Compare Cooking Schools
Asking the right questions to ensure the right fit
If you want to get a job in the food-preparation industry, it’s a good idea to start by getting the best training possible. This means receiving an education in the culinary arts. There are many schools to choose from, so be prepared to spend some time determining which one’s best for you.
When evaluating a cooking school, there are certain things to look for and certain questions you should ask. Many culinary arts schools encourage prospective students to visit their campus and check out their facilities in person. It’s always a good idea to do this. Whether you go to the campus or just do your research online, try to find answers to the following questions:
- Does the culinary school have kitchens that are clean and big enough? Does the equipment meet the current industry standards? Are these kitchens similar to the kind of kitchen you want to work in?
- How big is the campus? Do you prefer a small, intimate campus, or a bigger, busier one?
- Does the school have an "open to the public" restaurant where students can practice their skills on campus?
- Is the campus easy to reach by car, bus or whatever mode of transportation you’ll use to get there?
- If you have children, does the school have day-care facilities?
- Are there any other activities on campus, such as clubs or extracurricular sports, which may be important to you?
Quality of Instruction
- Does the school emphasize hands on training? What percentage of instruction time is actually spent cooking and preparing food?
- Do the instructors have extensive industry experience?
- Are class sizes limited to maximize individual attention? What’s the faculty to student ratio?
- Does the school offer more than kitchen training? Does it also address the business aspect of the food industry, such as ordering products, projecting revenue, and scheduling adequate staff for the projections? Are there entrepreneurial courses for those interested in starting their own business?
- Does the culinary school bring in guest instructors with different areas of expertise?
- What are the graduate employment statistics? Will the school help you find work after graduation?
- Are there opportunities for culinary arts school internships?
- Are there any hidden fees, like parking, specialty courses, etc.?
- If you enroll in the cooking school and find it unsuitable, can you transfer credits to another school?
- Do you have to decide before enrollment what you want to specialize in, or is there an introductory program which would allow you to decide later? Can you change your mind?
- What are the criteria for evaluation and what’s the recourse if you are unhappy with your grade?
- Does the school offer cooking internships or co-op programs?
- Is the school accredited by an official accrediting body, such as the American Culinary Federation? Does the culinary school have any awards or accolades from the food-service sector?
After you’ve done your research and have the answers to these questions, it’s a good idea to sit down and compare your notes for each school. Decide which questions are the most important to you. It may take some time and hard work to select the right school, but you’ll be happy you took the time to identify what school is the best for you.