Choosing a culinary school

How to find a cooking school that suits your tastes.
Do you find that your television never leaves the Food Network? Or perhaps you lay awake at night thinking about crème brulée and homemade spaghetti sauce. If so, you might be a perfect candidate for culinary school.

You can hone your culinary skills at a number of different types of learning facilities, including dedicated cooking schools and culinary institutes, traditional colleges and universities, and recreational schools and programs.

If you approach cooking as you would a hobby, you might want to consider evening classes. But if you want to make cooking your vocation, there are several career paths you can pursue if you attend a culinary school:

  • Chef:
  • The occupation most often associated with cooking schools, chefs are expected to prepare food, manage kitchens, and keep them running smoothly and profitably.

  • Restaurant and hotel (hospitality) manager:
  • While a chef manages a kitchen, these professionals manage some or all of the other operations of a restaurant or hotel.

  • Food researcher:
  • Food companies and restaurant chains employ research chefs and food chemists to develop new ingredients and new processes.

  • Nutritionist/dietician:
  • Nutritionists and dieticians are frequently employed to design meal plans for patients and students in hospitals, schools and other institutional facilities.

  • Food sales:
  • Food and beverage companies are constantly looking for food-savvy salespeople to sell their products to restaurants and hotels.

  • Food styling and media:
  • It's the job of a food stylist to design the dishes used in television and across a variety of print media.

  • Food training and instruction:
  • Companies and restaurants hire food-service professionals to train their staffs.

Cooking and culinary programs vary in length according to what you'll receive upon completing the program — a certificate, diploma or degree. Many schools offer accelerated programs that involve a more intense schedule in a shorter amount of time.

After you've completed your initial research on and have narrowed your list to a handful of cooking schools, it's a good idea to visit their campuses. Take note of the classroom sizes and facilities. Are the facilities and equipment current? How much hands-on experience will you receive?

With sufficient research and due diligence, it's not difficult to find a culinary school with the curriculum that's right for you. And before you know it, you'll have a tasty new career as well as the admiration of every dinner guest at your table.

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