is education whether it be right or wrong. You're still learning something. Although I come from a time where there we very few culinary schools. You learned by apprenticing. I'm not against schools, I went to one where we were the first graduating class of a big school just opening 40 something years ago. Now there seems to be a school on every corner. Some with instructors who have come up in school and stayed to teach and have no real kitchen experience. I have been asked to teach in a few and found that some are grant and money driven and seem to be diploma mills. I am very lucky to be associated with a community college here that has a wonderful program and great interns. Just some of my thoughts.

FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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post #15 of 22

Education can come from many sources. Culinary school is only one of those sources. Experience is a wonderful source of education.

 

A degree is a piece of paper. Some will be impressed by it. Some will not. Some will do good things with a degree. Some will not. Some will do good things without a degree. Some will not.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #16 of 22
St
Quote:
Originally Posted by cheflayne View Post

Education is not the same as experience.

A wise hunter has a full complement of arrows in his quiver. Even though it takes only one arrow hitting the mark to bag the evening's meal, many times more than one shot is required.

What about that chick from the hunger games.
post #17 of 22
In this business, learning often happens piecemeal, largely depending on what's on the menu. So, every opportunity to improve yourself and your knowledge is valuable. I was lucky that I went to a good culinary school & I learned a lot that helped me later on. But it was a community college, and a smaller program, and there were some things we just didn't do. For example, only the people in a certain class would get to break down meat or fish, IF there was some on the menu. I didn't actually end up getting my degree but it was a great learning experience.
After i left school i kept learning; by studying and cooking, and reading. Cooking, by repitition, teachesyou things you can't learn other ways; reading books like "On Food and Cooking" can teach you how to manipulate that knowledge.
I'm with Cheflayne on this one; you don't need a degree, but you can easily turn it into a leg up.
post #18 of 22

Yes.  Pretty much like any profession you need a formal course of instruction.  You can hunt and peck your way, for years, and assemble a body of knowledge but a quality culinary program will vastly shorten the learning curve.  You need to lay the base and then add to it with practical experience in quality kitchens.  You get into quality kitchens when you're young by graduating from a well-respected culinary school.  After that, it's all on you.


Edited by CStanford - 10/17/14 at 11:30am
post #19 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chefross View Post

As someone who has seen both sides, I have to agree with Cheflayne on this one.
But.....to add this...
In my years working in kitchens with both formerly trained cooks/Chefs and the school of hard knocks theory guys and ladies, I'll tell you this;

Using SpoiledBroth's example, the un-schooled line cook may very well make a sauce that would hold its' own against any other cooks, but
would that line person know why the eggs, and butter created that mixture?

AND......does it matter to that un-schooled line cook anyway?
He/ she can make the sauce, time and time again, make it well, make it consistent.
So to him /her knowing why is immaterial.

OTOH.........The schooled cook may very well know how to make that sauce cause he studies it, made it in a class with 3-4 other people in a group workshop, only once or twice.

Now the young inexperience cook goes out into the world of cooking, and is blind-sided by what he sees.
Many of the ideas and techniques he learned in school are already outdated when he gets into the kitchen.
He sees shortcuts to justify the same means that he learned a while back.
He sees cooks that did not go to school doing things completely different then what he saw in school and the Chef is okay with it.
Now what?
The good little educated cook starts doing things the way he was taught and tries to correct others or brings it up to the Chef. Then he is either shown a different way, ridiculed, or worse yet shown the door.


I am a firm believer of education plus experience. Even after that you really never stop learning. Life itself is learning.
Theoretical knowledge is important though, an emulsion is no good if it only holds long enough to make it out of the kitchen (breaking just as it is set in front of the guest). That was more my point. There are a lot of stupid people that come out of school and are wearing totally rose coloured glasses, but that is not everyone with a formal education in cooking, by any means.
post #20 of 22

I've never been to a culinary school. I know that temperature will break emulsions based on the freezing temp of the oil used, and that an immersion blender is the fastest, easiest, most reliable way to emulsify mayonnaise and hollandaise in seconds. I'd guess the trained student would waste time slowly drizzling or adding oil as they whisk, mix, blend, or process.

post #21 of 22
^ except in the real world a whisk and mixing bowl are often all that is at hand. I've seen two immersion blenders in my time at work. Usually they're not hooked up on the line, and if they were they'd have been broken down and cleaned and stored somewhere safe when (oh no!) down 4 hollandaise for benidict frown.gif Then how do you ensure a perfect emulsion. Temperature is not the only pitfall. In particular producing hollandaise on a bain-marie is something that requires a bit more skill than just plugging in your hand blender.
post #22 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpoiledBroth View Post

^ except in the real world a whisk and mixing bowl are often all that is at hand. I've seen two immersion blenders in my time at work. Usually they're not hooked up on the line, and if they were they'd have been broken down and cleaned and stored somewhere safe when (oh no!) down 4 hollandaise for benidict frown.gif Then how do you ensure a perfect emulsion. Temperature is not the only pitfall. In particular producing hollandaise on a bain-marie is something that requires a bit more skill than just plugging in your hand blender.

Here is a perfect example of what I am talking about.

 

I am in a position as Chef to correct this situation.

I will not judge HOW the sauce is made, only that it should be correct and stable

Learning to use an immersion blender to make hollandaise is all fine and good if you understand emulsions.

If not, then we're looking at your example of the sauce breaking on the way to the table

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