This traditional training method holds strong in the culinary world, especially for those looking for hands-on education.
An aspiring chef has a few popular pathways to working in a professional kitchen. While culinary school is still the most traditional route, the culinary apprenticeship may allow a more flexible and practical approach to training.
A culinary apprenticeship allows students to work in a professional kitchen as part of his or her education. Instead of spending the majority of their classroom with fellow students, the apprentice falls under the guidance of a country club or resort with a pre-arranged program aimed at mentoring the chef one-on-one. Throughout the program, they will balance a mixture of classroom instruction and work within the professional kitchen on-site.
The structure of each program varies, allowing students to choose their mentor and experience unique cuisines. However, the American Culinary Federation has set standards for apprenticeship certification to ensure consistency across the board. Depending on the length and structure of the program, chefs can earn different levels of certification, from the Fundamentals Cook Program to the much more intensive Sous Chef or Pastry Chef program.
A culinary apprenticeship is ideal for a chef looking to work as they learn, especially if they’d prefer to forego culinary school tuition. The training chef is often paid minimum wage when they first start out, which allows them to work and study simultaneously, albeit for a very low amount.
While culinary school may look more attractive to some employers down the line, the apprenticeship allows new chefs to experience the daily demands of the kitchen. It is also easy to build close connections with top chefs around the country.
Deciding between apprenticeship and culinary school comes down the career path and learning preferences of the student, but both are viable options to become a professional club chef.