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help a student decide

post #1 of 6
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 6
My advice to you is to read back in the student forums regarding what Professional Chefs and Chef Instructors think about spending $50,000+ on an education. You may find some information that helps you make a more informed decision.

And as everyone else after me will probably tell you, DO NOT GO TO SCHOOL UNLESS YOU'VE WORKED IN A KITCHEN. I say that emphatically because it's very easy to eat in restaurants, make a nice meal at home, and watch the Food Network and come to the conclusion that "cooking would be fun." Cooking is great, but once you enter the commercial kitchen, you are not "pursuing your passion." It's a job. A career, in rare cases. However, if you have no concept of the grueling pace, conditions, and hours not to mention the extensive effort required FIRSTHAND (from working 1 year or more in a commercial setting), your liikelihood of failing or quitting is sadly very high.

Think about that before you shell out $50K.
post #3 of 6
1.) A LCB diploma is worth as much as any other equvilant diploma from any school (believe me, I have one), do not fall for the marketing ploy that it will give you leverage for a better-paying job. Employers want somebody that can get the job done right, they could care less what school you came from (if you went to school). Pretty much any culinary AAS program is going to provide you the same (or relatively similar) amount of information, whether it be from LCB or any other non-branded school.

2.) The boards are somewhat discouraging, but not for the sake of being discouraging. There are alot of decisions and sacrifices that need to be made for the sake of maintaining a job in this industry. Some people are not aware or underestimate how much they will have to give up in order to be truly successful here, and those that already are in the industry want people to fully understand what theyre getting into before they commit. The hours are long, forget about weekends and holidays, the work is intense, and I think my annual income currently caps a whopping 24k (after investing double that in school).

This is just how life is for me (and several others im sure). Going to bed at 1am and waking up at 6am to get to school. Alot of people would consider this insanity, but I personally wouldnt have it any other way.
post #4 of 6
Read Daniel Boulud's Letters to a Young Chef- good advice from a huge culinary figure who has truly risen from the ranks
post #5 of 6
Ok let me break it down for you. When you get a lead position the hours are long and hard. You will spend most of that time in small hot confined spaces with macho aggressive opinionated mostly male cooks (think navy). Depending on which kitchen you work in roughly about one third to one half of the people you work with might not speak English as their first language. Drug use is high, divorce rates and relationship problems are high. You can bust your butt all night long and see a waiter walk away with three times the amount of money you made that night. You will go through periods when you will feel really burnt-out, and frustrated. You will come home with cuts, burns and really sore feet.

It takes a certain type of crazy person to want to do this but I love it like a close family member, and could not picture myself doing anything else without missing cooking. Its a romantic feeling is the only way I can describe it.

Im a lifer.
post #6 of 6
I don't think that it's wise to believe that any degree is worth its weight in gold- it's simply not true in the industry. School is useful and relevant, but I think you should work in a kitchen for a while before you make the financial commitment. Being obsessed helps, too! I get up at 4am, drive 90 minutes to school, come home and practice techniques in my own kitchen, then go to work- Monday thru Friday. My husband thinks I'm nuts, but I can't imagine doing anything else. Don't be discouraged! I don't think that the message boards are meant to be negative, just realistic. This is hard work- and Brianthecook is right- testosterone is prevalent, anf if you're a woman I suggest getting a thick skin and a sharp wit. Take some Community College classes, so a few stages, then see what yo uthink.
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