Maybe you’re a disgruntled professional looking for an off-ramp from the rat race of corporate dronehood. Maybe you’re a veteran fresh out of your military service and looking for your place in the civilian world. Or maybe you’re a high school student or newly minted graduate with an interest in cooking looking to transition into a food-related long-term career. Whatever the reason, professional culinary education may be a great option for you. Here are a few tips to make this a recipe for success.
Jumping right into a program at a gastronomic powerhouse like Culinary Institute of America is not necessarily the wisest move. The nation’s most high-profile culinary schools come with tuition bills ranging from $35,000 to $54,000 for a two-year degree to $109,000 for a full bachelor’s degree. At the same time, only 56% of culinary students earned their degree within six years.
This is not to say that culinary schools are a bad idea — far from it. There are undeniable advantages of becoming a certified chef; culinary school-educated executive chefs often make between $65,000 and $81,000, according to StarChefs.com. However, potential future chefs should be sure of what they want before they make that move. Aspiring certified chefs are well advised to at least attend cooking classes before making the leap to more formal culinary education.
Colleges and universities with strong food service programs are an excellent place to start; in addition to often offering exactly the type of cooking classes aspiring chefs should have under their aprons, the classes they offer often serve as feeder programs to their higher levels of culinary education. Not only do these classes teach aspiring professional foodies the basic ratio for a classic vinaigrette (three parts oil to one part vinegar), they also give them a feel for whether that that institution’s program — and the food industry as a whole — is the right fit for them. Before you formally enroll in a culinary education program, consider signing up for a cooking class.