If you are thinking about going to culinary school, there are a lot of decisions to make and factors to take into consideration. No matter how overwhelming it may seem, the important thing to know is that you are not alone.
Join Cuisine Noir and Chef Kevin Mitchell, chef instructor at the Culinary Institute of Charleston at Trident Technical College, monthly to get answers to many of your questions and learn what it takes to launch a rewarding culinary career.
To get you started, we have listed the answers to the top questions that prospective students of all ages may have. Have a question for Chef Mitchell? Write your question in the comment secton below and he’ll be sure to respond.
Kevin E. Mitchell, BCA, CEC, CFSE
Chef Instructor, Culinary Institute of Charleston
Chef Kevin Mitchell’s culinary work embraces traditional American flavors, sumptuous soul food flair and delicate French cuisine. This broad mastery of global and regional techniques earned him the Grumpy Gourmet’s title of “Super Chef.”
He earned two degrees – an Associate degree in Occupational Studies and a Bachelor of Professional Studies in Culinary Arts Management, at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park in New York. In December of 2008, Chef Mitchell became the first African American Chef Instructor at the Culinary Institute of Charleston located within Trident Technical College in Charleston, South Carolina. At the Institute Chef Mitchell is involved in designing new curriculum for new students as well as teach classes.
Chef Mitchell ran the test kitchen for the Gullah Cuisine cookbook, authored by Chef Charlotte Jenkins of Gullah Cuisine restaurant in Mt. Pleasant, SC. He is the Executive Director of the BCA Charleston Chapter and an active member of the American Culinary Federation, the National Association of Black Hotel Owners Operators and Developers as well as a founding father of the BCA, Bridging Culinary Awareness, formally the Black Culinarian Alliance.
MONTHLY CHAT SCHEDULE AND TOPICS:
Monday, August - 9 pm EST/6 pm PST Why More Blacks Are Going To Culinary School
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CULINARY EDUCATION QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
1. What are my first steps in pursuing a degree in the culinary arts?
I would first speak to industry professionals and inquire into what schools they attended. Once you decide if going to culinary school is the right choice for you, research several schools. Look at the value for your education, cost vs. opportunities. Explore the curriculum (what programs the school offers), how long will each program take, is the program accredited, what is the potential cost, what is the background of the instructors, the type of facility and equipment you will be working with, what will scheduling look like for the program you want to take (are you in class 4 days a week as opposed to 5, do they offer day and night classes, etc).
2. What is the difference between a chef and a pastry chef?
The only difference between the two is that a chef focuses on savory food and the pastry chef deals with sweet items. They both must know how to manage people and understand food and labor cost.
3. What schools are ranked the highest when it comes to the quality of education vs. the amount of money it cost to attend?
The best value for the cost will be a public school or community college. The elitist schools where costs are very high would be your private institutions.
4. What are the various programs and degrees offered for one looking to have a career as a chef?
Most schools will have the following programs: Culinary, Pastry and Hospitality
5. How important is it for me to enroll in a four year program vs. attending a program at a community program and gaining direct industry experience?
Most culinary programs will average two years. When attaining a Culinary Management or Hospitality degree, you will be looking at 4 years to complete.
6. What does it mean when one says he/she is “classically trained?”
All culinary schools base their curriculum on classical techniques of Escoffier. So anyone graduating from a culinary school is considered classically trained.
7. On average, how much does it cost to earn a culinary degree?
It can range from $4,000-$5,000 to over $50,000 depending on whether the school is public or private and if room and board is included.
8. How long does it take to earn a culinary degree?
On average depending on the school it usually takes between 2 and 3 years to attain your culinary degree. It will take a little longer if you are pursuing a hospitality degree
9. Which organizations should I join that will enhance my knowledge and experience?
There are so many organizations that you could join. American Culinary Federation, Bridging Culinary Awareness, International Association of Culinary Professionals, Culinary Wonders USA and RBA to name a few. Pastry students should join these organizations as well as organizations geared to pastry chefs.
10. Should I specialize in one type of cuisine or embrace them all?
When in culinary school you will be exposed to all types of cuisines. As a chef, to make yourself marketable you should have a vast knowledge of different types of foods. You should also have some experience in pastries as well. The more skills you have, the better you will look to a potential employer.