With all the current cooking shows on television, becoming a chef seems almost as enticing as struggling your way up to become a movie star; that is, if being under the direction of a world renowned chef pressuring you to produce a gourmet meal in under fifty minutes doesn’t bother you.
Ask most chefs, however, if they’d like to be on a show, and they will tell you the heat is great enough in the kitchen without a panel of judges breathing down their necks. Most of them just want to do their job, and their job means careful planning, following a menu within the restaurant’s specialty, and working with a team to produce appetizing meals.
Open any newspaper to the wanted ads, and you will usually find at least three or four openings for a job as a cook. If you’ve had no previous experience, your first position will probably be chopping vegetables, pulling meat out of the freezer, or measuring ingredients for the line cook.
As you gain experience and show your dependability, you work your way up. If you’re promising enough, you may eventually become a sous chef working under the direction of the head chef. Many prominent restaurants and chain services will eventually send their best candidates to a culinary school to learn the procedures of kitchen management.
What Do You Learn in a Culinary School?
Even in a home atmosphere, cooking involves a great deal of organization. If you are planning a dish, you must make sure all the proper ingredients are on hand. Cooking a meal doesn’t involve producing one course at a time, but preparing all the courses for a meal so they are ready for the table simultaneously. When you’re working with a team, that means each station must be coordinated to produce the soups, salads, appetizers, and entrees in a reasonable amount of time to keep their customers satisfied.
A culinary school will teach you how to manage a team so quality meals are produced even under pressure, with a family gathering of twenty taking up one side of the restaurant and a group of businessmen taking a break from a convention taking up the other. It will teach you the rules of sanitation and the laws governing safety inspections, such as the proper handling of meats and the cooking temperature needed to destroy all bacteria. It will also teach you employment laws as chefs are often responsible for the hiring and firing of employees.
If you’ve been sent by the restaurant you work for to a culinary school, the courses may last three to six months to give you the credentials for certification. However, there are a number of culinary schools that offer full academic studies to receive an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in culinary arts and hospitality management.
A degree course will keep you up to date in food science, different culinary techniques, and hospitality services. At a culinary school, you will develop your communications, problem solving, and analytical skills to help you become that effective chef you see on the television programs that can take the foods on hand and turn them into a gourmet meal.
What Do You Learn in a Culinary School, and Is It Enough?
Students at culinary schools may choose to broaden their education by adding an additional degree, such as Information Technology or Business Administration. Not only will this give you the qualifications for a high level job in food services, it will provide you with the skills needed if you should ever decide to open your own restaurant. You will have the essential knowledge for finance, economics, marketing, and maintaining good relations with the public.
What you learn at a culinary school is food handling and safety, recipes for International cuisine, teamwork and team management, eye appealing arrangements, and artistic display. What a culinary school won’t teach you is creativity, imagination, and innovation. These are skills you must learn on your own that are vital to your success as a master chef.
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