Online diploma programs in cooking don't exist, but there are fully online programs that award certificates in various types of culinary studies. Online cooking certificate programs emphasize the fundamentals of cuisine and practical cooking skills, combining textbooks, online study materials, training DVDs and cooking exercises to be done in students' kitchens. Therefore, online students must have a well-stocked, well-equipped kitchen.
Online cooking certificate programs teach students to prepare all kinds of food, including soup, bread, desserts and even large entrees like roasts and pasta dishes. Programs may take as little as two months to complete. Some schools caution that completion of an online certificate program does not qualify a student for employment as a cook. However, students with restaurant experience or other culinary training may benefit from these programs in terms of a career boost.
Aside from a food handler's license issued by the local government, culinary professionals are rarely required to have professional certification. It can, however, be an advantage when applying for a job. The American Culinary Federation (ACF) certifies culinary professionals at all levels, beginning with the Certified Culinarian certification. A graduate of an online cooking certificate program would have to present a copy of their certificate, as well as evidence of at least one year of professional experience. The test comprises a written and a practical portion.
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Designed for chefs with varying levels of experience, online cooking certificate programs offer an introduction to the fundamental concepts and techniques of gourmet cooking. There are no prerequisites for online culinary certificate programs; students of all ages and levels of education (from post high school upward) can enroll.
Program Information and Requirements
Online cooking certificate programs are typically offered entirely online without any in-person coursework required. Students are responsible for completing textbook readings and exercises and for logging onto Web-based educational software, where they can download study materials, submit assignments and take exams. Their interaction with their instructors is all done over the phone or via e-mail. For the practical training, students use instructional DVDs and cooking labs that can be done in a home kitchen. Students set their own pace, and an online cooking certificate program can be completed in anywhere from a few months to two years.
Because the course software is all Web-based, students aren't required to purchase any special software or hardware. However, in order to practice the preparation methods being taught, students are expected to have a well-stocked, well-equipped kitchen.
The curriculum for an online cooking certificate program typically covers every element of a meal, from appetizers to desserts. It also covers a full range of foods that every chef is expected to know how to prepare. Courses devoted to soups and sauces, to game and poultry or to pastry and baking will cover ingredients, techniques and dishes that are important in each category. Courses in international cuisine are also commonly offered.
Sauce, Soup and Stock
Good stock - a rich broth made with seafood, meat, poultry or vegetables - is essential not only to soups and sauces, but also to countless other dishes. In this course, students learn how to properly prepare and season stocks, soups and sauces, and they master fundamentals like making a roux and preparing a mirepoix.
Encompassing beef, lamb, veal and pork, courses on meat preparation teach students how to differentiate between cuts of meat, how to determine the appropriate cooking method and how to anticipate the results. Students typically learn a wide array of preparations, including grilling, roasting, frying, stewing, sautéing and braising.
Baking and Pastry
For a professional cook, pastry skills can lead to a specialized career path as a pastry chef. A baking and pastry course covers yeast breads and quick breads, cookies and biscuits, pies, cakes and pastries. Students also learn to prepare all the frostings, icings, creams and custards that accompany sweet pastries.
Most formal culinary education programs use French gastronomy as their foundations, but as the world gets smaller and smaller, it's become vital that chefs are trained in a variety of culinary traditions. At the certificate level, courses in international cuisine introduce students to the basic flavors, ingredients and techniques found in culinary traditions from around the globe.
For students interested in working in professional kitchens, completing online cooking certificate programs will give them the basic training necessary for entry-level cooking positions, such as prep, assistant or line cooks. In May of 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that lower-level cooks who worked in restaurants made an average of $24,430 a year. However, the salary of a cook can vary widely by industry and employer. For example, those who work in traveler accommodation average $29,310 per year (www.bls.gov).
The BLS also reports that while job growth for cooks in general is expected to be 4%, which is slower than the national average, between 2014 and 2024. The BLS attributes this to restaurants trying to save money by hiring cooks instead of chefs, who often earn higher salaries.
Aspiring cooks and chefs can improve their culinary skills by completing an online certificate program, which provides instruction in the preparation of every meal course. After finishing one of these programs, graduates may seek professional certifications in order to improve their employment opportunities in this competitive field.