We are often asked at Le Cordon Bleu whether it’s worth the time, money and labour investment it takes to complete our courses.
Naturally, we would say “yes”, but we wouldn’t if we didn’t believe it to be true. The idea of leaving school, gaining an entry-level kitchen job (porter, for instance) and working one’s way up to the role of chef is quite dated, and it’s getting harder for people to take that route with every passing year. Many restaurants recruit and train chefs who begin as an apprentice or junior chef, therefore, those who are serious about working in hospitality choose to attend culinary schools. Here, we’ll break down what culinary schools offer, how much they cost and what you’ll learn.
What do you learn in culinary school?
Naturally this depends on the course, but we’ll use one of our most popular and prestigious courses as an illustration. Our Grand Diplôme® teaches classical and modern culinary techniques, kitchen skills and recipe preparation, among other disciplines. This course also trains you in the art of pâtisserie. The Grand Diplôme® is a professional chef diploma, arming you with the know-how to work in any high-end kitchen. However, just as there are many types of meals and restaurants, so there are numerous strains of chef. A student might want to specialise in pastries and desserts, manage a restaurant, run a bakery or become an expert in plant-based cooking
Whatever you learn, the breadth of knowledge and experience in a culinary school completely eclipses the knowledge you can acquire from cookbooks or entry-level jobs.
Can you go to culinary school with no experience?
In short, yes. Our Grand Diplôme® starts with basic cuisine and pâtisserie, followed by intermediate and finally superior, so you will learn all the skills you need from us. Our students and alumni come from all walks of life: some enter our courses straight from school, but many are graduates of unrelated university courses (everything from law to arts). We also get a lot of career changers, people who have tried a different profession but ultimately decide to follow their true passion.
How long does culinary school take?
The length of our courses varies, with the Grand Diplôme® being one of the longest as it is a full-time, nine-month course. Courses can also be integrated, so you can combine (for instance) the above qualification with our Diploma in Culinary Management. These combinations can bring the course duration to 12 months or 15 months if combined with an internship.
We also have many short courses, which vary from a few hours to several weeks. Short courses are popular with students who want to hone their cooking skills for daily life; hospitality staff who want to improve in a particular discipline; and those who are trying out the culinary world to see if it’s something they might like as a full-time career. Short courses include Cuisine Technique Essentials, Vegetarian Cooking, Cake Design and Decoration and many more.
How much does culinary school cost?
A full-time diploma might cost £35,700; while a short, day-course might be as low as £65. The full-time course fee can be viewed in this way: it is about a year’s salary of a multi-decade career, making it a long-term investment. Additionally, you will be gaining in-demand, transferable skills, and cuisine is one of the most travel-friendly disciplines. While laws, qualifications and demands vary from country to country, every corner of the world needs good cooks and chefs.
What to expect from culinary school…
Culinary school is different from other educational pursuits in numerous ways. Firstly, you’ll spend a lot of time on your feet! At Le Cordon Bleu, we value hands-on experience, so, under the tutelage of our classically trained chefs, you’ll be handling the raw ingredients, creating sauces from scratch and preparing countless dishes. You will also attend classes and demonstrations as part of your course.
There are presentation meals as part of your final exams, so by the time you finish, you will know how to create gourmet dishes from scratch in a restaurant environment.
Is culinary school fun?
Yes! Our students come from all backgrounds and cultures, but they all have one thing in common - a love of good food. While you will be expected to work hard, acquire skills and learn a lot, you’ll also get the chance to learn alongside like-minded people in a beautiful, cutting-edge facility in the heart of London. If you love food and cooking, it’s highly likely that you’ll enjoy culinary school.
What can I do after culinary school?
This depends on the graduate. Naturally, many go on to become successful chefs, entrepreneurs and managers, and there are many exciting career paths within the food and hospitality industry for graduates. It’s a global career, and Le Cordon Bleu graduates have worked in some of the most prestigious restaurants and hotels in the world. Read our Alumni Success Stories to get an idea of what some Le Cordon Bleu London alumni have gone on to achieve.
What is the expected salary with a culinary school degree?
Salaries vary, but a Sous Chef in an established, high-end restaurant in the UK can start at £20,000-£30,000. Head Chef salaries can go beyond £55,000 a year. And, of course, if you set up your own business, there is no upper limit to what you can achieve and earn. Some of our alumni run their own international food businesses and restaurant chains.
Culinary school versus apprenticeship/work experience
The apprenticeship route is often touted as a viable one in the hospitality industry, but a good culinary school combines hands-on experience with learned knowledge. In fact, internship pathways are available in some of our programmes.
What are the benefits of a culinary school degree?
For anyone serious about a career in cuisine, a culinary school qualification is the best option for the following reasons:
- It provides a rounded education, encompassing hands-on food prep, classes and a variety of skills.
- Culinary schools deal with a variety of cuisines, qualifying graduates for a broad range of restaurant types.
- Students build contacts numerous ways, through the teaching staff, internship pathways, and their fellow students.
- Culinary degrees are constantly revised to remain relevant, ensuring that graduates’ skills reflect the current restaurant scene.
- Established culinary schools (especially Le Cordon Bleu) carry a recognisable name, known to head chefs and restaurant managers, and can open a lot of doors.
- A culinary skills degree provides abilities that will be used beyond the workplace, as graduates will enjoy expertise and appreciation of food that will last them a lifetime.
Culinary Professionals Weigh-in on Culinary School
Hideko Kawa, who has worked as a chef for some of London’s best restaurants before founding The Sweet Art Lab, learnt her trade at Le Cordon Bleu London. She says of her old school: "I really appreciate what I learnt at Le Cordon Bleu because I could open the door to enter the world's best restaurant scene, to work as a professional chef."
Brad Farmerie quit an engineering degree to pursue his dream of cooking for a living. “The curriculum at Le Cordon Bleu has not only given me the day-to-day skills that help me in the kitchen, but the knowledge that allows me to teach younger cooks so that they can improve their own techniques. This solid foundation also continues to fuel my passion for travel, allowing me to cook at prestigious events, demonstrations, and guest chef dinners around the world,” he says. After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu London, Brad went on to establish several eateries, including the Michelin-starred PUBLIC in New York City.
Hideko and Brad are just two of countless alumni of Le Cordon Bleu London who have built extraordinary careers since graduating.
Want to Work in Hospitality?
Countless chefs, managers and even restaurants can trace their roots back to Le Cordon Bleu. For many, it was the first step in a long, gratifying and delicious career. We have professional courses for every hospitality career, whether you want to create food, a business or work with those who do.