If you’ve just decided to go to culinary school, chances are you’re a little bit nervous. Whether this is your first time in higher education or you’re returning to school for a second degree, starting a new profession can be anxiety provoking! You might be wondering what class is going to be like, or what skills you’ll need to have. Some of them seem obvious, such as sense of taste and smell. Of course you’ll need to have a sensitive palate to test your dishes and develop delicious ones! Others may seem less obvious, like time-management skills. There’s actually a lot more to being a chef that just whipping up entrees and desserts by following a recipe. But if you are committed and take the time to develop your skills, you’ll have an advantage over other aspiring chefs who choose to rely on their cooking skills alone.
You’ll have to develop leadership skills.
Whether you’re a head chef in a fancy restaurant or a sous chef in a chain establishment, you’ll need to have good leadership skills. At various times you’ll be responsible for motivating kitchen staff, especially during busy times when life in the kitchen can get a little hectic. You will have to work at developing positive relationships with coworkers and learning to cooperate with others. Chances are you won’t be creating all the dishes yourself, but rather working as a team, with multiple cooks contributing to the final result. You can work on developing this skill while you’re in school by volunteering to take the lead during group projects. If you tend to be shy, push yourself out of your comfort zone and introduce yourself to classmates to practice building relationships and communicating with others.
You’ll need to have a good sense of taste and smell.
Everyone has their own taste preferences, so it’s natural that you might think some food tastes delicious and other dishes should go in the trash, while the student sitting next to you might think the exact opposite way. What’s important is that you have the ability to inspect dishes and craft concoctions that will be to the majority of customers’ liking. You might have to work hard to establish this analytical mind and keen sense of what tastes appealing. The good news is that while you’re in culinary school you’ll have plenty of time to taste many, many dishes and discuss the nuances with taste in others. You’ll also need to have the ability to discern different categories of taste and follow directives to create specific dishes, such as one that is representative of a certain region of the world, one that is very spicy, or one that would be successful on a kids’ menu.
You must have strong time management skills.
If you are good with time management, you are more likely to succeed both in the classroom and in the professional world. While in school, students in all disciplines and career paths do better when they can efficiently manage their time. This might mean buying a planner and establishing a specific schedule, or learning to say no to fun activities if a project is due the next day. In the kitchen, chefs need to be able to manage not just their own time, but that of their employees as well. Customers don’t like to wait for their food and will get cranky if the kitchen is moving slowly. You’ll need to have menus ready as kitchen staff start preparing meals and keep the pace up in the kitchen without sacrificing the quality of the food.