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Need some advice about culinary school, can anyone help?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
Hi everyone, I need some advice,

I have a year and a half of school left at Northern Illinois University to get my bachelors degree in Management. In the last year I've began to take cooking very seriously since im living on my own at school. After I graduate from NIU I am considering going to Culinary School in Chicago. I assume culinary school is expensive so I dont know if i should get a part time management job and attend culinary school part time or if I should skip the job and just go straight to culinary school and take out loans to pay for it?

If anyone has been in this type of situation or has on helping advice on what are some good ideas on what to do post a message, I would appreciate it.

post #2 of 9
Private Culinary Schools can be very expensive. If you want to cut tuition costs you can go to a trade/vocational school. As for loans, I can't really advise you on that. You can probably successfully attend culinary full time while working part time. The academic work load at a cooking school will not be has heavy as the one you are used to at University. Most culinary school programs are 15-24 months in length. Realistically, when you first get out of school you will have to pay your dues for a while by working low paying entry level jobs. It can take a LONG time to pay off any loans.

But the upside is that jobs in the food and hospitality industries are booming. With a Bachelor's Degree and a Culinary Degree, your future will be very bright. multi-author food blog all about Algerian cuisine
Reply multi-author food blog all about Algerian cuisine
post #3 of 9
Now that I am in the process of paying off my loans I can say I would not advise loans. If you were in medical school, law school, etc., loans would be fine. You'd be making $60,000+ right outta school. When you are making $8-10/hr right outta culinary school, $20,000-35,000 in loans is tough to swallow. My advice is to look into community colleges.

The best chef I ever worked for had no schooling. Two others were from the CIA and a handful went to a community colleges. One thing that they commented was that in a commnuity college you tend to lose classmates as not as serious students drop out. This led to a very small and focused class. They said they received a lot of personal attention because of the class size.

Hope this helps...

Fit Family Nutrition


Fit Family Nutrition

post #4 of 9

Maybe you should try a cooking job first

Before you commit to culinary school, maybe you should try a cooking job for the summer. We are hiring and we don't require tons of experience. If you are interested, let me know.

Megan Dugan
Tumbling River Ranch
post #5 of 9

Choosing a Culinary School

Hello Andy,

There are some very good schools in Chicago, for sure. But I advise not going far into debt with culinary schools (unless you have the money or means to get out quickly). There are hundreds of culinary schools at the community college level. Go to to get a complete list of nationally accredited schools around the U.S. Some community colleges are tuition-free for residents of the State they are located in. Some people move to other States, get a job and live there for 12 months (to become residents), then go to school (tuition-free). There are registrations fees (at my school $39 per term / three terms per year), textbooks, chefs uniforms, chefs tools, etc, to purchase, but one can get a complete education for under $2,000 (not including room and board). Upon graduation with an AAS Degree from an ACF accredited school, if one is a Jr member of The American Culinary Federation, one can get certified as a Culinarian (CC = Certified Culinarian) as well for free.

Also...think about this - most people assume you get what you pay for. We've all grown up this way. We know a $35,000 car is going to be a nice car, and we know a $500 car is not going to be very nice. BUT !...
Water boils at 212 degrees f, at sea level. Will they teach that at a $40,000 school? Yes they will. Will they teach that at a tuition-free community college? Yes they will. A salmon is a salmon the world around. It is 'exactly' the same fish no matter where you go to school. If you pay countless thousands of dollars to go to school at Cordon Bleu in Paris, an instructor speaking French will teach you how to know if the fish is fresh, how to fillet it, cut traunchs from it, cut steaks from it, remove pin bones from it, and tell you which cooking methods would be best suited for cooking a salmon. If you go to a $60,000 school in New York, or a $30,000 school in Arizona, they will teach you the exact same thing. You could learn the exact same thing from a community college for nothing but the cost of registration, uniforms, books, tools, etc. You could buy a book, read it, then buy a salmon and do it at home. You could also do something I think would be smart; you could skip school (at least initially), and get a job at a busy, high quality, seafood restaurant, and have them pay you while you learn how to fillet a salmon. You might look into apprenticeship programs too. Get paid while you learn. If after working in the industry for one year at a busy place, you still are excited and enthusiastic about becoming a Chef, then consider going to school. School is great (and can be quite a difficult challenge), but it is not the same as work. The industry is tough, and you have to be tough to survive it. Long hours, day/nights/weekends/holiday (all away from your family), and when you are home, you often are too tired to do anything and just want to sleep. Invest in a very good pair of shoes because you tend to stand 12 hours / day. Hot kitchens, razor sharp knives, scalding hot liquids, power equipment, working against the clock, getting along with everyone (having great people skills), and being punctual (having great time management skills). *[You might enjoy reading, Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bordain]

Feel free to check out our web site/s at:

Good luck

Chef Carmine J. Russo, CCC, CCE
TVI Culinary Arts

PS: The Art Institute in Chicago is a very good school, if you have the money or are willing to do into debt. I took a class there about a year ago at the FENI Annual Conference for Culinary Educators.
[I][U][B][COLOR=DarkRed][SIZE=2][FONT=Georgia] Chef Carmine J. Russo, CCC, CCE
[I][U][B][COLOR=DarkRed][SIZE=2][FONT=Georgia] Chef Carmine J. Russo, CCC, CCE
post #6 of 9
If I were you, I would find a part time job in the culinary area. So you will be hitting two birds with a stone. Culinary schools are expensive. So you will be making an income and at the same working with experts to whom you can ask questions.

Good luck
post #7 of 9
I have a associate degree from a great culinary school, it was expensive, I worked my but off and now I have a great job. Was it cause I went to a prestigious culinary school? Not really. However, what is now biting me in the @$$ is the lack of business / management training taught at my school. I am very good at being an Executive Chef, but I had to spend a lot of time reading books about management, accounting, leadership, computers, etc.

If I could have done it over again, I would have gotten a Bachelors in Business Management, and gone through management training program at one of the major hotel chains or done an ACF apprenticeship.

However if your heart is still set on culinary school, talk to some of the recruiters at your schools next job fair, some of them may be willing to pay for your schooling if you come work for their company. I think that in 10 years a chef with a business / management degree will be in high demand.
post #8 of 9
I go to Washburne Culinary in Chicago its part of the City Colleges the program is very affordable. if you don't mind going to school on the south side.We will have a new campus next semester at 63 and Halsted. the program for an associates degree is a little more than $13,000
post #9 of 9
I am a graduate of the LCB program at CHIC.

To my knowledge... the top 5 culinary institutions in the Chicagoland area (in no specific order) are:

CHIC - Offers the LCB name, with a hefty price to go with it (Around $45,000). Facility is fairly dated when compared to other schools, but the instructors are definitely credible. In my opinion, the LCB name does not make much of a difference. The LCB has actually become a warning sign for some employers NOT TO hire applicants based on bad experiences they had with previous LCB students, but I guess the same could be said of any other college.
The Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago | Culinary Arts School Official Site

Washburne Culinary Institute - Well established culinary school (Used to be #1 in the country some time ago if I recall correctly). My friend is attending school there, I have never actually seen the campus, but their website indicates that alot of renovations have been made to the kitchens, and they are to my knowledge the most affordable AAS program with tuition coming in at just over $13,000 when compared to the $40,000-$50,000 pricetag of CHIC.
Washburne Culinary Institute - CHICAGO

Robert Morris College - Boasts an affordable program. I have 0 information whatsoever on this college as every attempt I have made to ask for information has gone unresponded.
Institute of Culinary Arts - RMC

Illinois Institute of Art - I was invited for 2 free classes at this school, the kitchens seemed just as dated as CHIC and were definitely cramped. It is really interesting that the Culinary Director of IIA is the former Exec. Chef of CHIC, and alot of faculty/staff from the IIA come from CHIC and vice Versa. I recall their pricing to be somewhere in the range of CHIC, but don't take this claim for 100% truth.
The Illinois Institute of Art - Chicago

Kendall College - The big guns are saved for last. Kendall boasts a massively huge campus when compared to CHIC, the kitchens are extremely modern and up to date based on the school's partnerships with Sub-Zero, Wolf Stovetops, and other major manufacturers. Features a dedicated chocolate & sugars kitchen that is 100% marble slabbed; and a Kraft Experimental kitchen where students get to experiment with Kraft products and possibly come up with a new product for Kraft to sell. I am currently working on a BA in hospitality management from kendall, and I really really feel at home here. I believe pricing is 6,500/semester for culinary.
Culinary Arts - Academics - Kendall College
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