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How long does it take to study to be a chef?

Blended learning is the answer for reducing skills shortages in chefs through online culinary study.

By: Cheryl Cordier
Director International Culinary Studio

Every article about skills shortages in the Hospitality Industry talks about shortages of skilled chefs. Many articles are written about how TV chef celebrities and cooking shows have changed the profile of chefs and made the role seem very glamorous. Still qualified chefs remains a skills shortage and on many countries skills shortage lists.

Education for most occupations has changed drastically in the past years but Culinary Study remains for the most part the same. In house – apprenticeship programmes for chefs remains largely unchanged, normally for 3 years. Chefs can however get qualified in Culinary Study or Colleges in 1 or 2 years and then enter the industry with a recognised Diploma or at least a recognised Certificate in Culinary Arts. I can understand why no-one wants to do a 3 year apprenticeship anymore, during your 3rd year, you will still be earning a trainee salary as opposed to earning the minimum wage which is what a kitchen hand would earn. And once qualified they are still earning a very low salary as chefs are notoriously badly paid. They mostly work long hours in poor kitchen conditions and yet we wonder why they leave the industry.

Industry cries, “we will have charge our customers more if we pay our chefs more”. What they forget to measure is how much more a qualified chef who has attended culinary college or a cooking school contributes to a kitchen versus an unqualified cook. Those cooks or chefs who have not learnt cooking skills, who have little or no experience in food costing, portion control, the correct technical skills, correct use of equipment and caring for equipment, speed due to having had the practise, correct hygiene and storage practises which actually save businesses money. Not to mention, a qualified chef will always be more confident and extremely proud of their creations as they have achieved a qualification in the field. Why one would rather hire unskilled cooks in order to pay them less escapes me, surely the benefits speak for themselves?


Along comes “blended learning” but how does it fit into a long standing culinary tradition of attending culinary college and that along with the traditional apprenticeship programme being the only ways to become a qualified chef. Let’s firstly give some interesting stats which I have either read or been quoted from industry experts:

  1. More than 50% of chef students drop off they programmes before completion.
  2. A chef typically lasts 5 – 7 years in the industry. (so if they train for 3, they only last another 2 – 4 years with all their skills then lost to the industry)
  3. Most qualified chefs will go into a food related industry or start their now business.

School graduates no longer want to attend traditional teaching colleges, they want a more technologically advanced option for learning. They want to get into a job and get qualified at the same time. They have access to their own device, whether it is a tablet or home PC as well as a smart phone. Every potential student school leaver that I have met and across a number of different countries want to study via “blended learning” and get qualified as soon as they can.

International Culinary Studio (ICS) exists for that reason. We are a chef school where future chefs can enrol with us and study the theory component online whilst completing their industry practical in their job. They will have full access to all their study material online and all their assignments are marked by qualified chef instructors and qualified assessors. All our courses are aligned to World Chefs (WACS) and City & Guilds in the UK’s Global Digital Badging system, aligned to the New Zealand Qualification (NZQA) certification standards as well as recognised by the American Culinary Federation (ACF) and thus on successful completion, students can elect to be awarded an Internationally Recognised Vocational Qualification.

Current cooks or chefs who have not attended a culinary school but who have been working as a chef/cook can also apply for RPL/APL through International Culinary Studio. We regularly hold focus groups with industry professionals to ensure our students are learning in line with what the hospitality industry needs. We can also tailor make a course for your business or establishment.

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