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Oregon Culinary vs Western Culinary?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Hi,

My husband is set to start at Western Culinary in April. However, he just got a job working in a restaurant where 2 people are attending Oregon Culinary and love it.

Of course we'd like to save ourselves $20k, but I have some concerns. Oregon Culinary is run by Pioneer Pacific College. I don't know, that seems kinda hokey. Don't they run all of those commercials to become dental assistants? (I REALLY don't mean to offend Oregon Culinary students!) Two, I looked at their curriculum. There are about 6 cooking classes from what I can see! Western has over a dozen. It just seems more complete.

However, A) it's cheaper at Oregon and B) people have said good things. I'd just like the lowdown from anyone out there. The curriculums didn't seem to match up at all.

Thoughts anyone?
post #2 of 13
I attended Western Culinary Institute but for baking and pastry...There are always the problems with management of the school but overall I got a great education...I had a great chef as well(which is the most important thing)...but I would recommend Western over Oregon and I wasn't a huge huge fan of western but it was pretty good...

I looked over Oregon Culinary Institutes Curriculum as well and it does look like things are missing...but I'm not completely sure...

Just knowing Oregon Culinary is ran by a normal college is something I wouldn't recommend...these programs never seem to be as good....

With all that said I don't know a lot about Oregon Culinary, just the outside things I can see...

My overall recommendation is Western Culinary....

Hope everything works out for you guys,
Robert
www.chocolateguild.com
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 
I'm really surprised no one else has responded. Are both these schools underrated? Any Western grads out there?
post #4 of 13
by normal college I assume you meant local. western is owned by career education corporation. look into that. Oregon Culinary is very organic in nature, meaning local, responsible and conscientious. another thing to keep in mind is that most of the chefs actually left western because of the bull ****. I would suggest looking into both schools and weighing the price of education. many western grads i have worked with on kitchen lines around town suggested oregon culinary over their own alma mater.
post #5 of 13

I did allot of homework on this...

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). 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:

Western:
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.

Oregon Culinary:
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.
post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the info. I have to question a couple of things you said though. One, that you don't start in the kitchen at Western. That's not true from what we've been told. Two, that Oregon culinary is $14,000. It's more like $20k.

My husband does work in the industry, and we know it's not about the money. Just recently he did talk to his chef (a very well known chef in Portland) he actually recommended Western for the reason I stated earlier. More cooking classes. Oregon culinary is very "college course" oriented. Western has some college type classes you have to take but the main curriculum is cooking.

He also has an Oregon Culinary student working for him. Basically his advice was this: for someone who has worked in the industry for a while (like the Oregon Culinary student) Oregon Culinary is great. But for someone who is new to the business (like my husband) and needs as many cooking classes as he can get, Western is the way to go. I thought that was pretty sound advice. Thank you for your posting though. It was very informative, and perhaps we'll take a tour of Oregon Culinary as well. Best to you!
post #7 of 13
Actually, you're both right. I've been checking out OCI and the current rates are $14,999 for the diploma, $22k and some change for the Associates.
post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thank you. Yes, I realized he said diploma after re-reading it. But he was also comparing Western's AOS degree ($42,000) to OCI's diploma. To compare apples to apples you've got to compare both Associate degrees. ($42k vs. $22 k). Oh, and $42,000 is for a 15 month program, not 12.

The other plus is that Western is more well known than OCI outside of Oregon. But again, we're keeping an open mind.

I'd still like to hear from any Western grads out there who are currently enrolled or recently graduated. How are the chefs? The classes? Thanks to all who've replied...
post #9 of 13

Ask yourself....

How important is the associates degree? Does your husband plan on becomming an instructor? The debt incurred from WCI (stands for Without Cash Indefinately) will last a long time.
Education is a process that requires as much if not more input from the student than the instructor.
Having top notch instructors who love their job, will work as hard and long as necessary to inspire future culinarians, who are happy, and care about the students, is rare to find.

If you want quality; OCI is the only choice!

By the way... OCI students spend 3 hours a day minimum in the kitchen.
post #10 of 13

Straight Talk

Without putting myself in too much of a compromising position I'll just say I have extensive experience with both schools and I'll give you the low down.

I attended Western more than 10 years ago and I will say that I recieved a great education. I worked very hard for it though and there are a lot of students at WCI then and now who aren't really sure that this is the field that they want to be it. 40K is way way too much to spend on something you aren't sure you are interested in.

Western has an excellent facility and excellent instructors who are very passionate about what they do. My main concern for the students is that they accept anyone, so unfortunately the student that is really working hard is next to the bozo that doesn't give a cr_ _ , and that really brings down the class. The poor student that doesn't care is paying the same, money, maybe even picking up a "Chef's" loan to pay for his room and board while he's going to school and that's based on their credit, so they could be paying up to 25% interest. Students leaving the school can have $1500 a month loan payments when they leave (high end). And they are still going to have to start just like everyone probably working a line cook position for $9 an hour. I feel just as bad for the ones who shouldn't be there as the ones who should.

That presents a couple of issues, you are letting people out into the industry with a WCI le cordon Bleu stamp that earned it, and who didn't and make not only the school look bad but also the other student who graduated from there. It's a hard stigma to get over if your boss has had a bad WCI staff experiece. But you have to remember that every college turns out people with a degree that they might have barely earned, though I think if you graduate from a technical school you are supposed to have some skills.

Besides the very scary financial problem, though Western does have a variety of classes they only have each class for 3 weeks, and in a 5 hour day they'll have demo and lecture and maybe have their lab time for working on a few projects. (some classes more projects than others, but speed isn't really empasized as being essential as much as it is at OCI)

Oregon Culinary has much smaller class sizes and burners per student even though the school is small. 3 minimum hours a day in the kitchen and speed, efficiency, consistancy and knife skills are drilled everyday. They are daily put into situations where they have to work quickly and cleanly. They are in 5 week blocks, so the cirriculum looks different so it's hard to compare on basis of how many classes. The knife skills and the food coming out of the first 10 weeks floored me, as I saw students graduatings from WCI with no where near the calliber of work.

The instructors know all the students names, they specifically decided against name tags just so that would be encouraged. If someone is not pulling their wieght, not doing the assignments or showing a general disinterest, they get the "talk". It's straight forward, is this what you want to do or not? We aren't going to take your money if this isn't what you want to do.

You would never in a million years hear that at Western. It wouldn't matter if you were living in your car (true story) and a little sketchy about cooking for a living, they would bend over backward to keep you in the program.

Can you get a good education from Western? Yes of course you can, there might be a lot of stuff to put up with both with management and other students but if it's something you are passionate about food and work hard you make your own education.

Can you get a good education from Oregon Culinary **** yes. You will work hard, you will be surrounded by others as passionate as you are, and they won't take you for a ride. It's straight talk all the way. And you pay less money.
post #11 of 13
Thread Starter 

Lots of Good Info

Wow. I'm so glad I found this forum. Sure sounds like Oregon Culinary students love it there. Thanks to all the people who said that my husband should definitely work in the industry first and that it's not about the money. He just recently quit his "day job" that paid almost twice as much and had health care to focus soley on his new job as a dishwashwer in a small but very well reviewed restaurant. He is absolutely in 7th heaven. We joke that no one on earth has ever been so excited to be washing dishes. But he was willing to start at the bottom to get experience and is now being moved up to pantry work in only 3 weeks! He loves kitchen work and is happier than I've ever seen him before even though he's only making $8 an hour. Money isn't the main object. A happy husband is a gift....

That said, I know he will definitely be one of those students who will get out of his education (regardless of where he goes) what he wants to get out of it. He will work his *** off regardless. The only reasons we are leaning toward Western is that they are more well known than OCI and because he has so little experience, they have more classes. Honestly, the fact that there are more cooking classes is a BIG deal for him.

However, now that he's quit his day job and we have more time before he starts in April, one thing on our list of to-do's is visit OCI. I appreciate all of the comments SO much and wish you all the best in your careers. If there are any more comments please post them, this has been so informative!
post #12 of 13

Interesting thread

I've only taken 'Consumer Classes' so far from OCI, but what I've seen so far I like.

The first class, early on a Saturday morning, we were greeted by Chef Brian Wilke, OCI Executive Chef and Chef George Thompson, our instructor. Chef Wilke is the former Executive Chef of WCI and Chef Thompson was an instuctor for 15 years at WCI.

I'm seriously considering plunking down the $15,000 for the diploma program and starting a new career at the age of 60. I love to cook, spent the last 1 1/2 years as a line cook/shift lead at a local pizza restaurant and I know it's going to be a lot of hard work.
post #13 of 13
Thread Starter 

Update

Hey there,

Just wanted to let everyone know what's happened. When I first wrote the post we were almost dead set to go to Western. Well, after touring OCI and meeting everyone, that's what my husband decided on. He LOVES it. Incredible chefs, small classes, total hands on. They are in the kitchen 3 hours of every 5 every day, starting on DAY 1. Boy was it fun to cancel the $25,000 private loan we had secured to attend Western and know that Stafford Loans, a small grant and a few thousand of private money would cover it! If you ask him, the reason he chose OCI is because they get to wear baseball caps not toques.

Good luck to everyone, and Jerry specifically, it's NEVER too late. We're in our 30's, and it isn't a GREAT time to have a husband in school, especially since we had to put off starting a family and I've also opened my own business, but loving what you do is totally and completely worth it.
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