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Northeast School Feedback incl. Connecticut Culinary

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

I am new to this forum. I am 47 years old and planning to enter an Executive Chef Program so that I can change careers.

I live in the Boston area and have an interview at Connecticut Culinary in Suffield, CT next week. Does anyone know anything about this program?

I need a program that I can complete in about a year. This program is 15 months with the option to go back and take the math English etc to make it into an Associates Degree. Because of my age I probably would not do that if I get a good job. I like the option.

The program is 9 months plus a 6 month externship. The other program I am looking into is Atlantic Culinary in Dover, NH which is an Associates Degree and Le Cordon Bleu Program in 15 months. These are the only programs within 2 hours commute that can be completed within about a year including an externship.

My other options are Cambridge Culinary in Cambridge, MA 9no externship but close by) and International Culinary in Fall River.

(Yes, I know Johnson & Wales is about the same distance from Boston in RI, but if I started in Feb I would not finish until 2008)

Any Feedback on the above schools especially Connecticut?

post #2 of 13
First off, there is no such animal as an "executive chef program". What you are looking at is culinary arts programs which give you the basic tools you'll need to become an executive chef somewhere down the road. This can take anywhere from 5 to 15 years, depending on your ambition and prior cooking experience.

Regarding the Connecticut school, if I'm not mistaken one of the other site moderators, Cape Chef, is a chef-instructor there. From everything I've heard, it's a very good program.
Anulos qui animum ostendunt omnes gestemus!
Anulos qui animum ostendunt omnes gestemus!
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 

Greg, I meant the Advanced Culinary Arts Program at CCI.

I was a bit tired when I posted and had been telling everyone who asks me why I want to go back to school - because I want to evenually be an Executive Chef.

If anyone else is around, I would love to hear about the differences in this program vs. Atlantic Culinary (Le Cordon Bleu), Cambridge Culinary, and International school in Fall River (The person I spoke to at CCI had only heard of the Fall River program in the past month - so that doesn't say much about that program).
post #4 of 13
Gudy -- you are just about the same age I was when I returned to school for cooking. I don't want to discourage you, but I do want you to know my story.

I went through a 15-month program at a school in New York City (a school you probably have not heard of, but an excellent program nonetheless), did an externship at Le Bernardin (NY Times 4-star), received an AOS degree, and spent the next 8 years in the business, all in NYC, with very few breaks between jobs: in excellent independent restaurants as garde manger, line cook, and pastry chef; as catering manager onsite for a contract feeder; as kitchen manager for a food manufacturer--training and supervising the staff, ordering, inventorying, developing new recipes, improving operations; and consulting to a start-up manufacturer--setting up their kitchen procedures and researching sources for equipment and ingredients. For the past 2 1/2 years I have been freelancing, doing editorial work on food and lifestyle (among other topics) books and articles.

Starting school at my (and your) age, I was not looking to become an exec, because I knew that it would take many, many years of kitchen work, even with the cooking and restaurant management and accounting skills I learned in school (added to the many years of business skills I already had). I knew that unless I started my own restaurant, it was highly unlikely that anyone would hire me (or even promote me) into an exec position. No matter how good our skills, it is rare in this business to find an owner who can see that maturity has advantages over youth. The chefs you will work under most likely will be the age of your (hypothetical) children -- and they will not necessarily have the manners and show the respect you might expect. Nor will your colleagues on the line. The chefs will, like all chefs, want things done THEIR way, and won't care a bit that you may have been doing it differently (however successfully) at home for umpteen years.

And to be honest, when you come out of school you will have minimal skills. It takes years to develop speed and accuracy in knife skills, and to develop the ability to multitask at the stoves. There is a huge difference between home cooking and restaurant cooking, not merely in scale. The position of exec requires knowledge of everything from plumbing to psychology, history to finance, languages to pest control. Cooking is the least of it -- and many execs rarely if ever actually cook on a regular basis. They have to spend too much time running all aspects of the business, often for owners who know nothing and understand less.

Well, maybe I do want to discourage you -- at least from the thought that you can come out of school and within a reasonable amount of time "be" an exec. We have a young member here who was graduated a few years ago from one of the top schools in the country, was hired right out of school to be an exec at a country club, and almost immediately was asking questions such as "Is it better for me to make my own hamburgers or buy them pre-made and frozen?" He left that job saying that he couldn't deal with the staff, got another similar job, and had similar problems. As far as we know, he's not working in kitchens any more. Now, I assume that you have the maturity to handle some of the situations that were beyond him. But still -- as Greg said, it can -- and SHOULD -- take many years to reach the top. Ask yourself: do you really have the time? Can you put up with the aggravating, low-level stuff you'll have to go through to get there? Can you live with the thought that you might put in all that money to get training, and all those years of work, and still NOT reach your goal because you run out of physical or mental stamina, or need to provide better for yourself and your family (even some execs earn relatively low salaries)?

As I said at the outset, I went into this industry at your age knowing what I would probably NOT be able to do. But I also went in not knowing what I could and would do -- and the journey to learn and do what I have been able to do has been worth it to me.
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 

Greg, btw, Cambridge Culinary has an "Executive Chef Program"

Ok, I realize it's just the name of the program.
post #6 of 13
Im currently a student at CCI at the Farmington CT campus, I'm a carreer changer and age 35, its been an interesting experience, and an enjoyable one. Most of the students in my group are younger, with no experience in the kitchen, sprinkled with a few folks who have worked the line for some time. I have been enjoying the curiculum for the most part, but I am absolutly certain there is much more to be learned during externship and work.

They have recently revised the program with about 40% more kitchen time(lecture 10%, Kitchen 90%)

I am at the Farmington campus...which they call the main campus only for its proximity to Hartford, not speaking first hand here but I have heard the facilities are much nicer in Suffield.

Im in mod 2, just took an Itailian and Mexican(what a combo...) class and starting up European class on Tuesday, if there are any questions you have I would be happy to answer them.
post #7 of 13
Actually, I just googled "executive chef program" and there seem to be quite a few. And here I've been wasting my time getting actual experience. ;)
Anulos qui animum ostendunt omnes gestemus!
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post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 


The money part is not an issue since I qualify for retraining funding through the state. For certain programs, including Connecticut Culinary (Suffield, CT), International Culinary (Fall River, MA), Cambridge Culinary (Cambridge, MA) and some Community Colleges, the state will pay 100% including appl. fee, all lab fees, supplies, transporatation or food and housing plus unemployment benefits while in school. My wife also works.

So, I basically wanted feedback on these particular schools. I had been looking at Atlantic Culinary (Le Cordon Bleu) but it won't be approved for funding and I just found out I can't get x dollars and pay the difference. They either pay all or nothing. Not bad, but I don't want to waste my time. The Suffield CT. I believe, is the best program at about 27 hours per week and a six month paid externship, which i would get right in Boston. Driving 3.5-4 hours round trip per day to get there will be tough. I won't stay in a dorm.
post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 

Zipsil, thanks for responding. I had an interview

yesterday and saw many kitchens. It was really dead since everyone is on vacation. There was damage in the building because some student in the dorm pulled apart a radiator and caused major water damage. They say it will be fixed in the next couple of weeks.

When I initially called I was told by the recruiter that they could def schedule my classes at 7:00am (until about 12:30). When I went there he was wishy washy and said some would be in the afternoon, so wouldn't end until 6:30 or so. If it's once per week, it won't be a problem but if that was the schedule 4-5 days I will have a problem commuting from Boston. How can they not know the Schedule starting Feb 20th?

Also, what information do you have on the size of the school? He said their real competion is J&W, but I'll never stay for the additional year at 20K to get the Asoociates of Science Degree (through their sister school, The International College of Hospitality Management). Do you have that option at your location? I assume a lot of career changers already have an Associates, Bachelors or Masters?

Anyway, I was told there were about 400 students at that campus right now. But then I was told there were two am classes and one or two evening. if there are no more than 15 students per class, how do those numbers work out?

Additionally, do you know the differences in the instructors at each campus?

Thanks in advance.
post #10 of 13
The classes I am in start at 7am and go to about noon. The new mod 1 folks that just started up have their classes 12 to about 5...Im thinking they might rotate the schedule or somthing.

The Farmington CT campus is pretty small, 3 kitchens and a dining room....its practice for your working in cramped spaces in resturants skills, or thats what I keep telling myself. I allready have a BA and wasnt really considering that program but ya you can get some kind of degree from the hospitality management school out there.

I think at my school there are 3 mods of 30 people each in just the daytime but those numbers do seem a little inflated.

I dont know the differences in the instructors in suffield but the ones we have are pretty great. Diverse, some worked institutions, some resturants, many still cater, lots of acf credentials.

Boston is far to travel to 15 min away from Farmington and it seems too far!
post #11 of 13
Thread Starter 

Thanks, I hope to start CCI in February. The driving will

be a hassle. I could have pracically walked to Cambridge Culinary but Connecticut seems a much better program. The other school was only 19 hours per week (one 3 hour lecture and two 8 hour labs) vs. 27.5 or so and mostly in the kitchem plus the externship...

Cambridge Culinary perhaps would be a better program for someone working full time in Boston as they could go there at night etc.
post #12 of 13
It is nice to see some older folks like myself-35- get back into the business. I was laid off 8 months ago, decided to go back to school AND ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT!!!! I entered the apprenticeship program at a local school and work one of the better restaurants east of Pittsburgh. I make a quarter of what I made as a telephone man in regards to pay, but I still freakin' love it!!!! The chef I work under thinks I am nuts because I enjoy it so much, and that I am very passionate about food/service. I have been in the business for 21 years holding some type of position while working a full timer, just for the sheer enjoyment.

I wish you nothing but the best and congratulations on making the move. I still have a lot to learn and look forward to it!!!
post #13 of 13
Thread Starter 

CCI vs Atlantic Culinary (Dover), additionally

Atlantic is very disorganized! I talked (multiple times) to a great admissions person and thought they were assisting with applying for state funding which would help me as well as other potential students (they had Section 30 funding previously which assisted students on unemployment to collect additional benefits while in school) Anyway I was told they had submitted the paperwork and found out 3 weeks later they never had. Apparentlyit was too much trouble for the new admissions director. I told them they lost a lot of $$$ and I don't know how they get students if they won't help with aid.

Totally diff experiance with CCI. They have been so helpful. I have to go back next week and they even offered to put me up in a hotel at the schools cost (although I will drive home). So hopefully CCI will work out and I can start in February...

Also I did ask and the course work is the same on either campus. (The two campuses are only 40 minutes apart)
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