by Bernard Padin, Bachelor's Degree in Culinary Arts Management
There was a time in my life when everything was heading toward studying whatever I could make a lot of money doing. My goal was easy money—instead of finding a way to get it by doing what I love to do, cooking. Before enrolling at The Culinary Institute of America, I was studying accounting. While I still think that it was a wise idea to choose a field that could help me to manage my own restaurant, I would love to go back and put all my hard work in the kitchen. I spent my college days thinking about what to do? How I can make it through life with a career? Or just be a lucky guy that drops from college and becomes a millionaire. I clearly didn’t like where I was headed. I asked some of my closest friends if they look at me as a great accountant in the future, and they said, “NO!”
So I jumped into a kitchen with no experience at all. I was determined that this was my chance to have a career that I could build a life around. Then I enrolled in one of the best culinary schools.
When it comes to choosing the best culinary school, it’s a matter of your personal opinion and what you are looking for from that school. It can be location, financial budget or school reputation. There are many culinary schools in the United States, but in my opinion I chose the best one. The best thing to do is to focus on what they offer that will benefit your future in the industry. Look for knowledge, student activities, networking, career fairs and discipline.
But the real question—to go or not to go to culinary school at all— is an issue being talked about in kitchens everywhere. So, can you make it in the kitchen without enrolling in culinary school? My answer is, yes, you can make it. You will learn a lot of culinary skills and techniques. But what about hospitality? The point of going to culinary school is not just learning to cook or dicing potatoes to perfection. It’s about following your passion and making a professional life out of it. You will need to know how the waiter/server and kitchen systems work and so much more that school can teach you.
The first thing you should ask yourself is what you can get with an education and how you perceive education. In my opinion, education should be looked at as an investment. In finance before making an investment, you should do research about the company, study the risks and possible return on investment. It is the same with an education—just because you have to take loans doesn’t mean you are not going to be able to pay them back. It all depends on you.
In my case, I chose to go to culinary school rather to grow as a line cook. I wanted an education that could provide me a great perspective of the industry along with networking, knowledge and experience in hospitality and cooking skills. I completed my associate degree at the San Antonio campus, which is smaller than Hyde Park while still providing the same quality of education. (Here you will be able find the differences between those campuses.) After completing that degree, I took a break from school for a few months. I asked myself, what if I need a loan to start my own business? Do lenders consider educational background? What if something happens and I can’t cook for the rest of my life? Do I really need some business knowledge? The answers for all these questions were yes—so I decided to pursue my bachelor’s in culinary arts management.
The Culinary Institute of America has different majors and concentrations, which will let you choose the one that sparks your interest. You can take classes in food writing, food styling, film, wine, beer, food studies, farming, food photographer—the list goes on and on! It’s not only about cooking! Studying at the CIA includes everything related to food, which can really help spark your passion and grow your career.