15 Things They Don't Teach You in Culinary School
The things you learn outside of the classroom can be the most important. Culinary school is no exception: without practical kitchen know-how, you're likely to be getting cut from the team rather than doing the cutting.
So, to figure out what they don't teach in the hallowed halls of culinary academies, we consulted everyone from former Master Chef instructors at the CIA, to drop-outs from Le Cordon Bleu, to executive chefs who skipped school altogether. This is what's not included in a $50k education.
A chef's life is like Groundhog Day. The same stuff over and over. Also lots of quoting Bill Murray. Point being, you can teach someone to peel an onion once, but not how to peel it a thousand times.
Not to be scared of knives
You're going to get cut, sliced, stabbed, slit, and every single other verb that has to do with pain by a sharp thing. If you've got the fear, you're only going to hurt yourself worse. And you're not going to see anyone losing fingers in culinary school to fry your shock sensors.
A sense of urgency
A classroom moves at half speed. The kitchen is in fifth gear with a stuck stick shift.
How to hold yourself
No one in the classroom has swagger like us, said every person who's ever worked in a kitchen. Fresh out of school you're like a fish out of water, and it's likely you'll be eaten alive. Most chefs can easily look at a new cook's physicality and know their value, or lack thereof.
To prep for scale
Good luck cooking for a banquet of 200 people.
Practical kitchen slang
Most culinary school dictionaries don't include terms like "third pan."
If Sysco doesn't deliver piece-meal cuts of protein to the restaurant you're working in, odds are you won't know what to do when you've got a whole animal on your hands.
If you're going to be dancing in a kitchen, you need a steady step, which only comes with experience. Having a brain full of theory is going to weigh your head down, when it's crucial that you're floating.
How to work in the kitchen as a team
Cooking is a team sport, but your teammates don't play by the same rules as your cooking instructor.
You may know the history, components, and composition of a dish back and forth, but putting those elements together in a high-volume environment takes an entirely different skill-set.
How little you get paid
You'll be making the same cash as the guy who just walked in off the street. Good luck paying back those loans.
How hard it is
The day-to-day wear & tear on your body/mind/relationships isn't something that you can train for.
How to put the pieces together
You leave school with a great set of tools, but a few years in the kitchen teaches you to wield them all at once like some culinary octopus.
How to get noticed
Knife skills won't get you ahead. Cleaning all the damn time will. Most graduates would be surprised to learn what their superiors value most.
That it doesn't stop
There are no sick days, vacations, graduation parties, or general breathers of any kind.
Dan Gentile is a staff writer on Thrillist's National Food and Drink team. He didn't learn anything in culinary school, except that their practice restaurants are tasty, affordable, and have slower-than-average service. Follow him to lasagna that takes way too long to arrive: @Dannosphere.