So you want to become a chef. There are a few different routes to this challenging, rewarding career, but all of them require training and commitment. Many people believe that a chef is just a cook who’s in charge. However, almost all chefs earn their culinary and leadership knowledge through a combination of culinary arts school, an apprenticeship, and experience on the line in a kitchen. We’ll walk you through a few different paths to become a chef and address the pros and cons so you can decide what is the best option for you.
Why Study Culinary Arts
The biggest advantage of going to culinary school is the level of well-rounded training you receive in classical cooking techniques. If you start out your career by gaining experience working in a kitchen, your knowledge and style is limited by whoever is training you in that kitchen. In school, you’ll have several culinary instructors bringing diverse knowledge from their experience as chefs in the industry. You’ll learn traditional French sauces, cuts, pastry chef techniques and more. Culinary school will teach you everything you will need to know when you step into a real kitchen to ensure you swim rather than sink.
Furthermore, you have the opportunity to mess up. If you want to become a chef at a high-end restaurant, you’ll start off working the line and work your way up. Working the line in a high-end kitchen is an extremely demanding job, with little room for error. In a culinary school classroom, your instructors are committed to your success and are invested in teaching you the skills you need to succeed.
Lastly, you demonstrate your commitment to employers by starting off at culinary school. Regardless of whether you go to culinary school or not, you’ll need to find a good kitchen and show up with humility and willingness to learn. However, your investment in your own knowledge and skills at culinary school will serve you as a foundation for your entire career and will emphasize that you are committed to continuously learning and improving your craft.
The Challenges of Culinary School
The only disadvantage of going to culinary school is the cost to attend. Regardless of the route you take, you will start your career as a chef working as a line cook in a kitchen. You will not be earning very much at that time, so you’ll have to find a way to manage any debt you take on from school. Consider a reputable culinary arts program at a public technical college. These often overlooked programs provide high quality chef training at a fraction of the cost of some of the bigger names.
One of the best ways to gain hands-on experience after you’ve completed culinary school is to work for free in the kitchen of the best chef you can find. In the industry, this is called “staging.” While very few restaurants offer this nowadays, if you can find an opportunity for staging and a way to survive financially in the meantime, you will get rapid fire training and a wealth of knowledge.
Paying your dues is a must in the restaurant industry. Working at least one year on the line in the kitchen of a good restaurant is how you gain the practical experience that you need to begin moving up the ladder to executive chef. You’ll refine your culinary skills and learn to manage the heavy workload at a busy restaurant. The environment can be brutal, but will also give you the skills and confidence you need to continue your journey. As you work your way up to executive chef, you’ll need to gain management experience as well as culinary experience, since the chef’s job is to lead a team, manage inventory, and execute the menu perfectly every time.
According to top chefs, spending less than one year at a good restaurant is burning a bridge. Look for the best kitchen you can possibly work at, and plan to commit at least one year to the first kitchen before making a move. Make your selection based on the chef and the skills you want to learn, and challenge yourself to go outside your comfort zone.
This depends on your goals as a chef. Once you complete school, you’ll need to spend time working in the industry before moving into the role of executive chef. If you are looking to rise to the top position at a high end restaurant, your journey could take well over a decade as you work your way up the ladder. However, if you plan to work in more casual restaurants or start your own business, your path to head chef could take only a few years. The Professional Culinary Arts & Hospitality program at Lake Tech takes approximately 40 weeks to complete, less than a year!
According to Glassdoor, Executive Chefs make between $22,000 and $68,000 per year. Chefs in a 5 star, luxury environment can earn up to $100,000 per year. Some celebrity chefs earn much more than the national average.
A sous chef is second in command in a professional kitchen. The sous chef holds almost as much responsibility as the executive chef, or even more in terms of duties. The sous chef is often responsible for managing the rest of the kitchen staff and executing the menu to the executive chef’s specifications. Proving yourself as an excellent sous chef is usually the last step before securing a position as an executive chef.
Culinary School Orlando
Located near Orlando, FL, Lake Technical College is one of the best culinary schools in the area. Our Culinary Arts program boasts a high graduation and employment rate, preparing you to immediately begin your career in restaurants, resorts, hospitals, cruise ships, and more. Our hands-on culinary class curriculum and pastry school classes ensure you have the skills to put your passion into practice. If you are in Central Florida searching for “Chef School”, “Cooking School” or “Culinary Schools Near Me”, call us at (352) 589-2250 or apply online to get started today.