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Culinary Arts - Overview


Culinary arts programs prepare people to cook and present meals in restaurants and other places that serve food. Students learn to plan menus and recipes. They study different cooking techniques. They also learn how to buy supplies, manage kitchens, and train staff.

While your classmates are busy quizzing each other on vocabulary for an English test, you're busy in the kitchen learning the difference between pate sucree and pate brisee from Julia Child.

Your friends' idea of fun in the kitchen is making cookie dough and eating it by the spoonful before it makes it to the oven. Your idea of fun in the kitchen is whipping up a three-course meal.

Your mom sees a couple of eggs, some wilted vegetables, and some milk in the refrigerator as signs to order pizza for dinner. You see those ingredients as a challenge to make dinner.

Do these descriptions sound familiar? Do you see yourself as an artist, your kitchen as your studio, and ingredients as your palette? If so, then culinary arts is the program of study for you.

As a student in this program, you take courses in nutrition, sanitation, and even culinary history. You study the properties of different kinds of ingredients. You learn how to plan a menu and create recipes based on both seasonal availability and a budget. You also learn to effectively use different kitchen tools, particularly knives.

You then learn various cooking methods such as braising and poaching, or making sauces such as hollandaise and bechamel. You might study culinary preparation in terms of different regions such as French and Asian cuisine, or in terms of types of food such as soups, breads, and pastries.

Because a background in culinary arts qualifies you to work as a chef in a restaurant, you also learn how to work in an institution and as part of a kitchen team. This includes instruction in line cooking and basic management skills. You learn to supervise and train kitchen assistants and also to keep track of kitchen resources.

Many community colleges, vocational, and proprietary schools offer programs in culinary arts. You can earn a diploma or a certificate, an associate degree, or a bachelor's degree in this program.

A diploma or certificate typically takes anywhere between 8 and 18 months of full-time study after high school. An associate degree generally takes about two years and a bachelor's degree about four.

Source: Illinois Career Information System (CIS) brought to you by Illinois Department of Employment Security.
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