The School That Lets You Play with Knives and Fire

       Back to school! If I’m not mistaken, some schools have already started classes. This entry is purposefully addressed to prospective culinary students and to students already enrolled in the only kind of school that lets you play with knives and fire. Get those band-aids and burn creams ready!

     I studied at International Culinary Arts Academy Cebu (ICAAC) for a year but not to be biased, this is not about specifically which school I’d recommend but I will tell you what I think are important parts of a good culinary school program. I hope the ff. list will help you assess the efficiency of your school. These are just some of the many important points to look at in considering a good school.

Components of a Good Culinary School Progam:
  • at least 3 days a week of class 
  • 12:1 student-teacher ratio 
  • One designated teacher per cuisine or subject (because every teacher differs in teaching style and principles) 
  • food safety lecture and exam 
  • restaurant operations duty (kitchen, service, and dining) 
  • appropriate disciplinary measures for tardiness and other offenses or lapses (like dishwashing or cleaning equipments – you still learn from this!) 
  • mandatory internship in five-star hotels or high-end restaurants (1000 hrs)
  •  A resource center/library provided for students to broaden and update their knowledge of the industry trends with books and through the internet 
  • More individual activities than group activities in recipe or cuisine introduction 
  • Group activities limited to maximum 3 members for optimum comprehension and exposure 
  • Dining excursions 
  • A program that initially provides basic knowledge, skills and cuisines, followed by management subjects which require students to create and culminate their own full course menu 
  • Written and practical kitchen and service exams

Who ever thought cooking would be so technical huh?

     Of course, everyone has expectations of what they’ll be getting from school. Here are some realistic expectations based on my experience:
  • Cuts and burns (yes, yes, yes. Collect them band-aids and battle scars) 
  • Competitive classmates – they can be annoying but use them to motivate you to do your best in class 
  • Standing for at least 8 hours a day – get used to it 
  • Weight gain – I gained 10 lbs from school and 15 lbs from internship *gasp! 
  • Developed palate – this is where I learned to love butter, soft rolls, potatoes and BEEF; and tasted a lot of stuff I never thought I would. BE ADVENTUROUS! Taste whatever you see. J 
  • Screaming chef – yes, they love to scream at you when you’re screwing up. Pull your pants up and just work it! It’s for your good anyway. Success does not come without discouragement, criticism and pressure. ;) 
  • DON’T expect to be a master chef after you’ve finished the program. No matter what school you come from, expect to START FROM THE BOTTOM. Even students from Le Cordon Bleu or CIA or whatever start out as commis 1 on appetizers. YOU determine your progress, not your school. It’s not the knives that determine the dish quality, it’s the chef. So keep your hats on and don’t be such airheads. 
  • blunders – much expected; don’t worry, that’s the point of studying. You’re there to learn, not to show off how good you already are.And remember, a lot of the best lessons are learned from mistakes.
      So I hope this entry helps students prepare for school and also gives other people a broader perspective of what culinary school is about. It takes a lot of passion, determination and patience to really succeed because come on, do you think playing with knives and fire is easy? That’s a lot of heat, blood, sweat and tears there. Hehe. So there, it’s not as glamorous as it may seem on TV. But that doesn’t suck the fun out of it. 
Just a few more tips and remarks, culinary school does not necessarily turn you into a master chef. A lot of the greatest chefs do not even have degrees or went through formal culinary studies. Experience is the key to progress and success because this is where you learn things not found in books. No matter how many cooking shows you watch or cookbooks you read, these are useless if you don’t get your butt up to actually experiment in the kitchen. It’s not the shoes, the knives, nor the hat that make you a chef. It’s true grit from experience and the ability to be adventurous whether in eating or creating dishes. You’re only as good as your last meal. So are you up for it?

me in the center with my dream team during dinner operations in school :D


Babe for Food – your BFF in Cebu dining :)

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