Many avid bakers consider going to pastry school to refine their techniques and eventually work in a professional kitchen. However, while baking at home can be fun and relaxing, working at a bakery is demanding and stressful. Future baking students should carefully consider their decision before enrolling in school.
Before enrolling, start by taking a few cooking and baking classes to learn kitchen fundamentals and familiarize yourself with a standard culinary degree or to specialize in baking.
If you're committed to becoming a pastry chef, your biggest decision will be choosing where to go. Future students need to consider both the quality and cost of their education in order to make an informed decision.
When selecting a school, you should consider three issues: quality, cost, and practicality. Essentially, you want to receive a worthwhile education that won't put you in loads of debt.
Quality pastry programs will provide you with the necessary training for success. While you don't necessarily need to attend a top school, the institution that you choose should provide a foundation of basic knowledge, in-restaurant experience, and job placement assistance. You should also read up on the school's alumni and where their careers took them. Though not all schools will produce Food Network chefs, quality ones will showcase alums who went on to open successful local restaurants or bakeries.
Cost can be the hardest issue to deal with when considering baking school since institutions can cost up to$40k per year - if not more. However, you can put yourself through baking school without drowning in debt. Many schools offer scholarships and financial aid, so before you nix an expensive school, contact their financial aid office to see how they can help. You can also start your classes at an inexpensive community college and then transfer to a more reputable school.
Aside from raw tuition costs, you should also consider the practical aspects of attending the institution of your choice. Part-time programs are essential if you want to continue working, and location matters, too. If you're looking to move to a major city like New York, be prepared for high rent prices if room and board aren't included in your tuition.
A career in the culinary arts - and especially in baking - requires a lot of time, hard work, and total dedication, and you won't become a famous chef overnight. If you like to bake but aren't sure about making it your full-time job, then consider taking low-pressure classes to improve your skills. However, if you love cooking and baking, then culinary school may be right for you.
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