A Culinary Arts Degree Gets You Cooking

By Mary Ann Matysik

The size of your future paycheck? It’s a matter of degrees.

Add a diploma to your collection of kitchen tools, and it’s reflected both in your starting salary and in your future opportunities. While you still have to pay your dues in a kitchen, you walk in with skills that place you beyond entry-level, and with the basis of an education that will let you move into more important, more interesting and better-paying positions.

Why is a culinary art diploma so important?

Chef Dominick Cerrone, director of culinary arts at the International Culinary Center in New York, is adamant. “An intense, high-quality culinary education, like the one offered at the FCI, is the most expedient way a person can gain the knowledge, grasp the fundamentals, and practice the required techniques necessary to enter any sector of the culinary field, and be assured that this information is the industry standard.”

And the opportunities are there, says Erin G. Lough, director of marketing at the Le Cordon Bleu – Chicago. “Hospitality is the largest private sector employer in the United States. The jobs are out there, and a diploma from a prestigious culinary school helps people get one.”

Tuition

The amount of time and tuition it takes to get a culinary degree varies widely. State-supported schools have the resources of a large system and the lowest tuition rates, but they can be under severe budgetary pressure. Certificate programs can be short and esoteric, or as complete as an accredited program, and the pricing will vary accordingly.

Programs

What you learn in any class varies, of course. In a baking/pastry art program you could expect to learn the techniques and to produce raised and quick breads; French and Italian loaves; pastries; petit fours, classic and special-occasion cakes; cookies; custards, puddings and sauces; frozen, baked and sauteéd desserts; confections, candies, chocolate tempering and sugar work, and more.

In a culinary arts program, you could expect to learn basic culinary skills and the preparation of hors d’oeuvres and appetizers; meats and seafood; fruits, vegetable, salads; soups, stocks and sauces; baking and pastry; wines and spirits; and classic French, regional, and/or current trends in cooking. Classes should also address food safety and sanitation, nutrition, culinary equipment, purchasing and cost control, operations and appropriate computer applications.

In a culinary management program, in addition to the culinary arts topics, you may expect classes on event management; restaurant, quick-service and institutional operations; menu and facilities design; business communications, technology, marketing, accounting and law; and human resources and customer service.

Course offerings may vary from one program to another, but whichever school or specialty you choose, your degree will forever identify you as a person with a passion for food and for hospitality.

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