Singapore is famous for being a food paradise. As a multicultural society, Singaporeans are spoilt for choice given the wide variety of foods available. Over the last few years, unsatisfied with just uploading their newest food finds to Instagram and Snapchat, more Singaporeans are taking up cooking classes to discover the joy of cooking themselves.
Previously viewed as a chore, cooking is gradually becoming an art amongst working professionals and millennials.
To cater to this discerning group of aspiring chefs, the number of cooking classes has skyrocketed, as renowned culinary schools all over the world continue to flock to Singapore to set up shop.
Yet, with this multitude of alternative options available, are cooking classes still worth paying for? DollarsAndSense lays out what you need to know before signing up for a cooking class.
What Is Your Purpose In Going For Cooking Classes?
You need to be clear about your motivation behind going for cooking class. If you simply want to cook for family and friends, then going for professional classes organised by Michelin chefs is likely too expensive and unnecessary. Conversely, if you are thinking of opening a café, then a one-off community centre class probably won’t make the cut.
If your goal is to set up your own café or become a top chef, you should look for classes taught by industry professionals who issue professional certifications, like internationally renowned culinary schools who produce many of the best chefs. The investment required into professional courses can pay off in the long-run if your cooking career takes off.
If you’re hoping to make some extra cash selling food on Carousell, a professional class may be over the top. The amount of money you spend on a course should rest on whether you’re doing this on a seasonal basis (e.g. pineapple tarts for Chinese New Year) or for the long-term.
For the utility-driven individual, cooking classes can provide you a skill to make delicacies to satisfy your friends and family during festive occasions.
For budget-friendly classes, this can make financial sense. For example, if you take up a cake course that costs $150, but results in a net saving of $15 for each cake you bake versus a ready-made one from the store, you would break even after 10 cakes.
Simply put, if you’re considering culinary school purely out of passion without any expectation of monetary returns, it may not make financial sense at first glance. However, tasting your personal fruits of labour can bring personal satisfaction, and sharing them is a nice way to appreciate the people around you.
Factors to Consider
After figuring out your motivation, you need to find out if cooking class is a worthy investment. There are several factors which will impact the return on investment (ROI) on your cooking class.
What Equipment Do You Have Access To?
For higher-end culinary schools, the equipment used is often of the highest quality. To replicate that same taste, you may similarly have to buy all the equipment to achieve the same standard.
We mentioned previously that some professional kitchen equipment need to be utilised regularly to be worth paying for. For instance, buying a professional bread-maker for hundreds of dollars is usually less value-for-money when compared with patronising ‘hip’ and atas bakeries for your artisanal bread fix.
How Much Time Do You Want To Commit?
To be realistic, there are many busy people who just don’t have the time to go for weekly cooking classes. The classes could be far from home or work, which could easily add an additional hour or more of travelling time.
After taking cooking classes, most don’t have the time to cook the dishes they’ve learnt, which will severely limit the return on your investment in cooking class.
How Much Are You Willing To Pay?
You should also consider your own financial well-being before plunging into a cooking class. For those who are currently on a shoestring budget, there may be other immediate priorities that take precedence over going for a cooking class.
Your rate of return will be heavily influenced by the price of the programme, so you should always compare across different options available. It is also a good idea to spend some time to do research to take advantage of any promotions or discounts available before committing to the programme.
Cooking Classes Available
If you’re convinced that about the value proposition of cooking classes, there are a wide variety of options available for learning different cuisines across different cooking schools.
Here are some of the possible options:
Culinary School (International Options)
Le Cordon Bleu, France: For the Paris campus, course fees range from 10,600 Euros (S$16,800) for the Basic Cuisine Certificate (2-month for Standard Programme) to 49,200 Euros (S$78,000) for the 9-month Grand Diplôme Programme. This does not include accommodation, living and travel costs.
Culinary Institute of America, USA: Based on 2017/2018 figures, a 2-semester accelerated culinary arts programme at the California campus will set you back by US$34,420 (S$46,200). Its residence hall fees start from US$3,280 (S$4,400) per semester.
Culinary School (Local Options)
At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy: A 5-week WSQ full-time programme for Pastry and Bakery will cost $5000 excluding miscellaneous fees, while an 18-month culinary arts diploma costs $29,150. However, if you are a Singaporean eligible for SkillsFuture Funding or under the Workfare Training Support (WTS) Scheme, your fees will be reduced by as much as 70% to 95%.
ABC Cooking Studio: If it is your first time there, your first trial lesson is priced cheaper at S$35. For a cake course, 6 sessions are priced at $481.50, which excludes a one-time $140 membership fee.
CulinaryOn: A typical full-day class costs around $250, irrespective of the cuisine. CulinaryOn offers diverse classes including in Thai and Italian cuisine, and for Singaporeans, SkillsFuture Credit can be used to partially defray the cost of the class.
People’s Association: Your neighbourhood community centre offers a wide range of affordable courses. At the last count, there are nearly 400 food workshops and programmes to choose from the OnePA website, catering to different levels of expertise and schedules. This ranges from the 1-hour Xpress Variety Cooking Workshop for Adults at $10, to the Nonya Cooking Workshop priced at $120 for 6 lessons.
Alternatives to Cooking Classes
Beyond just cooking classes, there are other ways of learning how to cook.
If you are serious about learning from the professional chefs, but don’t have the money to join a prestigious culinary school, you could consider going for an apprenticeship programme to learn from existing chefs.
Finally, the best chefs might be right under your noses – your friends and family. You can volunteer to help your friends and family members with their cooking, which is also an affordable way for you to learn cooking. Cooking together provides a great opportunity for you to bond with older family members, who are eager to share their culinary expertise with the younger generation.
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