Famous Chefs: Culinary School or Apprenticeship?

Was culinary school of paramount importance to some of the best chefs in the world, or was apprenticeship the key to their success? How did they hone their cooking skills? Was cooking a lifelong passion that started at an early age? Perhaps a mistake or a last resort? Which is more important, formal education or apprenticeship? Let’s check which path the best chefs in the world decided to take.


Anthony Bourdain


Author, editor, chef and tv personality, Anthony Bourdain wears more than just his chef hat. Bourdain first entered the culinary world with a summer dishwasher job while at Vassar College. When he was later moved to a cooking station, he understood that cooking requires some serious skills. Thus he enrolled in The Culinary Institute of America

Bourdain has since worked in renowned kitchens such as the Rainbow Room, The Supper Club, and Coco Pazzo Teatro.


Wolfgang Puck


Puck’s mother had deep influence on his love affair with cooking. Being raised by a chef and cooking beside her since his early years, Wolfgang Puck found the support he needed to pursue a career in the culinary world. He began his training at fourteen.

The Austrian-American chef never attended a culinary school but instead opted for apprenticeships. In France, he worked on his cooking skills in some of the finest restaurants including Maxim’s in Paris, the Hotel de Paris in Monaco, and the Michelin 3-starred L’Oustau de Baumanière in Provence. 


Gordon Ramsay


Known for his short temper, bad language and reality series, Gordon Ramsey’s accomplishments are more than meets the eye. The British chef has 30 restaurants globally and 6 Michelin stars, with international restaurants from Europe to the US and the Middle East. After a failed attempt at a football career, Ramsay enrolled in North Oxfordshire Technical College to study hotel management. He considers this move as “an accident, a complete accident”. 

After working as a commis at Wroxton House Hotel and handling the kitchen of the Wickham Arms, Ramsay moved to London. After several restaurant stints, he decided to join the “enfant terrible” of UK’s culinary scene, hotheaded Marco Pierre White at Harveys.


Joel Robuchon


Dubbed the “Chef of the Century”, Joel Robuchon has amassed 28 Michelin stars. The most starred chef in the world started his culinary escapade while attending the Mauléon-sur-Sèvre seminary in the Deux-Sèvres where he used to help the nuns in cooking. At the age of 15, he became an apprentice at the Relais of Poitiers hotel where he started in pastry. 

Fast forward six years, the French chef joined “Compagnon du Tour de France“. Through his travels in France with the apprenticeship, he learned different regional techniques. At the age of 29, he took over the commands of the kitchen of the Concorde Lafayette hotel and managed 90 cooks, serving several thousand meals per day. 

In 1997, Robuchon won the “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” for his craftsmanship in Culinary Arts. Although Robuchon never attended a cooking school, he used his relentless drive for perfection to re-energize French cuisine.


There you go, now you know that there’s no secret recipe to a successful culinary career. Culinary school and apprenticing aren’t mutually exclusive. If you happen to be considering attending cooking school, check our post on how Private Chefs Define Success in Culinary Arts.