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7 Surprising Things You’ll Learn in Culinary School

Dec 9, 2016 | Harrison College

7 Surprising Things You’ll Learn in Culinary School

If you’re considering enrolling in culinary school, you already know you’ll learn about the importance of a quality knife set and how to make an out-of-this-world stock. But culinary school graduates walk away from their educational experiences having learned more than just the kitchen basics.

The truth is, there are a lot of crucial lessons learned while pursuing a culinary degree that have nothing to do with food.

If you’re hungry to learn more about the culinary school experience, you’re in luck! We’ve compiled some of the more surprising realizations you can expect.


7 invaluable lessons you’ll learn in culinary school

1. You’re learning to become a line cook … not a chef

Most culinary hopefuls are chasing their longstanding dreams of becoming a renowned chef. But what many may not realize is that reaching “chef status” is something even the best cooks must earn over the course of years in the industry.

“Earning the title of chef requires years of practical industry experience,” explains Kim Brauer, culinary concierge at Marx Foods and author. She adds that while it may be tempting to skip a few steps early on so you can climb the ladder faster, the best aspiring chefs work hard to master even the simplest skills.

“Impatient people want to skip over the simplest skills to get to the ‘real stuff,’” Brauer explains. “And of course, they miss the real stuff by doing so.” It’s of the utmost importance to set your ego aside and perfect the fundamentals first.


2. A good impression goes a long way

One of the key points Brauer makes in her book is to treat culinary school like the longest job interview you’ll ever encounter. “You’re not just interviewing with your instructors,” she explains. “You’re also interviewing with your peers.”

While the food industry may seem massive and constantly expanding, Brauer insists that it really is a smaller world than you might imagine. “In a business where teamwork, work ethic and mad skills are so important, your reputation can travel fast,” she says.

Peering into the future, the connections you make in culinary school may help solidify your career down the road. Building up a network within the culinary world can be instrumental in helping you find your first job, and likely subsequent jobs thereafter.

“You and your peers will scatter into restaurants around town. You’ll work with and help each other in the coming years, and if you’re solid in school, your network of people can help you continue learning and finding jobs for years,” Brauer says.


3. Confidence is key

Cooking and baking involve a number of risks — sprinkling in a little extra of one ingredient here and a pinch of an unexpected ingredient there can make all the difference in how a dish turns out. Some of the best and most uniquely delicious recipes are the result of confident experimentation.

But confidence in the kitchen doesn’t end with creating new, ingenious dishes. The best culinary professionals maintain a measurable amount of confidence in their own abilities. This is the difference between needing to try each technique you’re being taught and simply knowing — just by observation — that you are qualified to pull it off on your own. In the fast-paced world of food service, there typically isn’t time to second-guess yourself.


4. Creativity is king

It’s true that cooking is an art, so it’s no surprise that it takes a certain degree of creativity to succeed in the kitchen. But there is another kind of creativity you’ll learn in culinary school, and it all boils down to resourcefulness.

For example, what would you do if you had to cover a dish and let it simmer, but you’re unable to find any pot lids? What if you’re lacking the proper amount of butter for the recipe you’re using? Do you know what you would substitute in its place? Or maybe the sauce you’re working with is too sweet — what would you do to balance it out?

The most successful cooks refuse to let the lack of one thing stop them from doing their job, and doing it well. Culinary school will teach you to channel your creativity into resourcefulness, so you’ll be ready for whatever comes your way.


5. Patience can set you apart

We’ve all been there: The recipe steps have been followed to a T, the aroma of your dish is filling every corner of the kitchen and you can’t help but twiddle your thumbs, eagerly awaiting the ding of the oven timer.

Some people may opt to busy themselves by excessively stirring the ingredients in the pot or adding a dash more of this spice or that herb. But, as the saying goes, patience is a virtue — even in the kitchen.

While it’s great to be proud of and excited for your culinary creation, constantly fiddling with it or opening the oven door to check on it will often take a toll on the end product. Let the recipe run its course, and it will be more likely to turn out as intended.


6. Teamwork is critical in a successful kitchen

“The number one question in any kitchen crew is, ‘Can I count on you?’” Brauer says. “Being super reliable and a killer team member is the best way to become indispensable.”

This is why many culinary schools will go to extra lengths to teach their students the fundamentals of effective teamwork. If you’ve ever worked in a kitchen that’s filled with negative and selfish energy, then you know how important this can be. The way you work with others can be the single most critical element in determining your success in a professional kitchen.


7. You won’t always like who you work with, but you still have to make it work

Brauer’s urging that proficiency in teamwork can make you indispensable in the culinary world holds strong, but what do you do when you simply don’t like the people you’re working alongside?

Ask any cook who’s worked professionally in a kitchen and they’ll likely tell you of spats with coworkers, individuals who’ve made their work days drag on slower than molasses, or those waning but precious moments of peace when they’ve been able to steal away from it all for a few deep breaths in the walk-in.

But the hard truth is, unless you’re the head chef or restaurant owner, you won’t get to choose who you work with. As difficult as it may be some days, your ability to make it work regardless of bad kitchen chemistry will establish you as a valuable team member and an indispensable employee.


It’s time to get cookin’!

If you’re looking to become a well-rounded culinary pro, culinary school can help you get there — with benefits reflected both in and out of the recipe book. While a culinary degree isn’t always required for line cook or sous chef positions, earning your degree in this field sends two clear messages to prospective employers: This cook is well-trained in the fundamentals, and this cook is dedicated to accomplish his or her career aspirations.

When you’re ready to take the next step toward your fruitful cooking career, it’s important to do your research to find a culinary school that will help you make your dreams a reality. Learn more about how we can help you take the next step by reading our article: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Chef’s Academy at Harrison College.

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