Anyone considering culinary school may have a vivid picture of crisp, white coats, a high-energy pace and bustling atmosphere, but what is life really like for a student chef? You may be surprised to learn how much variety is involved in earning a culinary degree—or the different careers paths it can open. Here are just five of the things you’ll learn in year one.
Before you prepare your mise en place or learn to batonnet with accuracy, you’ll be learning about incredibly important subjects, such as food safety and sanitization. While protein content and storage temperatures may not seem exciting, they are among one of the top things new chefs or anyone considering a career in the food industry learn.
“The science behind good food handling and safety will affect every aspect of a commercial kitchen, from the operating license to the customer satisfaction rating,” says one of our Chefs at the Institute. “A culinary degree is about successfully marrying the art and science of food with the management side of the business.”
Aside from sanitation, new students will study theory, marketing, nutrition and cost-control among other subjects and electives that will ultimately help them decide what career path they want to follow post-graduation.
For budding chefs, this is where they create lifelong skills and professional palettes. In the culinary arts, there is a tool for every job, and in purpose-built labs, students learn how to prepare food for flavor and presentation. It is also a time to boost knowledge in everything from fresh herbs and cheese to oils and vinegars. Year one is all about refining the basic skills that are necessary, no matter what type of food students cook. The most important thing culinary students learn, however, is how to find the necessary balance between speed, accuracy and safety in challenging, real-world environments. Graduates leave class with the skills to move culinary creations from plate to table in a way that customers expect, every time.
Culinary careers are rooted in passion, and first-year culinary students learn that variety is important in discovering where their passion lies. Choosing a school with accredited programs will set the standard in excellence and provide students with many opportunities perfect new things. Courses cover topics such as international cuisine, baking, pastry creation, decorating and even the fundamentals of wine.
Students can expect to learn from chef-instructors who are hands-on, providing advice and correcting errors. By the end of the first year, students will gain a good mix of business and kitchen experience to help them narrow selections for the next level of instruction.
Any chef knows that cooking doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The ability to collaborate with fellow chefs, managers and wait staff can play a big part in their success. Year one students focus on the quality of teamwork and communication that is required to keep a busy kitchen humming.
“Participation is critical for professional chefs, especially when they work with an international team,” says one fo our Chef-instructors here at CIL. “A significant part of a students grade is based on how well they can function and contribute in a team environment.”
Year one culinary students may begin their journey with nothing but passion and a dream, but thanks to the immersive learning environment, they quickly gain the confidence to advance with their creations. Student chefs find themselves putting their mark in the preparation, flavor combinations and presentation of the food they make. For some students, the cuisine they explore within the lab will eventually become their signature dish.
Whether a student is bound for a career in hospitality management, French cuisine, baking, and pastries or wine, having a solid foundation and a common experience in year one of culinary school will provide a host of skills that will last a lifetime.