Once upon a time, a member of the workforce would get a job in their early twenties and remain in that same role until retirement. These days, most adults not only change jobs, but they also switch careers throughout their working years.
Career changes aren’t only a “young person’s” game. Older adults can also change careers with great success. In fact, one study showed that 82% of career changers over the age of 45 were successful!
If you love to cook and are interested in starting a culinary career, culinary school could provide you with the education and experience to jumpstart your new path. Read on to discover reasons why older individuals should consider culinary school as well as answers to a few common questions.
1. Jump Start Your New (or Existing) Career
Maybe you’re thinking about leaving your job as a sales manager or nurse to turn your passion for food into a career. Or maybe you’re already working in a culinary field, but you’d like to take your skills to the next level so you can be better prepared to achieve your career goals.
No matter the case, culinary school may help you get a headstart.
Working your way up through a kitchen can take years, but a culinary education may help reduce the time it takes to advance through the ranks and obtain a position like sous chef. Culinary school may provide the opportunity to build a foundation of knife skills, sanitation guidelines, and cooking techniques under the watchful eyes of experienced Chef Instructors, without the pressures that come with being thrown into a restaurant kitchen with little experience.
2. Your Age Is a Benefit, Not a Disadvantage
As an older student, you may be worried that you have lost your ability to concentrate in school or that you’ll feel out of place among younger students. However, you may find that your age provides more benefits than you first imagined.
After years of managing work, social life, family obligations, and more, you’ve likely become familiar with a crucial component of succeeding in school and the culinary field: time management. With this skillset in your pocket, you may find you’re well-prepared to handle school assignments and personal obligations.
Additionally, you’ve likely developed other soft skills like communication, organization, and the ability to work in a team. Not only can these skills help you in culinary school, but they may also help you stand out from the crowd when it comes time to find a new job.
Plus, as an older graduate, you can bring a wide variety of life experiences to the table that employers may not find in the students who went from high school to culinary school. With a longer resume that includes a degree or diploma, older adults can often stand out from the crowd of younger applicants.
“[Older students are] coming in with a lot of life experience. They may have had an IT career before or some supervisory position before, and they can run up the ladder incredibly quickly. And I think it’s something that employers really need to know. Yes, they’re coming in with [culinary] skill, but they’re actually coming in with some other very relevant business skills as well.”*
Tracy Teichman, Escoffier Corporate Partnerships Director
3. You May Have A Wider Choice of Career Opportunities
Older foodies might love to cook, but long shifts in a hot kitchen aren’t everyone’s idea of a good time. Fortunately, there are dozens of different career paths that culinary school students can take.
A culinary education may open doors all over the world of food! You could set up a small cottage food business from your own home, making treats to sell at the local farmer’s market. You could start a food blog or vlog, sharing your passion with an audience all over the world. Or stay closer to home by teaching youth in your community how to cook.
“There are so many different directions to go with this education. You know, you do food blogs, you can do YouTube…be a personal chef, a home chef, start a little catering business…there are just so many other things you can do besides working on a line in a kitchen with this education.”*
John Hummel, Chef Instructor
If you’re new to the world of entrepreneurship and business, don’t fret—Escoffier’s culinary arts programs don’t just introduce you to ingredients and cooking. The curriculum can also cover topics such as business planning, cost control, and principles of entrepreneurship.
Culinary school may also introduce you to a wide network of alumni, some of whom have started their own culinary businesses. As a student, you can reach out to these individuals and receive advice on how to get started.
4. We’re Retiring Later Than Ever
Spending your time cooking up your favorite recipes for customers or leaving your office job to pursue a career as a recipe developer may sound great, but you may still be wondering…is it too late?
Whether you’re 45 or 60, starting a new pursuit later in life can be intimidating. However, it helps to know you’re not alone.
“I think it’s really hard when you’re young to know your passion. I mean, I’m in my mid-50s. And I’m now finally working in my career of choice, not a job to pay the bills.”*Rhonda Adkins, Escoffier Online Culinary Arts Graduate and Food Photographer.
When the standard retirement age of 65 was formally established in 1935, the average life expectancy for Americans was just under 62 years. By 2022, life expectancy has risen to 79. The Social Security Administration has also risen the benefits-payable age to 67. That means many adults are pushing back their retirement, whether for financial necessity or the desire to stay active in a workplace.
With that in mind, older culinary school students may have 15 or 25 years of work ahead of them! By attending culinary school now, you can set yourself up to spend future years pursuing your culinary career dreams.
5. You Won’t Be On Your Own When It Comes Time to Find a Job
Even if you have an idea of what you want to do after graduation, searching for a new job (maybe in a new field) can be overwhelming and a bit intimidating. The good news is that you don’t have to tackle this search alone.
Escoffier’s Career Services department can help provide job search assistance, starting with your culinary externship. Services include resume writing help, interview prep, and industry referrals.
You can also have access to the Escoffier Alumni Association, where you can continue to connect with past and new graduates for advice, tips, and networking opportunities.
What If I Have a Job and Family?
Attending culinary school used to mean saying goodbye to your current way of life, packing up your belongings, and spending months or years in a new city. But that’s not the case anymore!
Online culinary school can allow you to obtain the same education you could in an in-person setting, all from the convenience of your own home. These programs are 100% online, with a hands-on culinary externship.
You might be thinking that an online education in something as hands-on as cooking won’t provide you with the same quality of instruction as an in-person program. However, curriculum designers and Chef Instructors have designed these programs to provide the same quality of education–just in a different format.
“Online is a lot more hands-on than people think. My chefs are always right there to help me with any questions I have. And when they grade assignments, they see every step and can help determine what you did right, what you did wrong, and what you need more practice on. You literally have a team of people there for you to help you every step of the way.”*
Brianna B., Escoffier Online Culinary Arts Student
So, what does an online culinary arts program look like? Your day might start with a reading complemented by a series of videos involving how to. Once you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to take what you’ve seen and cook your own dish.
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 you cook, you’ll document your progress through photos and notes that your Chef Instructors can later review and critique.
Online students also have the opportunity to tune into live video lessons as well as interact with other students through message boards and live lessons.
And if you find yourself struggling with the whole school environment after some time away, you can turn to your Success Coach to help you troubleshoot any issues and come up with a solution.
What About Paying For School?
No matter your age, deciding to attend culinary school is a big step. Along with thinking about how school will impact your lifestyle, you may also be wondering about the associated costs. An online Diploma in Culinary Arts and Operations at Escoffier costs $20,439 at the time of publication.
However, you won’t necessarily have to pay this full amount. Financial aid is available for those who apply and qualify, and numerous culinary scholarships are also available to those who apply and qualify.
It’s Never Too Late to Chase Your Dreams
So often, we think, “If I start now, I’ll be X-years-old when I finish.” However, if you don’t start now, you’ll still be the same age upon graduation—but you may not have a wealth of knowledge and a degree or diploma from culinary school.
With programs in Culinary Arts, Pastry Arts, Hospitality & Restaurant Operations Management, Holistic Nutrition and Wellness, and more, our curriculums can provide the foundations for a great future in the world of food. So get started with your new career today!
Other articles about culinary education that you may like:
- Culinary School Pros and Cons: How to Decide If It’s for You
- Is a Culinary Diploma or Degree Worth It?
- How You Can Get Into Culinary School
This article was originally published on November 2, 2020, 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.