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a question to the successful chefs

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
hello everyone! i just want to ask the successful chefs, how were you able to pay for the loans after you graduate? were you rich to begin with or you just persued your dream of becoming a chef despite the very expensive tuition fee? could you recommend a school which grants scholarships that are reasonable? thanks! :)
post #2 of 16
You mean I have to pay those back? ****...
post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 
the loans...
post #4 of 16
Not all successful chefs went to culinaryschool, Thomas Kellar, Charlie Trotter, Rick Tramonto (not 100% positive about rick) had no formal culinary school training. They did it the old fashioned way, work your way to the top, with a great emphasis on perfection.

As for me, what did i do? I went back to school, I dont have to pay the loans until I graduate, but with 2 degrees in hand, I feel better about getting a nice paying job to take care of those loans.
post #5 of 16

the school of a whole lotta tickets...

I did not go to school, and am doing just fine. I mean, the definition of the word successful is the key here. If by successful you mean earning a living in the same way any person who graduates from college looks to do then yea, I am quite successful. I earn enough to take a nice vacation each year, own my own house and car and just bought a nice diamond ring for a woman who... amazingly! is going to marry me.

Now, if you mean successful as in having a wildly successful operation in NYC and pulling down millions I would suggest that you not even bother with culinary school... skip it and go for an MBA. It seems to me that the idea of success in culinary endevours is based on the idea of fame, or serious money. Many people around the World go to school, earn degrees in anything from history to science etc... and work nice comfortable jobs. If you want fame and to be a celebrity chef you should go to acting school... if you want to write a big book and make the New York times best sellers list.. got to writing school.

This is not to suggest that going to culinary school is a bad idea it is just that every intern or grad who has ever shown up in my kitchen
had some idea that they were going to make REAL money... ha!! I work in a small town and the median income here is $22k a year... I make $40K. That is very successful around here. I think culinary school has become over rated for things that it is not for... anything other than learning to be a chef.. Also, the definition of being a chef seems kind of skewed... The restaurant I work for is large and I manage a large crew and my job is not cooking 80+ hours a week. I spend a ton of time in front of a computer and in meetings and crunching numbers. I learned how to do that from working closely with vendors, fellow chefs, former employers and from a background in computer science. Am I Thomas Keller? No... nor do I want to be (OK actually that is not true... I would love to be able to do what he does.. but it is not my career goal).

I guess what I am saying is this... think about what you want in life and then get the degree that is most applicable to your goals. If you want to be a cook culinary school is a great way to start, but is just the tip of the iceberg. If you want to own your own restaurant, then I would suggest going to business school and then busting your butt for the best chef who will let you into their kitchen. If an MBA walked in here and asked for a job I would teach them every thing I could and sponge everything I could from them. In the end, the modern chef is much more an executive manager than a sweating line dog.

Now, for all of that, I don't know one single chef that does not miss the joys of just - and I mean JUST - busting out number of great plates all the time. The paper work sucks your soul and makes you want to go out and smoke a shotgun.

I was just reading another post that was talking about drinks for the crew... and I agreed so much with both sides and it made me think this... "Boy I miss the days when a drink was a drink and hanging out with my co-workers was the nightly plan." But now I am the one that puts his foot down on drinking on the job and I think all the time about food costs and liabililties and staff production etc....
post #6 of 16
amen to that cookingwithfat
post #7 of 16
Thread Starter 
well said! thanks! :) but my idea of a successful chef is not about the fame but simply just becoming a chef and earning some money that is enough to raise a family. thank you so much cookingwithfat! :)
post #8 of 16

now to the original question

Now that we have that cleared up it seems to me that culinary school might be a fine thing for you IF you want to pay for the education, which brings us back to your original question. Cooking is a labor of love in exactly the same way as being a teacher. (Actually, I was a teacher before I got into cooking - Junior high, all boys, computer science... yea, to me a kitchen is easy compared to pubescent boys.) With that in mind think of it the same way: teachers get paid in the same range as chefs and manage to pay off their loans. You will be looking at about $150 a month in loan payments. Is that worth it? You will have the potential for making more money when you start in kitchens after school. It sort of fast tracks your career. You want a nice job, doing what you love, that you can raise a family on etc... sure, go to school and learn all the French technique you can. Do not spend your time focusing on foams and other El Bulli techniques, you can learn that later. Focus on the day to day skills that make it so you can train cooks later when you are the chef. Chef means chief, which means you want to be learning to be a leader... that is what is most important.

Also, learn to be very proficient with computers, spread sheets and kitchen software that can help you schedule, control costs and manage inventory. That is the stuff you want to learn.

Right.... I do tend to ramble. School is expensive, but with loans and such you can afford it on a chef's salary. Visit some schools and ask VERY pointed questions about what they are going to teach you. But at the core of your question is the issue of affordability. Chef's can afford to pay their loans.

As a side note, and because I ramble, I do wonder how many people who graduate from culinary school actually last in kitchens. In the last year I have had three culinary school grads come on board and leave within three months. On the other hand, my main line cook, shows up every day, cooks EXACTLY what I taught him to cook and did not finish high school. I have a BA in American History and Music... go figure.
post #9 of 16
Thread Starter 
actually, all of my questions are for my sister. it's in my other post. might as well paste it here:


hi! i really don't know if i could post this one here but i'll give it a try. i have a sister and she's only 18 years old. she started cooking simple dishes when she was about 6 (she loves helping out my mom in the kitchen), and started baking when she was around 9 years old. she had always dreamed of going to culinary school until finally, my parents let her go to the US (alone) just last year when she was only 17. her dream school is CCA (California Culinary Academy), which she e-mailed a long time ago and they sent her a curiculum or something. we always talked on the phone and i was really excited for her going to culinary school and now she seemed to be discouraged of enrolling in CCA because she said that she would just spend her whole life paying for the loans because the tuition fee is really expensive. i mean it may not be expensive for the residents in US but for us who are living in a 3rd world country... duh? hahahha! (although we are american citizens because my dad is a retired US navy) anyway, the reason why i posted this here because this is a chefs' forum so some of you here may have studied in a culinary school. could you give me an advise like are there cheap culinary schools out there? or do you have an idea how my sister could loan and later on pay after she graduated (without having to pay her entire life hahahha)? i would highly appreciate replies. this is no joke. i mean, i'm talking about a dream here that may come true through your help (drama! hahaha) thanks everyone!

.. thank you for all the replies... and thank you to cookingwithfat. :)
post #10 of 16

A high paying job.

I left the country, I found work as a private chef on yachts and in villas. The pay is way better than in professional kitchens. ($30,000-$75,000) plus room board and if you are on a charter boat tips (average $1000-$2000), and you get to travel a bit. No bills and if your smart, no taxes. Budget is a bit bigger and you get to provision in interesting places in the world.

A couple of warnings: It is a competitive industry and can be hard to get your foot in the door. Many times it takes previous experience (before CulSchol I had scrubbed toilets on yachts), networking and just hanging out and perserveering and trying. If interested google "yacht crew agencies"

Also this isn't cooking like you are trained in school. It takes a different set of skills (Organization and NEATNESS above all, also you are cooking something different everyday and it isn't always "haute cusine".

Good luck.
"Just can't wait to get on the road again."
Willie Nelson
"Just can't wait to get on the road again."
Willie Nelson
post #11 of 16
Thread Starter 
big thanks to everyone who replied. thank you so much for the help. it is really my sister's dream to become a chef (and so is the whole family's dream for her). :)
post #12 of 16
Okay, let's all understand this. The title "Chef" is truly a term of respect. Really, we are all cooks; but with enough experience one can obtain the title of "Chef". No one goes to Chef School, we go to school to learn how to cook.
post #13 of 16
I went to culinary school and took out $35,776 in student loans to do it and it took me 42 months to pay it all back following the Dave Ramsey Plan. Real Debt Help - Get out of debt with Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover Plan. The trick is to not be stupid. Don't get yourself further in debt on credit cards, car loans etc.
post #14 of 16
Wash Dishes. Bus Tables. Work somewhere that cooks food that you would want to learn how to prepare. Do whatever you can to get in the door. Pick up what you can while doing other tasks. Volunteer some time to help prep, no smart chef is going to deny free labor. Yeah, you'll have to do some less than enjoyable tasks, but the key to being a successful chef, whatever your definition , is the passion and drive to commit yourself to what should be a lifelong journey. Taking the initiative , will be noticed. Sure, you could go to school, but the cheap schools don't provide adequate skills, and the exclusive schools are highly competitive and costly. Find a chef that you like, talk to them about food, tell them why your interested, and maintain your interest. I've always found that the best employees are the ones who really want to be there and I think most employers recognize that as well. You're young, and have a whole life to learn about food, get out there and explore.
post #15 of 16
The Institute of Culinary Education in New York has a workstudy program. That is how i paid for my schooling. basicly this is the gist of it>

you work 1400 hours for them and your schooling, books, tools, are all free. no loans or out of pocket money.

Now here is the catch. This is set up like a real job. you have to work 4 shifts a week and you can do overtime. It usually takes the average person about 6 to 8 months to work off the whole 1400 hours.

I did it and i loooved it. The work you actually do at the school benefits you in your studies. You basicly set up classes for the chefs. pull ingredients and you also get to assist in classes.
post #16 of 16
oh yeah and after school i hired myself out as a personal chef. I basicly placed an ad in the paper ALOT of people called me. and just from doing that as a side job with 4 clients i was making an extra 500 to 700 dollars a week.
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