Do I Really Need To Go To Cooking School?

Cooking School

Wondering whether a culinary education is essential to take your cooking skills to the next level and pursue a career in the culinary arts?

From renowned cooking schools to self-taught successes, the path to becoming a chef is as varied as the flavors in a recipe.

In this discussion, we will delve into the pros and cons of attending a cooking school and discover alternative methods of mastering the culinary arts. From the added knowledge and experience that culinary institutions provide to the many options for self-education, we will weigh the options and evaluate real-life examples of successful cooks who didn’t attend culinary school.

By the end, you’ll have a clear understanding of what path to take to achieve your culinary aspirations.

Good Reasons To Go To Cooking School

We talked to some top chefs and asked them for some reasons you should go to cooking school:

Cooking School
  • You’re unlikely to be a head chef without some form of classical training. This is doubly true if you want to specialize in haute cuisine.
  • The biggest brand names in the industry probably won’t talk to you without a cooking school qualification.
  • If you want the best understanding of food in all its forms, then cooking school is an easy way to get that understanding. It can also help with learning specialty cooking like these vegan cooking schools do.
  • It can help with networking in your career at a later stage, the people you go to cooking school with are very likely to work in the industry

Good Reasons NOT TO GO!

Not every chef goes to cooking school and here are some of the reasons they say to avoid cooking school:

work in a restaurant
  • There are plenty of jobs that aren’t “head chef”. You don’t need a cooking school qualification to be an F&B director or a sous chef, for example.
  • It’s very expensive. How expensive is cooking school? Tens of thousands of dollars. And your first jobs may pay less than $15 an hour for a very long time after graduating.
  • You can learn in other ways. Several chefs stated that they felt cooking school was simply hideously overpriced and that you could use online cooking schools and cookbooks to gain a similar education for much less money.
  • You could be working. Many top chefs simply leave high school and go and start working in the industry, they progress their careers and position themselves near great and experienced chefs and learn from them and get paid for it, rather than paying to go to cooking school. 

Useful Notes On Paying For Cooking School

While cooking school is super expensive there are ways to fund cooking school too:

  • Get scholarships – the James Beard Foundation, for example, can help a chef with potential pay for everything, research your options
  • Start a YouTube channel or a blog – share your cooking passion with the world and get paid
  • Take out loans – no lies, it will take a long time to pay this back but if cooking school is the right thing for you, it may be your best option


So, there you have it, there are good reasons to go to cooking school and good reasons not to.

We think, if you’re going to go, you should have a clear career roadmap in your mind ahead of you and you should know that it’s likely to be many years before you’ve covered the costs of cooking school. 

If you do that? Cooking school might turn out to be a wise investment.

If not? Maybe you should just get to work in a kitchen and see how things turn out?

It’s a path that’s worked well for many chefs.