Culinary School Pros and Cons: How to Decide if It’s For You (2023)

April 26, 2022

Whether you’re a high school student debating your next move… an established adult considering a career change… or an experienced cook looking to advance your skills or start your own business… Attending culinary school is a big decision that involves many considerations.

What are the pros? What are the cons? Is a culinary degree the right choice for you?

Culinary school may open up new career opportunities, expose students to mentors and an extensive network of culinarians, and can teach useful skills and techniques. Plus, if you love to experiment in the kitchen, it can also be a lot of fun!

But it’s not for everyone. The guidance that comes with culinary school also requires an investment — an investment of your time, effort, financial resources, and months or years of hard work. If you’re on the fence, this list of culinary school pros and cons may help you decide to take the next steps, or pursue your career path another way.

Culinary School Pros and Cons

  • The Pros of Culinary School
  • The Cons of Culinary School
  • Who is Culinary School Right For?

The Pros of Culinary School

There are myriad benefits to earning a culinary degree or diploma, from mentorship to career opportunities. Here are a few to consider while you weigh your options.

Culinary School Can Open Up More Career Opportunities

A culinary school education is not a requirement in order to have a career in food or a professional kitchen. But it can certainly help.

After all, hiring managers generally look for staff members they can spend the least amount of time, energy, and financial resources for training on the job. By bringing an established skillset from culinary school – and indicating that you have the wherewithal to work hard and earn a degree – you can be a big draw for hiring chefs.

Culinary school can also help prove your dedication to food as a career, not just a job. In an industry where turnover can be high, chefs may prefer a candidate who is committed to a career in food, rather than one who simply sees the position as a temporary job.

“If somebody goes to culinary school, it shows extra commitment and follow through…it’s a ‘gold star’ on their resume.”*
Josh Hasho, Executive Chef, Omni Hotels & Resorts

If you don’t plan to work in a professional kitchen, culinary school still has the potential to improve career prospects. If you were hiring a food critic, wouldn’t you prefer one who has the culinary knowledge to back up their writing skills?

(Video) Culinary Arts School - Pros vs Cons - Real Chef with Bachelors Degree

Omni Hotels & Resorts Executive Chef Josh Hasho says culinary school is a gold star on a resume.

Study with a Variety of Chef Instructors in Culinary School

In culinary school, students have the opportunity to learn from and interact with multiple Chef Instructors throughout their programs. These industry professionals include Certified Executive Chefs®, James Beard Award-winners, chefs who have worked in Michelin Star restaurants, and restaurant owners. This means exposure to a variety of worldviews, techniques, and culinary styles.

Access to these experienced culinary experts also may provide opportunities for mentorship as well as ongoing networking. Some graduates even build long-term relationships with their Chef Instructors, and personally stay in touch throughout their careers for advice. From tips on working your way up in a busy kitchen to embarking on the journey of entrepreneurship, these passionate teachers are eager to share their knowledge after having paved the way for future generations of culinarians.

With their diverse backgrounds, our large group of Chef Instructors can give students a more well-rounded culinary education than if they simply learned from one executive chef or mentor on the job.

Culinary School Pros and Cons: How to Decide if It’s For You (1)

Culinary School Pros and Cons: How to Decide if It’s For You (2)“You have mentors in a restaurant setting, but you won’t get the variety. At Escoffier, you’re exposed to 10+ executive chefs, and you’re surrounded by them every day. There’s a wealth of mentorship at your fingertips.”*
Chef Shane Witters Hicks, Escoffier Boulder Graduate & Private Chef, The Soulful Spread

Access Networking Opportunities as a Student and Alumnus

In culinary school, your networking opportunities aren’t limited to your Chef Instructors. There’s an entire network in your peers as well.

Students may meet dozens of like-minded students while they study. These fellow students may be at various points in their own culinary careers, from beginners to experienced cooks and chefs looking to improve their skills. These students can serve as future resources for job opportunities, moral support, and further education.

The Essential Culinary Career Guide

The Essential Culinary Career Guide

What's your ideal culinary career: Fine dining? Your own restaurant? Pastry? Get our self-evaluation guide to find out!

Culinary School Pros and Cons: How to Decide if It’s For You (3)

We’ve compiled a checklist of all of the essential questions into one handy guide: career options, culinary interest surveys, educational opportunities, and more.

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Culinary School Pros and Cons: How to Decide if It’s For You (4)

(Video) Pros & Cons of Being a Pastry Chef | An Honest Look into the Pastry Chef Career | By Andreja

Culinary School Pros and Cons: How to Decide if It’s For You (5)

Clicking the "Get the Guide Now" button constitutes your express written consent to be contacted via phone, text, and/or emails by Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts at the number(s)/email you provided, regarding furthering your education. You understand that these calls may be generated using an automated technology. You can unsubscribe at any time or request removal of street address, phone number, email address via Escoffier website.

Escoffier graduates also get access to the Escoffier Alumni Association, so they can expand their network to former graduates that may have advanced further in their careers.

All Escoffier students also complete at least one hands-on industry externship during their programs. This real-world experience has the benefit of giving students a position to put on their resumes, and provides yet another networking opportunity. Co-workers and supervisors at your externship may know about new job openings and opportunities in the future!

A large network can also help future restaurant or food truck owners to find qualified candidates when they’re in a position to do the hiring.

Culinary School Pros and Cons: How to Decide if It’s For You (6)“One of the lessons I learned from Escoffier is that it’s our job to pass on all of our information or knowledge to the next generation. I was fortunate enough to have Escoffier pass its knowledge to me, and now it’s my turn to pass that knowledge down.”*
Douglas Rhoades, Escoffier Graduate & Chef, Mcmurdo Station, Antarctica

(Video) What its really like to be a Chef! Pros and Cons from a Professional Chef

Gain Exposure to Advanced Techniques and Cuisines From Around The World

When working in a professional kitchen, your job is to execute the prep or cooking necessary to serve that predetermined menu to customers. While you may learn those 10 or 20 dishes quickly, your opportunity to learn more varied techniques can be limited.

A good culinary school curriculum is one that builds on itself, scaffolding your knowledge day by day. Since earning a culinary degree isn’t tied to any specific menu, students get to explore a wider variety of skills, from basic knife skills and sanitation methods to more complex world cuisines and advanced cooking techniques — all in 30 to 60 weeks!

Culinary School Pros and Cons: How to Decide if It’s For You (7)

Develop Lifelong Good Habits in the Kitchen

Speed is vital in a professional kitchen. This means that some cooks may learn to take shortcuts to move more quickly.

These shortcuts could include rushing through inventory, estimating weights instead of using a scale, or turning up the temperature on the oven. And the result can be wasted product, sub-standard food, or a sloppy workstation.

In culinary school, students are expected to develop good habits and discipline from the beginning. They must arrive on time, in a clean uniform, ready to work. Organization and cleanliness are paramount in a successful cook, which is why starting with good habits is so important.

Culinary School Pros and Cons: How to Decide if It’s For You (8)“One of my main takeaways from Escoffier was discipline. The mise en place is no joke. I understood it’s a mindset, and coming to the table prepared starts with something as simple as getting your knife sharpened and getting your coat pressed.”*
Chef Freida Nicole Davenport, Escoffier Graduate & Owner, Freida’s Sweets And Meats

Even for students who have already spent several years working in professional kitchens, culinary school can help them to refresh their habits, get back to the fundamentals, and become more efficient and effective overall.

The Cons of Culinary School

While there aren’t too many “cons” to attending culinary school, there may be some challenges. And depending where you are in your career, it may not be the right time. Here are some challenges you should consider before applying.

Culinary School Requires a Time Commitment

Education takes time. Getting your education may delay your ability to make big changes, like getting a new job, taking a vacation, or starting a new business.

Still, unlike a 4-year degree program, Escoffier students can earn their culinary diploma in just 30 weeks, and their culinary degree in as little as 60 weeks. If you don’t go to culinary school, those 30 or 60 weeks will still fly by… But at the end, instead of having a culinary degree or diploma in hand, you might still be operating with the same set of culinary skills you had at the beginning.

Culinary School Requires a Financial Investment

“Just filling out the application and the FAFSA were the most difficult things I had to do to get the process rolling. The Financial Aid Department was great at communicating with me. Jordan and the team at Escoffier were always emailing me back and letting me know where I was and how things were going.”*
Brent Unruh, Escoffier Culinary Arts Graduate

Except for the rare case where a student finds ample scholarships that cover 100% of the costs, culinary school is not free. There is still a financial investment required to attend.

Fortunately, financial aid is available to Escoffier students who apply and qualify to help fund their in-person or online culinary school programs.


Culinary school students may also see a financial return on their investment. Some employers might be willing to pay more for culinary school graduates, so they can benefit from that formal training in their kitchens.

It Might Be a Challenge to Juggle Work, Family, and School Responsibilities

Culinary school students often have to work while they’re in school to continue paying the bills. And some are later-in-life students, who also have families to look after. This can make attending school for hours per day a bit of a challenge.

Escoffier’s online culinary school programs can help meet this unique set of circumstances. Students can complete these programs on their schedule, as long as they meet the required course deadlines. Watch instructional videos and practice those skills at night after the kids are asleep, or even early in the morning before work.

Escoffier student Katie Sualog does just that – balances family life, career, and education. In fact, she started her degree program online before transferring to the Escoffier Austin campus. A mother of two, she also runs a home-based bakery while she’s earning her degree.

Culinary School Pros and Cons: How to Decide if It’s For You (9)

Plus, each Escoffier student is assigned a Success Coach to help them if they run into trouble or are struggling with any part of their programs. These motivators and problem solvers are in your corner to help you right through to graduation day.

So, Who Is Culinary School Right For?

Put it all together… and what does it mean? Culinary school may be the right path for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of cooking and food. It’s an excellent option for future cooks who dream of a culinary career — which could mean working in a professional kitchen or opening a restaurant or food truck, or working in an alternative career as a food photographer, food writer, chef consultant, recipe developer, and more.

Culinary School Pros and Cons: How to Decide if It’s For You (10)

It’s also for people who see education as an investment in themselves and in their futures, and who understand that there is great potential to see both financial and personal returns on that investment.

If that sounds like you, culinary school just might be the right path.

To get a little more insight into the value of culinary education, try these articles next:

  • How Much Does Culinary School Cost and How Can You Pay For It?
  • College Not For You? Try Culinary School
  • Why Older Students Should Consider Culinary School

This article was originally published on May 4, 2021, and has since been updated.

*Information may not reflect every student’s experience. Results and outcomes may be based on several factors, such as geographical region or previous experience.

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College Not For You? Try Culinary School.How Much Does Culinary School Cost and How Can You Pay For It?Why Older Students Should Consider Culinary School
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How do I know if culinary school is right for me? ›

Culinary school can be the right choice if you can afford it. It can be right choice if you're sure you want a food-related career. (Work in a restaurant before you decide to make it your life, seriously.) It can be the right choice if you get into a good school with great teachers and useful connections.

What are the cons of culinary school? ›

It Might Be a Challenge to Juggle Work, Family, and School Responsibilities. Culinary school students often have to work while they're in school to continue paying the bills. And some are later-in-life students, who also have families to look after. This can make attending school for hours per day a bit of a challenge.

Should I go to culinary school if I dont know how do you cook? ›

Culinary school is a place to learn, and that means that you do not have to know how to cook before you take those classes! You can learn what you need to know once you're there.

Is career in culinary worth it? ›

As far as financial ROI goes, three out of four people said that culinary school was absolutely worth it — and two of them graduated completely debt-free, as a result of scholarships and personal savings. Only one person felt it wasn't. At the end of the day, if this decision is in front of you, follow your heart.

Is being a chef a stressful job? ›

Is Being a Chef Stressful? Yes! A career in the culinary profession is a stressful endeavor that can lead to chef burnout – a real problem in the culinary workplace today. Psychologists define burnout as a syndrome resulting from unmanageable stress, exhaustion and negativism related to one's job.

Is being a chef worth? ›

Being a chef allows food fans to follow their passion and carve out a career that they love. Not only that, a culinary career will give you: Job satisfaction - it's a hugely rewarding career with plenty of opportunities to excel and experience a great sense of achievement on a daily basis.

What are the risks of being a chef? ›

Common hazards include burns from hot ovens, falls on slippery floors, and cuts from knives and other sharp objects, but these injuries are seldom serious. To reduce the risk of harm, workers often wear long-sleeve shirts and nonslip shoes.

Why do I want to be a chef? ›

Chefs can use their professional talents in their daily lives for everything from daily cooking to special occasion banquets. You can impress your friends and loved ones, eat more healthily and even simply feel confident that you will always be able to make a delicious meal out of the most humble of ingredients.

Do you need to know math to be a chef? ›

While cooks and chefs don't need science or math degrees, they do need a working knowledge of the principles of numbers, chemistry, and biology.

Is studying culinary hard? ›

In short—culinary school can challenge students to learn new terminology, new techniques, and some of the science behind those techniques. It can be technical and complex, requiring students to focus on both minute detail and the larger picture all at once.

Can you call yourself a chef if you didn't go to culinary school? ›

Yes. You can become a successful chef without going to culinary school. There is no special degree or certification that makes someone a chef. The title is earned through hard work and experience.

Where do cooks get paid the most? ›

Cook Salary By State FAQs

The highest-paid state for cooks is Hawaii with an average salary of $44,295 per year. What city pays cooks the most? Seattle, WA pays cooks the most with an average salary of $37,003 per year.

What culinary job pays the most? ›

High Paying Executive Chef Jobs
  • Corporate Executive Chef. Salary range: $82,000-$104,500 per year. ...
  • Research Chef. Salary range: $50,500-$95,500 per year. ...
  • Chef De Cuisine. Salary range: $54,500-$80,500 per year. ...
  • Chef. Salary range: $31,000-$64,500 per year. ...
  • Banquet Chef. ...
  • Culinary Chef. ...
  • Chef Manager. ...
  • Food Stylist.

Do chefs make enough money? ›

Yes, chefs make good money.

The average annual salary of a chef in the United States is $52,160. This role's average is at an all-time high and surpasses the average national wage.

What is a student chef called? ›

Junior Chef (Commis Chef)

A junior chef, also called the commis chef, works with station chefs to learn about the kitchen environment. This person has recently completed some schooling or training and is beginning to work in the culinary field.

How long do most culinary schools last? ›

Culinary and cooking school can take anywhere from a few short months to four years, depending on the chosen length of culinary school. There are different options you can choose when you enroll, and factors that can affect the length of your studies. For instance, professional culinary training can take 2 to 4 years.

What are the benefits of going to culinary school? ›

Reasons to Attend Culinary School: 4 Benefits of Earning a Culinary Arts Degree
  • Learn How to Cook and Create.
  • Gain Real-World Culinary Experience.
  • Culinary Networking Opportunities.
  • Have the Skills to Start Your Own Business and Restaurant.
Dec 16, 2022

Is chef a happy career? ›

Is becoming a chef a good career choice? That's a question many people are asking themselves. The answer, of course, depends on your circumstances. But if you're prepared to work hard and put in the time and effort, then becoming a chef can be a very rewarding career.

What is the hardest job in the kitchen? ›

Expeditor The Hardest Job in the Kitchen You've Never Heard Of
  • at all. The work of a good expeditor is in the pacing of your dinner. ...
  • move. Great expeditors are precise, strategic and terrifically organized, with an uncanny, up- ...
  • everywhere — to the cooks, to the front of the house, everywhere!

What is the hardest part of being a chef? ›

Here are the five biggest challenges I face in my role as a Chef.
  • Competition.
  • Customer expectations.
  • Staff Retention and Recruitment. ...
  • Sustainability.

Is chef a low paying job? ›

Chefs tend to make far more than any state or federal minimum wage, and the position of chef -- sometimes also called head cook -- tends to be the highest-paid kitchen position in most restaurants.

Is there a chef shortage? ›

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Restaurants across the country are facing a growing labor shortage in the kitchen. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the need for chefs and head cooks will rise by 25% by 2030. An average of about 18,800 openings for chefs and head cooks are projected each year over the decade.

Do chefs get days off? ›

You can expect to work 40-45 hours per week in your chef jobs at a hotel with about 2 days off per week. The cook jobs at hotels offer shifts normally starting early in the morning until around 11 or 12 pm, and then the evening shift will be from lunch until after dinner.

Are chefs in high demand? ›

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for chefs and head cooks is far outpacing the number of students interested in those careers. The bureau projects the need for head cooks and chefs will rise 25% by 2030, far faster than the 8% growth rate for other occupations.

How many hours do chefs work? ›

As a guide, the standard chef position demands 50-plus hours a week, including nights, weekends and holidays. For a chef job in a restaurant, expect to work 7 days a week for 12 to 14 hours each shift. And that's pretty much the industry standard.

What is the lifespan of a chef? ›

The average life expectancy for people in this profession has risen to around 76 years the past few years, but it remains among the most vulnerable occupations. This may be due to several factors, including lifestyle.

Do chefs make mistakes? ›

They are worried they will create a “disaster” of some sort and that their attempt to make a new recipe will become completely inedible. What they fail to realize is that even professional chefs regularly make mistakes.

Do chefs have health issues? ›

Chefs at every level of the industry face injuries and health problems due to the nature of their work. These issues range from problems caused by the job itself – such as back pain and arthritis – to problems caused by the unavoidable lifestyle that comes with being a chef.

Why do chefs wear tall hats? ›

Traditionally, the height of the chef's hat was meant to signify station and rank in the kitchen. The executive chef wore the tallest hat in the kitchen, and the hats got a bit shorter as you go down the line.

What are the top 10 chef interview questions and answers? ›

Top Answers to Chef Interview Questions
  • What is Chef? ...
  • Explain the major components of Chef? ...
  • What is a Chef resource and what are its functions? ...
  • What are Chef Resources and its functions? ...
  • What is a Chef Node and what is its importance? ...
  • What is the difference between a Cookbook and a Recipe in Chef?
Jan 10, 2023

What kind of math do chefs use? ›

Culinary math begins with the basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division along with ratios, yields, and percentages. Ingredients must be measured and scaled accurately, food production quantities are calculated, and recipes are increased or decreased to scale based on demand.

What subjects should I choose to become a chef? ›

Course Subjects
  • Introduction to Hospitality.
  • Culinary Skills.
  • Indian Cuisine.
  • Baking Skills.
  • Food Commodities.
  • Gastronomy.
  • Food Management Facilities.
  • Personality Development.

How many years do you study culinary? ›

Although the entire Culinary Arts Programcan take up to four years, the skills and techniques that you will develop is worth the while. Completing a Bachelor's Degree in Culinary Arts has a lot of benefits.

Do you learn math in culinary school? ›

Though some people choose some fields to avoid STEM classes, almost every field has some mathematics in it. Culinary arts, though they are “arts,” are no exception. Culinary math is a broad descriptor for the fractions, multiplication, addition, subtraction, and conversions needed to be fluent and fast in a kitchen.

What age is too late to become a chef? ›

Is There an Age Cutoff for Becoming a Chef? It is never too late to become a chef! This career has no age limits, and there are many successful chefs who found culinary arts later in life.

Can I get a job as a chef with no experience? ›

You could start as a kitchen assistant or trainee chef, known as commis chef. You could then work your way up while learning on the job.

Is culinary school tough? ›

In short—culinary school can challenge students to learn new terminology, new techniques, and some of the science behind those techniques. It can be technical and complex, requiring students to focus on both minute detail and the larger picture all at once.

Does culinary school teach you how do you cook? ›

Culinary school will teach you not only the foundational methods of cooking but also life lessons including discipline to organization, problem-solving and time management.

What are some things one must consider when selecting culinary college or university? ›

How to Choose the Best Culinary College
  • Accredited, Not-for-Profit College. ...
  • Hands-on and General Education Learning. ...
  • Flexibility in Completing Your Degree. ...
  • Expert Faculty from the Industry. ...
  • Culinary College in a Campus Environment. ...
  • Return on Your Investment and Alumni Success.

Is it hard to get into Institute of culinary Education? ›

ICE is a for-profit college located in Manhattan, New York in the New York City Area. It is a small institution with an enrollment of 35 undergraduate students. The ICE acceptance rate is 100%.

Is being a culinary chef worth it? ›

Working as a chef gives you more freedom and allows you to be more creative than just about any other career. Cooking also encourages you to make adjustments and create new and interesting flavors. Even recipes are just guidelines, and you can change the ratios and add new ingredients to make a dish your own.

What are the 5 skills taught in culinary school? ›

5 Most Important Cooking Skills Taught In Culinary Schools:
  • Skill No-1: Knife Skills. Undoubtedly, the most important tool in a kitchen is the knife. ...
  • Skill No-2: Sauce Skills. ...
  • Skill No-3: Cooking With Herbs And Spices. ...
  • Skill No-4: Different Cooking Methods. ...
  • Skill No-5: Knowledge About Nutritional Science.

What are the 5 basic cooking skills? ›

  • KNIFE SKILLS. Whether you are chopping a carrot or fresh herbs, a basic understanding of culinary knife skills should be the first thing you master in the kitchen. ...
  • SAUTEEING. ...
  • ROASTING. ...
  • BLANCHING. ...
Jun 5, 2017

What's the first thing you learn in culinary school? ›

Slick Knife Skills:

This is why knife skills are among the first things taught in culinary school. You'll first learn how to hold a knife, where to grip it (most beginner cooks grip a knife too far back on the handle) and where to hold your guide hand.

What are the four main things you should consider when choosing a college? ›

What to Look for in a College: 7 Factors to Consider
  • Geographic Location. Location is one of the most significant factors in choosing a college for many students. ...
  • Academic Majors Available. ...
  • Academic Quality. ...
  • School Size. ...
  • Overall Cost. ...
  • Campus Environment. ...
  • Resources and Support Systems.

What are the most important qualities as a culinary chef? ›

Six skills of the perfect chef
  • Adaptability. The perfect chef is flexible and adapts to the needs and requests of clients. ...
  • Determination. The perfect chef takes care of all the details service after service. ...
  • Creativity. ...
  • Research. ...
  • Accuracy and responsibility. ...
  • Forecast and planning.

What are your reasons for choosing this school? ›

Here are a number of aspects you must consider before selecting a school for your child.
  • A space that's conducive to learning.
  • Management that's guided by a leader.
  • A team of teachers that has the capacity and training.
  • Curriculum that's future-ready.
  • Technology that can enhance learning experiences.
Aug 24, 2021

What is the #1 culinary school in America? ›

#1: Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park

The Culinary Institute of America was founded in 1946 and is one of the best culinary schools in the world. With campuses in New York, California, and Texas, it has many options for students across the country.

What is the number 1 cooking school in the world? ›

Best Culinary Institutes in the World
  • Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts.
  • Castello di Vicarello.
  • Hattori Nutrition College.
  • Kendall College School of Culinary Arts.
  • Le Cordon Bleu, Paris.
  • New England Culinary Institute.
  • The Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park.
  • The International Culinary Center.


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