When you choose to enroll in culinary school, you may set your sights on becoming a chef or dream of working as a wedding cake designer. Even if you don’t know exactly what you want to do after you graduate, one thing is probably certain: you want your job to involve food, flavor, and hospitality.
However, change inevitably happens. You might graduate from culinary school and spend the rest of your life in the field. But maybe you’ll instead develop a new passion, or perhaps unexpected circumstances could lead you to pursue an alternative career. If you do end up straying away from the food service industry, you might begin to wonder, “Is all that time I spent in culinary school wasted?”
We’re here to save you from any fear of falling into a deep hole of regret. No matter where you ultimately end up in your professional life, you can still utilize many transferable skills gained in culinary school.
1. Time Management and Organization
Life always seems to throw something new at us. Just as we finish planning our schedules so we can get everything done on time, another task is piled onto our plates. Fortunately, a hectic kitchen can be one of the best places to learn how to deal with this seemingly endless list of demands.
When you’re working in a kitchen, there may appear to be a hundred things happening at once. Pots boil, flames ignite, and chefs call out orders. While this pressure can push some people to their breaking points, others learn how to thrive in this chaotic environment. One of the keys to success? Time management.
As a culinary school student, you can learn how to prioritize tasks so you can accomplish the most critical ones on time. You can begin to differentiate between what is important and what is urgent. And by learning fundamentals like mise en place, you may be able to develop an organizational routine that works for you.
Not only will you explore how to manage your own work, but you’ll also find ways to work with others in order to keep the whole operation running smoothly. This may involve jumping in to help team members who are immersed in the weeds, or delegating your own tasks if you find you’re overwhelmed.
2. Practical Business Skills
While culinary school can teach you how to combine flavors and create delectable dishes, there’s more to a successful culinary career than delicious food. That’s why students also hone important business skills.
Escoffier students can learn about managing food costs during Food Service Math and Accounting. These skills are often essential if someone wants to be involved in a profitable restaurant, catering business, or food truck. Students may also have the opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship skills such as strategic planning, understanding government regulation, and proper business ethics.
Even if you don’t end up working in the culinary industry, these skills can come in handy if you decide to start your own business. And no matter where you end up, knowing a bit more about taxes, accounting, and business ethics can help you to more expertly navigate your career and finances.
3. Ability to Lead Teams
When you want to connect people around a common goal or achieve something that’s bigger than yourself, you’ll often need to call on your leadership skills. And no, this doesn’t necessarily mean stepping up on a podium or barking out orders.
“Culinary school taught me to be in touch with the classic dishes from around the world. Most of all, it was a concentration on technique. Also, it provided the opportunity to work in a team environment with a bunch of other chefs to put together a meal.”
Jeffrey Lammer, Kitchen Manager, Root Down Restaurant; Boulder Culinary Arts graduate*
Culinary school can teach you that being a leader often means stepping in and doing what needs to be done, regardless of how menial the job seems. That may entail showing a co-worker how to complete a task more efficiently or it could involve taking out the trash when your team is on a roll and disrupting their process would hinder the ultimate outcome.
While you’re a student at Escoffier, you can have the opportunity to learn from talented and experienced leaders, your Chef Instructors. These professionals demonstrate the knowledge, compassion, and humility that great leaders possess.
4. Problem Solving Under Stress
While it would be nice if life in the kitchen always went as planned, this isn’t the case. Ingredient shortages, customer allergies, and broken equipment can force culinary professionals to adapt on the fly and come up with creative solutions.
Culinary school provides an arena for students to make mistakes and learn from them. With the guidance of Chef Instructors, students can learn to view kitchen problems with an inquisitive rather than a defeatist attitude.
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“My chef educators took a difficult task, really broke it down, and challenged us to retrace our steps even when we made mistakes to understand why the pastry may not have turned out perfectly,” says Megan Sloan, a pastry arts graduate.*
Even if you don’t end up in a culinary career, every industry will probably involve working with some types of stressors – such as tight deadlines, vague goals, or angry customers. Culinary school can help prepare you to deal with these challenges and complete your work, even when unexpected problems arise.
5. Calm and Clear Communication
Learning how to articulately express your thoughts, listen to the needs of others, and control your emotions will help you effectively communicate – a skill that’s valuable in every workplace.
Students at Escoffier have countless opportunities to develop their communication skills. They can interact with classmates and receive feedback from their Chef Instructors, improving as they go.
All that practice can come together in a culinary externship, when students have the opportunity to communicate with new people in a working kitchen. If you can effectively communicate as tickets pile up, knives dice, and pots and pans clang, you’ll probably be able to do so in calmer environments as well.
As a Bonus… Self-Confidence
After you’ve obtained the skills a culinary education can provide, it may be no surprise to witness your self-confidence soar. And that’s something to celebrate. When others might be doubting you, this belief in yourself will allow you to keep working towards what you know you’re capable of.
“The most valuable part of my Escoffier education was building up the confidence that I needed – not just in an amazing career field that I love, but also to wake up, look life in the eye, and ask ‘s that all you’ve got?’, and continue to be in that empowering mindset no matter the challenges I face.”Tessa Norman, Online Pastry Arts Graduate*
Plus, knowing how to create delicious dishes for you and your loved ones is an empowering skill in and of itself. Whether a customer wants a celebratory dinner or your family member needs a nourishing meal, they can call on you to help.
Start Your Culinary Journey
Maybe you’ll work as a sous chef or food photographer. Or perhaps you’ll toss aside your apron to pursue a law degree. No matter what lies ahead, culinary school can provide you with skills that could set you up for success in any professional arena.
If you’re interested in exploring all Escoffier has to offer, contact us today to learn more about our various programs.
Are you interested in learning more about the value of culinary school? Check out these articles next:
- How Long Does it Take to Get an Online Culinary Arts Degree?
- Job or School: Why Not Both?
- Culinary School Pros and Cons: Who It’s for, Who It’s Not for, and How to Decide If It’s for You
This article was originally published on May 10, 2018, but 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.