A couple options to consider...I made the choice to change careers last spring. I've always loved to cook and have worked a few restaurant's when I was younger. I looked hard at both CIA and Western (Culinary Institute of America because it's the Rolls Royce of culinary schools, and Western because it's local to where I live - Portland Oregon). Quite by accident I came across the (then) newly founded Oregon Culinary Institute. I toured both. At Western I was greeted and shown the school by a paid recruiter that admitted he didn't even like to cook. At Oregon I was greeted by the head chef (who used to be head chef at Western) and spent nearly a full 30 minutes just discussing the importance and significance of pure technique (and of course passion for food itself). I knew right then this mans passion and amazing world wide experience was all the convincing I needed. But for you it's probably more important to know the facts (as I found them). Keep in mind no matter which school you choose, the bottom line is there is no better or preferred education then working in the restuarant business itself. Here's the facts on the two Oregon options:
A publicly traded stock, hence greatly motivated (from the administrative heads of the "business") to get your money rather then worry about the depth of your education.
$41,000, 12 months.
A Chef coming out of Western will not get any more money then a Chef coming out of Oregon.
Up to 40 students per 1 Chef.
First 10 weeks you actually never step into the kitchen. You're given all the college 101 stuff so that you may qualify for an associates degree in Culinary arts. The same can be had via the college supporting Oregon - just add 10 weeks on their campus site - BUT, in the actual business (per the Hiltons Executive Chef at an event I worked for them) they call paper paper and experience and skills gold.
Strict adherence to Le Cordon Bleu French cuisine.
Did I mention $41,000 dollars. You might hate to hear how long that takes to get back in the real food world.
Almost ALL of the Chefs left Western to come here. THEY were the ones that started Western in the first place. Publicly traded business interests began telling them how to run the school (aka.. double your class size regardless of the ability for them to hear much less see you). As a rule I've always felt it's best not to piss off the Chef!
$14,000 dollars, 10 months
You START and END in the kitchen (and on site restaurant).
20 students to 1 (sometimes 2) Chefs.
No false promises! Day 1 includes a LOUD and clear reality check - IF YOU'RE IN THIS FOR THE MONEY -- GET OUT NOW!!. However, if you realize the odds, and love what you do... well some things just come of their own.
The externship (the person that lands you both your 10 week "pre-job" and your post graduate job, who also coincidently came from Western... do you see a pattern here?) has a HUGE contact list and is VERY well known.
They start and finish by emphasizing that "It's All About Technique". And that's every bit what they'll teach you.
Don't get me wrong, there's a ton of book based learning and lectures, and very often the stress level is over the top - BUT that's what they want us to know!
Anyway, there's the jist of it. I'm nearing the end of my third term and am about to roll into my Externship. I LOVE (most) of my fellow students and ALL of my instructors to date, and perhaps more then anything am fully confident that the skills I've developed will carry me far in my next career. By the way, for what it's worth, I'd say that ANYTHING that you get to do day after day for 10 (or 12) months is going to bring your confidence and skill sets WAY up. So why pay $20K more for one over the other - ESPECIALLY if the cheaper one is made up of ALL of the other ones Chefs?!
Hope all goes well for you either way. Take Care.