You've decided to pursue a culinary education, but now the question is, how do you decide what school to go to? There are many cooking schools out there to choose from. In order to make sure you get the education you need, you need to not only know what makes culinary schools good or bad, but also what you need most out of your education. One of the most important things to look at when considering different cooking schools is the actual education they are offering. Any cooking schools you are considering should be accredited, which is an official stamp of approval that a school meets certain standards. You should also investigate the accreditation companies that are associated with these schools: their standards for accreditation, how many schools they have accredited, and whether the credits you receive from their schools will be transferable if you want to switch schools.
The educational programs the cooking schools offer are equally important when you are weighing your options. Make sure that the degrees offered by the cooking schools will meet your educational needs; this might require some research into the educational requirements for the career you would like to pursue. Most cooking schools make the curriculum for each degree program available online or with a phone call. In general, an associate's degree should teach you the skills of the trade, that is, how to cook, while a bachelor's degree should expand on that, teaching students not only cooking skills but also management and leadership skills.
Most importantly, however, is the amount of kitchen time you get. Good cooking schools will provide each student with about 1,200 hours of hands-on experience during the first two years. Class size is equally important: cooking schools with smaller classes ensure that their students get plenty of one-on-one time with their teachers. Also, make sure that the cooking schools you are considering have new equipment in good working order. The resources a school provides its students are also important. Good cooking schools have job placement services for alumni, and some even guarantee that they will find each of their students a job after graduation.
Good cooking schools should also have relationships with nearby restaurants, resorts, and other businesses where students can find internships and part-time jobs, providing students with the opportunity to practice their newfound skills and learn the trade. However, there are plenty of cooking schools out there that offer all of these services and more. So how do you choose between those cooking schools you have already identified as good? A major determinate will be what you want out of your education.
Are you looking for a career, or just to improve your cooking skills? Many cooking schools are geared toward students who are looking for a culinary career, while others focus on recreational cook classes. If you are seeking a specific career, a special degree program may help you decide between the cooking schools on your list. Another determinate that may help you decide which of the good cooking schools to go to is where your priorities lie. Are you most interested in a school that is close to you? Will a school that caters to non-traditional students suit your needs the best? Additionally, the cost of the different culinary schools or the availability of financial aid might limit your choices.
Factors such as entry requirements or a school's reputation might also help narrow down the number of culinary schools on your list. Ultimately, which culinary school you attend is a personal decision. You know best, which benefits you find most attractive. Take your time; start with a large list of culinary schools, get as much information about each as possible, and narrow down your list according to each school's quality and your preferences.
With a solid culinary education under your belt, you'll be ready to confront your next task: finding the culinary job of your dreams.
Andy West is a freelance writer for The Culinary Institute of Virginia College. Culinard offers two outstanding culinary programs. For information on one of the most prestigious cooking schools, please visit http://www.culinard.com .