How to Evaluate a Culinary Arts Program
In the late 1970's and early 1980's there were only a couple of schools available for students interested in a career in Culinary Arts. In 2014 there are literally hundreds if not thousands of programs with new programs opening almost constantly.
There are several categories of programs: AOS (Associates of Occupational Studies Degree), Certificate programs and limited programs with classes on one specific area of Culinary Arts or Foodservice, Bachelors programs and even an increase in Masters programs related to the industry. Interspersed with these are courses with curriculums suited for general public / food enthusiast rather than culinary professionals, that give the impression that they are for food professionals.
Amazingly there are now programs that offer on line only culinary training. (We are in NO WAY affiliated with any of them, nor do we endorse or recommend them)
A wide spectrum or organizations offer these programs:
- Not For Profit Privately owned Schools
- Public Secondary Education Programs
- Public Junior College Programs
- Privately Owned Not For Profit Universities
- For Profit Schools
- For Profit Networks of Schools
- And I'm sure more flavors of the above.
Quality programs are available from all of the different types of organizations. Don't assume that just because a program is from a "Not For Profit" that it is any better than a "For Profit School". You have to look at ALL the issues.
Most programs try their best to give a good education but the quality of programs and facilities varies widely.
To help you evaluate a program there are considerations and questions you should get answers for.
Is the Program Academically and/or ACF Accredited?
Academic Accreditation means that the college credits you receive from an AOS or Bachelors program can be applied to a non-culinary Bachelors or Masters Degree. This is very important when you realize that only small portions of graduates from culinary programs are actually in the kitchen after 5 years. There are several organizations that give "Academic Accreditation" and they are not all created equally. This is too big an issue and will be covered here and will be discussed in a separate article.
ACF (American Culinary Federation) Accreditation means that the program has gone through a truly exhaustive evaluation process from the ACF. This accreditation process evaluates curriculum, facilities, student teacher ratios, Certification of Chef Instructors and much more. Programs that are ACF Accredited have shown a dedication to top quality culinary education.
(Special note: "Endorsed" is a very ambiguous term that can not be equated with Accredited)
AOS or Certificate program?
The reality is that less that 5% of culinary program graduates will be in the kitchen after 5 years. Consider your future, not just your immediate desire to be a Chef. An AOS, especially from an Academically Accredited School, will