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is this worth it

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
i am in the process of doing finaicial aid right now togo to culinary school and i have two questions for any professional who actually are in a working kitchen not catering:

1. i have to choose between two school and it is a matter of moving from philadelphia to pittsburg; i am looking at the art institute of philadelphia and the pennsylvania culinary school, which is lcb. now i was lead to believe by the recruiter from pci that the lcb certificate was pretty much worth it's weight in gold and the only way to get a decent paying job after graduation. i then spoke to an extreamly succsessful chef who said that the american lcb certificate means basically nothing and it is "nothing more than a marketing tool for a second rate school" basically go to the art institue and don't move out there for nothing. is this true?

2. i'm sorry but being on these boards is extreamely discouraging. it seem like no one has nothing complimentary to say about the profession or the industry. the only thing i have read so far is how terribly hard it is, the hours suck, the executive chefs are difficult to work with, and the pay is horrible.....................but i love it. c'mon i know it's a very romantic thing to talk about having passion for what you do through diversity, but let's be realistic. i am about to take out $50k in loans and relocate to do something i truely love to do. i want to be happy when i get out. i don't want to live from pay check to pay check. believe me i have no delusions of gradure like i am coming out to a show on food network and a six digit salary. but i don't want to come out of school in the hole and be misrable either. at that point why don;t i just go into a med tech career starting at $40k on the low end. do that for ten years and then open a catering buisness.............i mean is this worth it????????????????
post #2 of 5
Hello dumsterkitty, I answered your questions the best I could in this thread.


Keep in mind that this is just my perspective, what works for me might not necessarily work for you.
post #3 of 5
Ah, the perennial question. Unfortunately there is no simple answer to it.

Hypothetically let's say there are 2 schools: one costs $50K and lasts a year the other costs $20K and goes for 6 months and let us suppose that the more expensive school gives you a much more in depth education than the second.

The person going to the first school is going to rack up a lot of debt to pay back from a pretty low salary, relatively speaking. But they do have that in depth knowledge.

The person going to the 2nd school doesn't have the same depth of knowlege but they are out in half the time, earning a salary and with fewer debts. And in the second 6 months that the first person is still at school the second person is gaining that all important field experience.

So, which is better value for money? It would seem the lower cost school but I have heard it said that the more in depth knowledge gained at the first school lets the graduate climb faster up the ladder to the better paying jobs. Fast enough to better paying jobs to pay off those horrendous loans while you are still young enough to enjoy life? Well that's the question isn't it?

No simple answer.

post #4 of 5
Before you sign anything or plunk down a single cent, please please please please please check out your local vo-techs. Despite what the food network would have everyone believe, cooking is a trade, and it pays poorly for that as well.

I can tell you as a vo-tech culinary school grad that I make the same hourly wage with no health insurance or time off as the other cooks with equivalent experience but from expensive private schools. They're all stressed out about their debt, and I'm not, because I don't have any. Any difference in knowledge and quality of output between us has everything to do with our personalities and how we learn, and nothing to do with our pedigrees.

I also keep hearing how an expensive degree helps open doors via networking, but frankly that's not been an issue for me. I've gotten into all the fine dining restaurants I've worked so far just by asking and trailing; they saw I loved food and was a sober and responsible person, and that was that. Maybe Seattle is different from other cities, but I doubt it's -that- different.

After school, it matters a lot more that you have a good work ethic, you take criticism well (and there is a lot of it in kitchens!), are teachable and eager to learn, and will Haul! ***! But in a controlled manner of course, as opposed to chaos on a stick! :lol:

Catering as you mentioned does pay better, but it's also a very different beast. I could make more doing catering, but I've done enough gigs to know I'd be miserable doing it as a full time job. It's all platters of fruit and cheese and meats on sticks chosen for their holding durability, same for the entrees. I've noticed the people who thrive in catering are the ones who take pleasure in organization and workflow, and have a good aesthetic eye for throwing just the right party to make the customer happy. If that's what draws you, why not trail with a catering company and see what they're like? And it's the busy season now, so it should be really easy to land temp gigs with them.

Basically, a good culinary school will help you learn stuff faster via exposure to knowledge and technique, but only if that's the kind of learning environment which suits you. Everything else is up to you, and you start at the bottom just like the rest of us. Me personally, when I see $50k, all I can think of is all of the food traveling and staging I could do on that.

On a practical level, seriously think about whether or not you can live on 20 - 24k for the next few years of your life, as well as the gruelling nature of the work itself. I'm in rent-controlled housing, so it's easier/luckier for me, but I also lead a really low maintenance lifestyle. No car, no cable, no drink/smoke/drugs. Suits me fine, but might not suit others. And I also struggle with lack of health insurance.

post #5 of 5

Be sure you really want to do this,dumsterkitty!

Culinary schools are a business;the admin staff gets commission for all they sign up.I went to LCB and yes,they are using the name and loosley following the curriculum from the original in Paris...marketing,marketing,marketing.

Tech school,Art Institute,LCB...there is still only less than 10% of grads still in the business 5 years after graduating.It's kind of like how there are more people in law school than there are positions for lawyers.

As what the other posters have said,it's about what you put into school and up to the individual as to how far they go...but everyone has a different idea of success and there is no set formula for it.You could kill yourself for years or just happen to be in the right place at the right time right out of school...there are no gaurantees.

And before I got into catering,I was line cook/lead cook/asst.sous/kitchen manager/ for 17 years since you didn't want to hear from caterers...:).Don't think for one minute that catering is "easier",because in some ways it's harder!

I work for one of the largest catering companies in the SouthEast and my locale is on-site in a convention center.We are nothing more than a large restaurant that can serve up to 20,000 people in one day and all of it is food to be proud of. We do intricate plate-ups,not just slopping food in hotel pans and putting it on a buffet table.Don't judge what you don't understand or haven't done yourself.

And a catering business IS a "working kitchen";you have to have a kitchen,equiptment,pass all inspections,regulations,etc.You can't just make stuff out of your home and sell it [illegal].It may sound easy to say "Oh,I'll just open a catering business";it can be even longer hours than a "working kitchen" [I think you mean "full-service"] and it's no easy feat.I was a partner in one and I got out because I was averaging one full day off every two and a half weeks and it was HARD.
"Sometimes people can be oh so dense"

The Pixies
"Sometimes people can be oh so dense"

The Pixies
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