Make Food Your Career
The typical culinary arts college will offer an associate's or a bachelor's degree in the culinary arts. (Make sure their degrees are accredited by a reputable accrediting agency.) These two to four year programs usually begin with basic kitchen and culinary skills common to many cuisines. Culinary students will learn the fundamentals of gastronomy, the identification and use of different ingredients, and the basic knife and kitchen skills needed to succeed in any restaurant. They will also receive basic instruction in baking and pastries. Candidates for the bachelor's degree will take liberal arts courses required to earn this degree; all these courses are not merely perfunctory, as they will prepare culinary students more deeply for the challenges and opportunities of the industry.
More advanced courses typically follow, focusing on the arts of specific cuisines. Each culinary arts college will differ in its offerings, but cuisine styles often include French, Italian, American and Asian. Aside from these cooking skills, students will also learn what it takes to run a restaurant: menu construction, costing, food safety, nutrition, and more. Culinary programs will also emphasize communications skills, such as writing and interpersonal communication, to prepare students for the business side of working in the food industry.
The best culinary arts colleges will offer the maximum amount of hands-on training. Students do spend time learning culinary theory and the aspects of international cuisines. Though this classroom instruction is important, students should spend many hours in the kitchen honing their craft. Some culinary schools run an externship program, in which students work at a restaurant for a month or more to get real-life kitchen experience. Many culinary schools also have in-house restaurants, staffed by students to offer a taste of the hustle and bustle of kitchen life. Look for schools that maximize 'learning by doing,' as this is the most effective way to learn the techniques and skills required for actual food production.
To graduate, students must successfully complete each course, including both written and practical examinations. These examinations put students' culinary skills to the test under the most rigorous scrutiny. Successful graduates are qualified for many jobs in the food service industry, from chef and restaurateur to management and research and development. Bon appétit!
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Corey Mitchell is a writer who focuses on topics relevant to food and the cooking industry. For those interested in attending culinary school, he recommends Baltimore International College.
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