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So, You're Thinking of Culinary School - Page 2

post #31 of 45
As long as you're getting your feet wet [and hands dirty!] and you feel comfortable,keep doing what you're doing!

Chicago is a great eating town...well,a great town overall.I miss it sometimes because Atlanta is tiny by comparison...but has better BBQ than Chicago:lol:

Thank god Giordano's does FedEx Next Day delivery of a true pan pizza;I get one every year to remind me what REAL pizza tastes like:lips:

Last bit of advice in my coffee-fueled state: don't feel badly if you move around a bit,meaning if you don't spend a year or two years at one place.As you get further into your career,you'll find that you may have learned all you can from one place [or you see you're not moving up] and it's time to move on.

My personal rule was as soon as I was on auto-pilot and not being challenged,I was already scheduling a stage at another place and ready to leave.
But if you get into a hotel,by all means,stay at least a full year.It can be crazy,annoying,maddening,exhausting...but you will learn a lot!
"Sometimes people can be oh so dense"

The Pixies
"Sometimes people can be oh so dense"

The Pixies
post #32 of 45
People keep saying that school is a waste and to just go in and get a job, but wouldnt I be wasting their time if I didn't know how to carmalize an onion and they have to stop everything to teach me.

I saw culinary school as a base. Just like law school is a base for a lawyer. Of couse he is going to learn so much more after working in the field for a year but school got him prepared for the next step in learning.

I havent started school yet and I was very excited until I came to this board and found everyone saying I am ignorant and wasting my time and money.
post #33 of 45
Culinary school is a good way to start a career in the kitchen, and chances are you will be adequately prepared for a position in a decent restaurant upon graduation, but school is not the only way.

Some of the best chefs started off as a dishwasher with no previous culinary experience. Somebody saw it as a worthwhile time investment to pull the dishwasher aside, show him how to slice and caramalize onions, and work from there.

Some of the best people I have had the pleasure of working with are the dishwashers. We crosstrain the dishwashers that are really interested in learning on basic banquet prep. Teach them how to plate salads and desserts for 250 people, teach them something new the next time.

With all that being said, you are going to come across ALOT of negative people in this industry. People are always going to complain, people are always going to try to bring you down. Some of them just dont like the idea of brushing down the grill at 12 am and then sweeping and mopping. There is alot of hard work and dedication that goes into maintaining a successful career in this industry, some just aren't willing to put in the work. Ignore the negativity, do not get distracted.
post #34 of 45
I have enjoyed reading all the debates and such on this thread. I can say that wokring in a kitchen is a very interesting experiance, and way differant that TV or other forms of media could ever describe it. In the time I have worked in resturaunts, I have leaned that most great cooks and chefs work very hard, and keep difficult hours. Doesn't seem that there are too many industries that would require someone to be cleaning a kitchen at 10:30 at night, when they have to be back at 5 to open it back up. Since I have been working at the Lodge (about 2 and a half months) I have become addicted to caffeine, haha.

I work for the State, so I am sure my jobs look at prestige and experiance is much differant than in the "real world". Oddly enough, getting a good job for the state has nothing to do with WHAT you know, just with WHO you know. We had a head chef who worked his way up from being a bus boy, and became the best chef in Kentucky, who later was forced into retirement because he crossed the wrong people's paths (he has a tendancy of cussing out people in very high positions). His son has been working there for 10 years, and is a cook. He knows just as much/more about cooking than anyone I have ever met, but, because of who's son he is, may never advance to being a chef (although, if he were anyone else's son, he would be the head chef of a state park now).

On the flip side of that example, our current Assistant Chef, who has assumed the duties of the head chef for quite some time while the state was looking for someone qualified enough, worked all his life for commercial resturaunts and has a 4 year degree in Geology (yes, rocks!). He is not a very great cook. In fact, when he started less than a year ago, he did not even know how to make a rue! (Butter+flour... Difficult?) However, since he knows the right people, he got right in as the asst. chef.

Just remember though, ambition and hard work seem to be the most important factors in culinary from what I can tell, especially if you are working from a low position. I was once told "You can teach anyone to cook, but you can't teach them to work".
post #35 of 45
Yes,school is a base and yes,it is up to YOU to decide where you go from there.Just keep in mind the dismal statistics that only 10% of grads will still be in the profession 5 years after graduation.They will tell you that in school and it's true.

Look,as other posters have said in one way or another,there is no set formula for success..and it also depends on your definition of success.It can be a simple matter of being in the right place at the right time,who you know,who you've worked with or years of busting your butt and not getting any's just the way it goes.

I have seen people who are ACF Certified and who were some of the worst cooks/managers I have ever seen;they just happened to pay their fee and pass the test..and then there are people who have no formal training,but could run circles around everyone in the kitchen because of their natural affinity for the profession.Not everyone is cut out to do this;I've been in it 18 years and trust me,I've seen them come and go.

I read in another post of yours that you are going to LCB;I went to the one here in ATL and here's an interesting tidbit for you: there was an ad in the paper a couple of weeks ago that they were hiring administation positions [the folks who get you to sign on the dotted line] and the starting pay was $35,000 plus incentives [commission for each new student].They will make just under $10,000 more than the tution they are charging students.

It's scary to think that some person in an office is going to make MORE money [by a few thousand dollars!] than a sous chef at Ritz-Carlton just by convincing future students to sign up.It's a business.

But I also noticed that they are being slightly more truthful in their tv commercials [no tv ads when I went there,and it sickened me to see the ads after I graduated] where after they say "Do you want to be a chef,pastry chef or professional caterer?" that they put on the screen in small letters "Some positions may require more training and experience" because people walk in there thinking you graduate with "Chef" on the don't,because you aren't.
"Sometimes people can be oh so dense"

The Pixies
"Sometimes people can be oh so dense"

The Pixies
post #36 of 45
How very true. And....There is no such thing as immediate success. Many of the folks that you see out there in the spotlight have been at it for years. It really sickens me the way most feel that because they have invested a short amount of time at something they "deserve" a life's long effort in rewards. Not very many see it over-night and I question those that do. It's kinda like watching someone taste something. Even before they have the friggen fork out of their mouth they exclaim how friggen wonderful the dish is. Taste at the speed of light! Phhtttt!!!! I don't know about most but my taste buds must have a slower reaction time than those. So then some "who's who wanna be” exclaims that this day/week/month/year "so in so at such and such" is the greatest and a "Flash in the pan " is born. So...... Where are they now? I know this sounds jaded, vague and more like a borderline malcontent but..... You can't enter this thing called cooking with expectations for the stars when you haven't yet "earned" the ability to reach the sky. That is why the statistic is only 10%. Personally I believe it takes allot of commitment, honesty, commitment, consistency, commitment, determination, commitment, patience, commitment, integrity, commitment, perseverance and commitment. By the way did I say COMMITMENT!

Okay, I'm starting to get more into a rant than anything else so...... Culinary School is a great "stepping stone" and should be taken advantage as such. Although it is not necessary it does provide a good base of some of the how and why as well as basic technique to build on.
post #37 of 45
Thank you 3 for your posts. Very insightful. I think I had been getting defensive because it seemed as everyone was saying you cant do it but I get it now that you are saying it takes A LOT of work and determination. I get that. I had actually already anticipated it.

I worked my way from the bottom to nearly the top of the field that I am in now and am used to working 12-15 hour days 6-7 days a week and because I started this career right out of high school I guess in my mind I didnt realize there was another way to do things heh.

Again I appreciate everyones advice. So far I have decided to go to school in November, right now I just finished my first day as the new intern for Sweet-gems in Huntington Beach. GREAT Chef there and so awesome for giving me an opportunity! If you would like to check her out Sweet Gems: Custom Cakes and Confections.

If I hadnt come on these boards I dont think I would have thought to get an internship BEFORE school. so thanks to everyone for that. Now I have a place to go for my externship and maybe a job after school (if I dont mess it up haha)
post #38 of 45


I've been reading this thread with interest, and would just like opinions on my personal situation. I'm married to a sous chef, who just graduated back in Dec 06 from Conrad Hilton school of hotel and restaurant management at University of Houston. I have always been a "foodie", I love food, love to cook, collect cookbooks, always looking for new recipes and I have been struggling with finding the right career path. I've always thought it would be great to go into the culinary arts, but lacked confidence for a long time. I spent 3-4 years as a waitress, and learned to bartend on the job in New Orleans, which I took forward and became the head bartender at a private fine dining establishment. I have about 10 years experience in the food industry between waitressing and then bar tending at restaurants, mostly in the fine dining atmosphere. The catch is this: I'm 40 years old. I've only known my husband for 2 years, and we've only been married since February, and I have spent alot of time trying to do what would be commercially viable, ie working in an office which I've been doing for the past five years. I make $35,000 a year, have great benefits, and I am MISERABLE. I am a creative person and I can't stand pushing papers, sitting in front of a computer (unless it's at home for fun), I'm sick of answering phones and I want to work hours closer to my husband's. As it is, we rarely see each other. I've always wanted to cook, it's been a dream of mine, but as I say, I lacked the confidence for a long time, and didn't think I could afford to quit my job and go to school full time. My husband is making a decent salary as a sous chef actually, and he has ok benefits. He says if it's really what I want to do, then I can quit my job and start the culinary arts program at Houston community college in the spring semester, and just do something part time (preferably at a restaurant), and I really want to do this. Now that I know it's an option, I can't think of anything else. Is it too late for me? I am not looking to be famous or have unrealistic ideals about this, I just want to cook and I want to do it in fine dining. Is 40 too old to start? Any opinions on this would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading my long letter.

post #39 of 45
Pam- It's not too late. That said, you sound like you still have stars in your eyes.

Get yourself a part-time restaurant job BEFORE you quit your day job. Cooking professionally is hard physically demanding work. It hits career changers especially hard. You may find that its too much for you.

Professional cooking for the most part is not a creative job. The vast majority of us cooks are turning out the same plates night after night, producing someone else's masterpieces. Generally the only people who are allowed to be creative are managment. The rest of use just get yelled at if the micro-greens are on crooked.

Try looking into catering and personal cheffing, I think you might like them more. It's a lot more flexable then restaurant work.
post #40 of 45
Ok I have read this thread almost all the way through. I agree real world experience is the best to get to know what you want. I would say you really need to work the line for a while before spending any money. It is hard and dirty. You work hours that most people never imagine. You are working while people are sleeping. You might finish cleaning at midnight and turn around and open the next day. I have seen people come from good Culinary schools and not know the differences between Apples and Oranges. I have also seen some Dishwashers become the one of the best line cooks we have. So it is determination and motovation that will get your far. You may work for years for the same Chef and have helped him do almost everything and not get a thank you. The school that people go to have the best equipment and are really clean. The real world is you have some decent equipment but better make it work. I was at this dinner that my sister gets invited too. The people cooking for us were Seniors and Washington University. They were attractive so I started talking to them. We were talking about cooking and I started talking to them about experience. Neither of them had any outside the classroom experience. So we were discussing about equipment and ideas. Well I started telling them about the real world of cooking. Well both of their eyes lit up and they were looking at me like I was crazy. Well needless to say their head chef instructor did not like this at all. He came up to me and told me he would like a word with me. He pulled me to the side and told me these student were training to be personal chefs not restaurant cooks. So he would appreciate if I not talk to them about real kitchens. I laughed and agreed. He was a head chef at a country club before becoming an instructor so I am sure he has been through some kitchens where stuff did not work all that well and you had to make it do what you wanted. I just found it funny how he was tring to hide them from real life. He had them wrapped up in how school is and this is the same stuff you will be using in day to day cooking. So I kinda feel that schools put on a front for their students. I have been talked down to, had food thrown back at me and told replate this. I have worked from 10am-12am and turn around and open back up at 10am again. It is rough and I feel that I have become a better person for doing this rather than going straight to Culinary school. I know I love it and can not see myself doing anything else. I hope that people reading this make the right desisions. This career is not for eveyone but if it is for you it can be fun and very rewarding. My chef always told me you can train monkeys to cook but you have to have talent to become a sucessfull chef.
Simp :smoking:
post #41 of 45

Culinary School

First, this is a great site. I'm glad I found it. I'm heading to Chicago in a few weeks, where I'll be attending the School of Culinary Arts at Kendall College.

I was enrolled at the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago before, but after talking to quite a few people in the industry, not one of them seemed to like CHIC - which I took with a grain of salt - until all of them had mentioned Kendall. Besides, Kendall had the BA program, and that meant a lot.

As far as the sentiment that culinary schools aren't worth it, I think that's entirely objective. There are definitely two lines drawn in this industry of ours, and that's those who have learned in the kitchens, trial by fire - and those of us switching careers and going to culinary school. I don't think trying to dissuade people from attending cooking school is doing anyone any good. At least, if it's truly not for them after receiving their degrees they have that, which will potentially help them if they must change careers. Academic education is important, too. Perhaps we should try to get students to work in the industry as well while in school?

I believe it comes down to this: You get out what you put in. Period.

Personally, I have very little experience cooking, and I barely do it at home - just because I really don't know how. But now I experiement. Once I decided I wanted to learn this profession - this lifestyle - I began going to the store once a week, recognizing certain things and relishing this new passion.

I've picked up and read over a dozen Kitchen/Chef books in the past three months: All of Bourdain's books, Batali, Bill Buford and Jacques Pepin's books, Becoming A Chef and Page and Dornenburg's other books, Daniel Boulud's books, and several Michael Ruhlman books, and I've purchased my first cook book: Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook.

This is all very new to me, but somehow, almost quite supernaturally, as I told Mr. Ruhlman, this thing has found me. And I have to tell you, I haven't been this excited and passionate about something in a decade.

At first, I thought I was too old for this. I'm 29 going on forty, it feels like, and I was in a ****-job at a dealership, until I got hurt. And I'm not the most spiritual type of guy, but even that event seemed to make all this happen for me.

I start classes in September. I'll let you know how it goes. I'm currently emailing about five restaurants and bistros a day, and Italian places the next, and pizza or dog joints the next looking for a position - any position. Not having much luck yet, but that should change when I actually arrive in Chicago and can apply in person.

So I wish the rest of you culinary students all the luck in the world, I really do. You're going to succeed if you have a thick-hide and confidence in yourself and respect for everything!
post #42 of 45
Hope everything works out for you at kendall elton. The school really doesnt factor much into your success, it is more of what you put into it. Though if I had the choice again, I would have gone to Washburne where their AAS is in the $14 k range...

I graduated from CHIC and now am pursuing my BA in Hospitality Management at Kendall. I really cant think of a bad thing to say about the school. Maybe Ill see you around campus.
post #43 of 45
Yeah, RAS, that'd be cool. Good luck to you, too.

I was wondering if a BA in Culinary Arts was necessary in our industry to help me with what I want - which is my own restaurant someday down the line, but I'm coming to the realization that it's all about who you work for and where you work and what you learn.

So is this BA more for me? I'm starting to think so...
post #44 of 45
I was put in that position not too long ago when I decided to pursue education past my AAS.

Both the Illinois Institute of Art and Kendall offer BA's in both Culinary and Hosp. Management, but my ultimate decision was made because I felt that a BA in management is definitely more solid then a BA in culinary, considering I already have an AAS in culinary.

Im not sure if this may interest you, but Kendall offers a 2+2 AAS & BA program. Check the details with your admissions rep, but I believe that you take 2 yrs of Culinary and 2 yrs of management to ultimately give you an AAS in Culinary and a BA in F&B Management.

Again, best of luck, check in with us and keep us updated with your status.
post #45 of 45
I think that's exactly what I'm looking for. I guess I'll figure that out in a year or so...

I will let you know how it goes. It'll be my pleasure.
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