Ask Evan: I am looking to change my career and become a baker…should I go to culinary school?

Written by

Every Tuesday I answer a question from a Good Food listener. You can email me a question, leave one on Facebook or add one in the comments section here. This week’s question comes from Callie:

As I’m fighting a quarter-life crisis and realizing that retail management just isn’t the place for me, I’ve been thinking a lot about a career in baking or pastries since that’s what I do in my free time and really enjoy. Before I invest money in school however, I’m looking to see if I even enjoy being in a kitchen. I’m a proficient if untrained baker, and have heard of restaurants or bakeries which have unpaid internships to just get some kitchen experience. Do you know of anyone looking for a baking or pastry intern? Also, does it matter what culinary school you go to? Do you have any recommendations in the greater LA area?

I asked Good Food Producer Gillian Ferguson to weigh in on this question.  She is a second-career baker turned radio producer.  Her answer is below…
Before you spend money on culinary school, definitely find out if you enjoy working in a commercial kitchen environment.  Baking in a restaurant or bakery is very different than baking at home.  Baking hours can start as early as 3am and more often than not your juggling multiple tasks…can you mix muffins while baking a cake and proofing croissants?  A better question might be, do you want to?
If so, my advice is to walk into your favorite bakery and ask if you can work for free.  Don’t call or email – you’ll have more of a chance getting noticed if you show up  (just don’t show up in the middle of the lunch rush!).  If they agree, then show up on time and follow directions carefully.  Don’t assume because you’ve made banana bread at home that you know how to make banana bread at Bakery X.  If you are quick, hard working and follow directions I guarantee you’ll get noticed, and likely land a job when the time is right.  Culinary school is certainly an option, but it’s expensive and unnecessary.  You’ll learn everything you need to know on the job…while getting paid!