How Full-Time, Working Adults Can Succeed in Online Culinary School

With work, school, and family life, you’re juggling a lot! Here are some tips to help you succeed in online culinary school.

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July 27, 2022 8 min read

You want to attend culinary school, but you also have a full-time job. And you have to keep working to pay the bills and put food on the table. Can you do both?

Working while attending school requires a commitment of your time and energy. But with a weekly commitment of around 15-22 hours per week for school-related activities, depending on program, credential, and personal pace, an education at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts is absolutely possible while keeping up with your career!

The online culinary curriculum at Escoffier includes live and archive video class sessions, pre-recorded and live cooking demonstrations, reading assignments, cooking theory lessons, and labs with cooking assignments. As long as students meet their weekly program deadlines, they can complete this coursework whenever it’s convenient for them.

Here’s how you can succeed in online culinary school—even as a busy, working adult.

1. Create a Private Workspace

While much of your online class work takes place in the kitchen, there will also be computer-based work, which may include reading, watching videos and live sessions, and interacting with fellow students on the class message boards.

If you live alone, the kitchen table may suffice to do double duty as a desk. But if you live with a spouse, roommate, or children, it may help to have a private, quiet place to do your schoolwork.

A small folding table and chair tucked into your bedroom could be sufficient. Make sure you have enough light to see without straining your eyes, and digital or paper notebooks for jotting things down.

Online Student Writing Notes with Laptop

It can also help to set boundaries with your roommates or family. Let them know when you’re busy with schoolwork, and when you’re available to chat. And since your online cooking classes take place in the kitchen, make sure you’re communicating well about when you plan to complete these assignments, so they can plan accordingly.

2. Make a Planning Appointment With Yourself

When you attend online culinary or pastry school while also working full-time, managing your schedule carefully is key. Set aside time to complete your coursework and cooking assignments, but you also have to plan ahead to purchase the necessary ingredients. Make it easier on yourself by scheduling a weekly planning session when you can assess your time and product needs.

The Escoffier online school week runs from Wednesday through the following Tuesday. This is designed so that online students are able to use the weekend to complete their background work and ask the instructors questions before their assignments are due. So before the day starts on Wednesday, schedule an hour to look over the coming week’s assignments.

How do online students taste and critique their own food, while showcasing their skills and techniques?

Schedule time blocks when you can complete the assigned reading and watch any videos. Make sure to note the week’s live session so you don’t miss it! While you can watch the replay, it’s best to catch it live so you can participate in the Q&A session. This is also a good time to make a grocery list for the week’s cooking assignment, so you know exactly what you’ll need.

If you plan to do your cooking assignment on Sunday morning, for example, you know you’ll have to complete the reading, watch the videos, and get your groceries before then.

Approximately 15-22 hours per week are spent on school-related activities depending on program, credential, and personal pace. By taking an extra hour to plan before the week begins, you can fit all of your course requirements into your busy schedule!

Shari Spooner, Online Culinary Arts Graduate“I work more than 40 hours a week, I travel, and I also balance family life with my husband and two dogs. Escoffier online has made it possible for me to join a class live or watch an archived session at 10:30 at night when I have had a long day. I can wake up early to get my assignments done, and I know that an instructor or fellow student is there to help me navigate the waters.”*
Shari Spooner, Online Culinary Arts Graduate

Escoffier online student in uniform working in home kitchen

Escoffier online student Jayse L. working in his home kitchen

3. Silence Distractions

Did you know that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on track after an unrelated distraction? That’s a long time!

And these days, most of us have a small distraction factory on us at all times: the smartphone.

As a busy working student, every minute counts. Silence distractions so you can stay focused and complete your work efficiently.

Tips for Silencing Your Phone

  • Put it in another room. If you can’t see it, you can’t pick it up!
  • Turn off notifications for social media sites like Facebook and Twitter (or delete the apps from your phone entirely.)
  • Try an app like Forest to discourage you from looking at your phone for an hour.
  • Block unknown callers if you get frequent spam calls.

4. Have a Backup Plan

When you take online cooking classes, you are responsible for accessing the tools you need. Most of the time, this won’t be a problem. But what happens if you have to upload your cooking assignment photos in the next 20 minutes and your internet goes out?

Small square cakes with chocolate frosting and Opera written on them

Opera cakes by Escoffier online baking and pastry graduate Jennifer W.

Think about what could go wrong, and head off the problem by creating a backup plan! Make note of a nearby coffee shop or library with reliable internet where you can go in a pinch. Save your Chef Instructor’s email address somewhere easily accessible, in case you need to reach out at the last minute. For cooking assignments, it’s important to plan ahead and buy a little extra of that specialty ingredient, in case the first attempt at your assignment goes wrong.

A backup plan can help take the stress out of a time-sensitive situation and keep you on track.

5. Communicate with Your Employer, Chef Instructors, and Success Coach

As a busy adult with a lot of responsibilities to juggle, it’s vital to communicate with the people counting on you.

If you have a heavy school week ahead, you may want to give your employer a heads up. Of course, you can still meet your work obligations, but you may want to inform them that you won’t be available for overtime or extra assignments.

Online culinary student sitting at counter looking at laptop

On the other hand, if you have a major crisis at work, and you’re concerned about meeting a school deadline, reach out to your Chef Instructor. While students are expected to meet their assignment due dates, the Escoffier team understands the challenges that adults face while both working and studying, and will try to work with you.

If you need help with technology, the Escoffier tech team has set availability throughout the week to assist you. And if you’re having a problem that you don’t know how to solve, your Success Coach is always there to help you stay on track and come up with solutions to your challenges.

“I struggled with school in the past for years but with the help of Career Services and my Success Coaches, I graduated on time. I put a goal in place of getting 95% or higher in each of my baking courses and I did exactly that.”*
Kellie Trimble, Online Pastry Arts Graduate

6. Make Time for R&R

Between working full-time and attending online culinary school, the risk of burnout is real.

Keep yourself in good mental and physical shape by penciling some relaxation into your schedule. Whether that’s a walk around the block each afternoon or a coffee date with a friend on a Saturday morning, be proactive about your downtime.

Try to devote one full day per week to rest and no school or work responsibilities if you’re able, which can help keep you sharp on the other six days.

“I am most proud of my ability to complete the classes and assignments while working full time, caring for loved ones, and participating in church events.”*
Sharon Watts, Online Culinary Arts Graduate

Plan to Succeed

The flexibility of online culinary school can make education more accessible than ever before. That’s why we are proud to welcome students from all walks of life, including many full-time working adults. With a little planning and organization, you can succeed at both work and education. It may be a busy time, but also a rewarding one!

Your journey to a culinary future starts here.

To learn more about online culinary school, try these articles next:

This article was originally published on June 7, 2021, and has since been updated.

*This 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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