Most people who go to culinary school have dreamt of being a chef for a long time. For some, they’ve known they wanted to be a chef since they were a child. Many have parents who’ve worked in the restaurant business. Perhaps you’re a great cook, find that you love cooking and want to make it your profession.
As romantic and important as it is to go to culinary school, it’s important to know that they won’t teach you everything you need to know about becoming a chef. Here are three things that they won’t teach you in culinary school.
How a Hectic Kitchen Operates
In a hectic kitchen with dozens of customers streaming in and out by the minute, the pressure is much different than it is in school.
In school, you might be able to carefully measure out each ingredient, pay special care when chopping your vegetables and work out careful co-ordination with your fellow chefs. Not so in a real kitchen.
In a professional kitchen, you have to get stuff done fast. Your vegetables need to have been chopped 5 minutes ago and you’ll be juggling five customer orders at the same time.
While learning to cook in culinary school is an invaluable experience, learning to cope with the speed and pressure of a real kitchen is something different entirely.
The Financial Realities of Being a Chef
Few schools will teach you how to navigate the financial realities of being a chef. People who go to culinary school often envision themselves as top chefs in important restaurants, taking home a generous salary.
While this may very well be your future a decade down the line, the truth is that the moment you graduate from culinary school, you’ll probably be earning between $9 and $15 an hour. You won’t be earning tips and may be getting paid less than the waitresses.
A world class chef can absolutely command six figures a year. However, until you’re truly at that level, you’re going to have to navigate some hard times.
Being a great chef is a career chosen out of love for the craft, not because it’s the easiest or highest paid career.
Handling the Emotional Stress
One of the toughest things about being a chef is handling the emotional stress. This is also something that can’t be taught – It’s something you pick up on the job.
Some head chefs will throw food at their chefs if they make a mistake. You might get screamed at by your boss for a simple mistake. You’ll probably get no respect your first year on the job. All this can add up to an extremely stressful work environment.
All chefs have to go through it, but nobody can teach you how to do it.
These are some of the things you just won’t learn in culinary school. Culinary school is a vital springboard for anyone who wants to be a chef. There’s a big difference between being able to cook and being able to work in a restaurant. But going to culinary school won’t completely bridge that gap – A lot of it you have to learn on the job.