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C-CAP doesn’t just believe in skills and techniques as a key to success in the food industry. Their programs help sharpen your soft skills like punctuality, resumé writing and interview skills.” – Carlos Enrique Mercado, C-CAP Alum
- Are you a cooking school? – C-CAP is not a cooking school. We’re a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that partners with high schools in six cities that have existing culinary programs. We offer enrichment programs to our partner schools, such as job training and internships, scholarship opportunities, teacher professional development, and equipment and product donations to the culinary classrooms.
- How do I know if my high school participates in C-CAP? – Ask your high school culinary teacher or you can contact your nearest local C-CAP coordinator.
- How can I get my high school involved with C-CAP? – Please contact your nearest local C-CAP coordinator.
- How can I sign up? – High school students are eligible to participate in C-CAP if they are enrolled in culinary classes at a C-CAP participating high school.
- Who do I talk to about scholarships? – For any questions regarding scholarships, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (212) 794-7111.
- Are you going to expand to other locations? – We are working on expanding C-CAP to more locations around the country. If you know a location that you think would benefit from the C-CAP programming, please send us information on the location and the best person to contact at email@example.com.
- How can I help? – You can help by:
- Making a contribution
- Donating products and/or equipment for our culinary classrooms and students
- Attending or hosting a fundraising event
- Providing space for student, alumni and teacher activities or fundraising events
- Checking with your company to see if it has a matching gift program, which can double your contribution to C-CAP
- Including C-CAP in your estate planning
- Following us on Twitter and Instagram
- Liking us on Facebook
- Signing up for our newsletter
- Can I become a chef without going to culinary school?
- You can, and there are some advantages and disadvantages:
- You can earn money right away.
- You will begin building your career right away.
- You will not have the expense of culinary school to pay off.
- The culinary industry is competitive. You will be competing for jobs with people who may have more experience, skills and knowledge than you do, including culinary school graduates.
- Commercial kitchens are about production, not teaching. You will only learn the skills and techniques required to produce the dishes on your restaurant’s menu.
- You may have to work longer in the industry to move up through the ranks.
- What majors are available in culinary arts?There are a variety of majors related to culinary arts, including:
- Culinary Arts
- Baking & Pastry
- Hospitality Management
- Restaurant or Foodservice Management
- What degrees are available in the culinary arts?
There are several degree options in the culinary arts:
- Certificate or Diploma Programs: Certificate or diploma programs are usually 6 months to a year and train students for prep cook and line cook positions. These programs focus primarily on hands-on skills training with some theory. The academics are less demanding.
- Associate’s Degree: Associate’s degree programs are 2-year programs that train students for positions in operations (i.e. line cook leading to a chef position). Typical courses include theory, hands-on skills training, restaurant operations, menu planning, purchasing and cost control, computer applications and communications.
- Bachelor’s Degrees: Bachelor’s degrees are 4-year programs that train students for management positions. Typical courses include those for the associates degree as well as hospitality management, economics, ethics, accounting, food and wine, human resources, and organizational behavior.
- Master’s Degree: Master’s degree programs often vary in length and coursework. Students usually pursue this degree if they are interested in teaching.
- Is there a difference between a culinary school and a college with a culinary program?
Yes. But keep in mind, whether you attend a culinary school or a college with a culinary program, you will walk out with the same basic skills and knowledge about culinary arts. Consider which type of program best fits your needs and interests:
- Culinary School: A culinary school is a school that focuses solely on culinary arts education. You will only take classes with students that are majoring in culinary arts. You will take culinary and non-culinary classes (including math, English, writing and nutrition) but all of your classes and coursework will relate back to culinary arts.
- Colleges with Culinary Programs: A college with a culinary program will require you to take culinary arts classes and classes outside of your major called liberal arts classes. These classes may include science or nutrition, social science (i.e. psychology, anthropology, etc.), foreign language, or arts courses. You can choose the liberal arts classes that you think would best compliment your culinary arts education. You will take some classes with non-culinary students. There are often more opportunities for sports, Greek life, and extracurricular activities at a college with a culinary program than in culinary school. Colleges are often less expensive than culinary schools, and the credits are more easily transferrable to other schools.
- What will I learn in a culinary arts education?
Here’s the big picture on studying culinary arts: Through practice and exposure, you will learn the techniques, ingredients, and theories that are the foundation of the culinary world. In other words, you will learn the who, what, where, when, why and how of cooking. A culinary education will prepare you to work in different types of restaurants and in different positions within the industry. Culinary graduates often start out in entry and mid-level positions, but with their educations, they can move up the ladder and gain employment in top-rated restaurants and hotels.
- Which is the best culinary program for me?
The best culinary school for you is one that fits all three of these criteria:
- It is a good fit for you academically – the school offers the degree, major and courses you want. The curriculum is challenging but not overwhelming.
- It is a good fit for you personally – you like the campus, location, student body, and social life. The school offers the extracurricular activities you are interested in. You feel comfortable at the school, and you can see yourself excelling there.
- It is a good fit for you financially – you can afford the school. Through federal aid, scholarships, and personal funds, you can pay for school without having to take out many (or any) loans.
- What should I look for in a culinary program?
It’s important to research culinary programs so that you can compare and contrast your options and find a school that is a good fit for you. Here are some questions to research about each school you are interested in:
- How long is the program?
- What classes will I take during the program?
- What is the “student to faculty ratio” (number of students to each professor)?
- Does the school require an internship or externship? How long is it?
- Is there a restaurant on campus for me to practice my skills?
- Is there a career services office? Does it provide job assistance to alums?
- Is there an academic support office? What services do they offer?
- Does the school focus on hands-on kitchen training, academic classes, or both?
- What types of jobs do graduates get?
- What is the “job-placement rate” for graduates (how many graduates get jobs after graduation)?
- What is the total cost of education to attend this school (tuition, fees, room, board, books, supplies, travel and personal expenses for the entire program)?
- What scholarships, grants and other sources of financial aid are available to students?
- Do I like where this school is located (size and diversity of the community, things to do, winter or summer temperature)?
- Is it a good idea to work before I go to culinary school?
Yes! C-CAP highly recommends that students work before enrolling in culinary school. You can work part time while you are in high school or during the summer. Working gives you an opportunity to “test drive” a career in culinary arts. It’s the best way to determine if it is the right career path for you. Meanwhile, you will gain valuable knowledge and skills to help prepare you for culinary school.
- How much will a culinary education cost?
It depends on the school, where it’s located, and the specific program. A culinary education can range from a couple thousand dollars to nearly a hundred thousand dollars. Typical culinary education expenses include:
- Board (meal plans)
- Supplies (knife kits, uniforms, etc.)
- Personal expenses (dorm items, toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc.)
You can find out the total cost of education (the cost of the entire program from day one to graduation) by referring to each school’s official website or by contacting the school.
- Are there any resources to help me pay for school?
Of course there are! Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about our scholarship opportunities and other resources to help pay for school!
Q: What do employers look for in an employee?
A: Here are five qualities that are important for every job. You need to show that you:
- Have strong skills.
- Have a good attitude.
- Will work hard to get a job done.
- Want to learn and keep improving.
- Can get along with others.
If you demonstrate all five, you have a good chance of getting a job and doing well in your career!
Q: What is it like to work in a kitchen?
A: It’s hard physical work. Shifts are long. You may work 10 hours each day and spend most of that time standing on your feet. You’re lifting heavy pots, pans, and crates of food. In a busy kitchen, you have to work fast while doing an excellent job. You may have two days off, but not in a row. So you don’t get much chance to rest up.
Working in a kitchen is also hard on your nerves. You have to handle pressure. That means keeping it together when there are many things to do. It means having a “thick skin.” If your executive chef barks orders, you don’t get mad and take it personally.
Most likely you will work evenings and weekends, which can put stress on your personal life and your social life. A culinary job has drawbacks, but they shouldn’t matter as long as you’re doing something you love. Just be sure you have a passion for working in the industry.
Q: What kind of position can I expect after graduating from culinary school?
A: Straight out of culinary school, you will get more responsibility in foodservice than in fine dining. However, you need to pay your dues in the kitchen. This is true even with line experience in culinary school. Expect to do prep work and garde manger to start. Once you prove yourself, you’ll move up in the ranks.
Starting at the bottom has advantages. Working under a great chef can mean finding a great mentor. That helps you keep learning. Starting as a sous chef or executive chef can actually increase your chances of failing or burning out. Don’t rush your career.
Q: What kind of salary can I expect?
A: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most beginning cooks earn between $8.50 and $16.00 an hour. Chefs and head cooks earn substantially more. However, there may be costs that are taken out of your pay, such as for uniforms and meals.
Chefs, cooks, and other kitchen workers who work full time may receive benefits. Part-time workers usually do not receive benefits. In large hotels and restaurants, kitchen workers may belong to unions. There are two main unions: Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union and Service Employees International Union.
Wages depend on the area of the country. They also depend on the type of establishment. Pay is usually highest in elegant restaurants and hotels. In such places, an executive chef can earn over $100,000 a year.
Q: What should I know before taking a job?
A: When you are offered a job, here are questions to ask before you accept:
- What is my pay? Will my wages depend on how many hours I work? Or will I be paid the same amount each week?
- How many hours will I work each week? How many hours a day? How many days each week?
- Do I get health or dental benefits? Does the employer pay the full cost of those benefits? Or do I have to pay a certain amount each week or month? If so, how much?
- Does the employer pay for my uniforms? Or is the cost taken out of my pay?
- Does the employer pay for a meal before or after my shift? Or are meals taken out of my pay?
- Do I have to join a union? If so, how much are the yearly dues?
Q: What is a typical schedule for working in a kitchen?
A: There is no such thing as a typical schedule. However, to get to the top, you’ll have to work long hours, nights, weekends, and holidays.
Q: Is it better to work in a small restaurant or in a large place like a big hotel?
A: Both have advantages. You will probably learn more and do more in a small restaurant. In a smaller place, you get to see what everyone does – from the dishwasher to the executive chef. You may be needed to do different jobs. Large establishments have more workers, and you will have a specific job to do. There may be more chances for promotion in large places, and they may also offer more pay or better benefits. What’s important is to choose the size that’s best for you.
Q: My dream is to own my own restaurant. What advice can you give?
A: Plan to work for at least ten years in a successful restaurant to get your training. Focus on becoming an excellent chef or manager. To own a restaurant, you need to know how to run a kitchen. You also need know how the front of the house works. So to achieve your dream, first work toward becoming an executive chef. You will gain valuable experience along the way. There are always people looking for talented employees, and you may be offered part ownership of a restaurant. Or use your talents to help you find investors to start a restaurant. Do not use your own money, your family’s money, or friends’ money to start a restaurant. It’s still a risky venture. If it fails, it will be worse if your family and friends lose too.
Q: I love food but don’t want to be a chef. What are other food-related careers?
A: There are many different career opportunities. Here are some you might consider:
- Front of the house staff for a restaurant or hotel.
- Food-related writing, such as for a magazine, website, or the food department of a newspaper.
- Food television production or a food stylist for movies or photographers.
- Representative for a food manufacturer or a food supplier.
- Teacher of the culinary arts (high school or college) or in the administration of a culinary school.
- Position on the staff of a professional culinary association.