Variety, the Spice of Chef School Training

It's been nearly a decade since the University of Southern Mississippi at Long Beach tried a radical experiment: embedding a culinary school in a university setting. While state universities with agricultural roots have long provided a home for scientific food preparation and preservation research, universities traditionally steered clear of the culinary arts. It's one thing to invent a cutting edge packaging material for baked goods, quite another to teach the art of cake decoration.

Over the past decade, however, culinary arts training has diversified into a variety of educational settings. Why? The growing demand for food service professionals.

Chef: As a Career

Between the growth in the industry and the turnover in chef careers, jobs in food service may grow too. Local food service providers from hospitals to restaurants to casinos may hire minted chefs, right out of the externships these venues provided. Regardless of your own chef school destination, you'd be wise to research the career possibilities for chefs in your area. Knowing you'll be able to learn through an apprenticeship in a chef-hungry industry gives you confidence in your career path.

Chef: As a Second Career Choice

When USM began its program, executive chef and instructor Pam Lewis noticed that a significant number of her students had chosen chef training as the road to a second career. Some hoped to find a more personally gratifying career through their culinary arts training. Others planned on being chef-entrepreneurs who worked for themselves. "People come from all walks of life who, for whatever reason, decide to do something different with their lives, and want to choose something that is going to be fulfilling for them," Lewis said in 1998. Today, chef schools remain a popular midlife career destination--especially since chef training can take as little as two months and rarely lasts longer than two years. Small time risk; great rewards.