The short answer is no, you don't need to go to school for culinary work. I broke into management at twenty three, and was running a scratch kitchen as the chef/kitchen manager. In my book, the practical experience is essential. Getting the education is a good idea. Employers want to see it, and it can help get a better paying job at a better establishment. However, you have to be able to back up that piece of paper with talent and know how. My recommendation would be to consider school, but also to get a job at the type of place you really want to work, whether it's a straight up bread and pie bakery or a high end pastry chef job. Apply to those places. Go into interviews telling the employers what you want to do. Tell them you'll work your way up. Don't be afraid to get dirty. Start out washing dishes and taking out the trash if that's what's available. If you show a strong desire to do more, and have a high work ethic, a good employer won't pass that by. I tell you this specifically because that's the type of person I would give a chance to. That's the type of person I would give the opportunities to. There's no substitute for hard work and desire. Good luck!