Have you ever found yourself sharing mouthwatering Instagram posts showing off the latest, tastiest food trends you’ve tried? Guilty of binge-watching cooking competitions on television? Perhaps you’ve relied on Pinterest to perfect that pasta recipe or your plating techniques. Let’s admit it—if there’s anything that’s stolen the spotlight during the last couple of years, it’s food culture. Almost everyone’s getting into learning, experiencing, sharing, and creating fantastic food. This general interest in gastronomic adventures continues to grow, inspiring a great deal of people from all walks of life to study culinary arts.
Pursuing a culinary arts degree, however, is no simple cooking lesson. It takes hard work and literal sweat, cuts and burns to nab that diploma. If you’re thinking of pursuing your culinary dreams and maybe even going to culinary school, here are five signs that it may be the right path for you, which we learned about at a recent event highlighting locally trained chefs and the restaurants they work for.
1. You handle pressure well.
Expect to be pushed to your limits and constantly judged on how well your dishes taste, and look… Initially. After that, you’ll be graded on how quickly you can make and serve those dishes to dozens of demanding customers. Mistakes will be made, and depending on the chef you answer to (and sometimes, even chefs and critics you don’t answer to), you may be yelled at. Actually, you will most probably be yelled at, in a rainbow of different pitches, words, and volumes. Your reply to any and all insults flailed at you? “Yes, Chef!” This isn’t the right industry for people who buckle under pressure. You know what they say—if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!
2. You’re willing to make sacrifices.
The food industry rarely lets you have time for yourself. A degree from a culinary school may prove that you’ve got what it takes to cook, but it won’t necessarily grant you chef privileges to begin your career with. Your first job will probably entail long, hot, low-paid hours in the kitchen, spending holidays chopping onions for the soup that everyone else will enjoy in that lavish Christmas party. You’ll be stuck prepping food while your friends wine and dine at some posh place you’d probably only recognize from the inside of its kitchen. Is all that stress and experience worth it? Only you can answer that question.
3. You’re ready to hustle.
You will gut that smelly, not-so-fresh fish. It may not be pleasant, but you will gut it properly, efficiently, and without complaints. Be prepared to touch, mangle, chop, and handle smelly meats, poultry, seafood, vegetables—all things gooey and “icky”—you name it! Then again, you may spend an entire day doing nothing but slicing potatoes, so much so that you end up dreaming about, well, slicing potatoes. Other days, you’ll be so busy pacing around the kitchen, you’ll be on your feet for five hours straight, if you’re lucky. Maybe even eight or 10 or 12. As long as you’re open to these physical challenges and are willing to get your hands dirty, you’ll be fine!
4. You want to learn everything you can about food.
It is possible to cook for, as well as open, a restaurant without studying in a culinary school. But a culinary arts degree can certainly give you a leg up. You’ll find that learning the fool-proof foundations of cooking and baking will help equip you with basic knowledge you’d have to learn yourself if you directly sign up to work in a running restaurant. It also means that, if you have the time, when you do find yourself working in a kitchen, you might not have to start at the bottom of the totem pole. Culinary school familiarizes you with must-know terms and exposes you to a wide variety of dishes, methods and ingredients, as opposed to working with limited items and understanding.
5. You love to cook!
Lastly, and most importantly—a career in the culinary world is definitely for you if the core of your being is absolutely in love with the idea of cooking, of creating edible art and comfort food for the rest of your life. It’s what you’ll be doing eight (or more) hours a day, almost every day for the next several decades, if you decide to continue working in the industry after your studies. If being in the kitchen and working (really) hard to make amazing food is your passion, then that is fuel for your determination to stick around and succeed.
Did you answer a resounding “yes!” to all of the above? If so, perhaps going into the culinary arts is your slice of pie. But remember, just because it’s your slice of pie, that doesn’t guarantee it’ll be a piece of cake!
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An avid lover of bagoong, philosophy, and writing, Valeria enjoys spending her free time typing ideas away on her keyboard, and listening to Alan Watts tapes. You may spot her taking long walks with her dog, Snow, while singing second voice to Disney songs. She intends to take up a master's degree in Creative Writing one day, and publish her own book!