Wednesday, March 02, 2005


Cooking School

People frequently ask me what I think of professional cooking schools. Well, I went to cooking school and I loved every minute of it, (made great friends and learned a lot, blah, blah) but I also think it is REALLY important that people thinking about going keep a few things in mind, (like loving to whip up fancy meals at home has almost nothing to do with churning out 400 dinners in four hours.) Think of this as a little reality check before you write that real (gynormous) check…

Cooking schools are for-profit TRADE SCHOOLS. Just to be clear, let me explain, cooking schools teach you – conceptually – how the food-service industry works. You will be learning more about costing out menus, safety and sanitation, how to fix an oven, how to butcher a rabbit and how to convert recipes into industrial quantities (in metric no less) and classic French techniques for making demi-glace than perfecting your coq au vin recipe. What they don't do is offer practical restaurant kitchen experience. (They make no secret of this fact either...once you are there, but they want your check first.) Sure they have a restaurant or two you do some time in, but they hardly reflect how things operate in the real world. You absolutely must keep that in mind. They ARE teaching you how the business works from all angles, which is what you are there for anyway, not just how to cook. And it is one tough business they are trying to prep you for.

So when people tell me they are considering going to cooking school, I tell them this: Get a job in the best restaurant that will have you, FIRST. (And learn to speak Spanish.) And while you are there make sure to ask everyone everything you can think of, taste everything and volunteer to do more. There is positively no better training. A professional kitchen is not for the timid, weak, faint of heart or those with frail egos. Cooks work long, (16 hour days are common) hot, repetitive, yet frantic days with little or no creative input (until they are the chefs themselves) for pretty low wages and then wake up the next day to do it again. They work holidays, weekends, birthdays and everything in-between. It's a lifestyle choice as much as it is a job. The rewards are that they get to do what they love, be with people of a like mind and they never go hungry.

After a few years, if you find you need a degree to move on, THEN go back to school…


Martha Stewart has shed 20 pounds while serving her sentence for lying to investigators
about a suspicious stock sale, through workouts, yoga and her distaste for prison food.
She will be released this weekend.

Interesting tidbit about Martha. Did she need to lose 20 pounds?

Doesn't cooking school give you a better chance to become that chef though? You know what sounds good to me? A cooking 'vacation'. You know those $3000 for 4 days cooking places they have spattered all over the US and probably more than a few in Italy.
You are so right. Most chefs never go to school and do really well anyway.
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