The total amount of food consumed in the world on any given day is staggering. The good news for you is, someone has to prepare that food. A degree in Culinary Arts puts you in the position to create new dishes, prepare food for special events, or just shape the way people eat on an average day. While chefs and cooks don’t necessarily need a degree, getting a 2- or 4-year degree in Culinary Arts is a great way to break into the field or get some quick promotions.
There’s the joke that there’s no such thing as a skinny chef (or Culinary Arts major). That’s certainly not true, but it is fair to say Culinary Arts majors do enjoy food. They like to create and try new things and improve existing recipes. They enjoy spending time in the kitchen – likely they don’t even mind doing the dishes that much.
Culinary Arts majors obviously can follow directions – essential to following a recipe. They are also imaginative, which helps them come up with new food combinations. They work well under pressure, and they’re good team players.
There was always that one kid in elementary school who would mix mud and worms and grass and orange juice and try to get someone to eat it. If that kid was you, and if you still think that’s an acceptable entrée, please don’t go into this major.
Culinary Arts majors learn a whole lot more than how to follow a recipe. There’s chemistry involved with mixing this food with that. There’s history involved as you learn where foods came from. You’ll learn about nutrition, safety and health codes, and management techniques. And don’t underestimate the importance of learning how to hold a knife – in fact, you’ll learn how to master all kitchen equipment.
Positions for Culinary Arts majors range from cooks and chefs in all kinds of restaurants to caterers. Some work for large food companies putting out new frozen meals or improving their breaded chicken. Others may be the menu planner for a restaurant chain or hotel. And there’s always hosting your own show for the Food Network.
Passion is more important than technique. It’s important to have an actual knack for cooking, but if you don’t know the first thing about broiling it’s OK as long as you’re dying to find out. Get some hands on experience taking a basic cooking class at your local community college to see if you really have the interest in the topic you think you do.
It’s OK to burn some cookies now and then. What you don’t want to do is burn bridges. Your time in Culinary Arts school could be compared to a really long job interview – your teachers are going to be the ones who can recommend you to future employers, so if you don’t impress them with your attitude, you’re not going to find many people who want to work with you.