Things to Know Before Culinary School
As a new student at ICC, it is OK to have never cooked in a professional kitchen before and to not know everything – that is why you are coming to school in the first place! When you come to culinary school, you will develop a foundation for your career and set yourself up for future success. But, coming into any new situation can be nerve-wracking, so we put together some tips and terms to learn and practice before you begin your culinary journey. Read on to start the foundation of your success!
1. TEST YOUR TECHNIQUE
You’ll learn more than 250+ professional techniques in our Culinary and Pastry Arts programs, but we think these skills are great to practice before you come to ICC. These are skills that all chefs develop overtime, so working on them before you even come to school will make you feel prepared and ready to get cooking!
- Clean as you cook. This is possibly one of the most important kitchen skills you can learn. Having a clean station is stressed in the classroom, and getting into the habit of being neat will set you up for your future professional career.
- Learn the basics of the metric system. Units are typically codified into the metric system in the classroom and professional kitchens, so understanding the differences between ounces, liters, grams, and so on, will make it easier to get cooking.
- Practice visualizing the steps of a recipe and writing out the steps in shorthand onto a notecard. Professional kitchens and the classrooms of ICC do not allow for recipes or phones, so it is important to know the recipe before you step into the kitchen. Writing out the steps is said to be the best way to study and truly understand material.
2. KNOW YOUR KITCHEN TERMS
Brigade is a system of hierarchy found in restaurants and hotels. The hierarchical structure can vary, depending on the kitchen. Some of the variations include:
- 1 Executive Chef and Line Cooks
- 1 Executive Chef, 1 or more Sous Chefs, and Line Cooks
- 1 Executive Chef, 1 Executive Sous Chef, a Chef de Cuisine for each restaurant, a Banquet Chef, perhaps a Sous Chef for each Chef de Cuisine, a Pastry Chef
Mis en Place, also known as mise, is all of the prepped ingredients that a chef will need in order to have a successful service. These ingredients are readily available for the chef to quickly prepare the dish needed.
Fire: When this is heard in the kitchen, that means it is time to start preparing a dish! Typically, orders are made when they are received, but sometimes they have to be delayed to make the timing of the dishes spot on. If a table orders appetizers and entrees, the appetizers will be fired first!
Heard: If you’ve ever watched a cooking show before, you’ve heard this term! This is shouted back at whoever calls out instructions to the kitchen to let them know that they have been understood.
Behind: This term is key to kitchen safety. Any time you are crossing behind someone in a kitchen, it must be said so that the person who is dealing with the hot pan or plate of food does not injure someone else. Other terms to do with behind include sharp knife and hot behind.
Stage: Pronounced st-ah-j. This is the French term for externship/internship and is commonly used in kitchens and in the classroom.
Yes, Chef! is said in response to the head chef of the kitchen. This is to let the chef know that you have heard them and understood their message. Although it is a sign of respect and is earned in kitchens worldwide, it is also a safety measure to ensure that the kitchen runs smoothly.
Mother Sauces are the five sauces that every chef should have in their repertoire, and each one can be transformed into its own family of different sauces. They include:
- Béchamel Sauce
- Velouté Sauce
- Espagnole Sauce
- Hollandaise Sauce
- Classic Tomate Sauce
3. BRUSH UP ON FOOD SAFETY
In level one of the Professional Culinary and Pastry Arts programs, you’ll receive in-depth training on food safety & handling, and have the opportunity to receive your ServSafe® Certification from the National Restaurant Association. But before you learn the ins and outs of food safety, here are a few key tips to remember:
- Perishable food should be kept below 45° or above 135°.
- Dairy or protein based foods should not be left at room temperature
- Refrigerators should stay below 41°F at all times
This blog post was originally published by the International Culinary Center (ICC), founded as The French Culinary Institute (FCI). In 2020, ICE and ICC came together on one strong and dynamic national platform at ICE's campuses in New York City and Los Angeles. Explore your culinary education where the legacy lives on.