Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need cooking experience?
Culinary arts programs start by building a strong foundation of cooking skills. You learn everything you need to know in school, so it doesn't matter how much or how little experience you have in cooking. Whether you've never diced an onion before or you are used to creating gourmet dishes on a regular basis, a culinary degree gives you the knowledge you need to work as a restaurant chef.
What type of degree can I earn?
There are three types of degrees you can start with; the options available to you depend on which school you attend. A culinary certificate takes about one year of full-time study, and it gives you a good overview of different chef duties and cooking skills. An Associate's degree includes more in-depth courses, so you may learn about international cuisines and advanced cooking methods. This degree takes two years of full-time work. A Bachelor's degree is the most comprehensive option, requiring four years of full-time study.
Are there any accrediting bodies for culinary schools?
You can look for schools that are accredited by the American Culinary Federation. If you attend an ACF-accredited school, you can feel safe knowing that you are attending a school with high educational standards, quality instructors, and accountability to a governing body.
What kind of job can I get with a culinary degree?
Culinary school prepares you for work as a cook or chef. Most new graduates start out as a line chef, since most kitchens require you to start out in this position. With experience and seniority, you may be able to become a sous chef or executive chef.
You may also find work as a private chef or catering chef. A culinary degree gives you experience and knowledge in many different cuisines and cooking methods, which you can use in a restaurant, in a private home, or at a party.
Do culinary arts programs prepare students for restaurant ownership?
Many new students enter culinary school with the hope of owning their own restaurant someday. If that describes you, then you are well on your way! Culinary school gives you many of the skills you need to succeed in the restaurant business. In addition, many schools let you take business or management courses. If your school does not offer business or management classes, you may want to seek out courses at another institution. Owning a restaurant comes with lots of responsibilities outside of knowing how to cook and prepare food, and business courses can prepare you for that.
What kind of practical experience can I get in culinary school?
Practical experience is at the core of every culinary program. While theory and book knowledge are both important, they don't help you at all if you can't perform when you're put in a kitchen. Many culinary schools have practice kitchens. You may spend most of your class time in here, using kitchen tools and working with food.
What's the difference between chef training programs and culinary arts programs?
These programs do have lots of similarities, and they are often offered at the same schools. Chef training is a specialized program that concentrates on all the duties of a chef, from menu creation to food preparation and business management. Culinary arts focuses only on the cooking aspect of a chef's career.
What kind of work environment will I have as a chef?
As a chef, you may have to work long hours that include nights, weekends, and holidays. Most kitchens are very fast-paced, hot, and loud. You may be required to work with many different people, both those who work in the kitchen and those who work in the front of the house.
What traits do I need to be a successful chef?
A good culinary arts or chef training program can help you cultivate the skills and traits required of successful chefs, but certain traits can definitely make this career easier for you. If you work well under pressure, are able to work with many different people with ease, and can take constructive criticism well, your transition into the culinary world can be much easier.