Many people ask me this question - two people so far this week! I HATE IT! It really depends on the person and where they are in their life. Here are some pros and cons to help you decide if it's for you...
1. It's EXPENSIVE! #thisaintcheap is an understatement. You're going to pay upwards of $25,000 then graduate to try to find a job that pays $10/hour (If you're lucky!) Oh, and good luck with benefits.
2. Time Consuming. Many people I attended school with worked a full-time job before heading to class. It's exhausting and eats a good portion of your free time. There's studying and projects to do. Plus, if you really want to succeed, you'll be making puff pastry dough at home, too.
3. Gets you set in your ways. I often come across people who say things like, "Well this is how they taught me in culinary school!" There are many ways to do one task. The best part about working with different people is learning from them. I learn something new every day.
4. It's competitive. This isn't necessarily a bad thing as it can really help motivate you, but don't let that be your focus. Do the best you can do.
5. It may not meet your expectations. You are not in school for 8 years. You cannot spend two weeks blowing sugar. Typically, a technique is demoed, you have an opportunity to try it out and then you move on. If you really want to learn about a specific ingredient or technique in depth, you may have to do it on your own.
1. You're not alone. Think about how scary it can be starting a new job - you don't know anyone, you're low man on the totem pole and you're expected to jump in and know what you're doing. Well, everyone is on the same boat, so it's not as intimidating.
2. Friendships. You are trapped in a room with people who want to do what you do and who love cooking/baking/food. You already have tons in common! I am still friends with many of my classmates and we support each other constantly.
3. Builds a good foundation. At any good institution, you will learn all the basics, and although you may not spend tons of time practicing a particular technique, you will have the knowledge you need to succeed in the real world.
4. Resources. Schools have a tremendous amount of resources - libraries, clubs, workshops and culinary demonstrations - which are usually lead by instructors who you haven't been assigned to your class, or even guest chefs / celebrity chefs.
5. Alumni Services. Job portals, advisors, etc. This is priceless. I still talk regularly with my advisor and she is always willing to help me make smart decisions. She has even helped me land some pretty amazing jobs,
So, as you can see, the ball is in your court. YOU have to decide if it is a smart career choice. You can definitely skip culinary school and build a name for yourself in this industry, but you will have to hustle and build your own support system and create your own connections.