Today, we are lucky and live in a world where cooking is seen more and more as an art form and as a career. With culinary schools, tv shows like Chef's table on Netflix and phenomenal restaurants everywhere, who wouldn't want to try their hand at working in a restaurant?
This past summer, I got to work in a restaurant in Montreal and to go to culinary school in Paris. My time at Garde Manger was unforgettable and an amazing learning experience. I had so much fun and learnt so much that I almost didn't want to return to Le Cordon Bleu for intermediate cuisine.
My experience at Garde made me wonder... What is the point of culinary school anyways? Is it needed? After all, there seem to be lots of reasons why NOT to go...
What is Culinary School Really Like?
Classes include 3 hour demonstrations where you watch a chef cook a 3 course meal and then a 3 hour practical where you recreate the main dish.
In my opinion, the most important takeaways from culinary school include proper technique in the kitchen, exposure to a variety of ingredients, and practice in filleting fish and meat. Although the recipes were very traditional, I pushed myself to present my dishes with a modern twist and to excel in technique.
One of the most valuable aspects of culinary school is taking the time to ask chefs questions and to pick their brains about their experiences working at reputable restaurants. Every chef has a different way of doing something and culinary school is about figuring out what methods work for you.
Is Culinary School a Requirement?
In short– no. There is no BS in the kitchen and for better or worse, a well padded resume will not do you any good. To get a job in the kitchen of a restaurant, you almost always have to go through a trial. This is essentially a tryout where chefs see what you got and it becomes clear very quickly whether you can hold your own.
However, a diploma from culinary school is far from useless as well. If your goal is to work at 3 michelin starred restaurants or high end restaurants in hotels, having been to culinary school shows that you are serious about working in the kitchen as a career.
At end of the day culinary school, like any university, is an investment of time and money. Don't be fooled, it isn't cheap. However, it is a great foundation, especially if you don't really know your way around a kitchen or how to handle a knife well
I think culinary school teaches you a love for the art, it teaches you discipline, and it teaches you to respect the way things are done in the kitchen. If you aren't sure if working in a restaurant for 12+ hours a day is something you can stomach, culinary school is a great way to figure out if you have what it takes.