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The beginning of something new and wonderful... or a financial avalanche?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Hi, my name's Eric and I've just decided that I want to go to culinary school. Sounds like a simple enough line of thought, right? Well after an hour of reading posts on this forum I'm distraught about, and discouraged with, my decision. As of right now the only job I've had in the food industry was in the kitchen of a college dormatory. I enjoyed every minute of working there, though, and I feel I may have finally found something I can do with myself. But is culinary school the answer? Are the financial rewards enough to consider putting myself 40k in debt? I don't know, but I'd like to find out.

Right now I'm looking around for jobs in real kitchens all over my town, which seems to be a good first step. Unfortunately I have too many financial obligations, and too little money to buy fresh ingredients to just practice at home. Any information or opinions anyone has to offer me would be greatly appreciated. I love the passion of the people in this career and I hope to be just as passionate about it as everyone else.

Thank you,

Eric Chisler
post #2 of 15

Other options

Hey Eric,

There are other options to go with rather than the expensive schools out there, I know I researched and flew acrosss the country to visit these schools, I wound up going to a community college in arizona, i'm from michigan, and I recieved an outstanding education, the big difference is budget, the community colleges don't have the budget to give each student their own cooking area and individual 20 pound salmon (for example) I did the same stuff they did, but in groups, it taught me how to work in the kitchen as a team. Remeber, this is a life-long adventure, this culinary world, you won't get it all at one school.

peace
post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 

Community Colleges?

I was skeptical about the difference between something as "prestigous" as Le Cordon Bleu and my local college's culinary program. Is the cirriculum really the basically the same? How can I tell if a particular comm. college has a good culinary program? Thank you for your support and help.

-Eric
post #4 of 15
Warning, DO NOT BE FOOLED BY "PRESTIGOUS" CULINARY SCHOOL NAMES.

Whew... don't think I 've ever shouted that loud or that much.
Anyway, don't be fooled, because most of the Chef's and people who hire cooks aren't. Fancy names don't do anything for them.

You have to remember that private schools are a business, a money making enterprise, hence he hefty fees, C C's aren't. Whatever school you choose, it's your responsibility to milk the maximum knowledge out of the place, don't expect to get knowledge handed to you on a silver platter, even if you have paid in advance.
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #5 of 15
Man!! FP

I wasn't even online and I heard that from the kitchen:D
FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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post #6 of 15
Heard way down south to Pan.

Rgds Rook
post #7 of 15
Eric,

Culinary school will teach you "techniques", but real cooking happens on the job. That is why an apprenticeship program makes sense. Even though on television being a "culinary graduate chef" is a professional, in reality most of the chefs today are not graduates. It is still a trade and unfortunately even though the culinary schools are trying to sell the fact that going to the right school will make a difference in your ultimate income, that just isn't true.

I have found many of the instructors at the CCA, if you were to meet them for a drink, would tell you how happy they finally had decent hours to work; that a high percentage of their students will never work in a kitchen as a career, primarily due to the fact they had no idea how low the pay was, the hours destroyed their personal lives. Many of these instructors were good chefs, but not necessarily good instructors.

The culinary schools today are big business, it is like the army recruiting. I have a friend who is a recruiter at CCA in San Francisco and she doesn't even cook...nor likes it...I found this unbelievable.

I know folks who went to junior colleges and folks, as myself, who went to the "prestigious" schools. Looking back at the time I made the right decision for me, the junior colleges were just getting started, but today, I definately would try the junior college route. You'll get the education either way.

There are some alternative schools that are offering 6 month rather than 18 month programs, but they are expensive too.

Good luck, and good cooking.
post #8 of 15
Thread Starter 

So it seems fairly unanimous...

I'm so glad to hear that... I was not looking forward to paying so much money in such a possibly low-paying career. If you agree with this and you're reading this, just gimme a quick yes/no answer. Once again thanks for everyone's help.

-Eric
post #9 of 15
Yes i just graduated from a 'top' culinary school and when i stepped into the restaurant to do my externship.... i felt like a complete idiot and that i knew nothing and honestly.. some restaurants will treat ya that way. Like someone mentioned up there culinary schools will teach you technique which is all good but when your working in a restaurant you are doing whats on their menu and how 'THEY' want you to do it.
post #10 of 15
A big yes from me too. I attend a community college. You learn all the basics. It is all about getting the most out of any school you are attending. I wish I were able to have a more one on one with the instructors unlike the more expensive schools that have that. It does teach you how to work with groups. Attending a community college gives me flexability of time between my courses and real world work. No fancy expensive schools do this. They will insist you take a required number of courses in a required amount of time. I like the community colleges best.
post #11 of 15
Let's see, 40K in debt for school, so you can make 20K/year in the workplace. Is that enough financial reward for you? Unfortunately this career is not great for the wallet, nor your personal life... The potential is there to make 60K-100K and even more, but only a tiny fraction of cooks will ever get anywhere close to that level of pay. Most will end up grinding for years at 20-30K/year until they quit the profession.
post #12 of 15
Lately,
There are sooo many post regarding how tough this industry is. How tuff it is to cut it. How grueling it is. No family life. No personal life. Tougher for a woman. yadda yadda yadda.
This profession is no different then most others.
Looking for a job, then it may seem difficult.
Looking for a career, it pretty rewarding.
Almost any other career you must spend time in the trenches.
You must gather every positive thing you see and store it.
You must create your own personality in your food.
You need to set your goals very high.
You must work to live, never live to work.
You must have a personal life, this is natural.
When you have exhausted every thought put into a task to see that you can do it smart, it becomes easy. If your slammin and crammin you will never enjoy this.
You must understand 'business 'to succeed. That is why there is a lot of jealousy for those making money and being happy. Bottom line for this and most other businesses is to generate profits.
In 35 years I have never been underpaid and there is not much I really want, that I can't have.
pan
sorry for the rant
FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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post #13 of 15
Eric I like the way Panini put it, I think the big question here is this one :Are the financial rewards enough to consider putting myself 40k in debt?
I wonder if a doctor asks that question before going to medical school considering the cost of insurance, the hours, the stress, etc.
My point is from my experience the many that go to culinary school and eventually wash out is because they went not so much to culinary school, but to "job school". And a job is just what they got. If you are going into a career like this it's not because of the money and glory :cry: it's because you love food, you love cooking and you have a bit of a show off streak. Considering your main question, I would venture to guess it's not for you. Figure out what you love to do and do that.
My latest musical venture!
http://myspace.com/nikandtheniceguys
 
Also
http://www.myspace.com/popshowband "I'm at the age when food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table." Rodney Dangerfield RIP
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My latest musical venture!
http://myspace.com/nikandtheniceguys
 
Also
http://www.myspace.com/popshowband "I'm at the age when food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table." Rodney Dangerfield RIP
Reply
post #14 of 15
I agree with you...I, too, just decided I wanted to get into culinary department and it does seem overwhelming and I'm having second thoughts. Thanks for bringing this up and to all of you who posted reponses, I thank you for your comments to push me to keep my mine (finally) made up of a direction I want to go in my life!
~~ChefC81~~
"Your words are my food, your breath my wine. You are everyting to me."
--Sara Bernhardt, (1844-1923)
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~~ChefC81~~
"Your words are my food, your breath my wine. You are everyting to me."
--Sara Bernhardt, (1844-1923)
Reply
post #15 of 15
I had a man ask me if I would talk to his daughter about dropping out of college to become a chef. "Sure." I said.
The next day I met with the young lady. the conversation went like this....."I have been a Chef for twenty years. I have been hit. Had pans thrown at me by irate, brilliant, insane-genius Chefs. Been burned, cut....and not cared because I felt so **** lucky to be where I was and who I was working for. But I am unusually intelligent academically speaking. The vast majority of Chefs cannot run a business successfully because they are ignorant. Go to college, get your education, then do whatever the **** you want."
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