Three Ways to Get a Culinary Education Without School

Not sure you're ready to dive into culinary education? Here are some good options for starting out.

culinary education

Thinking about a career in the culinary arts, but not sure whether you're ready to plunge into full-time culinary education?

Whether you're a Food Network junkie who hasn't spent much actual time in the kitchen, an avid home cook with no restaurant experience or someone with an established career who's interested in changing directions but hesitant to commit, here are three ways to begin your culinary education with something less than a full-scale degree program.

1. Enroll in a Cooking Class or Two

Culinary schools, community centers, restaurants, kitchen supply stores and private chefs often offer cooking classes to the public. Ranging from classes that meet once a week for a month or more, to more casual, single-session events, cooking classes let you explore different cuisines and refine your food-prep techniques. Often offered in the evenings or on weekends, these classes are not only a great introduction to further culinary education, they're easy to fit into your schedule.

2. Immerse Yourself in a "Cooking School Vacation"

As Americans have embraced foodie culture over the past few years, "culinary vacations" have become a growing trend. Many prestigious cooking schools, hotels and chefs offer you the opportunity to combine a week or so of cooking classes with travel to Napa Valley, Italy, France, Spain, Asia, South America – or just about anywhere else you'd want to vacation.

3. Take a Job in a Restaurant

While this may admittedly involve a heavy time commitment unless you work very part time, there's no better way to see if you're ready for the hard work and high stress that come with a career in a professional kitchen than to simply jump into paid employment. Not only will you gain culinary education in a real-world environment, you'll greatly improve your chances of getting into a respected cooking school with some practical experience under your belt.

Continuing Your Culinary Education

Once you've tested the waters and are sure that a culinary career is in your future, earning a degree or certificate is the quickest way to put yourself on the path to a high-ranking job in a fine-dining establishment. Even if you don't envision yourself as an executive chef, attending cooking school is one of the best ways to help ensure your culinary career success.