There’s a common saying that you “should never trust a skinny chef.” This kind of reasoning makes sense; after all, if a chef doesn’t enjoy his or her own food, why should you be tempted to even give it a try? Even more to the point, if an aspiring chef doesn’t produce food that others actually get to eat, why should any restaurant hire graduates fresh out of culinary school?
Many of the top culinary schools in the United States have jumped on board this idea by turning their classes into “production kitchens.” The concept behind production kitchens is that students in baking school or cooking school create food that goes to the school’s restaurants or even to student meals. Not only does the food get real-world taste tests in this way, but students also learn about mass production and meeting demand.
For many students, the production kitchen is actually the selling point of a particular culinary program for a variety of reasons, including:
- The opportunity for hands-on learning with tangible results: Food that doesn’t come out well will either have to be recooked, or the “restaurant” will have to operate with a shortage.
- Simulated kitchen experience: The stresses of working in a bakery or commercial kitchen can be fairly large. By being required to meet a minimum output, culinary students are able to learn how well they cope with large volume orders and meeting demand.
- Discovering a niche: When you first start a culinary program, you may not know for sure what type of environment you want to work in. Working in a production kitchen will give you a better idea of how much (or how little) you like that particular type of situation.
While most culinary schools have some sort of simulated kitchen experience, not all of them boast working, income-generating production kitchens. If this is something you want to include in your culinary education, be sure to find a school that offers it as a routine part of every student’s program.