May 20, 2020

If you have dreams of becoming a chef or a restaurant owner, you have likely started looking into the value of culinary school. And we’re betting you’ve heard someone say culinary school isn’t worth it, or that you should just work your way to the top. These are popular arguments against attending culinary school, but that doesn’t mean it is the right path for everybody.

Yes, some chefs worked their way up from line cooks to executive chefs, but that doesn’t mean it is easy or the right way to go. There are just as many chefs who found success by attending culinary schools, including famous chefs Julia Child, Emeril Lagasse, and Bobby Flay, and who vouch for the importance of attending culinary school.

For example, Food & Wine magazine suggests, “If you’re a career-changer, culinary school is a must; even if you’re not, however, most of the chefs we spoke to agreed that culinary school gave you a certain mobility that you’d lack otherwise.”

As you will see, there are many reasons why culinary school education is beneficial for those who aspire to become chefs.

Teaches the Essentials

First, culinary schools are designed to help students learn their way around the kitchen. They teach students the culinary foundations, such as safe food handling. At Escoffier, our programs cover the basics of restaurant operations, foodservice math and accounting, entrepreneurship, the science of nutrition, and much more.

Joshua Massin, Chef of Nobo Wine & Grill, explains to Food & Wine, “When I was offered the opportunity to have an ownership stake in a restaurant, that’s when things I learned in culinary school became really valuable.” Massin specifies the “skills of menu planning, facilities design, cost control, legal education, and general management techniques” as reasons why culinary school helped him succeed. These are skills you may not learn by simply working your way up.

Covers More Than the One Kitchen

Yes, cooks can learn a lot just by spending time in the kitchen. However, this also means they are limited to only learning things from that particular kitchen and only one type of cuisine.

Escoffier online culinary arts graduate Anthony Avasakdi“Learning in school and learning on the job are very much different from each other. Today classical cooking and learning the basics of true culinary arts skills is not taught in the career world but in school you can learn that, and I feel that it is a core part of culinary arts that every chef should have the opportunity to learn.”
Anthony Avasakdi, Online Culinary Arts Graduate, Executive Chef and Manager of Culinary & Operator Support Services, Ventura Foods

In contrast, culinary school teaches students how to cook a wide variety of cuisines, such as in Escoffier’s World Cuisines Culinary Arts course. As Matthew Francis Johnson, a junior producer at BuzzFeed Tasty, explains to Food & Wine, “For example, you’ll study cuisines of Asia for three weeks, cuisines of the Mediterranean for three weeks […] By the time you finish your associates […], you have a great background in all different types of food vs. working for three to five years in one restaurant with one type of cuisine.”

Shows Students are Invested

Culinary school is an investment. When students opt to spend time and money for a culinary education, it sends a message to potential employers that they are serious about their education and career. Joshua Hasho, an Executive Chef for Omni Hotels & Resorts, explains, “I’ve hired Escoffier students in the past because I’ve noticed a different work ethic that they possess […] It was a very consistent, hardworking, positive attitude.”

Increases Chances of Being Hired

A major reason why culinary school is preferable is that it increases an individual’s chances of being hired. Research shows that the majority of employers prefer that employees, particularly managers, have a culinary or pastry arts-related certification. Employers value the technical skills and commitment the culinary school certification represents. Ultimately, when given a choice between a candidate with or without certification, research indicates most employers prefer the certified candidate.1

Boosts Earning Potential

Not only does a culinary school degree make individuals more desirable employees, but it also boosts their earning potential. Since employers see the value in their certification, employers often reward these individuals with higher wages.

Enhances Future Career Growth Possibilities

With the knowledge and skills taught at culinary school, students are likely to know more about running a kitchen than those without a culinary degree, such as cost control and management techniques. As a result, these individuals are more likely to advance in their careers.

Escoffier culinary arts graduate Max Feist“Honestly, without [culinary education] I wouldn’t be nearly as successful. The knowledge I gained helped me rise quickly as a chef. I may have still started at the bottom rungs of the ladder, but I certainly wouldn’t be working where I am now.”
Max Feist, Culinary Arts Graduate

For instance, having restaurant operations knowledge enables people to move from being line cooks to being executive chefs at high-end restaurants. Food & Wine explains, “If you want to be the chef-owner of a haute cuisine restaurant, culinary school is pivotal.”

Provides Hands-On Training with Distinguished Chefs

Another reason why a culinary school education is preferable to simply working your way up is the variety of chefs who teach. When you are trying to work your way up, you only learn from the chef where you are employed. In contrast, students at culinary schools get exposed to several esteemed chefs. For instance, culinary schools employ James Beard Award nominees and chefs from some of the most popular restaurants in the world.

Male chef instructor showing female culinary student how to chop vegetables

In addition to learning from multiple first-class chefs, students receive one-on-one coaching. Chef Instructors are there to teach and coach students, so they are willing and able to answer questions, which is not always the case in a busy restaurant kitchen.

Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts is proud to offer career-focused programs at our Austin and Boulder campuses, as well as 100% online with industry externship, to help prepare students for the exciting world of culinary or pastry arts.

Invest in your future today!

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1Source: Oliver Wyman Culinary Survey March 2017 and Analysis