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Pursuing Two Programs

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
i am exploring culinary school and have decided to take the plunge. i'm most interested in catering, but realize that i will need solid experience initially, which is fine by me.

one question comes to mind for those that have pursued this path or those similar to it. how common is it for prospective students to complete programs in pastry and the culinary arts? are there benefits or drawbacks to doing both?

i would be interested in hearing your feedback on the subject. thank you in advance.

"and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
"and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
post #2 of 17
hi Gabby - maybe you could consider a degree in Culinary Arts, and a certificate in Baking & Pastry?

But also, I see you're in Chicago - what schools(s) are you considering? I live in Chicago, too, and am about to take the plunge myself. I'm just not sure where yet.

post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 
hi dan,

i'm looking at the french pastry school for the pastry program. in regard to culinary arts, i'm presently focusing on fci and cia. i prefer a french-based program and like the option of attending classes in the evening. fci offers a food writing program as well which has caught my eye.

the culinary degree is an option, but i don't wish to amass that amount of debt in all honesty, particularly since i want to go overseas for additional study. i just wondered if doing both was commonly done by those that choose to cater.

what programs have you researched thus far dan? i've been looking into this for a while and don't mind sharing what i've learned.

"and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
"and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
post #4 of 17
check out the discussions in the thread titled $0.02

I had done quite a bit of research on chicagoland schools and a lot of other members had put their opinions in.

in a rush, will post link in case you don't find.
post #5 of 17
I believe this is it -

I think I'm going to stay here in Chicago (and I was about to write back to your thread, liv), since the schools here are plenty good and Chicago is such a great city for food these days. I am considering Kendall's accelearted associates program, or the Illinois Institute of Art's culinary program (where my BA would get me out of all the Gen Ed classes, decreasing their cost). I think Kendall offers a more rigorous education, but the IIA is *so* much cheaper.

The sense that I got by reading all of the posts here is that schooling doesn't really matter. For a lot of people, schooling wasn't even necessary. Does that mean that culinary schools are generally just a big scam?

But, on the other hand, should I just walk into a place like Frontera Grill or Spiaggia, Seasons, etc etc., offer to wash dishes for free and get my foot in the door that way?

I hadn't considered getting a certificate, and starting with that. Has that worked for anyone else as a good starting place?

I sometimes wonder if I'd be better off quitting my current job, stageing (sp?) at a restaurant, living off my (very meager) savings, and hoping that I'll get a paying job before my savings run out.

man, here I go rambling again on your thread. my bad! ^_^

post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 

thank you for pointing me to your thread. it was very informative and i commend you for continuing your current path, and still holding firm to your desire to attend school.


no worries, rambles are good. you never know who might learn a thing or two from them. *s* i have already decided to leave the city for culinary studies. i am of the mindset that it is good to get out to see how things are done elsewhere. new york city is a hotbed for culinary activity and i don't mind playing student for a time to experience it all.

i have begun researching opportunities overseas and see this as a long term project of sorts. my education doesn't end when i receive my certificate or degree. each experience brings something new, and much to draw from down the road. right now i'm planning to take some french classes at the alliance francais. i'm lucky to live a couple of blocks from it and know it is a necessity if i plan to go to france. plus i love the language and have studied it in the past. it is just another aspect of bettering myself and my craft.

i have read many things on these boards. what i find interesting is that i have yet to stumble on recommendations that potential students obtain some business skills. proper communication, leadership, delegation, and the like are all skills that any successful chef should have in his/her repetoire. i can think of a host of others that i would add to that list as well.

i can't advise you financially, since you would be foregoing a salary and basically huffing it for a time. is it impossible for you to work in the day, attend school in the evenings, and possibly look at volunteering in a restaurant on the weekend? i'm sure it isn't the ideal schedule for most, but at the bare minimum you'll be getting industry experience and won't come out of school starry-eyed and jaded down the road.

i'm going to put in a plug for school. this is where i differ from many of the industry people. in business you see people that have excellent skills and may even be competent managers. but i'm willing to bet none of you would hire a really cool guy to do your books that isn't a certified accountant and never went to school. nor would you allow that nice gal that has great hands and seems to know her way around the physician's desk reference to be your doctor. i'm waiting to see a show of hands of those that have their buddy handling all of their legal affairs. it simply isn't done.

with a mentality like this that seemingly discounts the value of education, it is no wonder why the pay scales have not caught up. yes, being an apprentice can be difficult. but if school was such a simple task then everyone would be educated past the secondary level. ambition, discipline, commitment, and sometimes money are the motivating factors for further education. there is value found in the knowledge we gain from books as well as our hands.

that's just my buck's worth. *s*

"and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
"and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
post #7 of 17
dan, I believe the associates is the same (about $14K) at AI and Kendall

choose the one that meets your needs better

and yes my staging @ catering house (unpaid :-( ) is very stressful. But I tell you - there's no learning like getting the underside of your forearms burnt while trying to stir up soup for 600 people. I am talking in a good way

get staging gigs - use weekends and nights (or days if you work a night job) and learn

don't drop the plan of going to school but trust me it helps to stage.
post #8 of 17
I do think that school is the way to go - a degree will give me more options down the road, I think. If I wanted to work in a corporate catering facility like Eurest, I'm pretty sure a HR person will care more about all the initials after my name, rather than my skills in the kitchen.

The question then, like liv said, is which school fits my needs best. That's precisely my dilemna. Kendall costs about $6K/quarter and runs 5 quarters. That's a lot of money, when you factor in loans for paying rent, too. However, you get an awful lot of class time. Working in their fine dining restaurant in FOH first quarter, working the student cafeteria during the second quarter, a 400 hour internship, etc etc. And it's 6 days a week. It seems like you can get a lot of their program.

On the other hand, you have the AI, which I think would cost about $20K or less. The class schedule isn't nearly as demanding, and I could work part-time in a commercial setting. In addition to having time to stage around the city. Is AI worthwhile, even if the classwork isn't as demanding as Kendall's? That's where I'm leaning, since the general feeling on these boards seems to be that schooling is kind of worthless.

that being said, Gabby - I'd say go for both programs. Like you said, education never ends. It certainly can't hurt to have additional training in baking & pastry in addition to general culinary arts.

right? ^_^

post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 

the debt isn't a major concern for me. i look at it as an investment in myself. perhaps my views greatly differ from others. i find it amusing that people scoff at spending this amount of money on their education, yet see no problem assuming larger amounts of debt for items that don't add value. but to each his own.

if you use money as the barometer for your decision then i suppose ai would be where you should go. i would simply look at the program that's going to give me the best value for the buck. in the end you are seeking an acceptable roi - return on investment. it would be a pity for you to save $20,000 but end up regretting your decision later on.

i would do a side by side comparison of the programs that you're considering. also ask yourself if you plan to remain in chicago or are you willing to consider opportunities out of state. this may play a part in where you decide to go. regardless of what others may say, you have to do what is best for you.

personally, i would go for the additional training. this is your opportunity to learn in an environment that is conducive to making you comfortable and successful at your craft. while i do find merit in staging, i simply cannot discount quality programs either. i think all of the above coupled with tenacity and dedication will yield a qualified chef.

please keep me posted on your progress. best of luck!


ps. i plan on doing both. i'm a business woman first and foremost.
"and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
"and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
post #10 of 17

as per kuan - who's one of the moderators of this forum and a restaurant owner - kendall - 1(about 15-20K do check out the certificate only part), AI - 2(20K), LCB/CHIC - 3 (40K-too rigid and they did away with their weekend only program which I might have signed up for... as it was weekend only) and RM - 4 (about 15K but seems like there are way too many hidden fees).

Triton college has a program too, relatively cheaper (day only)- do check it out if cost is a factor.
(edited to add specifics)
post #11 of 17
Thread Starter 

the chicago city college offers a program through washburn culinary institute. you can learn more here:

"and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
"and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
post #12 of 17
Gabby, thanks so much for the link - just when I thought I had it narrowed down to two options, though, now you go getting me going on a third. thanks a lot...

kidding! ^_^

And you're right, too, that you can't put a price on an education. For me, so long as I pay my rent and my student loans from undergrad, color me happy. but the money issue aside, I still have to decide what is better - a school that will teach me a lot, or a school that will allow me the time to work part-time, and learn in a live, commercial setting that way.

I'm going to eat at the fine dining restaurants at both Kendall and the Ai this week, and see what that can tell me. Though, even if I don't get any closer to a decision, at least I'll have some wonderful food at a relatively rock-bottom price.

liv, did you decide on a program that's best for you? How is it working out for you?

post #13 of 17
gabby messed me up too!!


yes I didnt know about it too. but thanx gabby it really helps
I have yet to check kendall out which got put on hold due to the layoff in my day job
the second one i got pays half

thus I am currently doing weekend staging at a catering house. and making my spouse teach me cooking basics
sharpening my knife skills watching videos on the web and practicing cutting at home and volunteering to do all the mise at the catering place (usually get onions but I have to look at positives once I wipe my tears...)

do remember that I am a career changer so I do understand the value of name but as of now am not in a position to afford the $$ value associated with it.

so long story short, AI is on my short list, Kendall might be the one I compare it to, triton only has morning program so is out, robert morris didn't wet my appetite (though the person I talked with was very honest and straightforward) and LCB is way too expensive to even consider. btw have a coworker's spouse persuing their coursework @ RM and they are very happy.

but as I had mentioned earlier I have not gotten out of the dream and do plan to persue school (offcourse now washburne will also need to be considered.... )
post #14 of 17
Thread Starter 
*grins @ dan and liv*

i'm pleased to hear that i've given you another option to consider. *l*

seriously, i've heard good things about the program. due to it's affliation with the city colleges the price is much cheaper. something i noticed with the french pastry school too. the latter is a high quality program that offers training at a fraction of the costs that you'd incur at other institutions. let me know your thoughts should you decide to explore the program.

i am in a similar position as the two of you. i'm a career changer as well and have been planning to attend school since the previous year. right now i'm more committed to doing so and i'm making sure that things are squared away financially so i don't put myself out unnecessarily.

i have no desire to work in a restaurant long term and desire my own business. financial freedom and autonomy are more important to me. i am certain that you both will make the right decisions based on your situations. i'm expecting some good eats from the two of you so hop to it! *w*

"and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
"and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
post #15 of 17
so I've come to the realization that I need to put plans for culinary school on hold. Sitting down and really setting out the costs and what not proved to be a sobering experience. While I can't put a price tag on this kind of education, I also can't cripple myself economically for the next 30 years. The loans that I would need to take out to cover culinary school coupled with loans from my undergrad degree would just be too much.

I'm sure that there are a lot of chefs here that would think this is a good development since culinary school is over-rated.

While I figure out what to do next, I'm going to start with small steps. Call up The Chopping Block (in Chicago) and see if I can volunteer as an assistant during their cooking classes. Since most of their classes are nights and weekends, I ought to be able to fit it in with my current work schedule. And/or re-double my efforts to find a restaurant that will let me stage once night a week.

This is a frustrating process, I'll tell y'all what. I feel a mildly-whiny rant coming on, so forgive me in advance. While growing up, I didn't have the benefit of a father that owned a restaurant. My mother never spent her Sundays cooking huge meals in the kitchen. I didn't start cooking for myself until I was done with college, living on my own and left without other options. So I came into this field late, it sometimes feels like it's beyond my means to get to where I want to be.

You graduate college with hardly a good idea of what to do next and get hamstrung by loans to pay off, and other bills to pay, etc etc. I know - nothing different if I were working as a cook somewhere.

Now, I don't mean to take away from anyone else's achievements. I fully understand that having a chef for a father/mother in no way makes it easier to be one yourself, and that everyone in this industry has worked their a**es off to get to where they are. I guess I just want a chance to work my own a** off, too. My thinking had been that a culinary degree, and the connections made while working towards it, would get me a little further than if I started knocking on kitchen doors around the city on my own.

Anyway, I just had to vent there a little. Like I said, I don't want to disparage anyone who has made it, and how they made it - I think it's awesome, and I just want to make it myself. I was very excited to begin this new path in my life, and the realization that it's financially untenable is dissapointing to say the least.

But it's not an obstacle I can't overcome. Working as a cook doesn't necessarily begin with a school. Cooking is what I want to do, and so I will find another way.
post #16 of 17
don't worry danimalarky
I had a similar experience
and hence now I didn't leave my day job and continue to stage (for free) at one of the restaurants tht's in catering
its only a weekend experience but keeping myself up and keeping the fire going.

good luck in your pursuits
hang in there
who knows how things will work out
post #17 of 17
you're right, liv4fud, and I appreciate your sentiments.

Like I said, realizing culinary school isn't in the cards for me is not an impossible obstacle to overcome, and I think I'll be a better cook for it in the end.

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