A career as a chef can be fulfilling and challenging, and if you have a passion for food culinary training may be a perfect fit. However, it isn’t easy. Anyone who has attended a culinary institute can tell you that the education you receive goes far beyond simply learning how to throw together a few meals. In fact, you learn much more than just cooking.
Being a successful chef also involves being able to manage your kitchen properly, work well with your staff and understand nutrition, food purchasing and plenty of other things that go beyond the stove or oven. Culinary training can be an eye-opening experience for many students as they prepare for their career in the food and restaurant industry.
Training to be a chef may be challenging, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. There are few careers that so perfectly blend creativity and a love of food with a practical skill to yield a job that can propel you onto a successful career path in any number of areas. With the proper culinary training you can work at resorts, restaurants and clubs almost anywhere in the world. You may even find yourself working on a cruise ship.
Choose Culinary Training That’s Comprehensive
If you want the best training possible, look at the curriculum offered at each school you are considering. If the focus is just cooking, you will be missing some important components that will make your culinary degree marketable when you graduate. The most comprehensive programs will have six distinct areas, each of which will break down further into specific units, some with basic, intermediate and advanced courses.
Food Service and Sanitation
This is the foundation of everything a chef or food service worker must know. If food is improperly handled, nothing else matters. Unsanitary conditions are absolutely unacceptable at any establishment no matter how talented you are.
Culinary Arts and Cooking
The core of most programs, these courses will have a variety of names, but will usually focus on a variety of cooking styles and procedures, usually focusing on savory dishes.
Food Science and Nutrition
Understanding the make-up and nutritional content, taste and value of ingredients and foods. In today’s health-conscious society these courses are more important than ever, particularly if you would like to go on to work in a setting such as a spa or luxury resort. Understanding the way various flavors and textures interact and react is also a part of food science.
Learning cost analysis, how to evaluate and purchase individual ingredients, and knowing how much you will need along with where to shop. All of these are elements of purchasing that are central to being a successful chef. You can’t cook well if you don’t know where to get the right ingredients and how to work within a budget.
This is sometimes called beverage service or viniculture, and is the art of understanding how wines, alcohols and liqueurs complement and interact with foods. No fine meal is complete without the proper accompaniment of wine or alcoholic beverage, and being knowledgeable enough to select the proper accompaniment is essential.
Pastries and Baking
Some culinary training programs will offer pastry and baking education as a part of the culinary arts, while others will offer a complete curriculum specializing in this as a separate discipline (some offer both options). Baking science is much different than cooking and has different rules and methods, so it requires separate attention to some degree. Because there are so many types of breads and pastries, many schools offer a complete course in this for those wishing to become specialized pastry chefs.
Some schools that offer culinary training will allow you to download their curriculum to review. This is a great way to see if they cover the basics, how much time they dedicate to each topic and what you will be covering in each class. Choosing a school without seeing the complete curriculum is like purchasing a car without a test drive, so be sure to know what you’ll be learning and how many hours you’ll be spending learning each technique or topic during your culinary training.