I have seen some assorted questions about specific occurrences in a non-kosher culinary schools here, however, I was wondering if there are any general halachot which apply. In other words, would it be acceptable for a religious Jew to learn cooking at a non-hechshered program and what would be the concerns?
[I thought about that question as it became even more relevant with the advent of cooking TV shows where a Jew might be involved in cooking non-kosher foods with no intent to eat it or serve it to Jews.]
I see two major and two minor issues which, practically, would make participation in a cooking school complicated (there might be more - would love to get feedback).
- the prohibition to cook (and not just eat) a mixture of meat (from a kosher animal) and milk
- marit ayin, giving the appearance of doing wrong
- an additional issue on Pesach since a Jew is forbidden to own hametz - so any hametz he would be given to cook would be problematic
- similarly orlah fruit in Israel would be a concern (see here on 3 and 4)
There might be ways to circumvent these prohibitions, e.g., cook only poultry or meat from non-kosher animals, or cook in non-kosher milk (SA YD 87:3). Alternatively ohr.edu suggests a non-Jew could light the fire while a Jew cooks.
Interestingly, Rav Moshe Soloveitchik ruled that one may cook meat and milk together for a scientific experiment in which there is clearly no intention to eat the mixture (see Rabbi Hershel Schachter's "Peninei Ha-Rav," p. 152, quoted here). A rav would have to be consulted to see if one can extend it to cooking in a school since there is a benefit as well (learning to cook) if there was no intention to eat it either.
2. Marit ayin prevents a Jew from doing anything that gives the appearance of transgressing the law, even if he technically doesn't. A relevant example here is eating meat in almond milk.
R David Brofsky writes there is a machloket poskim (rabbinical dispute) whether marit ayin applies in such a case. The Rashba (Teshuvot 3:257), and later the Rema (YD 87:4) rule that a priori one should not cook a non-kosher animal in milk because of mar'it ayin. The Shakh and Taz both challenge this ruling.
For a Jew to cook in a cooking school, he would have to explain all the precautions he is taking not to transgress halacha, incl. the fact he wouldn't eat the food or serve it to Jews.
As always, speak to your rav before attempting anything you have read about on the Internet.
In addition to the problems mentioned in @mbloch's answer, I think the major issue a kosher keeper attending a non-kosher culinary school will run into is the expectation that they taste things. Those teaching cooking in any context assert that you need to taste your food all the way along, to see how it is seasoned, if anything is needed, etc. Also, it is helpful to taste what others cook to detect subtle flavors.
In terms of tasting the food one cooks, and the foods others cook, one needs to confront absorbed flavors in the utensils used. Even if the kosher culinary student himself only cooks kosher ingredients, the pots, pans, ovens etc will have absorbed non-kosher flavors from other students cooking non-kosher foods.
You could try asking over on Seasoned Advice about culinary school without tasting anything, but I doubt it would be well received most places. I am sure people with various food allergies have attended culinary school, so I imagine especially now schools will have dealt with it on some level before, but seemingly the kosher culinary student can taste almost nothing that he is cooking as opposed to the allergic chef who needs accommodation for a unit or two (depending on of course the allergy).
I recall some years ago hearing about a course through Escoffier Online where one attends culinary school through distance learning. Since the cooking is done in one's own home, it occurred to me that this seemed a good option for getting culinary education without dealing with non-kosher pans in culinary school. I don't know if this degree achieves the same goals as going to culinary school, such as if it is likely to get you a job. As I was looking at it as a hobby & not a career, I thought the price was too high, but for a career it may well be reasonably priced. It does include units on non-kosher ingredients, like pork & shellfish, which the kosher student needs to either negotiate not studying or acquire a few non-kosher utensils and study without tasting.