If you have been considering culinary school but aren’t sure if you’re ready to take on the tuition costs or student loan debt, you may have heard about culinary careers in the military. More than one million meals are made in military kitchens every day, feeding thousands of men and women three times a day. This type of food service requires a large number of trained cooks—almost all of whom are part of the military themselves.
What Can I Learn in a Military-Based Culinary Program?
Food service specialists in the military learn many of the same skills that are taught in standard culinary schools around the world. This includes:
- Ordering and receiving produce and meat
- Butchery/Knife skills
- Cooking meat products
- Preparing gravies and sauces
- Baking and entry-level pastry skills
- Food service
- Cleaning and maintenance
- Health, food safety, and sanitation
In most cases, you will receive nine weeks of basic training and nine weeks of more specialized training before you begin your official on-the-job culinary work.
While more refined skills aren’t likely to be learned in a military kitchen, the focus here is on maximizing nutrition and serving a large number of people in the most efficient manner possible. This can translate to great training for work in a commercial kitchen or industrial food plant—but probably not a career as an Executive Chef at a five-star New York restaurant. In fact, many culinary professionals find that four years (or longer) spent so close to military-style food that gives them little creativity does more to diminish a love of the culinary field than anything else.
Is Military Culinary Training Right for Me?
Only you can answer that question. On the one hand, working for the military offers great job stability, free culinary training, and the opportunity to help serve our country. You may also find yourself aboard an aircraft carrier in Japan, cruising in a submarine patrolling the Atlantic Ocean, or in a boot camp in Georgia—you can see the world and experience more than you might have ever imagined. However, because you sign a contract of service, there is no changing your mind once you’ve begun your military career. If you find that the learning atmosphere isn’t right for you, there are few opportunities to move over to a new field.
Culinary school—whether done at a private technical institution, a public university, or the military—can be a great way to begin a career in one of the most stable job industries in the world. As is the case with any program you’re considering, be sure to weigh all the pros and cons before you make a final decision.