If you’re a high school student, it’s never too early to think about your next steps after graduation. What do you want to achieve, and what is the best path to get you closer to your goals?
If you have a passion for cooking or baking, you may be looking at a career in the culinary arts…which means that culinary school may be worth considering.
Vocational training can look very different from the “standard” four-year college, so students often have a lot of questions. We’ve put together a helpful guide with all the facts high school students should know about culinary school before they enroll.
Let’s get started!
No matter what program you decide to attend, you’ll want to look for accreditation. When an institution is accredited, it has been verified to meet certain minimum standards.
Why is it important? When a school is accredited, it shows that the school’s programs have been reviewed and provide a quality education. Also, students attending an accredited school are eligible for federal financial aid.
Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Boulder, Colorado is nationally accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET). It is also approved by the Colorado Department of Higher Education to participate in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements for its distance-learning, i.e. online programs.
The Austin, Texas campus is accredited by the Commission of the Council on Occupational Studies. It’s also authorized as an Associate of Applied Science degree-granting institution through the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Programs and Curriculum
Culinary school, just like any other post-secondary education, is an investment in your future. So high school students should start by defining their career and life goals. Then, you can start exploring which education options will get you closer to those goals.
Degrees vs. Diplomas
What’s the difference between a degree and a diploma? Diplomas offer a basic level of academic coursework, whereas a degree requires additional academic courses and has longer externship requirements. At Escoffier, an associate degree can typically be earned in 60 weeks. The diploma programs are generally shorter, starting at 30 weeks depending on the delivery method – whether online or on campus. Diploma programs are more affordable and allow students to graduate more quickly and begin looking for their first jobs.
Escoffier offers both associate degrees and diploma programs in Culinary Arts. The curriculum for a Culinary Arts diploma includes courses in Culinary Foundations, Regional Cuisines, and the Farm To Table® Experience. The associate degree curriculum adds courses like Restaurant Operations, The Science of Nutrition, and more.
Escoffier also offers diplomas and degrees in Baking & Pastry Arts. These programs focus on breads and desserts. The associate degree program also includes courses in technical writing and communications, among others.
All Escoffier programs require that students complete an in-person externship where they’ll get real-world experience. This lets them put their skills to use in a working kitchen and gives students a taste of the brigade de cuisine.
“I would say that Escoffier is a very well-rounded program. The experience that you’re going to get at Escoffier, especially the farm-to-table program, is so phenomenal because so many people don’t have an idea of where their food comes from. Most kids don’t even know that food actually came from somewhere other than a store. And to be able to have that aspect is phenomenal.”
Erica Boykin, Family & Consumer Sciences (FCS) Teacher at Summit High School in Arlington, TX
Students who are eager to get to work as quickly as possible may find that a diploma program is a better choice for them. And students who are looking for a wider variety of courses may find an associate degree program to be a better fit.
Dedicated Culinary School vs. Community College
What about my local community college’s culinary program?
That’s certainly an option! A community college program may be a good fit if you plan to stay in your local area throughout your career. But a dedicated culinary school may have better name recognition on a national level, if you hope to take your skills to another city or state.
A dedicated culinary school is also a more focused program. For example, an associate degree curriculum will usually have a math and writing requirement.
At Escoffier, those requirements are met in hospitality-based courses like Foodservice Math & Accounting and Technical Writing for the Hospitality Industry. But at a community college, those courses will be general education courses that may be harder to apply to your culinary studies.
If students plan to transfer to a four-year college after completing their associate degree, community college may be a good choice. But if their goal is to start working in the culinary field as soon as possible, a dedicated culinary school may be a better choice.
Choosing Your Campus
High school students have a number of options to choose from when deciding where to take classes.
Escoffier has in-person campuses in Austin, TX and Boulder, CO – two cities with lively cultural scenes. We are also the only accredited U.S. culinary school with 100% online Culinary Arts and Pastry Arts degrees and diplomas with externships near where you live.
Online Culinary School
Wait…I can attend culinary school online? Yes!
Online culinary school gives students the option to get their education while still living at home, or while working their first job after high school. It offers flexibility and lets students fit school in with their other obligations.
“I think Escoffier’s online education makes a student very competitive…I would absolutely recommend Escoffier. It’s affordable, it’s flexible and it’s comprehensive. The Chef Instructors are so wonderful, and they care very much about the success of every student.”
Laura DeVries, Online Culinary Arts graduate
The week starts with reading assignments and a live instruction session with your classmates. Then, students will complete their weekly cooking assignments, providing photos and a written summary of what they’ve made. The Chef Instructor will assess submissions and provide feedback to help students improve.
Escoffier’s online programs culminate in an in-person externship in the student’s area. The flexibility offered by online culinary school makes it more accessible to students from all walks of life.
On-Campus Culinary School
One of the major benefits of attending culinary school on-campus is the experience of living in a hip city, with exposure to new foods and different cultures. A city with a vibrant food scene like Austin or Boulder will provide plenty of opportunities to try new cuisines.
For students looking for that in-person experience, a physical campus may be the best choice. Students will travel to and from classes, and they will receive Chef Instructor feedback in real-time.
Escoffier’s on-campus programs begin with required reading before each lesson. Then, students will receive a lecture and demonstration from their Chef Instructor, explaining the day’s techniques and recipes.
Next, it’s time to cook. This can include up to four hours of cooking time, but there’s a lot to do! After feedback from the Chef Instructor, it’s time to clean up and discuss the next day’s assignment.
While the overall work looks much the same between on-campus and online culinary school, the on-campus program requires students to be available and in the classroom for up to 6 hours per day.
Just like the online programs, the on-campus programs require that students complete a culinary externship for real-world experience in a professional kitchen.
Tuition and Financial Aid
Once a high school student has decided they’d like to attend culinary school, the next question is always, “How much will it cost?”
Tuition at a traditional four-year public and private university can cost as much as $100,000 or more.
However, the costs of culinary education will vary depending on the school and the program. 2020 tuition for Escoffier’s degree and diploma programs range from $14,970 to $30,935. And since the programs are shorter, culinary school graduates will have the opportunity to enter the workforce two or even three years before the students in a four-year program.
But how to pay for it?
There are many sources of financial aid to fund a culinary school education. To start, all students should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see what federal grants or loans you may qualify for.
Next, leave no stone unturned in your hunt for scholarships and grants!
You can find industry related scholarships through the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. Check also listing sites that accumulate nation-wide scholarship opportunities like these:
Don’t forget to investigate local scholarships as well!
Many small businesses will offer modest scholarships to local graduates, but you have to seek them out. Check with local restaurants and hospitality businesses first. Your high school guidance counselor may also have suggestions.
“You have to be willing to invest in yourself. It is cost effective and the connections you make with your chef instructors; they invest in you back.”
Wyl Lima, Sous Chef at Temporis, Austin Culinary Arts Graduate
Finally, private loans can be taken out to finance the remainder of your education.
Escoffier also offers flexible payment plans to students who plan to pay for their education by check or credit card. Reach out to a Financial Aid representative for more information.
Careers and Support
Culinary school graduates are not chefs yet, but they are ready to get their first jobs on the path to becoming chefs — if that’s what they want!
We all love to watch eccentric celebrity chefs on the Food Network, but they comprise a small minority of working chefs. The reason those famous faces reached such heights of success is their genuine passion for food and cooking. The love for the industry comes first!
Though not everyone will be the next Gordon Ramsay or Bobby Flay, there is a long list of career options available in the world of food, and many of them don’t include working in a kitchen at all.
Culinary school graduates have gone on to become:
- Restaurant chefs
- Restaurant owners
- Personal chefs
- Pastry and dessert chefs
- Pastry or chocolate shop owners
- Food writers
- Food photographers
- Food stylists
- Recipe developers
- And more.
While the classroom provides students with the foundational skills for many of these careers, a great culinary school will go further when helping students and graduates to achieve their goals.
At Escoffier, each student is assigned a Career Success coach to provide encouragement and resources as they work through their programs. If a student seems to be struggling, their coach will reach out to help keep the student on track.
Upon program completion, Escoffier’s dedicated Career Services staff is available to help graduates in their search for employment. Resume writing help, interview coaching, and networking opportunities will all be accessible to graduates — for life.
Here are a few more things that high school students should know about culinary school.
If you have dietary restrictions, you can absolutely still attend culinary school. There is a big market for chefs that can accommodate specific diets like gluten free or vegan. You’ll just have to be a bit creative — and that’s what cooking is all about.
If you have an allergy, like a peanut or shellfish allergy, please contact us.
Most on-campus culinary schools don’t offer dorms or on-campus housing. Students are responsible for securing their own apartments. Escoffier has partnerships with apartment complexes in both Austin and Boulder that may be a helpful resource to incoming students.
The food industry is a business. Even though our “offices” are kitchens, and our “suits” are white coats, we are expected to display respect and professionalism to fellow students, Chef Instructors, future coworkers, and supervisors.
Students will be expected to arrive for classes on time and well-prepared. If you can do that, you’ll have crossed one of the major hurdles to success in the culinary industry!
“For prospective students, I think it’s important that they’re serious. You have to be serious in this business. So many people watch the Food Network and think they’re going to be the next Bobby Flay. Well, no, you’re not. You need to be serious about the craft and be serious about what you’re doing, and make sure it’s what you want to do.”
Escoffier Chef Instructor John Hummel
Students can expect to receive the same respect in return. Culinary school is a time to learn — unlike what you may see on TV, no one will be throwing anything or shouting at you!
The Next Steps
The end of high school is a time full of possibility and excitement. This next phase of your life is all about becoming the person you want to be, and we’d love to be part of that journey.
The team at Escoffier is ready to answer any additional questions you may have. Contact our Admissions Department to learn more and get your application started!
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