Things they don't teach you in culinary school

Culinary school teaches very little. Some recipes, some techniques, some approaches. Some of it will come in handy for a while, but pretty soon after graduation you’ll have to do the rest of the work.

There is no school that can teach you to wrap your hand in plastic wrap and work through the night with a gaping cut for fear that other people will steal your job from under you. No school will tell you that when you have 1st degree burns you shouldn’t get off the line, and go see a doctor. Instead you work through days and nights of pain, deep horrendous pain.

Culinary school will not teach how to avoid the rapist in the walk in, trying to grab your shit, no sir. Culinary school never taught anyone how to crawl through the mud and muck of humiliation for a chance to cook a scallop. You want to succeed in the biz at a high level you had better be willing to accept injury to your body and soul-you may the be exception you tell yourself, but that’s just your narcissism.

Culinary school can teach you how to make consomme, but it can’t teach you how to maintain your composure while you’re being yelled at, or while you’re being insulted by a customer for an honest mistake you made. Culinary school will not prepare you for the unfairness of this or that.

They teach in culinary school what they can, mostly school is about regurgitating ideas and principles, sure some basics, but it also teaches us about how to fall in line, how to be good little soldiers-most likely that’s what you’ll end up being, unless you can stomach the ascent.

In school when you burn something it goes away, and that’s the place for it. In life you don’t get second chances, sure you can say, “tomorrow I’ll get it right.” But you’ll never make it if you live for tomorrow, today. You can only live in the moment, fight for it now, so many have fallen by the way side because they could not imagine that today was their only chance, and it slipped away.

They don’t teach how to be successful in school, that’s mostly something you learn on the playground by getting picked last, by getting overlooked, by being denied entry into clubs, by being ridiculed, or rejected. It’s something you either need or don’t, success isn’t handed out, and when you have had a little of it, it only gets harder-much, much harder. All those people that pegged you wrong, pegged you for a loser, won’t suddenly be inviting you to Thanksgiving.

“He’s a good cook, he’ll make a good chef”… is the running joke of my chef’s club. You either burn to do your best work, or you don’t, you’ll either sacrifice, and starve, or you won’t.

This is not a dress rehearsal, this life is the big game, right here and now, tomorrow is a fantasy, a fool’s mirage, yes the hope of it can be used to endure the sacrifice, but nothing more.

“Stick to a task, ’til it sticks to you. Beginners are many, finishers are few.”

-Annonymous

  • No school will tell you that when you have 1st degree burns you shouldn’t get off the line, and go see a doctor. Instead you work through days and nights of pain, deep horrendous pain. - by Pawan Pandita on Thu, 02/14/2013 - 8:14am
  • wtf is this? yes, schools don't teach you everything but that doesn't mean to not go to college. A good college should prepare you as much as it can for the field you intend to immerse in. - by Emmanuel Abarquez on Fri, 02/15/2013 - 6:18pm

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Stewart Woodman's picture
Stewart Woodman

Stewart Woodman is chef-owner (with wife Heidi Woodman) of Heidi’s and the Birdhouse, critically acclaimed Minneapolis restaurants.