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Does school name matter?

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
First off I want to say hello to everyone. I'm 26 and want to go to culinary school next year. In TN we just got a culinary program called the Art Institute of Tennessee Nashville. I've had people tell me that school name matters. The Art Institute and CIA in New York cost about the same but I need to get feedback from chefs that are already in the field. So please help me this is a big chage. Do you have any suggestions?
Think Outside The Box!!!
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Think Outside The Box!!!
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post #2 of 21
Oh geez, here we go again...

Talk to the people that MATTER, that is, the potential and future employers, not the school administrators or counselors. A private school is a commercial enterprise and conducts itself as such.

Most Chefs, including myself, groan and roll our eyes when we see a resume with a fancy cooking school on it. I guess it sounds like stereotyping, but fancy cooking schools usually mean someone with little or no practical cooking experience, alot of attitude, and a very thin wallet. With thin wallets it means that the student is desparate for a job and will jump after you've put in time training him/her for another job that pays a dollar an hour more.

Please, consider the local colleges and Community colleges. The instructors there are just as good or better than the private schools, are usually better connected to the local restaurant scene.
...."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 #3 of 21
I beg to differ... and by no means do I have a problem with you FoodPump... I dont know if I am taking this the wrong way... but if I came and applied for a job at your establishment... and you saw that I had a degree from JW you would roll your eyes... maybe I am missing the point but I dont get it... Little or no cooking experience?!?!?!? I am sort of baffled...Alot of attitude? Like I said... I read alot of your posts FoodPump and I have no problem with you at all.. I actually side with you alot... but I totally disagree... but I guess to his and her you own....


P.S.
I am not saying that JW is better than any local or Community school by any means... and like FoodPump said, some of the instructors can be as good if not better than the ones at "fancy" schools... But does the school that you are looking at have the same courses at JW.... does it offer a Bachelor of Science Degree in Culinary or Pastry? And long and how good of quality are the Intern/Externships... These are some of the questions that you need to ask yourself...

Thank you and I am sorry but I am just voicing my opinion...
post #4 of 21
Cooking schools....... There are schools with courses that last 3 mths, 6 mths, 1 year, two years. Some schools require previous experience in the field before starting the curriculum, some, as here in Vancouver specialize in providing an opportunity for foreign students to get a student visa. It is not usuall for someone in a two year program to find a p/t job while studying, and those that are working in the field usually don't have enough coin to scrape up for a two or even one year program. Usually...but then no two people are exactly the same.

Thing is, the school doesn't make an impression on me, CIA or JW, the guy could be the next Wolfgang, Bobby Flay, or perfect fodder for a day manager at a chain restaurant. It's a crap shoot, cause I have absolutley no way of knowing how much he/she has absorbed, and how much theycan apply what they've learned in school. I've had graduates from SAIT (A CDN College with a very prestigious 2 yr program) burn soup on me and tell me "It's not really burnt, is it?" and I 've had guys from VCC ( a local CC) dance like a balerina behind the stove, raid my bookcase and read everything in sight on their time off, and move on to some very nice places. After 4 hours of watching the Sait guy, and 4 hours of watching the VCC guy, I'll take the VCC guy. Maybe next time around the tables will be turned and the VCC guy can't put together a meat grinder for me, who knows?

It's the experience. Period. School is a bonus, a good one, but experience is still trump. I'm sure, ChefTorrie, after a few years in charge, with an F & B breathing down your neck about food cost, labour cost, and quality of product, you won't care if the next guy you hire is 3' nothing and green, but care only if he can cook and get along with everyone.
...."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 21
Believe me, when I am on the clock... I am the one in charge in the kitchen and I do get my *** reamed for food loss, labor cost etc... And like I said, I respect you alot and agree with you to a point... myself too have had a JW alumni come aboard with me and couldnt put together a god **** mirepoix for a soup or couldn't cook vegetables without turning to mush... but I am not going to lie, when I get 2 applications in, and one person has a Degree from CIA or JW or LCB, and the other from a local communtity school, I am obviously going to think that the ones from the CIA, JW or LCB know more... But I would give them both equal time in the Kitchen to prove themselve, and if the other prove worthy then he is the guy for the job...
post #6 of 21
From what I've seen the school you've got on your résumé doesn't matter much, if at all. The restaurants you've worked at are what chefs like to see. Reference letters are better. Once you get into an interview, the résumé doesn't really matter anymore, they will drill you on your knowledge, then you will work a trial shift and they'll see if you can walk the walk. By this stage of the interview process it doesn't matter what school you went to, all that matters is what you know and can do.

When I started cooking, I got into a very well known fine dining restaurant with only a chain restaurant and golf course on my résumé, no education at all. I walked in, talked to the chef, and got my shot. Just like that. Fast forward a few years later, and now I can get into any restaurant I want to. Working with excellent French chefs taught me more than any school can teach... As long as you have the work ethic and passion, you'll succeed school or not.
post #7 of 21

you know what.....

I'm assuming that you guys are talking about getting hired as cooks. Cooks come a dime a dozen, you can pay anyone to cook for you. If you are trying to get into a higher level position in the kitchen, I THINK THAT THE gm or whoever is over the chef is expecting that the The "chef'' MUST BE ABLE TO CONTROL LABOR , FOOD COST, AND CREATE CREATIVE AND PROFITABLE MENUS. YOU CAN ALWAYS PAY THE NEXT MAN TO COOK FOR 9-10 DOLLARS AN HOUR.
post #8 of 21
Im talking about the your first couple jobs out of school... JW has a 98.6 employment rate within the first2 months of graduation...
post #9 of 21
It's not that difficult getting a job in the industry. Like many have said before me, you can get one with little experience and a zeal for food and hard work, willingness to learn.

What can one school teach you that another can't? What can any school teach you that you can't learn under a good chef?
post #10 of 21
Nothing....but you can tell me that having the degree doesnt help.
post #11 of 21
Chef in training, you gotta walk before you can run, you have to be a competant cook before you can be a competant Chef.

You have a good background in accounting and can number crunch better than any Chef or F & B? Great!

There's a million ways to cheat on inventory, a million ways to cheat on purchasing, a million ways to steal, a million ways for your suppliers to hose you, and you better know them all to catch them all. If you can't teach a cook how to braise a pot roast properly, then you can't rightly expect him to do it properly either. A million new and refreshing ideas for the menu? So did Marfa Stewart, and about 990,000 weren't practical, way too labour instensive, impossible to prep ahead, or used expensive, seasonal or hard to obtain ingredients. But they are, bound in hardcover and in glossy colour print... Gotta work in the trenches before you can succesfully be a Chef, many try to avoid this and many don't succeed in staying a Chef. Then again respect is a whole other angle, and if you don't earn it from your staff, you'll never get anywhere, no matter how good your ideas or implementations are.
...."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 #12 of 21
Dunno, sometimes I wonder... ;)
post #13 of 21
I've seen newbies come out of school knowing "The way to do it".......
One of my buddies flies up to Hudson Valley and interviews every year, he choses externs and grads that have been in the service. I've had several of them volunteer at various events I've run and they are exceptional! Yes chef! How high, how far?

I've also had others that think coming out of school is an automatic pass to running a kitchen.......alot of crash and burns.

I've seen technically good cooks handed a restaurant.......they had no front of the house expertise and bookkeeping was not a forte.....C&B

Seems like years ago we listed prominent restaurantuers that did not go to cooking school....Thomas Keller, Alice Waters, Charlie Trotter to name just a few......

School is a short cut to having access to alot of information. How you use it or learn from it is up to you. Schools are not all alike. Teachers are not all alike. Students are not all the same kind of learners. One of the best teachers I've had was at a small school in rural Louisiana, I LEARNED microbiology....understood it after he taught it, it had some relevance. Alot of the Loyola med students found their way to my small college science class because supposedly Loyola had a 30-40% failure rate....

One of my best friends got her doctorate at Harvard, I would have loved to have taken some of the classes offered.....my ex-husband graduated from Cornell, the alumni books were stimulating. There's a reason why these are top rated schools, why people pay a lot of money to attend....what you take from it and how you use it is totally up to you.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #14 of 21
Having a degree to me is not a determining factor at all when I am hiring some one. I will take 2 years of good solid cooking under good chefs over a 2 year student almost everytime.
Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.

www.azurerestaurant.ca
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Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.

www.azurerestaurant.ca
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post #15 of 21
I'll add a few more. Pierre Gagnaire, Marc Veyrat, Michel Bras, Ferran Adria, Heston Blumenthal.... It might be easier to list the ones who did go to school, would probably be a shorter list.
post #16 of 21
You know what, I am sorry for stating my opinion... and for a Chef, I am actually a cool tempered person...but I am getting a little irritated... With the way some of your posts look... It seems that if teenagers in HS would read this... it is turning them off about a post secondary education and I do not think that is right to do.... but whatever... Im just about done witht this thread...........
post #17 of 21
Tough love...and I don't mean it in a nasty or demeaning way. I'd rather the kids in H.S. read this now than to find out how this biz really works a few years later when the money's spent, the loans due, and reality staring them in the face.
Now take Chefintraining for example. I've never heard of a professional sports team coach NOT being a team player first, a high ranking Army officer NOT going through boot camp and the lower ranks first. But 'Ol chefintraining has it all figured out, doesn't need to be a smelly stupid cook, he'll just hire one for $9.00/hr, sit in the office, make menus and hope to god those eejits in the kitchen do what he tells them to do...

These are the kind of people whose attitude we must influence, because once they spend the money for school, they're in the system, and they won't fit into the system untill they realize that:
1) knowledge comes second to how you apply the knowledge,
2)work habits are more important than facts, and
3)the ability to get along with everyone is crucial to the whole operation.

If schools teach this, great, but I have no guarantee that the students comprehend and live by it. On the other hand if a cook comes in with 5 or 6 years experience, I have a 90% chance that that person comprehends and lives by the above 3 rules, experience does a geat job of teaching too.

Please ChefTorrie, don't run away from this thread. The longer you are in this biz, the more you will have to deal with the people who think they can avoid the years of experience and become a Chef with a piece of paper. Sometimes these people affect your competition, and sometimes the competition passes the people back to you. I got tired of passing the buck around a long time ago.
...."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 #18 of 21
FoodPump... I will not run away from this thread... for now... But I need to ask you a question... How long exactly do you think that I have been in the business? You keep telling me the longer that I am in the biz... but you dont know how long I have been in the biz to begin with... and I am not trying to be an azz.... like I have said... I respect you and most of your ideas...But I guess we just have differing opinions on this one... Did you ever go to Culinary School?
post #19 of 21
Culinary School? No.
Did a 1 yr "commercial cooking" class way back in '83 in the center of the Universe, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (Canada...) Saskatoon didn't have much to offer a budding young cook so I packed up my bags and headed off to Switzerland. There I made the big discovery that the only "real" cook was an apprenticed cook. So I decided to start off again, and completed a 3 year apprenticeship, ('85-'88) as cook in small hotel, Romantik Hotel Wilden Mann, in Luzern (Lucerne...) Not that easy for a non-native geman speaker, but I completed with decent marks. From there I did one year contracts at Savoy en Ville, Zürich, Baur au Lac, Zürich, and Restaurant Kronnenhalle, Zürich. I worked as comis in all these places. Got homesick and went to Vancouver and did a year at Hotel Vancouver,(now The Fairmont Van.) then went off to Singapore in '91. There I worked as Sous at the Dynasty (now the Marriot), a year and a bit at the American Club, also as a junior Sous, then pulled out a plum with Coffee Club. Here I had the opportunity to design and equip a commisionary kitchen to supply 4 outlets with fresh pastries and food. Also got suckered into designing the kitchens for the outlets (mall outlets, lotsa restrictions...), and tendering for equipment and infrastructure. Staffing, training, supervising, menu development, purchasing and co-ordinating twice daily deliveries for the outlets was taken for granted.
In '96 I left S'pore for Vancouver. Did a year at the "William Tell", then did a stupid thing and bought a crapped out deli together with my wife. This was the start of our catering business. By the second year we had dropped all deli sales and focused entirely on catering.
By '99 the place was too small and we looked for a larger place where the landlord wouldn't up the rent every opportunity he had. Again, took over a crapped-out "Chinese/Canadian cusine" place, mucked it out, replaced all the existing infrastructure, purchased new and used equipment, and got all the necessary permmits and grants. During this 4 mth period we still ran the catering biz at full speed. Currently I have 3 f/t staff--not including myself or my wife/partner, and as many p/t as need for larger and multiple gigs. You can e-mail me offline for my website if you want to, it's worth a peek.
...."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 #20 of 21
That sounds real cool man... Most of my work myself has been done in the United States besides some stuff that I did in Antigua and Aruba... I started in the business when I was 16 doing dishes... A couple months went by and I got a raise and moved up to early morning/late night prep... I then moved up to the line after about a year and a half and worked there all through High School... After High School I went to a 1 year school in my own town... It taught me the Basics but I wanted to continue so I attended J&W for my BS degree... For my externship in school I did an apprenticeship at A HUGE hotel in the middle of no where in West Virginia ... the place was called the GreenBrier... One of the best times of my life... After that I have worked in Baltimore, Orlando, Beverly Hills, Tennesee, TX and my home state Connecticut... My positions included Garde Manger chef making all of the canapes and meat trays and hors doeurves you know the deal... I have been Sous, junior sous, head chef, and executive catering chef... you can PM me for the website if you want... it is also work checking out... I am currently working as Head Chef and I have money invested in my restaurant... Like 25% owner and I have to say with all of the hassles that come with it... I dont think I would trade it for anything
post #21 of 21
so I attended J&W for my BS degree


That pretty well sums up how I feel about most cooking schools and unfortunately most of the students I have had to deal with.
Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.

www.azurerestaurant.ca
Reply
Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.

www.azurerestaurant.ca
Reply
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