10 Reasons You Should Go To Culinary School
By: Lydia Coleman
Before I begin this list, I should give a little background. I came from a family of seven plus whichever cousin, family, friend or neighbor was living with us at the time, so every meal was for many mouths. This gave me a small insight in cooking for quantity, quality had yet to come. In high school I heavily focused on math and the sciences but my hunger, both literal and physical, grew for something less empirical. Two visits and a graduation later I was enrolled in Nicholls as a culinary student at the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute (CJFCI). After being here for a few years I have many reasons why I love this place, but today I will give you my top 10.
1. The Love of Food
If you are even considering culinary school you already have some amount of love, skill, or at least appreciation for food. That’s a great place to start. There is an intimate connection to be had with food, foster the connection. Your passion can become your profession and culinary school enables that.
2. The Degree
This is a bachelor’s degree from a university. Since, CJFCI is located at Nicholls State University you still have to take general education classes, like biology and English, in order to get your degree. That looks good and in our society goes a long way. Having a degree, from an actual university, shows that you are well rounded and that you actually know about the world outside of your home and kitchen.
3. The Environment
Above any other thing, this is a learning environment and a fun one at that. Coming from personal experience, it is much more pleasant to make a mistake in a classroom kitchen than in a restaurant kitchen. Being corrected by a teacher is infinitely better than being berated by an angry chef 15 minutes before service starts. Trust me on this one.
4. The Friends
The people at Nicholls are reason enough to come. There is just something about slaving over a terrine, elbows deep in scalding aspic for 12 hours that bonds you to someone. These people think like you, they talk like you, and after a series of burns and cuts, we even all begin to look the same. The friends you make here become your family; you will see each other at your highest and at your lowest.
5. The Exposure
I will keep this one simple, industry cooking is nothing like cooking at home. Here you get exposed to cooking at a professional level and trust me you don’t want to be blindsided by that.
6. The Opportunities
Being affiliated with this school presents you with so many unique opportunities. I am only half way through this program and I have been able to work under a master gardener, go to the Masters golf tournament, able to write for a food blog, and possibly be sent for three months to Lyon, France. These are just a few of the opportunities that interest me from this school. Ask any other student here and they will give you ten more opportunities that are unique to themselves.
7. The Connections
Taking advantage of some of those opportunities I mentioned, you begin to meet people and those people get you jobs. The Chefs that teach in this program are longwinded and social but be patient and they will get you into some pretty great kitchens. In an industry like this who you know and where you have been is everything.
8. The Techniques
Again this is a learning environment and the chefs teach you techniques that you can build upon. If you go straight into a kitchen those people on the line are not going to explain themselves. They are just going to say this is how it is done so do it that way, which works but only after much trial and error. When you know technique, you begin to realize what each line cook is doing and then pick up on the method. Rather than having to ask two questions at each step for the first ten orders of each item. Do you see how knowing technique can save time and frustration?
9. The Community
You can be a part of an elite community of chefs who went to culinary school. Culinary school is not a guarantee to a great career unless you work hard, have a great attitude, and put yourself in a disposition to succeed. Famous chefs who went to culinary school include Emeril Lagasse, Julia Childs, Bobby Flay, and Gordon Ramsey. If you commit and do this right, you can also be a part of this community.
10. The Expectations
This could be a pro or con, but I will let you decide. There are expectations when you enter into culinary school expect to be asked if you will own your own restaurant, what is your favorite dish to cook, and to hear about each person’s failed culinary ventures at their home. Be patient they are coming from a point of admiration. That is what you must expect from the outside world. This industry will expect a lot out of you too, your weekends, holidays, much of each day. You will cut and burn yourself, expect to be changed mentally just as much as you will be changed physically. I love these expectations it gives me a sense of pride and ownership, all of which was made possible because I choose to come to culinary school.
About the Author
My name is Lydia Coleman and I am from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. At home I was always the unpredictable child in the family and in high school I focused heavily on academics, especially on the sciences. As high school came to an end, I needed to decide where and what to pursue in college. I had
heard about the culinary school at Nicholls, I came to visit and was enthralled. The school excited me and I wanted to be a part of something that could affect and relate to each person that I encountered. I am now a junior in the culinary program and I am a professionalism concentration. I have worked in a commercial bakery, as a cook at Bistro Byronz in Baton Rouge, as a cook at the Masters Golf Tournament in Georgia; I have done private dinners for clients, and as a line cook at Mondos in New Orleans. Since being enrolled at Nicholls I have been involved in the Student Culinary Association, Nicholls Students for Life, the Philosophy club, and in the Service club. I was awarded the Baton Rouge Epicurean Scholarship and an academic enrichment scholarship. After graduation I know that I want to stay in the culinary and hospitality industry, as far as specifically where and in what capacity I am unsure, but can anyone be truly sure of the future.