A few weeks back, I was browsing for some culinary schools in the US, trying to find if there are courses that one can take to gain expertise in one particular field. You may aspire to be a an expert chef, or merely a great home-cook who loves feeding hungry palates at home; Whatever be your motive, I found that there is a plethora of information about pursuing culinary education, and its better to explore your options, especially if you aim to become a trained chef! I thought I'd share some of my findings with you, which may help you choose a good culinary school if you are interested, or just provide a light weekend reading if not. I also thought this would give me an opportunity to learn more from other experts, and gain insight into their thoughts and ideas.
If you are serious about joining a culinary school you need to be clear about a few things before you start applying. A little research and ground-work can make this process way more simple; it could also help you explore your options, and compare the costs, benefits, courses and specialities, which can influence your choice to a great extent.
Choose your Speciality
Just like any other career, becoming a chef is challenging and requires not only the aptitude, but also a solid degree to back up your skills. From all that I read, I found that its imperative to know what you want to do after getting a culinary degree. Do you want to start a catering company, make become a pastry chef, manage a restaurant, or better yet, start one of your own? Do you have the commitment to pursue a chef school, or are you just loking for an opportunity to enhance your cooking skills to make tasier meals for your frinds and family? Once you have an idea of what it is you would like to specialize in, you can limit your search to only those schools that offer the necessary classes. If you think you'll just join a culinary school and see where it takes you, be prepared for some surprises on the way, as its not as easy as it may look!
Choose a Location
This may or may not be a priority for people, depending on what you seek as important. If you are looking for an expert course or a graduate degree which offers internships and exposure, you may have to move to a place like New York or San Francisco. However, lots of people prefer to find something in their city and closer to home. In that case, research your options and find the best, but be prepared to know that it may not be the best school as far as your degree is concerned.
Check out the Schools
Word of mouth is the best propagator - if you know someone who has done this before, talk to them and take advice. Make a short-list of schools that interest you, request detailed coursework from them, amd get in contact with an administrator who can answer your questions. Better yet, visit a few of these schools so you get a feel of the place. This will definitely help you judge better, and see if you fit in the environment. Seeing actual students in action may make you think twice whether you are ready for a culinary school or not!
Apply to Multiple Schools
After you narrow down your top 3-5 choices, take a leap of faith, and apply to these schools. Make sure to call and ask about all documents before you send the package. Incomplete applications can cause a lot of waste of time and money; so let someone else look through your package too before you mail it in. Include all your qualifications and recommendations, then mail your application, and relax. Don't be paranoid if you don't get approvals from all of them - you just need one good school to make a mark!
Once you get your acceptance letter, choose from your approvals and find the best school or course. The first phase of your hard work has paid off, so take a moment to relax and enjoy! Then get ready for phase 2! Start preparing well in advance for your semester - get all required things in order so you don't flounder on the last day, especially if you have to relocate to a new place. If you have some extra time on hand, start reading books about your subject, and of course, there's no harm in experimenting good cooking at home too!
Joining a culinary school is similar to any other graduate school, in fact, it could be more fun! But if this is a career move, you should be dedicated to it, and even if it is just a course to help you make better desserts or decorate beautiful cakes, be attentive and always practise what you learned when you come back home. It is not a child's play, and requires attention and dedication like any other school.
However, this is one field in which practicals are as fun as the theory class, so go ahead on your way to Happy Cooking! Hope this article helps you choose a good culinary school, and if you have some suggestions or advice, please do share them with our readers!