A Coach for Specialty Food Entrepreneurs

You know you’re onto something great: everyone loves your recipe; no one else is selling anything like it. You’re sure to be a success, right?


The hard truth of the specialty food industry is that no matter how delicious or innovative your product is, you need more than quality goods to be viable in this competitive business. Unfortunately, being a great chef is not the same as being a great entrepreneur.

At CookItHere, we’ve come across a resource that can help fledgling food businesses get the footing they need to be successful. From writing a business plan to pricing your product, Deb Mazzaferro can help you develop the foundations of solid enterprise.

That sounded a lot like a commercial, but this is not a paid endorsement. We’re just excited to find such a perfect match for our audience. Deb Mazzaferro, known as “Coach Maz,” is a 30-year veteran of the specialty food industry who specializes in coaching food entrepreneurs. You can read about her and the services she offers at her website, www.coachmaz.com.

The following reprint (used by permission) is a taste of Coach Maz’s perspective on starting a food business—good information to get you thinking about the viability of your business.

Tough Love from Deb Mazzaferro

Do you believe these myths?

The biggest myth in small business and the real story…………..

Over the past 12 years, the most common entrepreneurial misconception I’ve encountered as a business coach and specialty food consultant is ….

Build it and they will come!

Nearly every specialty food company seems to believe THAT if you provide an outstanding product, the consumer will FIND it and BUY it and CONSUME it in massive quantities. Or at least enough so that Kraft foods will buy your business for many times the money you have invested.

Sorry! It doesn’t happen that way.

So, tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent developinga homemade productinto a commercially viable one, finding a co-packer, tweaking it with a food tech and packaging it in unique and beautiful ways without any upfront marketing strategy. (In my cynical view, this is actually what is meant by “small businesses provide most of the jobs in this country”….as consumers of goods and services other small businesses provide).

Little thought normally goes into “what does the consumer want or need?” and “How am I going to sell it?”

The assumption is that once it’s made, the retailer will be so enamored that price won’t matter and logistics will solve themselves. The consumer will find this unadvertised, high-priced delicacy amongst the 1,000s of products on the shelves and be creative enough to figure out how to use it….at every opportunity.

Again and again I see quality products made, brought to market, sold… but little or no money made on the entire effort.And so what I see repeated over and over is a fine product gets made which has very little margin. Once it’s presented to the marketplace, retailbuyers may have complimentary things to say about product quality, but want pricing, promotions and placement considerations. Frustrated by two years of product development only to be turned down by key retailers and distributors, owners think the system is broken.

So what is the truth?

Everything hinges on price! If the price doesn’t resonate with the consumer, it just won’t sell. Retailers know what their customers want and may reject the product outright. If there isn’t enough margin built into the pricing structure for a distributor discount, broker commission, promotions, marketing and profit……then why do it??

What is the reality?

The product gets made. “Everyone” loves it. The price is too high. Inventory needs to be sold, so margins are compromised to get to the right price point or to pay for the unaccounted for sales and marketing expenses.

What is the solution?

Determine what the consumer wants or needs UPFRONT. Find a niche. Research a target audience. Find an opening in a growing category where you provide a unique selling proposition. What sets you apart? Why would your target audience buy yours over another brand….perhaps one they already love?

1.       Create your product from the retail price backwards to the cost of goods you’ll need to obtain in order to be profitable after all expenses.

2.       Next is a business plan the outlines all the nuanced expenses unique to your niche….and then add 30-50% to that as a buffer.

3.       Work within the system; understand who you’ll need to partner with and how much each layer will cost. You are not going to change the system! Learn the lingo, ask questions, go to work for a specialty food company, get a coach!

4.       Set a dollar amount you are willing to invest….and lose. Most entrepreneurs get in and then find they spend half their time managing cash flow, raising money, securing lines of credit or putting in more of their own money than they ever expected. Once in, they feel the big break is right around the corner and they have a hard time throwing in the towel. After 3-5 years of losing money, they want to sell the business but have little chance of recouping their investment much less making a profit. However, if you are thinking of starting a specialty food business, buying an existing one and taking it to the next level is an ideal way to jump in and create immediate value by increasing revenue rather than starting a new company from scratch.

I know buying and running an existing business doesn’t celebrate your Grandmother’s cookie recipe, but……is it about that or having a thriving business?

You decide!

Is There an App for That?

The New Year is right around the corner, and with it, a chance to start fresh with your business. Are you looking to make some positive changes? Maybe you want to get better at promoting your services. Maybe you want to update your recipes. Maybe you want to revamp your pricing, make better use of your time, or be more organized.

Chances are, whatever your intention, there’s an app for that: a software application that will help you in your endeavor. Many culinary professionals are so kitchen-focused that they forget that the right technology can be as critical as any kitchen tool, saving you time, money and stress in your food business.

There is a tremendous amount of technology designed for chefs, caterers and food business operators. From maintaining a pantry inventory to planning an event, you’ll find all kinds of applications to make your job easier. Here is a just a sample of the tools available for you.

Cook’n Recipe Organizer: For home cooks or pros, this app allows you to capture recipes you see online and save them to a searchable database of your own. It offers recipe scaling and nutrition analysis, too. Another popular recipe organizer is Living Cookbook. If you’re a recipe hoarder, and if you pull your recipes from all different sources, imagine the time you could save by having them organized and categorized in one library!

If you’re struggling with pricing your retail food product, you may be able to find free calculators online. For a $49 download fee, this calculator from SmallFoodBiz.com is an Excel worksheet that helps you factor in costs including production time, overhead and markups. It’s a good starting point for beginners who can’t invest in a whole business software package.

The American Personal & Private Chef Association sells a software package called Personal Chef Office. It’s an all-in-one suite specifically for personal chefs, and it covers everything from recipe and menu planning to invoicing and financial forms. You can manage your schedule and client information. It has a nutrition analysis tool that will update nutrition information in a recipe based on your modifications.

For caterers, commercial catering software like Caterease can help with everything from event planning and customer relationship management to menu planning and managing your employees. It gets into nitty gritty, like ingredient sourcing and job costing, and logistics like diagramming the floorplan of your event. It even has an ecommerce module so you can offer online ordering to your clients. Caterease appears to be the industry standard, but it’s pricey and could be cost-prohibitive for smaller business owners. For a more affordable option of with some of the same functions, try Total Party Planner.

Seven Great Websites for Independent Food Professionals

Each time I draft a blog post, I dig around the internet for interesting and useful information for independent chefs and food professionals. And each time I find cool websites and content that I’d love to share with CookItHere readers. There is so much good stuff out there—from recipe sites to food blogs to celebrity chef sites to culinary magazine sites—this list is far from exhaustive. I tried to find diverse sites with useful content and professional interfaces. Here is a short list of some sites that are worth exploring.

ChefTalk has all the fun of a foodie website with a great social networking aspect, too. Join, set up a profile (kind of like Facebook, but just for chefs and foodies) and you can converse with professionals and home cooks from all walks of life. They also have articles and columns covering everything from ingredients to kitchen tools.

American Personal & Private Chef Association
American Personal & Private Chef Association is the largest association of its kind. Their website offers everything from kitchen advice to business building advice. APPCA offers classes and certifications, as well as industry-specific job boards. The site has an active blog and news features that food professionals will find informative and helpful.

Chef’s Resources
This site is like a nitty-gritty reference about kitchen and restaurant management. You won’t find recipes here, but you will find everything you need to know about specific ingredients. You’ll find tools to organize recipes, plan menus, inventory your pantry—all the nuts and bolts of operating a food business. If you’re not a chef or restaurant owner but aspire to become one, dig around this site for a reality check about what food professionals do when they’re not cooking and tasting.

Culintro.com is a restaurant job board and networking site. According to stats on the site, they have about 30,000 members including executive chefs and other industry personnel. Positions on their job board include all kinds of hospitality functions, including management and administrative staff, not just kitchen trades. They’re based in New York and San Francisco, but I did see jobs posted for other geographic areas as well. Culintro.com also posts industry news and events.

Small Food Biz
Smallfoodbiz.com is a blog, not a big site like the others so far, but the content is so dead-on for the CookItHere crowd that I had to include it on this list. Written by a pastry chef who later got an MBA, the blog covers all aspects of artisan food businesses from an entrepreneurial angle. You’ll find lots of business building tips and insights, interviews with food entrepreneurs, and practical information for launching a food business. Posts are short and informative, and though she offers consulting services, her site reads like a resource and not like a commercial.

Cooks Illustrated
Like the Cooks Illustrated magazine, this site is more than recipes—it’s like a free education. Recipes and articles cover techniques in detail and include a lot of “why” information that you can use to improve your culinary skills and general food knowledge. The site also has a whole section dedicated to equipment comparisons and reviews. So helpful!

Food & Wine
I had to throw in a good, well-rounded culinary magazine site. This site has recipes, entertaining and presentation articles, travel and international food-themed stories—it’s a real treat for professionals and amateur food-lovers alike. Not necessarily as practical as some of the other sites on my list, FoodandWine.com is a good one when you want to relax or be inspired.

Don’t forget to come back and read this humble blog once in a while, too, and remember that when you need a kitchen to apply all the new knowledge you’ve gleaned, you can find a commercial kitchen to rent at CookItHere.com.

Feeding the Hungry and Other Cool Stuff: Volunteerism for Chefs

It’s that time of year again, when charities organize food drives and special meals for the less fortunate all over the country. From national organizations like Share Our Strength to local churches and schools, people are mobilizing around food, which means that there are great volunteer opportunities for chefs and food professionals.

If you’re inclined to help, there are many ways to get involved. I was amazed by what I could find with a quick Google search. (I used the phrase “chef volunteers,” but you might try using more specific phrases for what you do, or include your geographical area.) Here are some opportunities that turned up.

COOKING MATTERS: This is a program of Share Our Strength, a national organization with the mission of ending childhood hunger in America. You may have seen advertising for their “No Kid Hungry” campaigns. Cooking Matters is a program where volunteer chefs teach families how to make the most of their food budget (often subsidized by food stamps or other government aid) by teaching them how to shop for healthy food and prepare healthy meals. How cool would that be? Share Our Strength has other culinary volunteer opportunities, too. Visit their volunteer action page for more information.

: This is a whole organization just to mobilize culinary volunteers. It began after Hurricane Katrina when the founder, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute, saw the need for qualified people to help with food preparation for those displaced by the hurricane. These days, they organize short-term service trips for chefs! When I read about their recent trip to Camp Sunshine in New York, where they served terminally ill kids, I got goosebumps. You must be a working culinary professional to participate in one of their trips.

CHEFS FOR SCHOOLS: This is an organization that supports healthy lifestyles through nutrition education, instruction in meal preparation, and resources to encourage a more readily available supply of healthy food. Chefs can volunteer to teach in classrooms or in monthly community cooking classes. While Chefs For Schools is local to New York, the concept is applicable everywhere.

And of course, you don’t need a big organization to help. If you have a food business, consider donating prepared food to a soup kitchen near you. (Especially protein—I know from experience that soup kitchens are challenged to provide enough protein; most people donate dry starches and canned vegetables.) If you’re a chef, you can prepare meals for low-income families, or deliver hot meals to individuals with mobility issues.

We all know that food not only sustains and nourishes people, but good food—preparing it, eating it, enjoying it with others–can comfort and enrich lives as well. That means culinary professionals are uniquely positioned to serve in a meaningful way—and you don’t have to wait for a holiday to get involved.

On Publishing a Cookbook

So, you’ve been cooking for a long time, and you’ve gotten great feedback—you KNOW you’re an outstanding cook. You’re creative, and your specialty is coming up with new dishes that no one has dreamed of before. And you’ve been compiling all these great ideas in your trusty Macbook, just waiting to unleash them on the world. Are you ready to publish a cookbook?

Well…probably not.

There are many ways to publish a cookbook, from the old spiral bound index card method (made famous by fundraising church ladies with crockpots), to the new generation of online publication via recipe blogs and ebooks. But just because you can publish your recipes, doesn’t mean you should.

For the sake of this post, we’re not talking about protecting your culinary secrets—though that is an important consideration. We’re talking about protecting your professional reputation.

The truth is, cookbooks have long been among the easiest type of publications to produce, even before other self-publishing mechanisms were available to the public. Consequently, the market is glutted with poorly written, poorly produced cookbooks. You don’t want to be one of them. Putting your byline on a less-than-perfect publication makes you look like an amateur; it’s not good for your personal brand.

Here are a few things to think about before you take your recipes to press.

Begin with the end in mind. Why do you want to publish? Do you want to make money from your book? Promote your image or your business? Or are you doing it because everyone wants your recipes? The answer to that question will help you determine whether you should be blogging, releasing an ebook, or pursuing a contract with a traditional publishing house.

Learn the proper way to write a recipe. Think of how frustrating it is for you, an experienced culinary professional, to execute a poorly written or poorly organized recipe. Imagine how difficult that is for less experienced cooks. Write your recipes so that anyone can follow them. That means using proper structure, abbreviations and terminology.

Discover your unique point of view. There are so many collections of recipes, from every culinary perspective imaginable. What’s unique about yours? Does the world need another vegetarian cookbook? No, unless yours is unusually compelling, inventive, accessible, affordable—what’s your angle?

Test the waters before you invest. Blogging is a virtually free way to get your recipes out into the marketplace. If you’re thinking of publishing a cookbook, either independently or through a publishing company, develop a blog with the same premise and attempt to build a following. It’s time-consuming, but so is writing a cookbook, learning the ropes of self-publishing, or querying agents. And no matter what method of publication you ultimately pursue, the following you build through your blog will be valuable later.

Enlist help. Just because you’re a creative chef, doesn’t mean you’re a writer. Get a second set of eyes on your draft—someone who doesn’t necessarily tell you what you want to hear. Gather as much feedback as you can on your premise, your recipes and the way you choose to present them. Listen to the feedback. The experience of the reader or cook who will be using your book will determine the success of your endeavor, so be willing to adjust or modify your draft to create a more appealing and user friendly product.

For some funny and useful notes on what NOT to do when writing a cookbook, visit this post from an executive cookbook editor.

Featured Kitchen: The Hood Kitchen Space

We’re beginning a new series in the Cook It Here blog. Each month we’ll be featuring one of our commercial kitchens for rent. As you know, not all kitchens are created equal, and even if they are equal, they’ve still got their own features and nuances. If you’re an independent chef, our Featured Kitchen series will help you get to know what’s available. If you’re a commercial kitchen owner, perhaps you’ll find it helpful to hear what other kitchens are offering.

We’re starting close to home with a great facility in Costa Mesa, California: The Hood Kitchen Space.

The Hood Kitchen Space offers six health department-certified, fully equipped kitchens, with slight differences among them to accommodate different types of client operations: one has a tilt skillet for clients requiring high capacity cooking, and two others are outfitted specifically with baking in mind. They have a kitchen designed for demonstration cooking classes, filming, or similar events, with a private venue attached can accommodate up to 25 people. In addition, they have two prep space areas, one dry and one with a sink. Clients may also rent dry, cold or freezer storage space on a monthly basis.

Each kitchen is available for hourly rental, 24 hours a day. Rates vary according to peak or off hours, on a sliding scale based on how many hours each month you require the kitchen. Clients include caterers, cottage food operators, independent chefs, and restaurants requiring overflow or temporary additional kitchen space.

The Hood is owned and operated by two local personal chefs: Shelby Coffman and Christie Frazier. Coffman is a graduate of Tante Marie’s Cooking School in San Francisco and has completed coursework at California Culinary Academy. Frazier is a self-taught professional with coursework at Tante Marie’s, Laguna Culinary and New School of Cooking. Both have extensive experience as caterers, personal chefs and cooking instructors.

Coffman and Frazier are working to make The Hood more than just a commercial kitchen for rent. They want to create a community of chefs and foodies, with The Hood as a hub for classes, events and activities.

According to their website, Coffman and Frazier also seek to build strong relationships with the communities surrounding their business. “Giving back and creating a strong community is a priority at The Hood Kitchen Space. In keeping with this practice, The Hood Kitchen Space offers its chefs and cooks the opportunity to use local, sustainable food and practices. They’ve selected Orange County artisans and family owned businesses to supply The Hood Kitchen Space’s larders with fresh, seasonal, and organic ingredients.”

For more information on The Hood Kitchen Space, including floor plans of the kitchens and complete lists of resources available, visit www.thehoodkitchen.com.

Catering for Kids

Kid-centered catering is a hot market that’s grown with the children’s party craze. Ordering pizza and playing Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey just won’t do anymore, as Pinterest and mommy-bloggers set the bar ever higher for clever, themed kids’ parties complete with matching menus.

Plenty of busy parents will pay for help keeping up with this trend. With a little creativity and awareness, you can tap into this market and provide a valuable service for moms and dads who have more cash than kitchen skills.

Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re preparing food for kids:

Safety: Make sure the food is age appropriate. If you’ll have toddlers in attendance, consider offering a plate or a portion of your buffet specifically for this age group, and use care to avoid foods that present choking hazards, like hot dogs.

Allergies are another serious concern when serving children. Discuss allergy concerns with your client before designing your menu. Are there any known food allergies in the group? Will parents be in attendance to help kids choose according to their allergies?

Flavor: kids like simple, familiar flavors. Simple dishes prepared with few ingredients give picky kids less reason to balk. Obviously, limit spices and strong flavors when designing children’s menus.

Presentation: the simplest foods become appealing to kids when presented in a fun way: sandwiches cut into shapes, fruit plates arranged into faces, basically anything served on a stick. And theme is king at children’s parties—how can you incorporate the party theme into your dishes?

Interactivity: kids like to play with their food, so give them something to do. Serve finger foods with dips—even kids who don’t usually eat vegetables can be persuaded if they get to dip them. Offer a cup of diced fruit, veggies or mild cheese and provide picks to spear them with (not too sharp!). For older kids, offer a build-it-yourself pizza or sandwich station. Kids who get involved with their food are more likely to eat it.

Portions: remember that at parties, kids tend to be distracted and eat less. Plan on serving food in smaller portions, and talk to your host about timing. Should you serve as guests arrive, before they become engaged in party activities? Or later in the event when the initial excitement has died down a bit and kids are better able to focus on food?

Nutrition: discuss nutritional expectations with your client. Today’s parents are hyper-aware of nutritional issues and may have very different opinions about what constitutes a nutritious meal. Some parents may be less concerned about the nutritional value of party food, but some may expect your fare to be as healthy as it is tasty and fun.

Opening a Commercial Kitchen for Rent

Our blog tends to focus on those seeking to rent a commercial kitchen, but here’s a switch:  what if you want to open your own commercial kitchen for rent?

In researching this topic, I found very little clear-cut information. No one has broken this down into, “10 Easy Steps to Opening a Rental Kitchen.”  Using Los Angeles as a test market, I found bits and pieces of information on the County’s environmental health website, but nothing comprehensive. I also found a number of articles that addressed various aspects of the process. Here are a few things to think about if you’re considering this endeavor:

 Licenses and Identification: This is something you can do while you’re working out all the trickier details. Your rental kitchen business will need a business license from the city where you plan to operate and most likely a DBA/ Fictitious Business Name registration from the county. Consult your accountant about tax issues and whether your business needs a federal tax ID number.

Finding a facility: This depends on what’s available in your target area. Think about startup expenses versus long-term expenses. You could find an industrial space and install a new commercial kitchen—the advantage here is that rent in industrial spaces tends to be cheap—but you’ll  have to pay for all of your systems and equipment.  Or you could find an established commercial kitchen, like a vacant restaurant space, and retrofit it as a rental kitchen—the advantage to this plan is that some of the very expensive systems and equipment may already be in place.  By the way: the kitchen in your home cannot be rented out as a commercial kitchen, unless you have a separate kitchen available–one that you don’t use for personal cooking–that you can outfit to meet commercial standards. And even then, zoning laws in your city may permit a commercial operation from your home.

Permits and codes:  Here’s where it gets tricky. Commercial food operations are regulated much more stringently than other businesses. You’ll have building codes, health department codes and fire codes to comply with.  Pay a visit to your city office and tell them what you’re trying to do BEFORE you begin so that you can collect information from all the agencies involved. You’ll have to pass inspections before you can open for business, so it’s critical that you know what’s required before you begin setting up your kitchen.

Equipment and systems for your kitchen: when you plan to outfit your kitchen, consider what is required by commercial codes as well as industry standards and your competition. Some of the standard items include:

  • Ventilation–hoods , fans, etc.
  • Fire safety–sprinklers, extinguishers, evacuation plan
  • Sanitation- dishwashers, waste and grease containment and disposal
  • Food storage: freezer, refrigerated and dry storage
  • Cooking equipment–stoves, ovens, smaller appliances
  • Food prep stations and equipment, like commercial mixers
  • Small equipment, like pots, pans, bowls and cooking tools
  • First aid supplies

Facility/ amenities: what will your clients need while they work? Restrooms and parking requirements will be dictated by your city’s building/planning codes, but consider internet access, seating areas, presentation areas—none of these are mandatory, but a could help differentiate your kitchen as a comfortable or value-added choice.

Administrative concerns: Do you need an office?  How will you coordinate schedules? How will you bill and collect rent? How will you market your kitchen? Where will you store paperwork? Depending on how you conduct your business, you may need additional space or supplies to address administrative concerns.

When your kitchen is ready for business, remember that CookItHere.com can help you find clients and help potential clients find you.

At Your Service: Becoming a Personal Chef

Once considered an exclusive luxury for only the very wealthy, personal chefs are becoming more commonplace. Whether it’s the increasing demands on the average American schedule, our growing awareness of nutritional issues, higher standards for food preparation or some combination of those factors, more people are using personal chefs than ever before. According to the American Personal and Private Chef Association (APPCA), “the current number of personal chefs is estimated at 9,000, serving 72,000 customers. Industry observers predict the number will double in the next 5 years.”

What exactly is a personal chef? A personal chef prepares meals for clients according to the clients’ needs and preferences. Unlike a caterer, who delivers prepared foods to clients, a personal chef prepares food in the client’s home or in a rented commercial kitchen. A personal chef should not be confused with a private chef, which is a chef that cooks exclusively for only one client, family or organization.

Some personal chefs will plan and prepare meals that can be quickly heated and served by the client, stocking the client’s freezer on a weekly basis so the client has heat-and-serve-meals on busy weeknights. Others will completely handle the process from planning to shopping to serving.

The path to becoming a personal chef is varied. Some go to culinary school with the intention of beginning a personal chef business, while others find themselves leaving the stressful world of restaurant kitchens for the independence and slower pace of personal chefdom.

If you’re interested in becoming a personal chef, many training programs are available. APPCA is one of several organizations that offer training programs and business support for those pursuing careers as personal or private chefs. Another well-known organization is the United States Personal Chef Association (USPCA). On their websites, these organizations offer everything from advice on pricing meals to online stores where you can purchase cooking tools. There are also community forums where you can gather information and opinions from other personal chefs.

As with any startup business, there’s groundwork to be done. You’ll need to comply with federal, state and local regulations regarding the licensing of your business. Depending on how much money you earn, you will most likely need a business license for any city you do business in. If you’ll be doing business under a company name (i.e. Meals By Meg, or Kitchen Concierge) then you’ll need to file a fictitious business name statement with the county in which you live. You’ll also need a current food handler’s certificate which can be obtained through your local health agency.

Most importantly, you’ll need clients. You can register with online agencies that match clients with personal chefs . APPCA and USPCA both offer such registries. Also, use our tips to build your network and get referrals.

And if you need a commercial kitchen, visit CookItHere.com to locate an available kitchen in your area.

The Culinary School Debate

If you’ve found CookItHere.com, you’re obviously a serious cook. Maybe you’re a caterer, or an entrepreneur working on a line of food products. Chances are if you haven’t been to culinary school, you’re considering it.

Interest and attendance in culinary schools has skyrocketed since the 80s, due in part to the popularity of cooking shows like Top Chef. The level of celebrity that was once reserved for star athletes and performers is now attainable by chefs. Those who achieve household-name status, like Rachel Ray, have launched commercial empires.

Now might be a good time to mention that Rachel Ray didn’t go to culinary school. Many famous chefs did not.

So there’s the debate: with the cost of a culinary education ranging from $20,000 to over $100,000, is it worth it?

Just like going to acting school doesn’t guarantee you an acting career, going to culinary school does not guarantee a culinary career.  Education or not, the career path for chefs usually begins with a $10/hour kitchen job. If you’ve financed a $60,000 culinary education, you’re looking at loan payments of almost $700 per month*—hardly feasible on an average cook’s salary.

Advocates of culinary school will tell you that the formal education offers a breadth of knowledge that you can’t get from working your way around a kitchen. And, just like other programs, you’ll make valuable connections, meet people and encounter opportunities as a student that you might miss otherwise.

There are alternatives. Local community colleges often offer culinary programs at a fraction of the cost of traditional cooking school. And of course, many chefs work their way through the ranks without attending culinary school.

Your ultimate career goal is an important consideration as well. There are many directions to go with a culinary degree outside of restaurants: personal and private chefs, commercial or institutional chefs, education, other hospitality sectors like hotels, cruises, even airlines.  It might pay to explore specific career goals before deciding to attend culinary school or deciding what type of program to enroll in—does your ideal employer require a degree?  Do they favor one type of school over another?

You’ll find plenty of passionate opinions on both sides of the culinary school debate. If you’re thinking about a culinary education, do some research.  Consider your current and projected financial resources, your career goals and the job market before you make your decision. For a more thorough discussion of the topic, try this article from Eater.com.

*From the Federal Department of Student Aid’s Loan Calculator: http://www.direct.ed.gov/calc.html