7 Culinary Lessons We’ll Make Sure You’ll Never Forget

The best indicator of a quality education is how much students retain after graduation. For students pursuing a career in the food industry, retention is especially important. What you learn in culinary school will be the only foundation you have for your first job in the kitchen.

Here are seven culinary lessons our graduates remembered from their 12 weeks with us.

1. How to Handle a Knife

Be sure to pay attention to chefs who will teach you how to cut things correctly. How you handle a knife is one of the biggest skills your future employer will look for when interviewing you. Read Learning to Cook like a Seasoned Chef for seven kitchen skills you should master before graduating chef school. Even after graduation, you’ll continue to learn new knife techniques. Practicing the cuts you are least comfortable with will increase your precision and efficiency.

2. How Asking Questions Can Help You Grow

Many culinary students are afraid to ask the simplest questions or get extra help when it’s available. The chefs can’t read your mind, so if you don’t understand what is being asked of you or need to clarify a technique, speak up! Your development is your responsibility. Asking questions on the job (especially from more experienced chefs) is the best way to grow.

3. How Determination is Key to Success

You’re not going to master everything on your first try, so be patient and keep practicing! If you’re having a difficult time mastering a certain skill, be willing to put in additional kitchen hours. Get additional help from your instructor or ask a classmate to explain a concept in his own words to give you a different perspective. The most important thing is to never give up and be willing to try new things until you find a solution. When you get your first culinary job, the resolve you learned while in school will help push you through stressful moments in the kitchen.

4. How Engagement Makes Up for Mistakes

Engagement will make up for mistakes that you’ll inevitably make. Always come to class early with your head in the game and be prepared to do your best. Employers can always tell how engaged you are while you’re reading food orders, cooking and plating, or even just talking to your co-workers during down time. If you’re going to be there, be there. Make the most of your time, because there’s always something you could be doing.

5. How Timeliness is Essential to Team Spirit

Life happens, but showing up late to class on a regular basis leaves a bad impression on your chef and your peers and could show that you’re not taking the program seriously. This could hurt you in the long run if you ever need a favor or a job recommendation. If you have a habit of being chronically late while employed, you may not be employed for long. Good timing is extremely important in the food industry. By running late, it could mean leaving the kitchen short staffed with unhappy guests in the dining room.

6. How a Clean Chef Coat Represents Your Skills

Your chef coat represents the skills you’ve mastered, your eye for detail, and the greatness of your kitchen. A dirty chef coat will make you appear careless and may cause others to question the quality of your food and the cleanliness of your kitchen. Get into the habit of keeping your chef coat clean while you’re in school, so when you get a “real job,” a clean coat will just be part of who you are. For tips and tricks on how to do so, check out how this chef’s wife keeps her husband’s coat sparkling here.

7. How to Stay Organized & Why It Matters

Having a workspace that is clean and organized is essential to preparing good food efficiently and running a well-oiled business. Assign a place for everything and keep everything in its place. Make lists, stay on task, and clean up when you’re finished. Learn more about how staying organized can help you manage your kitchen and make a good impression on your first day on the job.

The lessons you learn in culinary school will prepare you for a successful career in the food industry. No matter what path you choose, we promise to teach you what you need to know.

After attending the UT Culinary & Catering Program, many of our students have advanced to become executive chefs, wedding and event caterers, and food truck owners. Some have even come back to us to teach courses themselves.

If you want to learn more about how the UT Culinary & Catering Program can jumpstart your culinary career, sign up for a free information session online or contact Pam Quick at quickp@utk.edu or 865-974-3181.