So you’ve decided to go to culinary school. Congratulations! You’ve taken the first step to embarking on an exciting and rewarding career path. Going to culinary school gives you a lot of different options for your future. You could specialize in culinary arts or baking arts, and utilize your skills in the real world by cooking for a restaurant or becoming a pastry chef in a bakery. And those are just two examples! Some people go into management and become food service managers in a wide variety of restaurants. Others get involved in hospitality and tourism and get a job working as a chef in a hotel. Those with an entrepreneurial spirit might decide to open their own catering business. The possibilities are endless! If you want to succeed in culinary school, you should try to cultivate a few main skills. These will help you not only during your instruction, but later on as you find a job and create a career for yourself.
You must have business skills.
If you plan on becoming an executive chef in a restaurant, you’ll need to learn the ropes of business and administration. You’ll need to take on tasks such as accounting and managing several personnel. You’ll also be in charge of making sure the restaurant runs efficiently and turns a profit. Lower level chefs, food prep people, and other restaurant staff will all be looking to you for guidance on dealing with problems with the food, unruly customers, and unexpected snags in the normal operation of the restaurant. You should be able to think quickly on your feet to solve problems and have the leadership skills to command peoples’ attention when you need to do so. If you’re allowed to take any elective or general education classes while in culinary school, continue taking some business related classes, such as those focusing on administration, finance, or communication.
You should be creative.
As a chef, you’ll be responsible for coming up with innovative recipes and novel twists on old ones. You should be able to look at a set of ingredients, or be given a prompt or food category, and come up with something that will be both delicious and have mass appeal. Depending on the type of restaurant in which you work, you might have more or less flexibility in this regard. If you’re a head chef, you might have to take a leadership role when coming up with seasonal menus, specials, or recommendations for customers. You might also have to be creative enough to come up with modifications for certain guests. For example, if a customer is drawn to a particular dish but has a peanut allergy or is a vegetarian, you should be creative enough to come up with a delicious alternative that satisfies the guest’s limitations. During your hands-on classes in culinary school, take the time to discuss creative alternatives and solutions with you teachers to practice and build your skills.
You need to have manual dexterity.
Cutting, chopping, slicing, flipping, twisting, stirring…the list could go on. As a chef, you’ll be in the kitchen for eight or more hours every time you work, creating and preparing dishes with your hands. You’ll need to have the manual dexterity to chop vegetables, cut meat, stir soups, and work with pots and pans on a stove. If you lack hand-eye coordination or aren’t good with your hands, you might need to consider a different career path! While in culinary school you’ll undoubtedly practice all these hand motions while preparing food for class. Work those muscles as much as possible to avoid tired fingers or hand cramps.