Culinary School Required? How To Become A Chef At Home.

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I’ve helped countless people start their own food business, and one of the most common questions is “Do I need to go to culinary school to be a chef?”

You do not need to go to culinary school to become a chef. Many of today’s most successful and famous chefs did not go to culinary school, including Gordon Ramsay and Rachel Ray. While attending culinary school will give you the techniques to create amazing food, you’ll need to hone your own food business skills to be successful.

What Do You Learn In Culinary School?

To be clear, I did not attend a culinary school. But, I do have a number of friends who did, and I researched attending one many years ago.

Here is what I’ve come to understand as the main takeaways from culinary school.

  • Confidence In The Kitchen
  • Vocabulary Of The Kitchen
  • Math Of The Kitchen
  • Attention To Detail
  • Consistency In The Kitchen
  • Advanced Cooking Techniques
  • Working Under Kitchen Pressure

All of these are very good things to know before you start a food business, but there are other ways to learn all of these things.

What Will You Not Learn In Culinary School?

When I look at successful chefs, I see two main characteristics.

  • They Are Great Business People
  • They Are Great Managers

Sadly, while culinary school can introduce you to the idea of business and management skills, they cannot give you an environment where you can practice those skills again and again.

To become a great business person and manager, you need experience. You gain experience by doing the job, and sometimes doing the job poorly.

So Where Will You Get The Skills You Need?

Let’s break the skills you need to be a great chef into three categories: Chef Skills, Management Skills, and Business Skills.

Developing Chef Skills Without Culinary School

The best way to become a highly skilled chef without attending culinary school is with on the job experience.

Start with a job in a commercial kitchen even it’s a small neighborhood dinner. After just a few months, start trying to upgrade your cooking job to a better restaurant or food prep establishment.

Every three to six months try to upgrade your job so you are continually gaining new and more advanced kitchen skills.

You’ll be getting paid while you gain chef skills, and you won’t be going into debt to pay for a culinary school.

P.S. I’ve had many employees over the years, and there are a few things that make an employee invaluable. As you start your culinary career, keep these things in mind so you’ll always be the most valuable employee at your job.

  • Have Good Manners & Work Hard…everything else will take care of itself.
  • Find work. Don’t wait to be told what work needs to be done.

Developing Essential Management Skills Needed By A Chef

If you are going to have employees, you need to be a good leader and manager. Even if your dream food business doesn’t need employees, these skills will help you achieve success.

You will be able to observe and practice some of these skills during your work hours. Even if your boss isn’t a great manager or leader, you can learn from them by seeing what doesn’t work.

However, if you want to fast track your leadership skills, you should spend some of your free time building these skills.

Here are some suggestions of ways to build these leadership and management skills.

  • Join Toast Masters to develop your speaking skills.
  • Read great management books. Start with “The New One Minute Manager”. It’s a classic, it’s short, and it’s inexpensive. { See It On Amazon >>> }

Developing Business Skills Needed By A Chef

These are skills that you won’t fully learn at a culinary school but are essential to being a successful chef in your own restaurant or any other food business.

I suggest that you start developing these skills now and your practice time to make some extra money. That’s a win-win.

I’ve put together a table of skills and food business you can run while practicing that skill.

Business Skills & Food Business You Can Run While Learning

SkillHome-Based Food Businesses
Writing SkillsFood Blogger or Recipe Developer
MarketingPersonal Grocery Shopper
Recipe DevelopmentRecipe Developer
Leadership Meal Prep Club
Food PhotographyFood Photographer

Conclusion About Culinary School

While you don’t need to go to culinary school to be a successful chef, it will give you a leg-up over folks trying to work their way up the ladder without formal culinary training.

On the other hand, if you only have a culinary degree with no business skills, you’ll be facing a major uphill battle to success.

If your dream has always been to attend culinary school, and you have the means to pay cash for culinary school then do it.

But don’t just go to culinary school, work your side gigs to build the business and leadership skills that you are going to need to be successful.

If you have both the formal education and the real-world skills, you’ll be on your way to success.

However, if going to culinary school means going into debt, don’t do it.

Debt is slavery and your dream degree will quickly become a nightmare as you make monthly payments for decades.

And remember, have good manners and work hard. Find Work. Be successful.



With over 15 years of experience starting, running, and growing home-based food businesses, Stacey is the #1 home-based food business coach in America. Stacey is the author of the Advantage Meals: By The Numbers Book.

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