Questions To Ask Before Enrolling in Culinary School with Shawn Wenner

Shawn Wenner, Founder and Publisher of Entrepreneurial Chef.

Thinking about spending the tens of thousands of dollars and investing years of your life to obtain a culinary degree? This is a major decision requiring ten of thousands of dollars in investment and years of your time. If you’re struggling within this decision today’s guest Shawn Wenner, Founder and Publisher of Entrepreneurial Chef magazine can help you evaluate if culinary school is the right choice for you.

Prior to founding Entrepreneurial Chef, Wenner spent almost a decade working at the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts before the campus in Orlando shut down. At this point, Wenner found himself at a cross roads out of a job and forced to think about to do next in his career and life.

While reflecting on his time at culinary school, Wenner recognized a common pain point students faced after graduation. Graduates would master the art of cooking during their time at the school, but didn’t have the strong foundation in business that’s essential to starting a successful restaurant, catering business, or a food product company. Students had mastered the creative side of food and cooking, but not the business and marketing aspects.

Identifying this missing piece, Wenner set out to create a learning platform and education company to help bridge the gap between being creative in the kitchen and reaching financial success.

How to Get an Annual Subscription to Entrepreneurial Chef Magazine For Free

In addition to dropping knowledge bombs on the podcast, Wenner generously offered our podcast listeners and blog readers a free annual subscription to Entrepreneurial Chef. Readers regularly pay $3.99 per issue, but you can get a full-year of the magazine for free just for being a listener of our podcast by entering the promo code below. How cool is that!

Claim your free year-long subscription to Entrepreneurial Chef by completing the three easy steps below:

Step One: Visit the Entrepreneurial Chef Subscription Page 

Step Two: Enter the promo code:  FTE18

Step Three: Enjoy a new issue of Entrepreneurial Chef magazine delivered each month. That’s it!

Claim your free annual subscription to Entrepreneurial Chef magazine by using promo code: FTE18

Is Culinary School Right for You?

This is the big question we try to answer within the episode. Whether or not enrolling in culinary school is the right choice is 100% based on your goals and personal situation. You’ll need to be totally honest and question whether this is the correct longterm decision for your life.

Here are key questions to ask yourself before enrolling in any school or training program:

Is this your true purpose or a passing interest? Some people are born knowing exactly what they want to do. Astronauts, professional athletes, and world-class chefs often fit into this category. Most folks, however, don’t have a clear vision for their life at an early age. We bounce around. We try different things. We explore and hopefully are able figure out what we enjoy and can make us a comfortable living. This is totally okay and the process most people go through.

Bottom line, if you’re still in the exploratory phase of your career, culinary school probably isn’t the right choice right now. There are faster and more affordable ways to determine whether or not this is the your path. For example, you could get employed as a line cook or even a dishwasher if you want to observe what it’s like to be a chef first hand. This will give you access to people already working in the career you’re considering. After spending 6-months in an industry job, you may discover that you love the food business and want to pursue it full-time. Or you may decide you don’t like the long hours, working weekends, or crabby customers.




 

No matter what you decide, getting a job in the industry will give you more information about the career you’re considering. It can be easy to get wrapped up into the idea of what you think being a chef would be like based on representations of the role on the Food Network. But the day-to-day of being a chef is not easy work. It’s often a decade long grind or longer for chefs to build reputations and rise to the top of their profession.

Tip: Before enrolling in culinary school, figure out if this is your true passion or interest that will fade in a few months or a couple of years.

What about the money? Attending a culinary school or any liberal arts college is going to cost money. According to this article on StudentLoanHero, there’s $1.48 trillion in U.S. student debt.

Odds are that if you attend an any institution of higher learning for 2 – 4 years, you can expect to end up with some level of debt when you finally earn that diploma. Classes, fees, books, transpiration, and basic living expenses make it hard be profitable while attending classes. Expenses quickly add up for students. The cost of attending a culinary school is something you need to take into consideration before enrolling.

Aside from the expense, you need to think about how much you expect to make after you graduate. Unlike doctors or lawyers that can rack up tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt and pay it off after entering the workforce with a six-figure annual salary, this isn’t the norm in food service. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average chef or head cook in the United States makes $20.76 per hour or $43,180 annually pretax. Entry level cooks, even with a culinary degree, should should expect to make below average in the first year or two on the job. At this salary, a $200 – $400 monthly student loan can really cut into your quality of life.

Tip: Figure out how much you expect to pay for schooling and how much you income you plan to make after graduation.

When does culinary school make sense? There are certain high-level corporate chef positions that require a culinary degree. If your goal is to rise up through the ranks of a corporation a degree program makes sense. Otherwise, you could end up hitting a ceiling at mid-level management.

The culinary degree can also help get your foot in the door at high-end restaurants. While a degree without any real-word restaurant experience probably won’t yield you a head chef position right away, it will set you down the right path to achieving this goal.

Tip: Get clear on your personal goals.

Listen to Making The Cut on iTunes and Stitcher, a podcast with Shawn Wenner and Chris Hill.

What You’ll Learn

You can learn more about whether or not culinary school makes sense for your situation by listening to the full interview where we cover the following topics:

Is culinary school right for you? In what situations does it make sense or not make sense to attend. How long have you been thinking about this? Is this a fly by night thing?

Questions should you ask any school and background requirements of instructors and faculty.

If you’re thinking about starting any type of food business, we recommend taking advantage of the free annual subscription for Entreprenneurial Chef magazine here by entering your free the promo code FTE18. If you enjoy audio learning, you can also check out Shawn Wenner and Chris Hill’s “Making the Cut” podcast collaboration on Stitcher.