Hi! Let me say, I was just creeping on this forum, saw your post, and felt really moved to make an account and give you my opinion. Culinary school is not necessary, but I am very glad I went. I have been in kitchens since I was 14, and did a vocational culinary program in high school, but I still went to college! Think about this, culinary school lets you make all the mistakes you could make in the professional world with little to no consequences, and, better yet, you learn from them! Restaurants are fast paced, and as much as school will try to pretend to be, it's not. But this allows you to slow down and really understand how things work and why. You also learn managerial skills that can be hard to get your manager /chef to teach you. However, school is expensive, I get that, but don't rule out community college. Sometimes a degree is just that accent on your resume that pushes you over other candidates so you won't have to work from the bottom every where you go. I highly recommend you look up Schoolcraft college. It is a community college outside Detroit. I moved from near Chicago just to go here. It is a diamond in the ruff. Cheap tuition, most master chefs per student ratio wise than any school in the country. Brian Polcyn teaches here (wrote books with Michael Ruhlman), master pastry chefs, chefs who have gone into the culinary olympics. I really can not speak highly enough of the quality of education I received and I have minimal debt. So sorry if I rambled, but hope I helped.