Here are our top five tips for choosing a good chalet cooking course...
Make sure your preferred course is run by people who know about this type of cookery
Many such courses designed to be useful for people heading out to work in the kitchens during a winter season, are put together by people who have been there and done it themselves, or who work closely with people who have. Cooking for a chalet full of people is actually quite a specialist type of cooking, so even a very good cookery course may not actually be of much practical benefit if it does not give you the unique skills you will need to keep a house of hungry skiers and snowboarders well fed.
Check what is included in the price
Most courses will last several days and be residential, that is to say you will be staying on-site, so the cost of your accommodation should be included in the price. If not, make sure you research the cost of staying locally, as this may alter which provider is offering the best value for money. Find out whether you get fed. In our experience you actually get to eat what you are cooking, and because you are cooking most of the time, finding food should not be a problem. As long as your fellow students aren't hopeless, there should be plenty of dishes that need testing. Do factor in the cost of travel. While there are plenty of UK based courses, a lot of chalets run their cookery courses from the chalets themselves. This type of course will give you a more authentic experience and the ability to say you have worked and cooked in a chalet, rather than just done the theory work, but the cost of getting out to the chalet will make the costs higher.
How many others on your course
How many people will be on the course with you? If the catering company providing the tuition is over subscribed, and they often are, then they may be tempted to squeeze in more people. This is good for them, but it means your experience is watered down. If you are sharing a kitchen with three other people or eleven other people, which is going to provide you with the best education? The chef who will be teaching you may be able to rival Gordon Ramsey, but they can only be spread so thin before your experience starts to suffer. Factor this in as part of your decision on which course to choose.
Ask whether they can help you get a job
Make sure you know what you want to achieve by doing the course. This one may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many people have a vague plan to maybe go out and work a season, do the course, then get around to job hunting a few months later. If you are wise, you will ask before you even sign up to a course what their track record is like when it comes to placing people in employment. Think about it, they are offering a service designed to help people find a job. Any company worth their salt should be bragging about how likely you are to find that job after completing their course. Quite a few companies actually attached themselves to employers, meaning that if you show a degree of natural talent, there is a very real chance that your name could be put forward and a job may arise.
Learn a language
OK so this one isn't really about choosing your course unless you know that they will be placing you with a company who operate in a specific country, but in our experience, when you put your course to practical use, you will find the job quite a bit easier if you know some of the local language! Admittedly you cannot do this unless you already know, or are only interested in working in a particular country. And we don't mean you need to be fluent, but if your role involves going to the local market to buy ingredients for the week, if you can communicate you will find your job so much easier. We heard a great story about a chap who went to work a season in Austria. He had absolutely no clue how to speak German and as a result his meals were limited to the ingredients he could point to on the display counters, which in the small resort he was working in, were rather limited. It may be the difference between being able to get rolled pork loin for a Bavarian classic, or having to settle for bacon sandwiches.