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Pastry school or individual courses?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Hello professional pastry chefs! I've scoured the boards looking for an answer to my question, but simply cannot. Please forgive me if this topic has been covered a thousand times over; I do not wish to waste anyone's valuable time.

I am interested in owning a cake shop. Cakes are my signature dessert, my passion, and my love. While it would be lovely to attend the French Pastry School here in Chicago, I wonder if there are individual specialty courses that would give me the necessary foundation to pursue my dream. My husband has serious reservations about the cost of the FPS 6 month program, as do I.

My background has included working in both bakeries and in the back of the house at several chain eateries, so I'm no stranger to the industry. But before embarking on a course of action for schooling, a business plan, bank loans and the like, I really want to have as much information as possible.

As professionals, do you recommend the full pastry course? I am very interested in learning sugar work, pastillage, gum paste, fondant, chocolate work, etc.? But do I necessarily need to go the distance with a $20,000.00 program? Thank you very much for any and all advice.
post #2 of 11
One answer is that I don't think you need to go to FCI for a full course treatment if you only want to do cakes. AS far as decorating goes there are lots of places and options for a lot less money to learn all that, what you won't get though is all the other things you can learn in school. Things like costing and the sciences behind baking which is a chemistry course unto itself. In school you will pay for and have a more well rounded education, but do you need that, not necessarily. Here is one link that's available for the science end of flour: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/landing.jsp?go=Home
But just because you have all the knowledge under your belt doesn't mean you can make a living selling cakes alone. Maybe you can and maybe you need to have more available. I will pm you a further explanation of what I mean by that. Either way, it can be done, good luck!
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
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post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 
Your response was pretty much what I thought. There is only so much one can do with a "cut & paste" education in the pastry arts. I'm basing my want to open a cake shop on the model used by two women here in Chicago who own just such an establishmment. However, I don't have any first hand information on their overhead, profit margin, etc.

Profitwise, I do see the necessity to have more to offer: cookies, pies, cupcakes, and BREADS which I do love to dabble in!

Thank you for your kind response
post #4 of 11
You may also want to look into other Chicago area culinary schools. As a graduate of Kendall, I know that they have a number of certificate programs in various areas (one is baking and pastries) which would allow you to only take the courses you feel you need. No idea what it costs though.
post #5 of 11
Audrey,
I'm going to sugest that now would be a good time to look at taking some business courses even more so then pastry.
I wouldn't model after anyone or anything.
Keep in mind, doing the actual thing you like, (cake decorating) might only be 20% of your week.
Like Chrose says, you can have the perfect business plan to open a 'cake shop', but if every customer is walking in for cupcakes, you are now in the 'cup cake shop' business.
I have to tell you, yours is a great dream! I've been living it for a dozen ++ years:D
I make myself available to you for any specific question.or anything
Pan
paninicakes.com
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 11
Thread Starter 
That makes perfect sense! It sounds what I'm hearing is to expect the unexpected, have a solid business plan, and don't use anyone elses success as a model for my own. Thanks a bunch Pan. If only we had not moved from my hometown of "Big D" 3 years ago, I could thank you in person. This has been a dream of mine for several years now, and I'm ready to take as many small steps necessary to bring it to fruition. As a wise and wonderful teacher of mine once said: "What the mind can conceive and believe, it can acheive."
post #7 of 11
I am currently attending ICE for both the Pastry & Baking program and the Culinary Management program. I'm almost finished with the pastry course; we're actually completing our wedding cakes this week. I'm a little more than halfway through the management program.

My opinion is that if what you really want to focus on is cakes, then don't bother with the full pastry & baking program. You can take courses that focus just on cakes and save yourself a lot of time and money. However, I do feel as though the management program is going to pay for itself several times over. I am learning so many things that will help me avoid making costly mistakes. It's not just a matter of having a business plan, it's a matter of knowing how to operate a food-service establishment. That's what the management program is giving me.

Best of luck!
Sean
Whatshisname
Sean
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Whatshisname
Sean
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post #8 of 11
Hi, I have been in business for myself for more than 14 years, (2 Restaurants & catering co) until last year when I closed both Restaurants and kept the Catering Co and went to Le Cordon Bleu P&B program, I went specifically for the Cakes (which I stressed at the registration) I was disappointed that we really did not spend a lot of time on cakes or cake decorating. To be perfectly honest I have learned a lot more about cakes through Cakecentral.com, Baking911.com, American Cake Decorating Magazine and surfing the internet.
I think most community colleges offer fairly good business classes if you feel you need additional help. I do not want to suggest you should not take a culinary program if that is what you want. I just feel the more than $23,000 and the 32 weeks of schooling were not quite worth it.
However I was established prior to going to school and making the investment so a lot of what I was taught was redundant.

Good luck with your decision, what ever you decide!

Joan
post #9 of 11
Just out of curiosity, may I ask who?
"Bakers are born, not made. We are exacting people who delight in submitting ourselves to rules and formulas if it means achieving repeatable perfection" - Rose Levy Beranbaum
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"Bakers are born, not made. We are exacting people who delight in submitting ourselves to rules and formulas if it means achieving repeatable perfection" - Rose Levy Beranbaum
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post #10 of 11
Hmmmmm.......let me guess.......would it be Cakegirls?
http://www.thecakegirls.com

They just won the Disney Princesses cake challenge for Food Network.....
post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 
Indeed, it would be the CakeGirls. However, I must stress that my desire to open a shop of my own was based on my own passion and natural ability for cake baking/decorating. Given the fact that these 2 sisters acheived success with little or no formal pastry training gave me hope that it could be done.

I wish the CakeGirls continued success here in the Chicago area. They have produced cakes for several events I've attended, and the product is always stunning and absolutely delicious. It's wonderful they won the Disney Challenge! I've never seen that episode so it will be great to watch them in action when it airs. The prestige of winning, as well as the national recognition will certainly boost their sales!

My plans are not for the Chicago market, as my husband and I will most likely be relocating downstate when he graduates from Law School. I wanted a solid plan in place before that happens, and the advice received here on ChefTalk is proving to be most resourceful. Thank you all for your kindness.

Sincerely,
Audrey
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