For all its sophistication and creative flair, at its core, culinary arts is a practical field. Learning requires culinary skills practice and working in the field requires hands-on experience. Because of this, after graduation, many students find themselves battling with requirements for two years or more experience for an entry-level position in a restaurant. The problem is, if you’ve only just graduated, where would that experience come from?
This dilemma is not unique to the culinary arts. In fact, graduates from other fields, such as business or tech, face the same problem. One of the best culinary school techniques that solves this problem is allowing students to gain real-life experience at a campus-operated business. In short, some culinary art schools have created a culinary student restaurant. If you’re interested in applying to a culinary arts program, here are just some of the many reasons you should enroll in a school that offers a student-operated restaurant.
Learn to Be a Team Player
Often times, classroom learning requires making an entire meal or dish on your own. However, this isn’t how it works in larger kitchens, especially for busy, high-end restaurants. Every person serves a specific role and you must all work together to ensure all objectives are completed on time. In a commercial kitchen, working efficiently as a team keeps food quality high and delivery delays low. It’s also important to remember that servers and other workers form part of this team, too.
Some instructors are hard to please. Customers can often be far worse. There is always that one customer who may send the dish back a few times because something was too salty or too sweet or the steak was too dry for medium rare. It is important to gain the opportunity to withstand rejection and criticism while still learning, so you are well-prepared for picky eaters in the real world.
Work Under Pressure
In a classroom setting, you may have a specific time to finish a meal or dish. This certainly feels like high-pressure, especially in the beginning. However, in the real world, when the waiter is calling out multiple dishes and coming back every few minutes to add more orders and ask the status on the former — that is real pressure. Every successful chef needs to know how to work through peak demand times, whether he’s working at a popular food truck or a five-star restaurant.
Identify Strengths and Weaknesses
The best time to identify your strengths and weaknesses is when time is limited. What dishes can you whip up the fastest? What dishes do you struggle with? What two dishes do you get confused about if the waiter calls them out too close together? What recipes do you struggle to remember when the pressure is on? By identifying these in a real-world setting, you can remedy these in a classroom with the help of your instructor.
Make Supervised Mistakes
It’s human nature to prefer that your mistakes go unseen. However, when you’re learning, the sooner an instructor spots the error, the sooner the instructor can point you down the right path. Supervised mistakes are also easier to correct. What if you don’t spot the mistake yourself? Thus, having an instructor present helps to ensure quality control. This can make criticism a quick correction, instead of a sick or angry customer. At a student-run restaurant, you’ll get valuable on-the-job feedback before entering the culinary industry on your own.
Easier to Land a Job
Gaining all this experience at school before you land a job makes you a much more attractive candidate to an employer. If the restaurant your school creates is particularly well-known or well-respected, then even better. Not only can you put the time working at the restaurant on your resume, but provided you gave that working experience your best shot, you may also receive a letter of recommendation from your instructor.
Choosing the Right Culinary Arts Program
Your ability to truly realize all the benefits listed above will either be helped or hindered by the quality of the culinary program you enroll in.
Before applying for the school, why not drop by the restaurant and see firsthand how well our students are doing? Then, if you like what you see — or taste — contact us for more information on how to get started.