Should I Go To Culinary School?

Whether enrolling in a degreed online culinary school, signing up for certified online cooking classes, or getting a diploma from a local chef school, finishing a post high school degree is important to me and my parents. If you love food and cooking, perhaps you're in the same situation as I am.

Living in Southern California, I noticed plenty of culinary art schools within reasonable driving distance from home. And since I like cooking, I contemplate attending one of them to become a professional chef. Technically, I'm already in the restaurant/food industry working with my aunt at her boba shop, a family business. I just figure that I could learn established techniques and methods for cooking, preparing, and presenting different food and treats from an accredited culinary art school. I don't mind becoming a student again.

But how do I know if cooking school is even for me? Since I'm already in the business, couldn't I just hone my skills at work or learn new methods from books, blogs, and online videos?

Well, there are limits as to what I could do at work. For one thing, my aunt's boba shop is just that, a small shop that serves boba, pastries, and other Asian-themed snacks. After popcorn chicken, squidballs, and similar finger foods, we don't deviate. But I hunger to do more; pun intended. At the very least, my friends suggest considering online culinary schools or looking into online cooking classes for baking, if there are any.

A quick research yields that there are online baking classes that I could take. Some of these classes require money because there are tuition fees in order to attend. They are, after all, colleges and post-high school institutions that issue certificates and degrees. Additionally, these schools also provide live classes for their students. For example:

  • American Institute of Baking has online courses on baking that include techniques for breads, rolls, cakes, cookies, and other sweet goods.
  • King Arthur Flour has online classes covering cake decoration, pies and bread.
  • Ashworth College has a diploma program for gourmet cooking and catering. Their online classes teach students management skills to run a catering service.

Aside from baking schools, there are also online cooking schools which are more comprehensive in lesson materials. In other words, they're not just going to teach about baking goods, but will teach classes on full course meals, dinners, desserts, appetizers, and many other food types. Three of these schools are below:

  • Top Chef University has a certificate of completion for various culinary lessons including soups, sauces, meat, and salads.
  • Rouxbe provides a certificate of completion to their students for finishing any of its online cooking courses including pan frying, working with starch-based soup, making roux, and more.
  • Culinary Institute of America offers training podcasts that you can listen to anytime. Their lessons are available on an individual basis so that you don't have to pay a tuition. They also do not issue a certificate of completion unlike the other two schools. I suppose that the Culinary Institute of America is more of a DIY cooking school, rather than a formal degree college.

Finishing a college degree is a big commitment. My brother is a student at Azusa Pacific University. He's earning his Bachelors in Computer Science and it's important to him that he attends a Christian college. He's well on his way to completing and we're really proud of him.

If I'm going to become a full-time cooking student, I prefer to attend a Christian school as well. The only one I could find in the West coast is the Christian Culinary Academy in Oregon. This school so far away and it's not an easy decision for me to just leave home since I'm working for and taking care of my aunt who has diabetes. But there are good local cooking schools in Southern California / Los Angeles area:

  • Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena. They have certificate and associates programs for culinary arts and baking/pastries.
  • The Art Institute of California in Los Angeles. They, too, have an associates degree for culinary arts and baking/pastries. They also have a bachelors degree in culinary management for those interested in learning how to manage bigger restaurant or service kitchens.
  • L.A. Trade-Technical College in Los Angeles. This is a community college with programs in Culinary Arts,Professional Baking, and Restaurant Management.

I don't know the differences as of yet. But on the surface, these programs look right for me. Hence, the research continues ...