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California Culinary Academy in San Francisco students or alumni...

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
This post is for students who have attended or are presently attending the CCA in SF.


I need a little help please. Would you please share your thoughts and opinions on the CCA?
I would like to attend this school and I have a phone interview in an hour with an admissions counselor "BUT..." after reading many many posts here at ChefTalkCafe, I'm not so sure anymore.
I have seen many posts that say what school you go to doesn't matter, it's the student and not the school that counts the most.
And, there are many posts that say I'll be lucky to get $10/hr after graduating from ANY culinary school.

I find this hard to believe. I would bet that a chef at Denny's makes more than $10/hr. Do I need to go to LCB to be a short order cook at Denny's?

There is an Institute of Technology here in town that charges $10,000 for school, that's a lot cheaper than the $50,000 CCA in SF charges. There is no difference as long as I apply myself?

The fanciest restraunt here in town is called CAMPAGNIA, the chef there is a graduate of CCA in SF. That says something, what exactly, I'm not sure! ;) heh heh

Please take a moment and share your thoughts and ideas with me, thank you.

post #2 of 16
Thread Starter 

today I had the phone interview with an admissions rep and said that he felt I was a good candidate for culinary school. (suprise! suprise!) ;)

so I filled out the online application and paid my $65 bucks.

We shall see what happens next! :bounce:
post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 
I've been accepted. :)

now let's see where I am going to find the money!
post #4 of 16
Congrats on your acceptance to CCA. I'm a '97 grad and must tell you what an awesome school it is. CCA is one of the top 5 culinary schools in the country. Certainly the best on the west coast IMO.

I think the difference between CCA and other less expensive schools is the quality of instruction, and the vast amount of resources available to you. Not to mention the networking opportunities that will open doors that are normally shut. To say it doesn't matter what school you go to is like telling a world class pianist, his going to Julliard was not a factor for his success. :rolleyes:

The rumor of making $10/hour is not true.... I started at $8. If It's money you're after, then you must quit this idea right now and go to law school. There must be sacrifice and sweat before the success in this business. The beginnings are humble, and the hours long. The work will be hard, but eventually you'll blow through it. You need to be thick skinned to survive in this business. If this is truely your passion then my suggestion is... don't look back. Be settled in your career choice and just go for it!! There are many easier ways to make a living, but I don't think you chose this career because it was easy.

The bottom line is, culinary school will provide a solid foundation for you so you can work at places like Campagnia. When you get there... that's when your education really begins. It is a journey that never stops.

I hope this helps you out. Didn't mean to scare you if I did. Just wanted to keep it real. Let me know how things progress. Take good notes, and remember: "a pint is a pound the world around". Ciao.

post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 
I'm not going to go.

I just can't justify it.
post #6 of 16
Wow... I hope I didn't scare you out of your decision. I realize $50k is a bit steep for most of us. You just seemed so fixed on attending CCA. Well, good luck to you at whatever you decide.
post #7 of 16

Beefcheeks, your experience at CCA

Like Chaleemon I have been "accepted" into the CCA for the October 2005 term. I'm experiencing some doubt about the school because the reviews I have received in person and on the web are at best mixed. It also seemed too easy to get in - but I have no idea how difficult it would be to get into other culinary schools.

Beefcheeks - I understand that you graduated before 2000, when the CCA was appropriated by a large educational corporate conglomerate (the name of which I cannot recall at the moment). I think it's entirely possible that the quality of the school has changed in the last 10-odd years - do you think that's possible?

Chaleemon, if you make any further decisions or find any more informationa about the CCA, I'd appreciate it. We're in the same situation right now. I guess my search for information must continue.
post #8 of 16
A while ago I wanted to go to culinary school. They didn't accept me for some reason (they doubted my financial situation, said I wasn't serious enough about cooking, etc...). It's the best thing that happened to me.

Instead of quitting I applied myself - read cooking books everyday, worked incredibly hard, long hours, and applied to every fine dining restaurant. Most rejected me, but a french chef decided to take me in and teach me (he put me through **** and back but I'm better for it). 6 months later, and I'm in the top rated fine dining restaurant in town, making incredible food everyday.

There are many routes you can take, tech school, community college, brand name schools, but if you have the drive and the work ethic you can make it no matter what route you take...
post #9 of 16
Hi Heathermac, Yes I graduated in '97 and that was before the takeover. I don't know what the name of the conglomerate is, but I believe the're the same bunch of fellas launching LCBs accross the country. Hence, the LCB connection.

It's possible that certain aspects of the school have changed since I left. As far as the quality of the school presently?...I couldn't tell you. All I can tell you is that even when I first enrolled in '95, there was people telling me how awful the school was... How expensive it was... How mean the chefs were...Blah, blah , blah. Most of these people no longer work in the industry as far as I can tell.

My point is...I don't think it's wise to make an educational decision based on the mere opinions of others, or what you find on the web. There must be a reason you applied to CCA. If you really want to know how good the school is...visit the campus. That's what I would do. Know what I mean? You can meet the instructors/Chefs, students, see the facilities, etc. Or... you can get a list of graduates from the school who is presently successful in the food industry, and get their opinions. This would apply to any school you choose to apply to. :rolleyes:

The reality is, there's always a bunch of sour apples so eager to dog a school because he/she was offended by an instructor... or the curriculum is outdated, etc. Just a bunch of spoiled kids if you ask me. Unfortunately, these people waste no time posting numerous complaints in the comfort of our very own discussion board. :mad: Hmmmmm....

With that aside, the decision is yours. I'm just suggesting you try other sources before you form an opinion. More encouraging sources, I might add. I have a couple of references for you if you want to contact them. They have successful careers, and would be more than willing to assist you with a few pointers of the school. They still live in SF and would have a better idea of how the school is doing these days.

Anyways, I hope this answers your question. Let me know how things go.
post #10 of 16
Well done on your success, Mikeb. I've met many a great cook who never attended culinary school. Seems you have the fire and passion to become a great chef one day. For those unable to attend school, take his words to heart. :chef:
post #11 of 16
I agree with Beefcheeks. Even if you cannot come to the school to visit, your admissions rep will send you a video tape of what you can expect. And yeah, it is full of marketing hype but at its core, what you see on the tape is what you can get from CCA if you want it.

There are over 100 chef instructors at CCA; all with lots of experience in the industry and the ability to teach. Fewer than 10% of chefs who apply to be an instructor here are accepted. The process for selection as an instructor is so rigorous that most do not make it. Even if they are good cooks, if they cannot teach they don't get in.

The corporation that took over CCA in 2000 is called CEC (Continuing Education Corporation) and in 2002 they partnered with LCB so that the culinary program is structured to LCB standards. Later this year it is expeted that the baking and pastry program will also convert to LCB. The 3rd program available to students - Hospitality and Restaurant Management (HRM) is not part of LCB because I don't think LCB has one!

One good thing about being part of a large corporation is that they have deep pockets. In the past 5 years CEC has invested many millions of $$$ in CCA (which is the jewel in the CEC culinary division crown.) Just last year CCA opened another campus in the City.

It is a bit of a cliche but you really do get out of it as much as you are willing to. You will be rubbing shoulders with potential rising stars (Charlie Trotter is a CCA grad) as well as some who ought not to be allowed near a kitchen. They generally don't have a true passion for cooking and get dissolusioned when they see how hard the work is. They are the ones who usually complain about everything and blame the school for their own failure. It is hard work and you should be prepared for that if you go to this or any other school.

Beefcheeks would see a dramatic difference in the school today compared to 8 years ago. Mostly positive differences including a broader curriculum and way more student services. There is a large student services department (about 18 people) whose sole purpose for living is to make the student's experience at CCA a better one. The Financial Aid folks help students navigate that whole aspect. It is quite a remarkable operation.

Here is a disclaimer: I work at CCA - not, I regret to say in any cooking capacity; in fact, I am the director of facilities. You could say I am biased but as honestly as I can say it, I truly believe in the CCA product and I also believe that any student will succeed here if they have the desire. Everything you need to succeed is available to the student. It is up to him or her whether they take advantage of it.

OK, I'll shut up now :) Good luck whatever you decide.

post #12 of 16
"It's possible that certain aspects of the school have changed since I left. As far as the quality of the school presently?...I couldn't tell you. All I can tell you is that even when I first enrolled in '95, there was people telling me how awful the school was..."

The same thing was going on in 1983 when I started attending. Beefcheeks pretty well sums it up for me also. Great response.

Jock I believe I have some doubts about your statement "Charlie Trotter is a CCA grad". To my knowledge and alumni directory that isn't so. I believe he possibly is on the board of advisors.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
post #13 of 16
Charlie Trotter enrolled but never graduated. He gave a demo at the school and made a joke about it.
post #14 of 16
Sorry about the Charlie Trotter faux pas. I read a quote from him where he referenced his time at CCA and I made the assumption he graduated :o But still while CCA may not be able to boast any celebrity chefs, many grads have gone on to their own individual fame and fortune. That was the point I was trynig to make.

post #15 of 16

SF contacts

Hi Dave a.k.a. Beefcheeks

Yes, I would appreciate perhaps getting the contact information of those people you mentioned - you can just email them to me.

post #16 of 16
{disclaimer, I work at CCA in the Admissions department}

I would like to echo Dave's comments that you have to take the source of any opinion into account. There are a lot of ways to get an education in this industry. I was apprentice trained, working my way up from dish washer over many years until I was an 'official' apprentice (meaning taking supplimentary classes as part of a formal program) at a higher end facility.

As one of the few admissions representatives with industry experience, I find it easy to relate with my students and make sure they know what they are in for and what to expect.

This is a difficult industry and it's definately NOT for everyone. Even graduating with a degree, you still have to prove that you LEARNED what was taught, and thats going to mean a lot of hard work.

The example of going to Law school is valid too. Having had a few friends go through Law school, graduate and get placed, their first few years are just as grueling for the exact same reasons. There are many people who do not have the tenacity to stick through the initial portion of their careers and often chef's are reluctant to put a lot of effort into further training new staff that are going to 'drop out'.

Most 'overnight success' stories do not stress the years of striving required to achieve their success. In my opinion, Luck=Preperation+Opportunity. You have to be ready for the opportunities that often continually pass us by because we do not recognize how to take advantage of them.

Like Dave, I never mean to scare anyone off. Definately do something for your career that you are passionate about, just make sure that you understand how the industry works. However you get your training, put your whole heart into it, if you are going to hold back because you are unsure, you may never get the full benefit of your training or education.

And to Jock, Charlie Trotter is our most famous drop out. :) Don't forget about Roxanne Klein, Juan Carlos Cruz, Claud Mann, Paula DeLuc and Ron Siegel.
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