Pros: The chef instructors know what they are talking about and really care about the students.
Cons: Casual attitudes can sometimes lead to clashes because of different personality types.
I went to OCI in June of 2010, it was a wonderful experience. I loved almost all my chef instructors and really enjoyed the classes. Everyone has their favorite teachers because you get to work with them so closely, you really get to know them. Also, they are a very diverse group of instructors, so you get to learn from lots of different styles and from lots of different experiences. I sometimes pop in on them and they are always interested in what I'm up to and will take the time to talk to me in an unhurried and interested manner. It feels very much like a family.
A lot of the chefs used to teach at the Portland Le Cordon Bleu school and didn't like the way they treated students, so they decided to start their own school. I got a Le Cordon Bleu education (actually better) for the cost of a local school.
Some comparisons of OCI to Le Cordon Bleu (I got the information from Le Cordon Bleu students I worked with) They charged $40,000+ and my school was $18000. They didn't get to cook for the first two weeks, I got to cook the first day! Their classes took 2 1/2 years, I graduated after 10 months. We also had better chef uniforms. The other school's students always told us they wish they had our uniforms. ;)
OCI always made learning fun. We had contests all the time for getting to pick our group names, be first to choose ingredients, etc. We had the mirepoix challenges, quick fire breakfast and quick fire lunch challenges. We were offered opportunities to watch whole animals butchered, you could come in on the weekend and learn stuff like pressure canning tuna. The chefs would also challenge themselves...one chef can debone a chicken with his bare hands in like 30 seconds, the head chef will demo slicing blindfolded, one will make a turducken! Also, you get to to try a lot of food from the different students and instructors, so you eat really well!
OCI is very hands on, we always were given the chance to touch and do all the different techniques and learning experiences. I got unique working experiences through the school. I got the opportunity to volunteer to cook for "Potluck in the Park", a once a week dinner provided for the homeless. I also got paid to work a golf invitational at a country club. They offered a contest to win tuition, the top 3 winners got varying amounts. (The tuition prizes come from the tips at the school's restaurant)
As far as cost, I paid quarterly to get a discount, but they had different payment plans to choose from, they also have financial aid. They try to work with you if you need help paying.
Our chef instructors were always willing to talk to you if you had questions or needed extra help with something. They went above and beyond their jobs. If something wasn't working, they would try different ideas to figure out how to help you, until you got it. They took turns staying after class to help anyone that needed help or extra time to work on things.
When we had our externships, I quickly realized I didn't want to work in a restaurant and that I wanted to be a personal chef, so they customized my last term to fit that. Because of this, I was able to graduate with my class and I was a personal chef by the time I was finished.
They told us on the first day during orientation, you will not get a job on "The Food Network" because you went to culinary school. But, they always try to help you get a job if you want one. They started a fb page for alumni and announce jobs there. 5 years later I can call the office and let them know I want a job and they will help me find one. Restaurants search out students from OCI because they know the quality education and work ethic we were taught.