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I want to address the one question that burns in the mind of every aspiring chef – do I need formal education to get started in the kitchen?
Simple answer? You don’t.
But will it help? Definitely!
While there is no right or wrong path to take as you journey towards your dream of working in a professional kitchen, having a formal education can definitely give you a leg up.
Yes, it might take you a little longer to climb up the kitchen ladder. But this is an industry where you can peak at 30, 40 or even 50. So, do you really waste those extra years that you spend honing your skills?
Again, as I said, there really isn’t a right or wrong path. What worked for me may not work for you. So, to help you make up your mind, I’ve broken down the pros and cons of both – Getting a culinary education and starting off with an apprenticeship.
Here’s what you need to know about getting formal culinary education:
- You get enough time to learn from the beginning even if you are an extreme novice to cooking but are fascinated by the field.
- You learn about more than just the kitchen. The best schools hone your skills in all forms of the food business.
- A formal degree could also help you in the future to get up the ladder in your career from sous chef to head chef and then to executive chef.
- Culinary education can be expensive, which may make it inaccessible to some.
- You will spend 2 to 4 years studying, most of which may be spent in a classroom environment
- A classroom environment may not adequately prepare you for the stress of an actual professional kitchen
Here’s what you need to know about starting off with an apprenticeship:
- You may get the opportunity to meet inspiring chefs and leaders, and see how they work
- You will learn on the job, helping you pick up skills and techniques faster
- You will get first-hand experience of all the different sections of the kitchen
- Internships are often sheer hard work without any expectations. Being the junior-most on the floor, you will be expected to dedicate prolonged working hours, do all the small and big errands etc.
- Culinary internships are often low paying and even at times pro bono when compared to a culinary school graduate. This makes your life difficult with the current expenses in a big city.
- An internship doesn’t guarantee you a job in the same restaurant/kitchen
I hope this will make it easier for you to make up your mind. Remember, no matter what path you choose, it is your determination and dedication that will take you to the top.
And trust me when I say that no amount of formal education will help prepare you for the chaos that is service time.