Food & Drink

15 Things You Learn in Culinary School

Published On 03/27/2015 Published On 03/27/2015
cooking
Courtesy of The Culinary Institute of America

We consulted a group of industry professionals to find out things they don't teach you in culinary school, but it was quickly brought to our attention that not all cooking academies are created equal, and that these deficiencies are far from universal. In response to our article, the fine folks at The Culinary Institute of America sent over a sharp rebuttal explaining all the things you actually do learn through their not-for-profit culinary universities. Here's their side of the story, served medium-raw.

Courtesy of The Culinary Institute of America

Repetition

"Students spend 1,300+ hours in the kitchens. That includes lots of repetition."
 

Not to be scared of knives

"In the introductory Culinary Fundamentals course, students work on their knife skills every day for a full semester, getting better at things like dicing, chopping, julienning, batonneting, tourneing, and more. They treat their knives with respect, and learn how to sharpen and care for them. But they do not fear them. And, yes, our students do sometimes get cut, but the sharper the knife, the cleaner the cut and the faster it heals."
 

A sense of urgency

"This is instilled in CIA students from the beginning. A Sense of Urgency, in fact, was the name of a play that famed chef Thomas Keller put on for CIA students in 2013."
 

How to hold yourself

"While we don't teach swagger, we do teach proper ways to stand, move, and act in a kitchen to be a confident, professional, and safe member of the team."
 

To prep for scale

"Culinary Math is a required first-semester course."
 

Practical kitchen slang

"Over the course of 1,300+ hours, students learn both proper terminology and common slang."
 

How to put the pieces together

"Whether management, culinary science, or applied food studies, all three of our majors build on the skills of the first two years of college and prepare students with the culinary, management, and conceptual skills they need to excel in any food-related career."
 

How to get noticed

"Under the tutelage of dozens of chefs during their CIA education, students learn what it takes to stand out to their superiors once on the job. And they must be doing something to get noticed before graduation, because the average CIA student has more than two job offers upon earning his or her degree."

Courtesy of The Culinary Institute of America

Butchery

"Both meat and seafood fabrication (butchery) are required courses during freshman year. In addition, there are manager-in-training fellowship positions for recent grads where they spend a year learning more about these subjects."
 

Confidence

"If confidence comes with experience, then the CIA teaches confidence with 1,300+ kitchen hours in two years."
 

How to work in the kitchen as a team

"Teamwork is of utmost importance at the CIA. Students work in teams throughout their kitchen education, as well as on all kinds of classroom projects."
 

Fabrication

"Putting elements together in a high-volume environment is the very definition of the college’s required High-Volume Production Cookery course -- the final course of freshman year, before students go out into the industry to complete their required externship."
 

How little you get paid

"Nobody wants students coming to the CIA because they plan to become a millionaire TV star. However, if they love what they do, a CIA education will help them progress up the ladder a lot quicker than the guy who just walked in off the street. Within seven years of graduation, CIA bachelor’s degree graduates are earning an average of $65,000 per year. Within 10-12 years, about half our graduates are executive chefs or chef/owners. A 2010 StarChef.com survey showed those average salaries at $75,000-$80,000 (and that was five years ago)."
 

How hard it is

"The CIA has a six-month industry requirement before students can enroll. We can (and do) teach cooking, hospitality, and management skills, but we want them to know what the industry is like before they tie their college education and career aspirations to the food world."
 

That it doesn't stop

"The curriculum at the CIA mirrors the always-moving atmosphere of the industry. Students are in most kitchen classes every day for three weeks, then immediately move up to the next class. Many classes are 'production' classes where they produce meals for fellow students and faculty on deadline, including the very busy High-Volume Production Cookery course. There is very little vacation time for students -- summer break is only three weeks rather than the three months of most colleges. This allows students to earn their four-year bachelor’s degrees in just over three years and jump right into the industry they love."

Dan Gentile is a staff writer on Thrillist's National Food and Drink team. He is definitely not cut out for culinary school. Follow him to poor knife skills and eating out at @Dannosphere.

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