About once a month I receive an email from a friend asking me if I would mind talking to someone they know who wants to go to culinary school. It is always my pleasure to provide some color and perspective to a potential career changer. I love what I do, and such conversations remind me of how fortunate I am to have traveled on this journey.
If I have heard it once, I have heard it a thousand times: “I just LOVE to cook. It’s my escape…my relaxation. My friends and family tell me I am the best cook. Do you think I should go to culinary school?” My advice varies, depending on the circumstances of the individual, but there is one universal caveat: know that when you make your favorite hobby your job, it will be a job. Your relationship with food and cooking will change. Be prepared for that. And never forget that everything in a kitchen is hot, heavy, and sharp.
There are many other issues to consider, like your own talents and abilities as they relate to food. Do you love trying out lots of recipes and have tremendous organizational skills? Consider becoming a recipe tester. If you are into nutrition as much as you are cooking, develop a career as a personal chef. Another thing to weigh is the cost of culinary school and the realities of the expected return in salary. Going to culinary school makes sense for so many, but definitely not all.
Dorothy Cann Hamilton, Founder and CEO of The French Culinary Institute, has written the bible on this subject, “Love What You Do: Building a Career in the Culinary Industry.” An amalgamation of her 25 years of experience in culinary education, “Love What You Do” functions as part culinary career brochure, part advice column, part workbook – the perfect dose of reality, encouragement, and information. It asks as many questions as it answers, forcing the reader to take stock and find direction. Before you invest upwards of $30,000 in culinary training, spend $12.95 and an hour or two reading this book. It is the very best first step you can take on your culinary path.
Watch Dorothy’s interview on ABC News about building a culinary career.