Culinary Training: Choosing Your Path

Culinary Training: Choosing Your Path

Culinary training programs are available for various levels of expertise and areas of specialty. Let’s take a look at the elements that will put you on the right path for your desired level of culinary mastery.

Education

Chef training is available in culinary schools worldwide. Choosing a school may be a matter of narrowing down a specialty, time, price and location. Consider the following factors when selecting the right culinary school for you:

  • Time. Culinary colleges and vocational schools have programs varying from 150 hours to 4-years depending on the level of training and expertise.
  • Flexibility. Some culinary programs will offer part-time programs and night classes, while others may require student attendance to be full-time during day and evening hours.
  • Cost. There are a variety of factors to consider beyond the tuition of a culinary education. Students may be required to live on campus and travel domestically or abroad for regional instruction. Tuition, books, uniforms and cooking supplies are also part of the basic costs that should be expected. Annual costs for attending a cooking school could fall between the ranges of $2000 to $45,000.
  • Scholarships and Financial Aid. The price tag of culinary school can be lightened with cost assistance programs. Financial aid is awarded on a need-based level and can be attained through private, institutional, state or federal sources. Scholarships can also come from myriad sources such as community groups, academic achievement, employers, religious institutions and professional organizations.
  • Training. On-the-job training is an essential component to learning how to work in a kitchen. Look into what each school can offer you for apprenticeships, internships and job placement.

Specialty

Finding a specialty can shape your educational pat and having a specialized area of professional expertise offers focus for learning and improving upon a specific aspect of culinary skills. Here are some common areas of culinary specialty:

  • Pâtissier (Pastry Chef.) For those interested in owning a bakery or making creative desserts, it is beneficial to train for this specific position. High-end restaurants and resorts employ pastry chefs to create one-of-a-kind desserts, wedding cakes or any other sweet confection to meet the expectations of high-paying guests.
  • Saucier (Sauce Chef.) Sauce based French cuisine refers to this position as “the keeper of the flame.” This highly regarded kitchen position prepares sauces, stews and hors d’oevres.
  • Sous Chef (Under Chef.) This position is the head chef’s right hand and is considered second in command in the kitchen. Sous chefs have a lot of responsibility in the kitchen, but also have the opportunity to create new menu items. This position is a great professional opportunity for those seeking executive chef or chef de cuisine status in their careers.
  • Chef de Cuisine. The chef de cuisine is the person  in command who is also behind the line creating, assembling and perfecting each dish. This is the highest "cooking position" in the kitchen and is a typical placement for talented chefs working in hotels. 
  • Executive Chef. This position is the highest position in the kitchen and is typically found in hotels with more than one food and beverage outlet. The executive chef plans and directs all of the food preparation and production. Considered the kitchen manager, this position is in charge kitchen employment and menu planning.

Take the time to research all schools and training programs thoroughly before investing your time and money. Look for programs that have been accredited by recognized culinary institutions, such as the American Culinary Federation. Consider what your long terms goals; whether it is to work as a part of a team or to own your business, choose the training program that offers the professional guidance to get your closer to achieving your dream.