Becoming a Chef Tips

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Is there a way to try out chef school without committing to full time studies?

Testing the Chef School Temperature Through Part Time Studies

If you're thinking of taking a cooking class, make sure to register for classes through a reputable and distinguished school. Sure, community colleges offer a variety of general interest courses and part-time studies, but the curriculum might not be cutting edge. Community college classes are perfect for anyone looking for general interest courses through continuing education, but for something as specialized as cooking, you want a school that can offer you hands-on training in a state of the art kitchen. It doesn't hurt when you're taught by the best in the business either.

Not everyone wants to learn how to become a chef, but if you're even the least bit curious, taking one or two evening courses at a good cooking school is a great way to test the waters. Taking a short evening course (anywhere from twelve to fifteen hours) gives you the opportunity to work with head chefs in the specialty of your choice. Some people are all about the pastry whereas others appreciate the art of bread making.

If you've been entertaining the thought of going to chef school, chances are you've glanced at a few chef schools already. Some amateur courses offered in New York City are short but utilize the same high quality curriculum as the full time programs. Of course, not everyone lives in New York, but for people serious about cooking (even amateur cooks) it's worth considering a short-term sabbatical. Who knows … you might love it enough to return for a full time program.

   
Where can I work after chef school?

What to Do After Chef School

So, you want to become a chef but you're not really sure where (or if) you'll be able to find your way in the industry. Is that what's holding you back? If so, just remember that following your dreams can take you down many different paths. Defining success shouldn't just be measured on whether you've become famous or not. A graduate of chef school has many options, most of them self-directed and entrepreneurial. Once you've got the skills of the trade mastered, the theory of business management established, and the passion to succeed, your options are limitless. For example, a graduate of chef school could:

  • open a specialty bread shop
  • open a gourmet pastry shop
  • start a business creating customized gourmet gift baskets
  • start a catering business
  • open a bakery
Your reasons for wanting to learn the art and science of becoming a private chef may have more to do with your desire to run your own restaurant, bed and breakfast, or spa. Creating a signature food or drink and introducing it into your business endeavor could be what drives sales.

So, if you're wondering where to apply your skills and talents after chef school, get creative!

   
What are the job prospects for chefs and how much could I earn as a chef?

Top Chef Labor Trends

According to recent labor market statistics, the average wage for chefs and head cooks is approximately $40,000 per year in New York. With a little experience, chefs can earn upwards of $80,000 a year. On the west coast, annual wages for the same position are comparable. Between 2006 and 2016, employment for chefs (including positions such as head chef, line cook, and sous chef) are expected to climb eight percent in the U.S.

The bottom line is that it's a good time to visit chef school, if that's where your interests lie. Of course, salary is only one part of the equation. Working in a career that you enjoy, that you can't wait to dive into every morning, is where you want to be. Put the joy and passion into your career and the money will follow.

If you want to know how to become a chef, you have to go to a good source. When looking for a chef school, take into consideration your needs. If you work full-time during the day, perhaps you need to find a school that will accommodate evening and/or part-time learning. Cost, location, curriculum, residency, and school pedigree are all things to consider when choosing a chef school.

Research shows that chef jobs are on the rise. Want to be a chef? Now's the time.

   
What kinds of things should I ask or look for when researching a good chef school?

Researching the Perfect Chef School

Want to learn how to become a chef? If you're in the market for a top quality cooking school, don't be afraid to visit the campus. While it's usually okay to just drop by, it's best to call ahead and make an appointment. Campuses are busy spots and a scheduled tour will help ensure that you've got time to ask questions and have a good look at the facilities. Have a look at the classrooms and cooking labs and as you go through the campus, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What's my first impression of this place?
  • What's the faculty-student ratio?
  • What credentials do the staff and faculty have?
  • Does the campus have a residence and, if so, is it included in the tuition or is it extra?
  • How professional do the staff, faculty, and students appear?
While you're there, ask for information on the admissions process, course and program descriptions, tuition fees, etc. It's easy to get side-tracked and forget some of the questions you wanted to ask, so give it some thought before you go and jot down a few questions on paper if it helps. When looking for the perfect chef school, don't just take the school's word for their worth, ask former graduates and alumni about their experiences. Did they find work? What are they doing now? If they could give you one piece of advice about how to become a chef, what would it be?

Ultimately, you want your search for the perfect chef school to be a combination of good research and recommendations; your gut will tell you when you've found the perfect chef school.

   
What does it take to become a chef?

Fulfilling Your Dreams in Chef School

If you want to learn how to become a chef, turn off the television and tune into some of the finest schools you can find. Contrary to what you see in television reality shows, becoming a top chef doesn't involve constant berating and public humiliation. Becoming a top chef involves a great deal of skill, practice, confidence, and creativity, all of which should be taught by well-trained and respected professionals in the field.

A top chef understands the fine balance between art and science, business and play. That's why it's important to register with only the finest and most prestigious chef school. You want instructors who will work with you to bring out your culinary skills and hone your intuition. A top chef knows how to read people and situations, works well under time restrictions, and knows how to take charge. Decisions need to be made and those decision can make or break fine dining establishments. What a career!

For people seeking a more fulfilling, challenging career, working towards a culinary diploma just might be the answer. Not everyone becomes a famous or world-renowned top chef, but every graduate of chef school will find fulfillment in his or her chosen field.

   
Going back to chef school seems overwhelming. What should I do first?

Preparing for Chef School

Before you can even begin to study at a prestigious chef school, you have to take care of business. That means finding a place to live (if relocation is necessary), securing the funds to pay for tuition, rallying support from family or friends, completing the application process and preparing supporting documents like your resume, essay requirements, medical documentation, transcripts.

Sometimes the process seems overwhelming for a prospective student, especially for mature students who may already have families of their own to consider and full-time jobs to maintain. Rather than lump everything into one big “to do” list, it's important for the prospective student to take it step-by-step. Anxiety will creep into the picture every now and then, but having a clear plan ahead of you will make the process that much easier.

Thinking of going to chef school? Want to learn how to become a chef? You can do it! Just follow these steps to get you started:

1) Research the best culinary schools to determine where you want to attend.

2) Talk to your family and friends about your plans. Be realistic about sacrifices that may have to be made while you get the education that's going to change life for you and your family.

3) Consider applying for scholarships or obtaining student loans for financial aid.

4) Will you be able to commute or do you have to relocate? Talk to the chef school's registrar about accommodations, cost, scholarships, etc.

5) Once you've built some confidence in your choice to attend chef school, complete the admission requirements and submit your application. Once you've been accepted into the program of your choice, you can start applying for scholarships.

It's back-to-school time! Prepare yourself mentally for an adventure that's going to drive your passion for learning and your ability to finally work in the career of your dreams.

   
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Patricia Walters-Fischer