Culinary Education vs. On-the-Job Training: The Path of Cooks in Non-Gourmet Restaurants

When it comes to the culinary world, there are many paths to success. Some chefs attend culinary school to learn the ins and outs of the industry, while others gain their skills through on-the-job training. This is particularly true in non-gourmet restaurants, where the focus is often on producing high-quality, consistent dishes rather than creating innovative, high-end cuisine. But which path is more common, and which is more beneficial? Let’s delve into the world of culinary education versus on-the-job training in non-gourmet restaurants.

Culinary Education

Culinary education typically involves attending a culinary school or a community college with a culinary program. These programs often cover a wide range of topics, from food safety and nutrition to menu planning and cost control. Some programs also offer internships or externships, giving students the opportunity to gain practical experience in a real-world setting.

  • Pros: Culinary education provides a solid foundation of knowledge and skills. It can also open doors to opportunities that might not be available to those without formal training.
  • Cons: Culinary school can be expensive, and it doesn’t guarantee a job upon graduation. Some chefs also feel that culinary school doesn’t adequately prepare students for the realities of working in a restaurant.

On-the-Job Training

On-the-job training, on the other hand, involves learning the ropes while actually working in a restaurant. This can range from starting as a dishwasher and working your way up, to being hired as a cook and learning from more experienced chefs.

  • Pros: On-the-job training provides practical, hands-on experience. It also allows aspiring chefs to earn money while they learn, rather than accruing debt.
  • Cons: The learning curve can be steep, and the work can be physically demanding. There’s also less opportunity for structured learning and professional development.

Which Path is More Common in Non-Gourmet Restaurants?

In non-gourmet restaurants, on-the-job training is often more common. These restaurants typically value practical experience and the ability to produce consistent, high-quality dishes over formal culinary education. However, some chefs in non-gourmet restaurants do have culinary degrees, and they often bring a different perspective and set of skills to the table.


Ultimately, the path to becoming a chef in a non-gourmet restaurant depends on the individual. Some people thrive in a structured educational environment, while others prefer to learn on the job. Both paths have their pros and cons, and both can lead to a successful career in the culinary industry.