Below are questions that I get routinely in email.

Q. Should I got to culinary school?

A. I have no idea if that’s a good solution for you or not. However, I suggest that if you’ve never worked in the culinary industry, you find a local restaurant (or a bakery, if that’s your focus) and work there for free for a month. They will probably have you peel potatoes, fill flour bins, devein shrimp or other mindless remedial jobs, but you’ll get a sense of the rhythm of the kitchen, the daily schedule and the kinds of work people do in professional kitchens. I get concerned when people write to say they love to cook and they’re obsessed with Top Chef. Real restaurant work is completely unlike home cooking and many people who attend culinary school with Food Network dreams seem to end up disappointed and wondering what else to do with their culinary training. .

That leads me to the next point. Many people who get professional training don’t work in restaurant kitchens, myself included. There’s a wide spectrum of opportunities, from personal chef work to opening a bakery to food writing to food styling out there. To get a sense of the options, I strongly encourage anyone contemplating culinary school to get a copy of the book Food Jobs by Irena Chalmers to get an idea of the life beyond the hot line. I also recommend David Leibovitz’s excellent essay on the pros and cons of culinary school

Finally, while I loved my experience at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and I wish everyone could experience it, for many practical reasons — including expense — it’s just not feasible. While there are many fine culinary schools in the United States, including the famed Culinary Institute of America, don’t overlook what’s often an excellent, cost-effective program at a local community college. Some of them are excellent. In Seattle, I recommend all potential culinary students check out Seattle Central, Edmonds and West Seattle community college’s culinary programs in addition to those run by Le Cordon Bleu and the Art Institute.

Q. I want to go take classes at Le Cordon Bleu during my vacation. Can I do that?
A. Yes. I wrote a post about it, with a link to a story in The New York Times about other opportunities to study French cuisine in Paris. (May 2008)

Q. I want to be a recipe tester for your site. Why do you have recipe testers, and do you pay them? How do I sign up?
A. I have about 150+ recipe testers, a group that grows regularly. They do become part of a closed community that gets first access to all recipes in progress for my books, this blog and other writings. No one is paid, but when there’s a lot of recipes to be tested, I offer up three to five incentive prizes each month. The most active testers also received mention in the acknowledgements of both books, plus a signed copy on its publication. Not to mention, there are bragging rights. If you’d like to join, send an email for more info.

Q. Are you and Mike still married?
A. Yes, and the whole thing just keeps getting better and better.

Q. If I get the book Le Cordon Bleu at Home, will be learning the same recipes as those taught at the school in Paris?
A. More or less, yes. I wrote a post about it back in 2008.


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