What is Culinary School Really Like?

Get the scoop on culinary school—from classwork to grading.

what is culinary school like

The best part about cooking school is, of course, the food. You'll also take classes that cover everything from cleaning and sanitation to how to set the dining table. The main point of attending cooking schools, however, is really to learn the skills and techniques to take your cooking to the next level. You'll learn tricks and tips that you'll use throughout your culinary career.

Perhaps more than any other area of specialty, the culinary arts is basically what it sounds like. As a student, you'll spend hours chopping onions, cutting meat, kneading dough and beating eggs. And in culinary school, you'll do it all under the supervision of experts who can teach you the tricks of the trade and correct any mistakes you might be making.

How Does Grading Work in Cooking Schools?

As for grading in cooking schools, as surprising as it might sound, it's not usually based on the taste of the food. "It's about participation," says Candice Deis, a professor at Quality College of Culinary Careers in Fresno, CA. She explained that grading takes many factors into account, including: professionalism, work ethic, and sanitation and safety.

Popular Courses in Cooking Schools

The most popular courses at cooking schools tend to allow for creativity and imagination on the part of the students, said Deis. "The students can be very creative," she explained, "when they do melon carving, platter arrangements and choose buffet themes." Another popular course is baking and pastries, though Deis admitted that not everyone loves baking, or is even good at it. "Some of them like it; some of them don't," she said. "But students learn how to make bread, decorate cakes, make hot desserts, croissants, brownies, cookies and ice cream."

Other Learning Opportunities

Students always have textbooks that go along with what is being taught in cooking class. "Students do written work, homework and take quizzes in class." Every school varies, Deis said, so it's important to find the cooking school that teaches in a way that you'll learn. "We all have to follow certain guidelines and teach the same things, but not in the same way. Our school is very hands-on. When I lecture I also do a demonstration, and then students go into the lab."

Many culinary arts programs require students to complete externships, where they receive real-world training in an external restaurant setting. These externships might involve cooking as well as interacting with customers. Some culinary schools also have their own restaurants that students run and operate to gain experience.