Perhaps the only thing more satisfying than slurping down phở soup at a table nestled in the Vietnamese highlands or savoring a creamy crème brûlée in Lyonis knowing that you made the dish yourself, from scratch.Culinary traditions have been studied for centuries, and the best way to experience authentic, local cuisine is to go straight to the source. If you’re salivating at the thought of creating artful pastries, opening a restaurant, or becoming a professional chef, getting a degree abroad in culinary arts is one of the best things you can do for your career.
Why Earn a Degree Abroad
You don’t need a degree to become a chef, but a formal culinary degree program can provide you with the experience and connections needed to take your career to the next level. If your goal is to become a world-famous sommelier, why not follow the grapes to South Africa? If sushi is your passion, there’s no better place to learn than from the masters in Japan.
Culinary degree programs won’t just show you how to follow a recipe. You will learn how a society interacts with food and which elements create a successful restaurant. While these skills can be learned in your home country, obtaining a culinary arts degree abroad will broaden your experience by exposing you to new cuisines, new languages, and other international students.
When you study culinary arts abroad, your host city will become your laboratory. Did you spend the day studying fish preparation methods in Barcelona? Then grab some friends and go taste-test seafood in Barceloneta! Most culinary degree programs are based in regions with strong culinary traditions, so you will be able to learn a ton by observing how other cultures prepare and consume dishes. Making the rounds of local restaurants might as well count for extra credit!
Another perk of culinary degree programs abroad is that many schools provide internship opportunities. Making connections in the food world is key, and many job offers begin with a recommendation. Apprenticeships in critically-acclaimed restaurants and access to world-class professors is a huge benefit of attending a culinary school, so be sure to take advantage of it. You never know when a good networking opportunity can give you the career break of a lifetime.
Not surprisingly, Europe is the epicenter of culinary education. However, in cities on every continent, there are culinary degree programs that instruct students on regional and global cuisine, meal preparation, and hospitality management.
It’s hard to think about cuisine without first considering France; its gastronomy has even been designated as an “intangible cultural heritage” by UNESCO. Modern French cuisine is revered and replicated around the globe, and there is no better place to study culinary arts in France than in the shadow of the Eiffel tower in Paris. Studying in France is an education in itself, and each meal can be an exquisite treat. When you’re not indulging in pain au chocolat or a simple meal of steak-frites, France offers plenty to keep you busy, like afternoon excursions to the Musée d’Orsay or cycling along the Canal St-Martin.
Spain is a powerhouse on the culinary scene, with Spanish restaurants making a strong showing in international rankings. Plan on taking a lot of time for snacking during your culinary degree in Spain, from enjoying pintxos in Barcelona to sharing a massive plate of paëlla with friends. Outside of the classroom, you can participate in cultural activities like La Tomatina, a town-wide tomato fight, or spend the weekend relaxing on the white sands of Playa de Ses Illetes.
If Europe isn’t your cup of tea, embark on a tasty adventure in Latin America. Culinary arts degrees in Argentina, most frequently based in the capital city of Buenos Aires, offer international students a taste of South American cuisine and top-notch culinary training; not to mention some serious tango dancing for post-class entertainment.
Culinary Degree Programs
Before you forget that you’re going abroad to actually do some studying, remember that your stay won’t be all brunches and happy hours. Most culinary arts schools involve intense days filled with chopping, sautéeing, and laboring over a hot stove. But when you’re not spiralizing beets, you’ll be learning the basics of restaurant management and decoding financial spreadsheets.
While there are many fantastic culinary arts schools that offer a range of degrees, some institutions stand out from the crowd. Most of culinary schools offer bachelor’s degrees in multiple culinary fields, and many also provide master’s level training or certifications in various specialities. Internships are also plentiful, offering real-world, hands-on experience that will help in your future job search.
Some culinary schools are a cut above the rest and are worth looking into if you want your resume to shine. Gasma, a Spanish culinary school that opened in 2014, focuses on natural, healthy cuisine made with local ingredients. Students who choose to earn a culinary arts degree at Gasma spend four years studying culinary arts and management, as well as participating in research projects and internships. For mountain lovers and raclette aficionados, the International Culinary Institute in Switzerland is world-renowned for its hospitality management training, and even promises each graduate a job upon finishing their culinary arts degree. If renaissance paintings and homemade gelato are more your thing, head to Italy and check out Apicius International School of Hospitality. Students at Apicius are immersed in more than just cannelloni, as they also undertake an in-depth study of Italian culture and learn how to tailor hospitality to the local context.
English is the most commonly spoken language in international culinary schools, but be sure to confirm which language classes are taught in before enrolling. In any case, it’s useful to start learning some of the local language too. This will benefit you during culinary arts internships, getting around the city, and making friends. So pull out those flash cards and start memorizing (focusing on the food section of your textbook, of course)!
Most culinary degree programs don’t require you to have prior experience or diplomas, but it won’t hurt to familiarize yourself with your kitchen before you begin working on a culinary degree abroad. Practice whipping up some fancy dinners for your friends; they likely won’t complain.
Benefits & Challenges
Spice Up Your Resume. It’s no secret that studying at a premier culinary institute will boost your CV and increase your job prospects. Once you’ve proven yourself in class and obtained your diploma, the name of a well-known culinary school will take you far. Additionally, internships and professors are great resources for networking and can help you line up a job once you’ve graduated.
Make International Friends. Culinary schools attract students from all over the world. Your fellow international students will not only enrich your time in the classroom, but they can also become your lifelong friends. So, don’t hesitate to invite your classmates to the theatre or on an excursion to check out that nearby mountain town.
Keep Your Cool. Attending a culinary school abroad won’t be a walk in the park, and you’ll be put to the test (literally and figuratively) during your studies. Expect to be busy during your class and internship periods, but remember to take time for yourself and enjoy your surroundings. Celebrating the completion of a difficult week with a glass of chianti and a plate of salumi is the perfect way to wind down and relax.
Deciding to get your culinary arts degree abroad isn’t only a smart career choice; it will also stoke your hunger for learning about new cultures and languages. Spending time abroad gives you a taste of another way of life and lets you meet people you might not have otherwise encountered. While cooking may be your primary reason for going abroad, the benefits you receive will go far beyond the kitchen. Bon appétit!