Purse Your Passion
If you love food and have decided to make a career out of cooking, attending a culinary arts school is an excellent first step. Though it is possible to scrounge around kitchens looking for work as a prep cook until you get your foot in the door, you will advance through the ranks much more quickly if you work your way through a culinary arts program.
Skills You'll Learn at a Culinary Arts Institute
At a culinary arts college, you'll begin by learning how to safely handle both your kitchen equipment and the food you'll be preparing. It is vital for people pursuing culinary arts careers to have an advanced knowledge of food safety and food storage. Proper knife handling techniques will also be covered very early in your training, as it is vital that you know how to (and how not to) use a knife to avoid injuring yourself or someone else.
From there, you will receive detailed instruction in a comprehensive range of cooking techniques and cooking styles from around the world. The skills you'll discover will be both general and specific, in that you'll learn broad food preparation techniques that you can apply to just about any given situation as well as how to make specific dishes. For example, you'll learn all about grilling meat in general, as well as how to grill a filet mignon to perfection.
Specializations You Can Pursue
The world of food is wide, and while every culinary arts school will get your feet wet with a comprehensive range of topics, specializations are common. If a particular ethnic cuisine is of interest to you, you can take a culinary arts program that will help you master it. Similarly, if there's a specific type of diet that interests you, such as vegetarianism, veganism or raw food diets, you can go to a culinary arts institute that focuses on those cuisines.
Some programs lead to a culinary arts degree, while others culminate in a diploma. In the real world, there is little functional difference between the two – it doesn't matter much to employers whether you attended a degree program or a community college. What's far more important is the degree of professionalism and skill you attain. Kitchens are highly structured and regimented places, and they can be pressure cookers. You need to know how to work well as part of a team and be capable of handling a complete range of tasks.
A culinary arts school education will help you stand the heat of the kitchen – and it can be fierce. The professional skills you'll learn will form the foundation of what hopefully proves to be a successful career.