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Culinary school isn't for everyone – no matter how appealing it sounds to be able to work with top chefs, improve your skills and learn to create really top-quality dishes – because most people don't intend to become professional chefs and the time and cost involved in attending a full time school just isn't worth it when you cook recreationally. That said, there are many at-home chefs who want their skills to be on-par with those of "real" chefs and one way to learn those techniques, recipes and skills is by signing up for an online cooking school. Online cooking schools have sprung up over the past couple of years, offering anyone with a computer and a good internet connection the chance to watch video lessons on everything from basic knife skills to roasting the perfect chicken. These schools are intended to give you a solid base in these skills, not just to entertain you with stories (like most food tv shows do). They're less expensive than full time culinary school and can be done on your own schedule.
The Wall Street Journal recently took an in depth look at three online culinary schools to see how their online classes – which are aimed at home cooks looking to get culinary school skills – compared and whether they were worth the investment: Top Chef University, Rouxbe and Culinary Institute of America Prochef Podcasts.
- Top Chef University got a thumbs up for their impressive range of subjects, with more than 235 lessons and over 60 hours of video content. The instructors vary by lesson (former Top Chef cast members), but the skills demonstrated were all detailed and lessons were packed with useful tips. The classes are broken into 12 courses and you're encouraged to complete them in order. It was $199.95 for one year/$24.95 per month for one course at a time.
- Rouxbe is an online only school with more than 75 classes and over 1,000 videos. They were praised for their polished videos, attention to detail and very thorough lessons that walked you through every detail of the techniqes. A discussion forum with staff and other users provided a classroom-like atmosphere, too. $299.95 for one year/ $4.99 per lesson for 90 day access or $9.99 per lesson for lifetime access.
- Culinary Institute of America Prochef Podcasts were not organized into neat courses to follow like the other schools. Instead, these engaging videos allowed you the freedom to pick and choose what topics you were most interested in without being encouraged to view them in a certain order. All videos were taught by CIA instructors, though there were no quizzes, etc. like the other schools offer and no way to really track your progress. $4.95 per podcast
The WSJ didn't really rank these schools because with their different styles they will appeal to people looking for different things. They're all worth checking out, however, to get a little bit of that culinary school skill set without leaving your own home.