Culinary Arts/Chef Training  Program Description


Insider Info

Culinary students whip, beat and chop their way to a full menu of career choices. Culinary programs prepare students for cooking careers.

Sue Singer describes the job market for graduates as "beyond excellent." She is the president and admissions director of a culinary arts institute. She points out that all the trades are in desperate need of qualified people. "The shortage is extraordinary."

Mark Ainsworth agrees that the job market is strong for grads. He adds that starting salaries will vary. He is a professor of culinary arts at the Culinary Institute of America.

You can expect a healthy serving of theory and hands-on learning in culinary programs. Students prepare breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and world cuisine. They learn meat-cutting skills, culinary techniques, baking and about diet and nutrition.

Some programs also teach management skills, wine and food pairing, and menu development. You can also learn about culinary trends.

Having experience in restaurants will help."Work experience in the food service industry is critical to placement," says Ainsworth.

Many programs offer co-op terms or apprenticeship training. These are usually paid positions in the industry. Some programs will place you internationally.

Many programs have a minimum age of 17. High school graduates are favored. You may be required to get a food safety certificate. "It's not necessary to have any previous training -- but what is essential is a love or passion for cooking and/or baking," says Singer.

Finding the right culinary program for you is more than just a matter of taste. You should think about your career goals before you put your money where your mouth is.

Programs range in length from six months to four years. Some programs are general, although others offer different specializations, such as baking and pastry arts or gourmet cooking. Shorter programs will prepare students for entry-level jobs, while some longer programs focus on kitchen management.

Class size, the reputation of the school in the industry, the background of the faculty, location, tuition costs and the success of past graduates are all food for thought. Some programs garnish the kitchen skills with college courses in writing skills, math, business and humanities.

"Our students want to be in the kitchens, rather than in a classroom environment," says Singer. Programs at her school are intense and hands-on. Students learn seven hours per day, five days a week for six months.

Communication and math skills are important for future chefs. "Do not forget the basics of math and writing. Someone can be the greatest chef in terms of food, but can't keep a food cost in line," says Ainsworth. "Get a job at a restaurant and make sure you like the kitchen. It may not be as glamorous as on the TV."

Student expenses may include texts, cookbooks, a knife set, uniforms, shoes and hats.


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