Surviving (and Thriving in) Online Culinary School
By Patti Cook, BA, MS, Ed.D., Culinary Grad and B & P Student
Escoffier: What helped you survive and be successful in online culinary school?
Patti Cook: I survived and really thrived in online culinary school. Mostly, I kept myself focused on completing the program—I really wanted that for myself and kept my eye on the prize, which for me was a culinary certificate. I wanted to add that professional certification to my resume. I knew to get there that I had to take it step by step and do a specific amount of time each week. That time planning helped keep me focused.
I completed the program in about a year while also teaching at the community college, doing food demos at the nursing association, writing weekly food blogs and writing an app for new cooks (www.wordstocookby.com). So I’d say it’s key to be organized and that takes dedicating time as well as planning and preparation. I’ve been a student in other situations where organization is important. And in online culinary school, it’s all-important because you have to have so many different things organized and in order before you even begin actually doing the assignment. This includes completing all the course material; shopping for the ingredients; printing out the recipe and assignment format; assembling all your equipment, including pans, utensils, as well as the camera and the plating pieces; and—most important—preparing the food. It’s a lot to keep organized and the more you prepare ahead to make sure you have everything you need and everything set up and in its place, the more successful you’ll be. Every assignment increasingly requires you to demonstrate the ability to organize by correctly preparing ingredients and assembling equipment. This skill is highly valued in the food industry so it’s great that it’s stressed in the program.
One of the most important pieces of the program for me was the creation of the e-portfolio; I suggest students take it seriously because it represents your growth as a student and is a big professional plus. The assignments, which are compiled within the e-portfolio, require you to demonstrate skill by including both visual and written components, so it helps to have a good camera setup and edit your writing for clarity and professionalism.
Escoffier: Any other advice you’d share?
Patti Cook: It may sound cliché, but have fun and enjoy it. The program provides so many opportunities to be creative, whether that’s with interesting ingredients, beautiful plating or photographs that make the online community of other students and others salivate. And I loved that the whole time I was doing the assignments I could feed people I love amazing and delicious and pretty food. Sometimes it does get hard to keep going, but it’s really worth it. When I finished, I could see how my culinary skills and knowledge had dramatically improved and developed. It’s a great feeling to know I earned my culinary certificate one delicious bite at a time.