Becoming a Chef at 50: Am I Too Old to Go Back to School?

Becoming a Chef at 50: Am I Too Old to Go Back to School?

For some people, cooking is more than a fun activity. Many older Americans enjoy creating new recipes, tantalizing meals, and exciting flavor combinations for their friends and families. Despite their deep passion and homegrown knowledge, however, few of these people think cooking is a realistic career path.

But you’re different. Even though you’ve been out of school for decades, you want to learn how to become a chef and take on a new career with gusto. The good news is that there are plenty of programs who accept older students. Better news is, some of them have a student population dominated by non-traditional students. Why you still might be a little older than some of your peeps in class, you probably won’t be the only person who returned to school to learn culinary arts.

You might wonder, what is it like for someone over the age of 50 to go back to school? What can students expect from their culinary arts degree program? Or what are some of the benefits and challenges of returning to school as a mature adult?

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Returning to School After 50

Life doesn't always follow a straight line. Whether it's due to global economic changes, shifts in personal health, or the simple desire to do something they really like, many older adults find themselves taking classes to improve their career options.

If it's been a while since you last sat in front of an instructor, you might worry about what's ahead. What is it really like going back to school after age 50? While individual experiences vary, these are some of the things mature students can expect from schools more tailored towards older, employed students rather than 18-year-olds who are expecting school to be more party than homework.

  • Flexible scheduling. You might remember having a hard time reconciling your class schedule in college. With limited options for time and location, it might have been tough to fit in all the necessary classes for your degree. Today, accelerated learning programs offer flexible scheduling options that make it easier than ever to live a normal life while studying for a new career.
  • A variety of academic supports. In the past, students had limited options for academic intervention. If a tutor couldn't help you, your only hope often rested on the kindness of the instructor during their office hours. Modern schools, however, understand that different learning styles may need additional support. Study groups, school-provided tutors, and extra time with the professor are all possible ways for you to find help when the subject matter becomes complex.
  • More than just lectures and reading. You won't be forced to memorize long strings of data in modern career training programs. Instead, students are guided through a mixture of lectures, discussions, and hands-on activities that continuously reinforce learning material. These classes are designed to help every student retain as much information as possible with the least amount of effort.

School may not be what you remember. Choose a career program geared towards adults to ensure that you can continue your studies without sacrificing existing obligations.

Culinary Arts Training: A Brief Introduction

A culinary arts training program is designed to teach students how to become a valued member of a food production team. Your program may vary depending on your chosen school and degree focus. However, here are some basic elements you can find in any good culinary arts program.

  • Opportunities to practice. Cooking for your loved ones isn't the same as working in a commercial kitchen. In your training program, you'll be taught how to work with a team of culinary professionals to produce consistently high-quality dishes in a safe and efficient manner.
  • Palate training. In the world of cooking, taste is everything. In order to create new dishes that please the public, chefs need to be familiar with a wide range of flavors, textures, and ingredients. A good culinary school gives students the chance to explore new flavors.
  • Instruction in vital kitchen skills. Cooking is a multi-skilled discipline. Successful chefs need to know how to create artful presentations, prepare ingredients, and a variety of food preparation techniques. In your culinary training courses, you'll be taught how to cut, chop, broil, and plate like a professional.
  • Proper tools and technology. You might have baked a cake using a stand mixer before. But what if your project is to make a wedding cake for 200 people? You’ll need a much bigger mixer! Culinary schools generally have the tools you would be using a professional kitchen, with the capacity to cook for far more people than your immediate family.

Culinary arts training provides a strong and flexible knowledge base that students can use to build the career of their dreams.

The Benefits and Challenges of Being a Mature Student

Age isn't necessarily a disadvantage in the world of education. Your many years of work and life experience play an important role in your culinary education.

  • After years of clocking in and out, you have undoubtedly learned the value of punctuality. This is an important quality for success in the classroom and the kitchen.
  • As we age, our idea of success changes. Rather than chasing traditional ideas of career success, students over 50 are generally motivated by personal passion. When you focus on creating joy rather than generating income, you're more likely to succeed in your chosen career path.
  • Interpersonal relationships are an important part of working in a commercial kitchen. While younger students may struggle to maintain a professional presence, older students have already learned how to work with those that they don't necessarily agree with.

Of course, there are some big challenges for older students. However, these problems also come with some simple solutions.

  • Students who work full time may need to create a personal support system to help with regular family or household chores while they study.
  • Older adults sometimes have a tough time retaining new information. Take advantage of study help offered at your school before this becomes an issue.
  • Finding the time to study between work and family life doesn't have to be impossible. Use a daily calendar to schedule short 15 to 30 minute study sessions throughout your day. More if you have a test coming up.

Are You Ready to Get Started Today?

Are you interested in studying culinary arts? No matter how old or young you might be, an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Culinary Arts could be the right move for you! For more information on this exciting opportunity, connect with a friendly admissions officer today.

It could be the Best Decision You Ever Make!

Learn more about ECPI University's College of Culinary Arts TODAY!

DISCLAIMER – ECPI University makes no claim, warranty, or guarantee as to actual employability or earning potential to current, past or future students or graduates of any educational program we offer. The ECPI University website is published for informational purposes only. Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information contained on the domain; however, no warranty of accuracy is made. No contractual rights, either expressed or implied, are created by its content.

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