Tips for Success: Excelling in Culinary School

All students study and learn material in different ways. Like any other specialized education, some students in culinary school will quickly master the skills. Others may learn the material more gradually. However, tests are not the only measure of success in culinary school. Below are some tips to help you succeed in your program.

Simply Practice – We cannot overstate the importance of practice. When you attend culinary school, you will have some traditional exams. These will be the multiple choice and standard essay style tests. You will also have practical exams. When your professor tells you to make specific food, you will not only need to know how to cook it. You will also need to know why certain foods behave in certain ways. You will gain that knowledge by practicing at home.

Get Involved – Culinary school is about more than simply showing up for class. Get involved when learning the material. You will not only gain a more impressive body of knowledge, but also have more fun. Do not worry if certain areas do not come as naturally to you. Listen to other peoples’ contributions and then volunteer your own thoughts. Most importantly, sit near the front of the class. It will motivate you to interact with other students and the instructor.

Develop Relationships – Forming connections with your peers and instructors make all the difference. While in school, these relationships will help you better absorb the material if you collaborate with peers or seek extra help. After culinary school, these relationships become even more crucial. You never know who will be hiring or know about job opportunities. Avoid viewing culinary school as a zero-sum game. When you work together, success and creativity become even more certain.

Build A Portfolio – Those pursuing the culinary arts ought to remember that they are in art school. Establish portfolios of your work from the beginning. By doing so, you are creating a record of your culinary development. Invest in a nice camera so that you capture your best work. Along with capturing photos, keep the written feedback that instructors give you. The feedback will help you construct a thorough résumé once you graduate.

Everyone thinks that there is plenty of time to prepare for post-graduate employment. It is never too early to get organized, though. Rather than delaying the inevitable, make regular goals and self-report to ensure that you stay on-track.

Culinary School Equipment: What Should You Bring?

So, you did the research, submitted your culinary school applications, and now you are about to start the next stage of your specialized education. It is easy to get caught up in the process and forget that you will actually attend school at the end of it. Attending any culinary program means that you will need to purchase equipment for your courses. We compiled a useful guide on what culinary items you should keep at your disposal throughout your program.

Pots and Pans

The school might provide these items for you. However, your own pots and pans are good to have for when you practice at home. The main items to buy are a saucepan, sauté pan, and stockpot. Do not buy these in sets if you can avoid it. The sets are typically of a lower quality. Mismatched sets are not only acceptable, but also build character.


Your knife set will become an extension of your person. Purchase a cutlery case so that you can carry your knives with you back and forth from school. The main knives will include a chef knife, boning knife, cleaver, and paring knife. During your schooling, you will learn when to use these different knives. If you are looking to get ahead, utilize the resources that break down when to use chef knives versus when to avoid them.

Practical Shoes

If your long-term goal is to become a chef, you should break in the comfortable shoes now. Buy a pair or two of non-slip, rubber-soled shoes. They may not make any fashion statements, but these shoes will become your lifeline. Chefs are on their feet usually more than eight hours a day. Similarly, a kitchen is an unrelentingly fast-paced, potentially dangerous environment. If you’re needing to pivot from a spill or are starting the next order, you need supportive shoes to get the job done. Do not attempt to side-step spending a little extra money in this area.

Uniform and Hat

There are a few things to look for in a cooking uniform. You will want a uniform that is both comfortable and durable. You should be able to easily wash the uniform as well. Common uniforms are black or white double-breasted jackets. The jackets are made of fire-resistant cotton. A uniform may have your school’s logo, especially if that is one of the requirements.

What to Look for in a Culinary School

Whether you know you want to pursue culinary school or you are still thinking about it, do your research. There are a number of renown culinary schools around the country. Chances are, though, that only one of these schools is the best fit for you. This article does not presume to know the school that is best for each culinary school hopeful. Even so, we can offer perspective on what to look for before you begin the application process.


Cost is a factor in every decision we make and for good reason. When considering the culinary industry, hopefuls should be aware that entry-level food service jobs are not often high-paying. For instance, the average annual pay is $30,015 for an Entry Level Line Cook in New York City. That rounds out to about $14.43 per hour. Meanwhile, culinary schools typically cost $40,000 or more.

In other words, it is important to measure how much student-loan debt you can handle. The good news for students is that many local community colleges offer American Culinary Federation-accredited programs. Accreditation ensures that these programs meet a quality standard. The schools also recognize that students do not need to go into debt for a culinary education.

Age of a School

Due to increased interest, more privately-run culinary schools materialized over the last decade. Make sure to do your due diligence, though. New does not always mean better. The important thing to note is that schools earn ACF accreditation over time. The ACF will only give its seal of approval once it sees that a school exemplified a consistent record of excellence. Older schools are also beneficial for networking. If students can network with a long-line of alumni, there is a greater possibility of job options. These alumni may even do the hiring, themselves.


There are tremendous benefits in attending an older, established culinary school. Nonetheless, the state of its facilities is also important to note. Community colleges are generally older than private institutions. Still, community colleges possess a smaller budget. A newer school with a higher tuition can purchase updated equipment and install modern facilities. While these factors possess great curb appeal, keep in mind that they are not always the out-of-classroom reality. A recent graduate’s first job may be in an older kitchen. Therefore, it is best to measure all of your options before making a final choice.

Cooking with the Best

Whether you are looking to get into culinary school, already attending one, or previously graduated, you need fresh ingredients. In school, you will have fresh ingredients on hand, every day, just as a matter of course. When you are in your own kitchen, either at home or work, you need to source the best ingredients in order to make dishes like you like to make them. It can be pretty easy to get good ingredients if you live in Kansas or Colorado or California. It can be more difficult if you are in New York or New Jersey. The article doesn’t aim to predict the best spots to get good ingredients no matter where you live, but rather offer some online resources to help bring them right to your door.

What Do You Need?

First, you have to start off with what you need. If you are into fine cooking, here is a great ingredients list from FineCooking. It is pretty expansive and niche, but is a good place to make sure you aren’t forgetting anything. Then here is a nice piece by Food&Wine, though sorry about their lame attempt to get you to click through to more pages rather than just putting them all on one page. We could go forever in all directions depending on what you like to cook, but just remember to start off with what you need, then work down toward where to find it.

Fresh Seafood

If you live on the east coast and in particular the Northeast, you are going to have an easy time sourcing what you need practically year round. However, not all of us live there, so it’s important to be able to bring the coast to you.

There are too many excellent fisheries out there to name them all, but we have found an excellent resource (and our go to) in Quality Seafood Delivery. They not only list a lot of different sea-to-table vendors, but they also compare their prices. If you sign up for their newsletter, they will alert you when a catch is coming in or where stocks are low so you can snatch quality fish and shellfish before they are gone.

Grass Fed Beef

EverdayEasyEats does a nice roundup of their favorite options, and Root & Revel has a similar posts that covers a lot of the same ground. What this reveals is that the nationwide options are few but solid.

However, for this, we would recommend finding a local butcher. Last night we watched Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives and found out about il porcellino salumi in Denver. If you are in Denver, this is the place I would go for my meats. And wherever you are, this is the kind of place to be on the watch for.


Now you need some good vegetables. It is easy enough nearly anywhere except maybe NYC to grow your own herbs. This is a must. If you live somewhere that you can have a garden, then obviously have a garden. You cannot get more fresh than cutting your own lettuce minutes before eating a salad. However, in cases where neither is possible, Farmer’s Markets are your next best option.

We apologize again about the slideshow format, but CountryLiving has a good post on the best farmer’s markets around. This may not be all that helpful if you aren’t close to any of these, but it is helpful to read about how they are talking about each one. It will give you ideas on what to look for an dhow to judge whatever is closest to you. The key to any farmer’s market is to get there early.


We are certain there are tons of these, but our go-to has always been Savory Spice. Whether in one of their live stores or online, they not only have great pure spices but tons of other combinations for great cooking. They are a little weak in their pepper department, but truly a great all-around shop

Culinary School Internships: How to Leverage a Culinary Degree outside of the Kitchen

Many culinary students make the mistake of assuming that their classes will teach them everything they need to know to get a great job as soon as they finish their coursework. But a culinary degree resembles any other type of degree in one very important way-it must be supplemented with experience outside of the classroom to be tempting to potential employers. The best way to handle this is to take care of it while you’re still in school, through a job or internship in a kitchen. That way, once you have your degree, you can hit the ground running! 

Where to start 
If you’re relatively advanced in your culinary studies, you already know what kind of kitchen you want to be working in. Ask your Chef for advice on restaurants to approach for potential internships and jobs. She or he may have connections in just the right place, but you won’t know unless you ask. Don’t ignore other connections, either. Be sure you tell friends and neighbors that you’re in culinary school. Usually if they know someone in the industry, they won’t be afraid to pipe up, and you shouldn’t be afraid to get more information out of them. The best jobs are all about connections, and you should use yours to its fullest extent! 

What to look for 
If you’re just starting your work in culinary school, now is a good time to try out different types of restaurants to help you pick a concentration. If you’re really going to go for it, you should let the owners and chefs know of your intentions. If you want to devote yourself to one restaurant for the long run, tell them! Many places look for someone who is willing to make a commitment. But above all, remember this: This job is supposed to be a learning experience. You can learn a lot through observation, but you’ll learn a lot more if the chef is willing to show you the ropes. Make sure you’re securing a good on the job instructor! 

How to sell yourself 
If this is your first restaurant job, your resume is probably pretty short. But that doesn’t mean you have nothing to offer. Put past jobs on your resume, and be ready to tell your interviewer how they are pertinent. In what job did you learn to take instruction? What job taught you about what it means to make decisions? Don’t be afraid to flaunt your skills, and what you’ve learned in culinary school. But remember, you’re there to learn, not to show off.