In today’s restaurant business there’s no denying the power of a good culinary arts degree on your resume. Old-school chefs may tell you that nothing beats hands-on experience, which is true, but more and more restaurants are looking for something substantial in the “education” space on your application. If you’ve decided to back to school, finding the right place is crucial.
Here are six tips for choosing a culinary school!
- Consider Your Future Career
Think carefully about where you want to go with your career and where you want to be in 10 years’ time and then look for a culinary school that matches your aspirations. If you want to own your own seafood restaurant, look for this as a specialism in the program. Or if you want to run your own bakery then see where you can find a combination of business management and baking.
- Check for ACF Accreditation
The professional chef’s organization the American Culinary Federation (ACF) accredits culinary schools and oversees the quality of culinary arts programs. An ACF-accredited school has to maintain an excellent standard of instruction as well as provide a good student-to-teacher ratio and good quality facilities. If you see the ACF badge on the school’s publicity, you can be sure that you’ll get a good education in food.
- Check the Age of the School
A culinary school that set up a few years ago in response to the increasing popularity of shows like “Top Chef” may not offer the experience and quality you need. Plus, the longer the school has been in operation, the more chances you’ll encounter one of its graduates making hiring decisions – many chefs love to hire “one of their own”.
- Check the Quality of the Facilities
However, if you are simply looking for the oldest school you may end up at the own with the worst facilities. Newer schools tend to have more modern kitchens and equipment. Weigh up how much you want to spend your degree in a new, shiny space with the quality of the institution and the courses on offer.
- Are You Getting Hands-On Instruction?
You certainly need to find out if there is a student-run restaurant that gives you the chance to experience how the real restaurant world works. But while most schools offer this, find out how realistic the experience will be. A small “show restaurant” won’t look particularly good on your resume and won’t give you the hands-on experience you need. If the program doesn’t offer hands-on restaurant experience look to intern in a real restaurant – check restaurant news sites to find out where to go.
- Look for Cheaper Alternatives
It’s no good running up a huge student loan at a school charging $40,000 or more if you don’t know how you will ever pay it off. Look for cheaper alternatives at local community colleges (many offer ACF accreditation). If you are a state resident you can often find affordable programs near to you.
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