5@5 - Why you can learn to cook without culinary school
September 6th, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Whether it's dreams of opening their very own bakery, being the next 'Top Chef' or simply wanting to brush up on their knife skills, a growing number of the food-obsessed continue to flock toward culinary school - some straight out of high school, some swapping out their suits for chefs' whites midlife in hopes of a more savory lifestyle.

But for some like Anthony Goncalves, a culinary degree isn't the end-all, be-all.

Goncalves is the completely self-taught executive chef of 42 The Restaurant. And when we say self-taught, we should also note he's been named as “one to watch” by both Time and Esquire Magazines.

Five Reasons You Can Learn to Cook Without Going to Culinary School: Anthony Goncalves

1. Humans start eating from the day you are born
"Innately - like being born with an ear for music or an eye for design - you can be born with an inclination for flavors and how to combine them. While this ability is stronger in those who become cooks, we all have taste. It’s a question of trusting your taste which no amount of schooling can teach you."

2. What is delicious can’t be taught
"It is subjective, no matter what food critics would have you believe. While culinary school can teach you presentation and technique, the first thing to learn is how to make something taste good and that is, at its essence, very basic."

3. Technique takes practice
"No matter where you learn it - a cooking class, reading recipes in a food magazine, watching The Cooking Channel - you have to hone it to make it a skill that you can rely on."

4. Passion definitely can’t be taught
"Wanting to be a chef and being passionate about cooking, even if it’s just for your family, can be mutually exclusive - and there is nothing wrong with that. Most people will tell you they’d rather have a lovingly prepared home-cooked meal than any other kind. Learning to be the kind of restaurant chef who treats your customers that way is not a skill taught in school."

5. Culinary students are used to putting in long hours...
"But running a restaurant is a 24 hour-per-day, 7-day-per-week, lifelong endeavor. There is no getting around that. And no externship or stage can teach you that. That’s something you learn the day you open the doors of your restaurant - and keep learning as long as you are in business."

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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  1. Oakley Dispatch II Sunglasses

    In this life, what did you miss?
    Oakley Dispatch II Sunglasses http://www.ebuyaccessories.com

    October 14, 2014 at 9:24 pm |
  2. rhonda

    If you ever want a dining experience Art Ito in Toronto is a tremendous chef. He is more in the management of restaurants but he has an untapped flair for preparing amazing foods. I believe he is self taught but has worked in the hospitality industry all his life.

    October 12, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
  3. david

    It comes down to this. There are two methods to becoming a chef. The old school method is starting at the very bottom as a dishwasher, working yourself up to the top. You remain debt-free. The other method is to go to culinary school where you incur lots of debt, but are introduced to a variety of techniques, it also opens doors faster to high-end restaurants. Either method is acceptable. I recommend younger adults to take the first route and older adults to take the second route.

    BTW, even the best chefs know only a fraction of the techniques available in cooking. It's a life-long learning process.

    September 8, 2011 at 3:26 am |
  4. Ingeneer

    I bet the cooks that wrote "the books" in the 18th – 20th centuries never spent a day in school. Guillaume Tirel would laugh in the faces of every modern cook who calls him/herself chef.

    September 7, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • Fladabosco

      You are wrong in one sense. In the old days if you wanted to be a chef you started working in restaurants as soon as you were strong enough to lift a heavy pot. You learned every aspect from the bottom up and worked at it in the real world for years and years before you got your chance to be in charge, if ever. That's school.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:44 am |
  5. Popeye

    Don't call me a mf chef, I cook for a living.

    September 7, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  6. Ye Olde Chef and Bard

    Oh Egads, what a lot of poppycock. Yay, though I may detest to say insomuch, I dost verily attest that one whosomuch as attendeth a culinary academia setting, in and of themself must heretofore be appeled as chef. Attainingeth the skills, however, is doth another issue. For whenceforth one has a title, but may not conjure taste. Lo!

    September 7, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Chester

      Nice Mexican accent...been watching the Avengers?

      September 7, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • Tommy Chong

      Du-u-u-u-ude! I recognize the lingo! You're really King James aren't you? I read your book Man. That was tight!

      September 7, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
      • Matey

        G'day mate! It sounds like an Aussie accent.

        September 7, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • SP

      Mexican? Avengers? Aussie? King James? Read much, you responders? He told you clearly in the heading – the Bard usually refers to William Shakespeare, whose form of English is what you're reading here.

      September 7, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
  7. Patrick

    All you so called "Chefs" need to stop taking yourselves so seriously. There is no title or honor being bestowed upon you for paying exorbitant amounts of money to learn to cook. If that's why you do what you do, then you're terribly misguided. You are not a Dr., or an R.A (Registered Architect), or an Engineer. You're a cook w/ an attitude because someone someone gave you a piece of paper that says you completed their 24 month culinary course. You're no different than anyone who learned to cook through practical experience, except they did it through real hard work. I learned from the best....Grandma, Mom and aunts, through serious observation. I took their many many years of collective knowledge, perfected some of their outdated practices by incorporating more modern techniques and different ingredients through experimentation. The result is that I can cook circles around any "chef" w/ an inflated head that has that piece of paper that simply says that you know enough about food to be arrogant about it. My honor comes from smiles and compliments at my dinner table. It comes from friends and family asking me why I never opened a restaurant and even offering to invest if I ever decided to. I can certainly appreciate the long hours you have to dedicate to running a restaurant, and that's probably the only reason I never pursued it. I am an Architect, and I love what I do because it allows me free time to spend w/ my family. Let's not confuse a true title that requires many years of serious schooling followed up by extremely rigorous licensing examinations, like Dr., Architect, or Engineer w/ a certificate from a culinary school. Let's not forget, Architects, Dr.'s, and Engineers can kill people w/ 1 mistake and have a much higher burden of responsibility to the public. The worst thing a chef has to worry about is a bad review and giving someone an upset tummy. Cooking can be a job or a hobby. No one has the right to tell anyone how unaccomplished thay are because they didn't attend culinary school. I've met many successful chefs and restauranteurs w/o a formal "degree". I"ve never met an Architect, Engineer, or Dr. w/o one. Get a grip, it's just cooking.

    September 7, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • Belgarath, Troll Wizard

      *waves magic wand*
      ... POOF you are gone ...!
      ....damn .... didn't work.

      September 7, 2011 at 11:06 am |
      • Patrick

        You should go home. I think you may have made your trailer home disappear by mistake.

        September 7, 2011 at 11:10 am |
      • Belgarath, Troll Wizard

        You're real quick about telling others how to live. Too bad your mom lost the key to her basement or you could have left years ago when you turned 35.

        September 7, 2011 at 11:14 am |
      • Patrick

        HAHAHA....The self proclaimed donkey TROLL can dish it but he can't take it. Go back and find your trailer your piece of human excrement. When you find it, hook a hose up to the exhaust pipe, feed it through a window, and lock yourself in it. No one will miss you.

        September 7, 2011 at 11:30 am |
    • Alberto Eienstein

      You Sir are lower than an earthworm,nay, may I say more in the realm of a shit eating enzyme. Total Douche Bag.

      September 7, 2011 at 11:31 am |
      • Patrick

        Nay? Who the hell uses Nay anymore? Are you Einstein or Shakespeare? Go help Troll find his trailer and the two of you can sit around and do carbon monoxide bong hits together. Stop trying to sound educated. Sometimes less is more. You've exposed yourself as a true moron.

        September 7, 2011 at 11:40 am |
      • Naysayer@Patrick

        Just sayin'....it does get used.

        September 7, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
      • Ingeneer

        Hey ablerto, you having growing up eating that shit know it very well, n'est-ce pas?

        September 7, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
    • Markus

      "No one has the right to tell anyone how unaccomplished thay are because they didn't attend culinary school." For fuks sake, that is exactly what you did. What a fuking idiot.

      September 7, 2011 at 11:32 am |
      • Patrick

        Is that right Markus, or is it just that your reading comprehension is limited? I think you need to ask someone to help you re-read my post. Take your time.....It's not a race. Don't just read the words. Make and effort to actually understand what you're reading.

        September 7, 2011 at 11:43 am |
      • Markus@Patrick

        It only takes one read to comprehend that you are an imbecile.

        September 7, 2011 at 11:46 am |
      • Patrick

        Too funny...Angry AND stupid. The perfect combination. I guess being oblivious to your own stupidity is a good thing? Keep digging moron. You may eventually come up with something to say that's actually worth reading.

        September 7, 2011 at 11:50 am |
      • Markus@Patrick

        "I guess being oblivious to your own stupidity is a good thing?" For you, apparently yes.

        September 7, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • Delaney@Patrick

      Yeah, go ahead and pat yourself on the back for being so self important.

      September 7, 2011 at 11:48 am |
      • Patrick

        Aw you're just jealous because everyone loves me....LOL.

        September 7, 2011 at 11:58 am |
      • Delaney@Patrick

        Your ad hominem attacks make you look absolutely silly. Keep the entertainment coming, please.

        September 7, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
      • Patrick

        I'll bet you're taking notes.

        September 7, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
      • Delaney@Patrick

        ...add delusional to the list as well....

        September 7, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
      • Patrick

        Delusional Delaney does have a nice ring to it.

        September 7, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
      • Delaney@Patrick

        Meh, whatever floats your boat, Pat.

        September 7, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • Flippity Flappity

      Who gives a flying rip that you are an architect? Design and build yourself a stfu cafe, moron.

      September 7, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
      • Patrick

        I may just have to do that...I'll set up shop right next to your mother's whore house. Ho's gotta eat too...

        September 7, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
      • Flippity Flappity@Patrick

        Not even remotely funny. Try again.

        September 7, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
      • Flippity Flappity's Defense Attorney

        What are you? 12? Can't articulate better than little d!ck jokes? Sad.
        Your mommy's calling you home to your cardboard box. Run along now. Run along.

        September 7, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
      • Patrick

        FlippityFag....1980 called. They want their cardboard box jokes back.

        September 7, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
      • Patricks Fact Checker

        Actually, sir, that was 1985...

        September 7, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
      • Flippity Flappity@Patrick

        Jeeze, and not even a funny troll.

        September 7, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
      • Flippity Flappity's Defense Attorney@Flippity Flappity

        Nope. Just your garden variety, PITA, good-for-nothing troll.

        September 7, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • jellybean@Patrick

      so what you think now, stupid?

      September 7, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • Dustin

      "Gotta- get- the- last- troll- word- in- Patrick." LMAO What a total freakin' toolbagger!

      September 7, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Martin

      Eat a greasy Rick Sanchez, Patty.

      September 7, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Ingeneer

      Seriously. Like going to art school is going to make you a master artist. bwaaaaahahahahahaha

      September 7, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • In the Biz

      "The worst thing a chef has to worry about is a bad review and giving someone an upset tummy. " Really? Showing your ignorance, here Patrick. I would hope that somebody with your education would be a little smarter than that. Ever hear of E.Coli? Salmonella? Trichinosis? Listeria? THEY KILL PEOPLE!! Not just an upset tummy, but death, especially for children, the immune compromised and the elderly. What do you think happens to a business when that happens? What would happen to YOUR business if one of your buildings fell down and killed someone? The same thing, no?
      Do I think you have to go to school to become a Chef? Nope. Been there, done that, in San Francisco, not some podunk berg. Do you need training to be a Dr., RA, etc etc? Damn skippy you do. Does that make you better than anyone? Hellz no, fool. Not any dipshit from off the street becomes a top-tier chef as not any architect is Pi. It takes YEARS of training, dedication and passion to attain that recognition and rightfully so. Are there fools straight out of school that think they're going to be that? You bet, and I've had a blast throwing them on my busiest station on a Friday night watching their eyes bug out because all they've done is READ about working a kitchen, never actually been in front of a ticket printer spitting a 6 foot ribbon of orders at you in a 100 degree kitchen with me breathing down your back. Those that are at the top, deserve respect for their station. Don't be so flip about a business you obviously know nothing about. Get a grip, it's just making drawings, right?

      September 7, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
    • Fladabosco

      Yes, being a chef is just cooking – if owning a owning a video store is just playing games and being a police officer is playing cops and robbers. Real chefs have to know accounting, tax and employment law, management, marketing, law compliance, food safety for organizations (a lot different than just remembering to clean your Tupperware) and cooking.

      September 22, 2011 at 9:48 am |
  8. Chef Todd Mohr

    Are we talking about starting a career or just being able to cook? Certainly, you can get a job and call yourself "chef" by starting in the dish room and working your way up.

    However, as with most careers, a formal education will propel you past those climbing slowly from the dish room. But, you can learn to cook like a chef with the many online cooking classes available on the internet. You can get a culinary school quality education while doing it on your own time, at a fraction of the cost.

    When choosing online cooking classes, be sure there is a distinct purpose. Many online classes just open a huge library of recipes to you and you're supposed to teach yourself.

    Look for a course with a specific purpose, a goal, a theme, a mission, that has a beginning, middle, and graduation. A course where one skill builds upon the next is best.

    If you really want to learn HOW to cook, watching a video on Creme Brulee one day and Prime Rib the next won't help you retain the information. This is like buying another cookbook.

    Look for personality in the classes. Many are nameless, faceless close-ups of a stove. You'll get tired of this quickly. Follow someone you like and admire.

    Concentrate on the basic cooking methods of saute, steaming, braising, roasting, grilling, poaching, simmering and you can most certainly learn to cook without reading.

    Actually, you'll be a better cook for not following badly written recipes, you'll be creating new recipes for others to follow.

    Chef Todd Mohr

    September 7, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • Ingeneer

      Just like freaking kids who come out of a university with an EE degree, they think they are hot shit, but in reality, their tool box has just the bare bones tools. And the sad thing most don't know how to use them.

      September 7, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
      • Chef Todd Mohr

        Theres' no doubt that an education is only as good as what you do with it. I saw ambitious, smart people in culinary school, and some people you know are destined for dishwashing. Did the second group really need a diploma? They'd probably have just as good a chance as rising to sous chef as without the piece of paper.

        However, I've seen some "book-smart" people with nice diplomas from the CIA who can't survive 5 minutes in a commercial kitchen.

        As for me, I was a career-changer. Already with a Bachelors degree, having been in the work force for a decade or more, I enrolled at Baltimore International Culinary. Every minute was precious to me and I've tried to make the best of my investment.

        What you put in is what you get out, in life and college.

        September 8, 2011 at 11:25 am |
  9. Steve

    Becoming a successful "chef" without going to a reputable culinary school is the exception not the rule. If you could learn in the kitchen then why do high-profile and successful chefs send their kids to culinary school? There are a lot more take-aways from Culinary School than just technique...

    September 7, 2011 at 9:53 am |
  10. AleeD

    I've missed you .... ;)

    September 7, 2011 at 9:05 am |
  11. Zargoth

    I worked for 10 years in a number of restaurants & I paid my dues. Then I went to culinary school, & everything I knew was put into a formal & more organized approach.

    Chef is a title earned if & only if you have done both. Young people just out of culinary school from high school have no more right ot the title than someone who learned just on the job, & never took the time to formalize their training.

    September 7, 2011 at 8:55 am |
    • Drew

      Fortunately, you do not have the privilege of bestowing or withholding title. Thanks for your Opinion though.

      September 7, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • MalaDee

      It sounds like a parallel to bestowing the title of engineer on someone merely because they've worked in that field for so many of years. I feel that's wrong. Education is everything. Otherwise the title loses all meaning for those who have worked so hard to achieve it.

      September 7, 2011 at 9:48 am |
    • Ingeneer

      Yeah, try that in the medical field and see where that gets you.

      September 7, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  12. Michaela

    I have to a agree that passion or having 'fire in the belly' , as someone wrote earlier, is the deciding factor of potential success.

    I run the Atlanta Underground Market, which has normally 30-40 vendors offering their dishes for sale in small portions. The hardest part for me has been to find good vendors. I had expected that all I needed to do is put flyers on the cars at the local Culinary schools – huh! Got a few calls, but never got one vendor from there. I would have thought that all these people have a passion for food. But there's a big difference between following someone else's instructions and having the guts to stand on your own.

    Most of my vendors are home cooks who have the 'fire in the belly' and who want the opportunity to bring their dishes out from the underground. We have scouts coming to the events, hiring some of them for catering later on. There's some awesome food out there and there are many people that love to try food that's made with passion, heart and soul (I have close to 8000 members since Feb, just word of mouth)

    September 7, 2011 at 8:52 am |
  13. Lex

    One can be a chef without going to culinary school. What did people do before culinary school. They learned from their mother or father! BTW the guy pictured is a total hottie. :)

    September 7, 2011 at 5:23 am |
    • Is it Chef or Chief?

      Chef is a formal title given to those that have fulfilled the requirements to be titled as such (Souse Chef, Chef Du Saucier, Chef Du Garde Manger, Executive Chef, Master Chef...etc). I agree that there are many that have that natural palate and eye for presentation, but if you have not attended a formal school (yes there are sh!t schools out there) or complete required traditional apprentices then the title of Chef is not likely yours to proclaim.
      Please do not muddy the title for those of us that toiled to gain its prestige.
      How about "Gourmet" or "Gastronomer" and cook works just fine.
      The American Culinary Federation can provide guidelines.
      My love of food to all.

      September 7, 2011 at 8:15 am |
      • Zargoth

        You are so correct...

        September 7, 2011 at 8:56 am |
      • Dave

        You would think with your screen name that you would understand that Chef means Chief. You don't have to have a formal education, and you don't even have to fulfill any requirements to earn the title of Chef. You simply have to be in charge. Granted, if you're in a position to be in charge, you usually need to have a proven track record. However, there are plenty of idiots out there with no experience and too much money who decide to open restaurants themselves. They are Chefs because they are in charge of their kitchens. If they have even a single dishwasher to boss around, they are Chefs.

        The problem comes in the fact that anyone with any influence can call themselves a Chef. You were partially right about the American Culinary Federation. They provide certification for people in the Culinary industry. They can make you a Certified Sous Chef, or a Certified Chef, or higher. Even so, the tests for these titles is barely more difficult than coming up with the money required to take the test. I'm not sure if its still the case, but the test to become a Certified Apprentice Baker was to make dinner rolls. Wow, really. A whole batch of dinner rolls. Anybody with a cookbook can make dinner rolls.

        The only way to make sure that the person who is cooking your food is any good is to try it. Don't go by titles, they mean more to the people in the kitchen than the people in the dining room.

        And in case you're wondering, I am in culinary school. I have worked in a fairly fancy restaurant, as a cook, not as a chef. I have had no responsibility greater than making food and sending it to the dining room. I'm currently at a (ugh...) day job to make ends meet, since for some reason the people who prepare your food slave for minimum wage, or just greater. Cooks are definitely one of the least respected professions. Long hours, horrible working conditions (the kitchen was never under 100 degrees), low pay, and no respect. If the food comes out well, the Chef gets the compliments, not the cooks. The Chef usually had very little to do with the end product. He may have come up with the menu, possibly even created a recipe or two, but in general he didn't make the food. He was too busy taking care of ordering food and supplies, and doing everything else required to run a restaurant. But even with the lack of respect, there's nothing I'd rather be doing.

        I spent 13 years as an engineer, and was (and still am) miserable every day. Being stuck in a 6 x 6 cubicle for 8 hours at a time isn't work, its prison. I spend months working on a project, and on the off chance that the project isn't cancelled, I never see the finished product. With cooking, its instant gratification. The ticket comes in, I work on preparing the food, and send it out. Projects last a few minutes at most, and I see the end result. Of course I work on a hundred or so projects a night, then clean up and come home exhausted, but oddly fulfilled.

        My goal is to open my own place in the not too distant future. A bakery, or a cafe, or even an ice cream shop, I haven't fully decided. Will I call myself Chef? Probably, but only because that is my job title.

        September 7, 2011 at 8:58 am |
      • Ingeneer

        chef – ha ha ha what a stoopid french title. ha ha chef. That's a name on a can of f'n noodles.

        September 7, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  14. Rigel

    I am a cook. I am 23 and have been a cook for 7 years now. I have no schooling in it. What I learned I learned in the business. And let me be blunt. Culinary School does not make you a cook or a Chef. Most places will not hire a kid out og Culinary school because they lack real time in kitchens out in the world. It is a hard life the pay is not great and the people you serve care nothing about the people who make them the food. Outside for a 3 min smoke and breather before the 7pm rush you will get looks from people walking past. My boss has been working in kitchens since he was 12 he is one of the best known and popular chefs in Burlington Vermont. The only city of size in that state and home of dozens oh high end places with way better locations then his place in the side of a strip mall. He never went to college.
    Simply put unless you work the job you have no idea what you are talking about.

    September 7, 2011 at 2:00 am |
  15. texaschef74

    I went to TCA le cordon bleu, lately its the program has come under fire for misleading students in California's CCA. For me the program taught that you get what you put into it. I attended classes for 2 years of the program and finished my externship, alot of people didnt for many reasons but mostly those that thought the program was a joke. For me it was a job that i had to go to and instead of getting paid I got knoledge. I've come across some who have worked in the industry as long as I have and they feel that I wasted my time in school, but there have been many occasion that my "equally' talented collegues have come up short with there abilities for lack of fundamental skills in cooking.

    September 7, 2011 at 1:10 am |
  16. Beefpotpie

    Passion is the key or as some will say "fire in the belly". I have it and it pays.

    I was enrolled at age 19 to atttend the CIA in Hyde Park. I could not attend because I had no money and parents that were adrift. I went to bed at night reading cook books – Larousse's Gastrominique was a heavy and hard pillow.

    After a handful of dopey restaurant jobs and a year and a half at a hotel program (part-time – while working days) at a small university for some management courses, I felt secure enough to get out in the world and truly get started. I tried every recipe from the Joy of Cooking – many of them akwardly. This was my education,

    Today, I earn nearly $ 300k (net) a year (for many years) running and cooking for my small catering compamny with a who's who clientele – including the president of a major university.

    Want to cook? Want to succeed? Get your nose deep in to it and you can achieve it but be prepared to stumble, fail, and get your ass kicked. When you feel failiure – only then will you conquer and win. Without failure and adveristy to propel you – expect mediocrity. Whether your a restaurant, club, hotel, private, or any other chef – commit, persevere, and FAIL, and you will ultimately win.

    September 6, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
  17. Jim D

    I've been to culinary school and I love the reaction I get from the people that are self taught. They stomp their feet, run around, pound their chests and use the same arguments as Mr. Goncalves. All the while I'm standing there stirring a pot of soup wondering what they're so worked up about. Culinary school does not make you a chef but it provides a strong foundation of knowledge to build upon. For some reason the only people that care whether or not you have your papers are the ones that don't have theirs.

    September 6, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
    • In the Biz

      Can you cook? Great. I don't have an official paper and could give two poops if you do. What I care about in my operation is – CAN YOU COOK? Seen many an idiot that just spent $30k that couldn;t cook Mac and Cheese out of the box...the paper means nothing if you don;t know what to do with it.

      September 7, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
  18. Small town Chef

    While I agree you don't need a degree to be a chef it sure helps.
    yes I went to school with plenty of weenies who couldn't hack it in the real world. And at this point I'm more of a sell out chef for going corporate, but man even my friends with the degree got a leg up to wait tables in manahatten. If you think waiting tables is a crappy job you should see the tips they get in. Also i was pretty lucky and found a job making over 40 a year and using my degree and I'm under 30.

    Again you don't need one but to some of the commentors who say you shouldn't get one is kind of a slap in the face.

    It is understandable though. With over 300 cooking schools in the US alone they pump out students like no other. The hard part wasn't getting into Culinary School, the hard part was staying in while keeping your own passion alive.
    My advice to anyone wanting to go to Culinary school, work first for a min. of 2 years, and pick a good school. CIA, NECI, Kendall, and Johnson and Whales are my top 4 schools.

    September 6, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
  19. Vanilla Gorilla

    wow !! what an interesting perspective – too bad it is something for the Food Channel and not the real world.
    Get a grip – they are plenty of computer whizzes who never set foot in a classroom – artists who never set foot in a classroom and the list goes on....................
    There are plenty of chefs who have never gone to culinary school – albeit a formal culinary pedigree is a wonderful thing – they are measured by the food the serve. No piece of paper will ever replace experience in the kitchen.
    In an ideal world a young cook on the road to becoming a "chef" will have a mentor who shares their experiences and secrets giving insight, direction and feedback as a master does with this prized student.

    September 6, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
    • apote

      As a licensed and degreed Interior Designer with 25 years under my belt, I often had to deal with the talented client who had no training, but knew what they wanted the finished project to look like, let's call it a vision of the perfect space. They hired me to achieve the vision, because they knew enough to seek professional help, usually after a decorating disaster. Image it's the same with the culinary arts. Sure everyone can cook and decorate, but it's the professionals that have mastered their trade enough to help a client or a restaurant patron enjoy the benefits. But it's all moot now, with the economy in such a state, everyone is destined to be jacks and jills of all trades, and master of none. My profession has been corporatized to such a degree that the small business owner doesn't stand a chance. When is the last time you heard of someone hiring a self-employed professional designer for a room makeover? It's more likely they tune in to HGTV for a little guidance and go to Lowes for some do-it-yourself materials and supplies. However, just as a gourmet cook has a diverse list of resources for ingredients and cooking tools, and tried and true recipes, a true designer hardly ever shops at Lowes for her clients.

      September 6, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
      • Ingeneer

        boy did you pull the wool over peoples head. Buaaaahahahaha

        September 7, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  20. Becca

    -You cannot call yourself a chef even if you go to culinary school.
    -If you go to school, you pat up to $50k in education, then get the same minimum wage job as someone without a degree
    -Min wage jobs barely cover student loan costs for culinary school
    -Many trained cooks leave the field because of that

    Been there. Done that. Wouldn't do it again.

    September 6, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • Is it Chef or Chief?

      I am sorry that you have lost the zeal for food as you once had.
      I too had to leave the trade as a full time profession because of the hours kept and a new family, but I hope you are still preparing happyness for those around you with your training.
      You may be surprised when it comes full circle.

      September 7, 2011 at 8:22 am |
  21. Joepub

    I agree, you do not have to go to culinary school to be a chef. Some people can do it with their own ingenuity. For example, you have those that have a knack for art and can draw wonderfully while others have difficulties drawing stick figures (me). :-)

    September 6, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
    • Dont eat that shhhut your mouth

      Think outside the lunch box

      September 6, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
      • Ingeneer

        shut your pie hole

        September 7, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  22. TJKoko

    @The Mick:

    Did Alice Waters of Chez Panisse ever attend culinary school? And what about Raymond Oliver of the once illustrious Grand Vefour, did he attend one or just follow an apprenticeship?

    September 6, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  23. The_Mick

    I disagree: I think you need the schooling. As a scientist who pays attention to detail and relative amounts, I like to think that, in retirement, I've learned a lot watching Jacques Pepin, America's Test Kitchen, etc. explain WHY you use certain methods. I can name and make the five mother sauces and I can wow people with my dishes. But I know from having attended an excellent grad. school in Chemistry (IIT) and then worked with those who didn't that there's a MAJOR gap in knowledge if you don't go to a good school for your profession and work with top people. Some people may be able to get by without it – especially if they had a parent who went to culinary school and passed down years of knowledge to them as they grew up – but unless you've got connections it's awful tough to work your way up unless you've got that diploma -and references- saying you know what you are doing.

    September 6, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • Jane

      Hmmm....what culinary school did Jacques Pepin attend?

      I had no formal education in the culinary world, and my parents did not pass on any culinary skills. What I did have was an enormous amount of passion for food, the desire to learn, and an extremely good work ethic. All three of those things helped me to work my way up the ladder until I was eventually working in a four star restaurant in New York City. Jean Georges hired me, and he(nor my pastry chef I worked with at the time) did not attend culinary school. It is not a necessity. It can be a good thing for some people, but it is also an enormous investment financially with essentially little to no return upon graduation. I have worked with vast numbers of people who've attended culinary school, and none of them encouraged me to go......it was actually always the opposite.
      You should stick with what you understand in the world of Chemistry.

      September 6, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
      • Is it Chef or Chief?

        FYI, Jacques Pepin was an apprentice to many notable Chef's, so he took the traditional route, culinairy school came second (Chicken or the Egg).
        I do not want to use discouraging words to my fellow lovers of food, but school or appreticeship is the ONLY way to become a Chef.
        A Chef can take the lowest quality ingredients and dazzle you, not the other way around.
        I knew how to cook quite well before school, but it was a fraction of what I know now after.
        Purveying food stuffs from producers, sanitation, buisiness skills, cultural nuances, I can keep going on and on with what Johnson & Wales did for the taming of this shrew.

        September 7, 2011 at 8:31 am |
  24. Careme

    Entirely disagree!! You cannot call yourself a Chef without going to culinary school. That in itself doesn't make a chef but culinary school plus about 6-8 years ubder your belt would be a START. The difference between a cook and a chef is a respect for food. Not just the food product but the all the energy, human and otherwise, that goes into making what we call "food": Miles travelled, water and nutrients used, labor to ship, development of the product, the utensils used to clean it. EVERYTHING demands respect when you are a "Chef" in the kitchen. Even the kitchen!!

    September 6, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
    • Zargoth

      You are so correct: school plus is the only way...

      September 7, 2011 at 8:58 am |
    • Ingeneer

      You are so full of chicken crap. the majority of cooking schools are bogus, like karate classes that hand out "black belts" after 2 years of practice. bwaaaaahahahahahaha

      September 7, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • In the Biz

      Bull. I spent 10 years cooking under different Chef's before I earned a job with the title Sous and another 2 years before I got Chef. The difference between a Cook and a Chef is vast. Not just respect, but an entire package that includes business acumen, culinary prowess, people skills and a healthy knowledge of great food and the proper procedures to produce it on a large scale. School can HELP, but it is not the be all end all you make it to be. I've blown out many a culinary school grad who couldn't hack the realness of life in this industry. It's not for everyone...

      September 7, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
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