If food is your passion, you have probably considered taking cooking classes or even attending and completing a culinary degree or diploma program. Cooking is a hot career and foodies are everywhere. Even if you only want to be a better home cook or learn culinary arts as a hobby, you are not alone. The foodie culture has been growing for years—surveys show there have been steady increases in sales of specialty foods and increased viewership for food and cooking shows.
This growth in food and cooking culture means that more people are trying to figure out how to be better at it. People who love new food experiences don’t just want to go out to new restaurants; they also want to learn how to be better cooks and figure out if they want to become professionals in the culinary arena. If you’re thinking about how best to learn how to cook or how to be a better cook, you have a lot of options. From weekly food and recipe subscription boxes to cooking shows and magazines, the choices abound, but have you thought about a real culinary education?
What You Get from a Real Culinary Education
Not every cook or chef went to culinary school, and there are many, many great home cooks who are also self-taught. So, why should you spend the time and money on cooking classes? Teaching yourself or learning through a mentor are possible ways to learn how to cook, but these won’t give you everything a real, structured education can give you:
Skills, not just recipes.
Being a good cook, and eventually a great cook, takes more than simply being able to follow a recipe. It requires learning skills that make up the foundation for being able to follow a recipe. In classes you learn culinary techniques that you can’t get from a recipe, things like how to julienne vegetables, how to boil pasta the right way, how to debone a fish, and how to measure dry ingredients for baked goods, just to mention a few.
A professional vocabulary.
You could attempt to julienne those carrots as the recipe directs you, but what if you don’t even know what the word means. Cooking comes with a vocabulary that is totally different from everyday language. With professional cooking classes you will learn what it means to blanch something and what a meringue is.
Real kitchen confidence.
In so many industries you can fake confidence to seem more competent, but in cooking you actually need to know how to do things. If you can’t deliver, you can’t succeed as a cook or chef, or even convince your family you can put together a great dinner. To get real confidence in the kitchen, confidence that means something, you need to learn how to cook.
Life-saving safety training.
There are many things in the kitchen that can make you sick or even kill you if you aren’t careful. If you want to get more involved in cooking, you need to know how to do it safely. What you get from a true culinary education that you can’t get from books or TV shows is instruction in how to prevent cross-contamination, how to handle a knife safely, and how to sanitize and disinfect.
Can’t I Just Learn Culinary Techniques Watching Cooking Shows?
There are so many cooking and food shows on television now, including more than one network devoted to them. And, yes, these shows can give you some great tips and tricks, but if you don’t have a solid foundation in cooking basics, you will struggle to put them to use. For instance, if your favorite cooking show host tells you to fold the egg whites into your batter instead of mixing it in, do you really know what that means?
What about an Apprenticeship?
Some cooks and chefs learn their trade by working their way up the kitchen ladder, usually starting as dishwashers. This is definitely a valid way to become a professional cook, and there are some truly great chefs who learned this way, but it is not the best option for everyone. One downside to learning through an apprenticeship rather than cooking classes is that you have to start at the bottom and you’ll have to prove your dedication and skills to move up from there. Not everyone has the ability to take a low-paying job, especially if you are hoping to learn how to cook as self-improvement rather than for a career.
What You Can Do with a Real Culinary Education
When you learn how to cook through a culinary arts program, you get a professional education that can lead to a number of careers as a cook or chef. Cooks work anywhere food is served, from schools to restaurants and hotels. Cooks may also work their way up into the management of any of these types of service areas. By taking cooking classes you put yourself in a position to work as a line or prep cook, a sous chef, a pastry chef, and potentially one day an executive chef in charge of an entire kitchen.
Having learned culinary techniques through a diploma or degree program, you’ll also be prepared for a career that you create yourself. Cooking goes hand-in-hand with entrepreneurship and even freelancing. You could work as a freelance personal chef, or even buy and start up a food truck. Other interesting careers for culinary professionals include recipe tester and developer, food writer or critic, butcher, or a food buyer for an upscale grocery store.
Growth in the Culinary Industry
Whatever career in food you choose, you will be entering a growing and exciting industry. People are more interested in food than ever, how to cook, where food comes from, organic foods, vegan foods, and much more. This means that there are more opportunities for anyone with a culinary education than ever before, a growing trend that shows no signs of stopping.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs for chefs is experiencing faster than average growth. There are expected to be thousands more positions open for those with a culinary education over the next few years. These professionals earn a good living too. The current average salary for a chef is $41,500 per year and $19.95 per hour. The top ten percent of earners make $74,170 per year, so there is room for growth and advancement.
Cooking Classes for Personal Enrichment
Professional cooking classes like those you can take at a culinary arts school or a career college that offers classes on culinary techniques are great for anyone who is interested in being a better home cook. Whether you want to be able to make better dinners for your family, you want to learn how to bake, or you just enjoy cooking and want to learn more, you can do that with real cooking classes.
The government even encourages you to take these higher education classes by offering a Lifetime Learning Credit. You can check with the IRS to see if you qualify, but most people who take higher education classes to qualify whether or not they are earning a degree or diploma. The credit can help offset the expense of learning new skills in the kitchen.
Selecting a Program or School to Learn Culinary Arts
If you have been thinking of taking cooking classes, now is a great time to get started. Even if you aren’t sure you want to be a cook now, getting a culinary education means you could get a job later if you change your mind. In the meantime, you can simply enjoy personal enrichment and learn culinary arts from real professionals. To choose a program, find a location close to you. Learning to cook is hands-on and not something you can or should do online.
One of the top culinary schools in Florida is at Florida Technical College, conveniently located in Kissimmee. The cooking classes here are hands-on in a real kitchen setting and taught by individuals who have worked in the restaurant and culinary industry. If you choose to complete the entire program, you’ll learn all the culinary techniques you need to start your career in the food industry. You will also have a convenient and flexible class schedule, which will allow you to learn around your other responsibilities. The career department at FTC will also be there for you every step of the way, from helping you get your resume ready to landing a job after graduation.