Culinary School Myths Debunked

Separating Fact and Fiction

Being a chef has become one of the most publicized careers today, and consequently, culinary schools have become extremely popular. Unfortunately, there are quite a few myths about schools and what they can and cannot do for individuals who aspire to become chefs. Here are some of the most widely believed myths about culinary schools and the reality behind them.

Myth: You cannot be a chef without going to culinary school.

Fact: It is possible to become a chef without going to culinary school.

Many chefs have become successful without the benefit of a formal chef’s course. Ina Garten and Jamie Oliver are among the most famous chefs conquered professional cooking as their domain without a culinary arts dipoloma. So yes, it is possible to become a chef without going through a formal course.

Myth: After culinary school you are all set for a high paying career.

Fact: Salaries after culinary school are not as high as most people expect it to be.


Most graduates start at the bottom of the pecking order in kitchen restaurants for a little more than minimum wage. Depending on his or her work experience, a pastry chef may start with an annual income of $34,000 and later earn as much as $51,000. The salary range for a sous chef is $ 35,000 to $40,000 while an executive chef’s salary range would be from $50,000 to $85,000 annually. (No wonder all those chefs had to go into television!)

Myth: Going to a culinary school will guarantee a job afterwards.

Fact: A job will not automatically fall into your lap just because you went to culinary school.

While many culinary schools brag about their job placement rates, the truth is not all culinary school graduates are able to find work after they graduate. Among those who do find work, many find themselves in low-paying positions in restaurants. Take note that lawsuits have been filed and won against culinary schools that claimed all their graduates could be placed, a sure indicator that you still have to look hard for that job after you get a degree.

Myth: Spending a lot of money on expensive and well known culinary schools is unavoidable for those who want formal schooling.

Fact: There are ways to spend less than the usual $30,000 to $60,000 in tuition.

For a start, you can look for a cheaper school. Napa Valley Grille chef Joseph Gillard, for one, went to community school in Grand Rapids and simply made use of on-the-job training. For those who have a truly burning, broiling hot desire to go to the best and most expensive schools, scholarships or student aid is the answer.

Going to culinary school is not without its merits. In fact, there is a lot that an aspiring chef can learn from the usual 600 hour curriculum. Formal schooling can be a very big push in the right direction for people who are passionate about cooking and want to make a career of it. However, going to culinary school is nothing without hard work, creativity, serious professionalism, and a realistic view of the profession.