A happy Culinary Arts class poses by their spread of Mexican food

Should I Go to Culinary School?

A Culinary Arts graduate gives her take after experiencing ICE.

ICE’s Culinary Arts school in New York educates students through a global curriculum and opportunities for hands-on experience in the food industry.

In my Culinary Arts program, I was with a cohort of 13 students that represented very diverse reasons for being there. On opposite ends of the spectrum, one was a recent high school graduate, attending culinary school at the very beginning of his professional life, and another was a recent retiree wanting to expand her cooking hobby and get into catering.

Pamela's culinary arts class
Pamela's culinary arts class in 2011

Several, myself included, were adult career changers, looking to get out from behind desks and into more hands-on work experiences by attending ICE, the New York culinary institute. One had already been a professional line cook in Florida who’d come to New York to up his game and move into fine dining. Another followed his fiancée to New York while she was doing a fashion internship, and culinary training was something for him to pass the time. (He’d be a sous chef within the year.)

One wanted to supplement her nutrition studies. Some had grown up in family restaurants, some wanted to open their own, and another still couldn’t believe that someone might eventually pay money to eat something she had cooked. (Full disclosure: That was me.)

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First Impressions at Culinary Arts Training School

Regardless of age and experience, every last one of us was nervous on day one of culinary arts training school. I will never forget the feeling of being suited up for the first time in my chef’s coat, sitting at a huge stainless steel work table pretending not to be sizing up my fellow classmates, even though that’s exactly what all of us were doing.

Our chef-instructor’s first words to us were, “My, you all are quiet. That won’t last a week.” (He was right.) This is all to say: There is no one right reason for making the decision to pursue culinary training, and answering the should I go to culinary school? question will always be a personal one.

Pamela's culinary arts class
Pamela's Culinary Arts class in 2011

Confidence in one’s current cooking ability is not required. Humility, arguably, is required. (More on that below.) Individual matters of experience, ambition and finances are all important but will be different for everyone.

Just as all of my fellow culinary students had different reasons for being there, we followed many different paths upon completion.

Where can you work after attending culinary school?

If you are already considering the question of should I go to culinary school?, you may also wonder, what do you learn in culinary school? and how you could apply your learning in the real world?

Also to consider in your culinary school decision: There are no prescribed outcomes from attending the culinary arts school in New York. While many culinary training curricula follow a French-technique, kitchen brigade-based system, you don’t have to want to work in a restaurant kitchen to justify learning these skills and that discipline.

Many culinary grads go on to other careers: restaurant business management or front-of-house work, catering, food styling, recipe testing, publishing, etc. I myself never worked in a restaurant professional kitchen beyond the six weeks of my externship.

Pamela Vachon in culinary school
Pamela Vachon at ICE

I have, however, worked in all of the previously mentioned capacities since finishing my culinary training at ICE, and I use skills and lessons learned from my culinary arts curriculum every single day. Among those that have been irrevocably sewn into my fibers: Do your dishes. Nobody is going to clean up after you. Not only am I a better cook for having attended this New York culinary institute — I am a better person.

Why should you attend this New York Culinary Institute?

To that end, while I believe there is no one right reason to attend, I would caution that there is perhaps a wrong reason: Don’t do it because you want to validate the notion that you are already a culinary superstar.

In the age of food television and other food media, from my experience, many people who attend one of their local culinary schools already think they are pretty good cooks. Many of them are, but that’s not nearly as much of a prerequisite for attending as having an open mind and a good attitude.

If you sincerely want to learn to cook, and I mean really learn to cook, there will be a necessary un-doing of some habits in order to develop better ones. You’ll have to occasionally check your ego because creativity isn’t emphasized as much as consistency. Culinary or cooking school can be a humbling process, and the “yes, chef” mentality is real. But if you are willing to learn, and by extension, change, you will really learn to cook, and you will change for the better.

Culinary Training at the Institute of Culinary Education's New York Campus

If you are looking for culinary school in New York City, schedule a free tour of the Institute of Culinary Education to explore certificate and diploma programs at ICE's New York campus. Regardless of your age, experience, or skills, this New York culinary institute teaches valuable skills in the kitchen and beyond.

Enroll at ICE for the opportunity to learn from experienced instructors and extern at the right New York City restaurant for your goals. In just 6-12 months you could earn your diploma and embark on a new career journey in the culinary arts.

Pursue Culinary Arts school in New York.

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