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making the right choice about a culinary education

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
okay, so here's the deal. i've just been accepted into a culinary program that i believe to be very reputable, but there's so much contradictory information out there about culinary education in general that i wanted to see if anyone at cheftalk is familiar with the institution and its practices.

i speak relatively fluent french, so le cordon bleu program was an obvious first choice for me. the next step was to find an upper-crest culinary school that offered le cordon bleu program. for a laundry list of reasons that i'm not going to bother entering, the texas culinary academy seemed like my best bet, and i have been accepted and now have a spot reserved in 2008 to earn my AAS degree in the culinary arts.

i have a few questions for anyone who can or is willing to answer:

have you attended tca? are you presently attending? do you know anyone who is presently a student or has been in the past? (preferably the culinary arts degree, not patisserie) how would you rate the experience, and based on what factors?

do you know anything about the experience or caliber of instructing chefs? the quality of resources and tools available?

what about reputation of the institution on paper? i already have a few years of cooking experience, and know a caterer in austin for whom i plan to work while in school (which i think will be good experience to gain), but would like to know how recognizable a program is when i'm about to go into a horrific amount of debt to attend.

there is a top ten culinary school about an hour or so away that (if accepted) i could attend for half the price. however, i have no qualms with paying double the price so long as it's worth it. finances are a big deal, but not ultimately the deciding factor in terms of where i earn my education.

so, if anyone wants to offer any advice, thoughts, information, etc. on austin, the texas culinary academy, le cordon bleu program, or the value of an associate's degree over a certificate in said courses, i would be so very grateful.

i just want to make sure that i make the best informed decision that i can, so that i don't mess up what could potentially be the best life decision i've ever made.

thanks in advance,

post #2 of 10
you might want to check out le cordon bleu in pittsburgh i work with alot of people who went to that school and they know alot.
post #3 of 10
sorry for the short anwser earlier, i got a certificate and not an associates degree, theres not much difference between the two, I dont think i did bad by just getting a certficate it wouldnt make much difference to me weither it was an associates or not. The only thing i wish is if i could go get a bachelor's degree, which i probably will someday. Just wondering what the school in your area is in the top 10 in the country? to me i wouldnt spend the money to move away, especialy to a le cordon bleu school, not that there bad, but, and i could be wrong but i would think all North america le codon schools would be about the same. Also if you choose the le cordon because you speek french i dont know but wouldnt think you'll use a lot of it at the school.
post #4 of 10
To be brutally honest,

I do not seriously believe the reputation of the (lcb) school will give you enough of an advantage to justify paying the extra money for.

No matter what school, someone is going to have something bad to say about it, each has their own pros & cons. You should look more into how these pros & cons fit with you and your career path.

I graduated from a LCB school. I seriously try to think about why I did not go to the city college for 1/3 of the price. I have had no bargaining power with employers that read it on my resume, some actually get turned off because of bad experiences with prior students.

Summed up, go to the school that best fits you; dont go to a LCB school just because it is a LCB school.
post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 
well, there are a lot of other contributing factors leading me to this school, but since you graduated from LCB program, i was wondering

did your campus have restaurants where each student worked every role at least once? i was wondering if that was a part of LCB's trademark, or if it was something adopted by the school itself.
post #6 of 10

Regarding Culinary School

I attended Le Cordon Bleu in Mendota Heights MN and regret it. The school administration lied at orientation about the curriculum and what ingredients the students would be utilizing. They mentioned ingredients such as truffles as well as seasonal produce and other fine ingredients, none of which were provided. The only truffle that they had was stored in a rusty can and no one was allowed to touch it. As far as the promise of other ingredients, well my fellow classmates and I were lucky if there was a whole carrot to fight over. They also have some rather lax rules on fraternization with student teacher relations. I had to drop out and divorce my wife after one of the schools gen ed teachers had an affair with her at my house while I was not at home. The school said that because it did not involve the student themselves then there was nothing they could do about it and I was treated like a pariah after I complained about it even after showing proof of their meeting from emails. Now I have student loans to pay down and nothing to show for it. This I realize does not reflect the entire chain of Le Cordon Bleu schools but I know that they are strictly a business school that offers accelerated courses at a high price tag. Your best bet is to keep applying at the best restaurants even if you get hired on as a dishwasher. This is how the best in the business got their start and no chef I have met since my mistake at culinary school attended school themselves. They became interested in becoming chefs after they found it to be their calling and then became certified through the American Culinary Federation which has many certifications in specialized areas. Culinary school will only cost you a ton of money, (anywhere from 30k to 40k and more) and you will not be certified in anything when for far less money you can take a certification test through the ACF to become a Certified Culinarian. This would be enough on a resume to show employers that you are serious about working in fine dinning. You will have to google ACF because I cant post links yet. For the amount of money you would spend on culinary school you could take several certifications through ACF. My advice is don’t waste your money on culinary school. Get out there and get the job experience, keep applying at the places you want to work. Don’t stop bugging them, soon you will get in the door.
post #7 of 10
Well it seems someone just had a bad experience from a culinary school.

Yes my school had a restaurant that each student rotated around completely from FOH to BOH. This is not an exclusice LCB thing, as just about every other school that I know of is doing the same thing or something similar. While these classes do not completely transfer that "real-life restaurant experience" to the students, it is a good first step.
post #8 of 10

It's just a bad idea all around, some call it a scam.

Yes it was a bad experience and I’m not just speaking for myself. The culinary industry is a world of experience and hard work. It is one of the last bastions of true apprenticeship very much like carpentry or masonry. The current trend of tech and business schools opening up culinary programs is geared for one specific purpose and that is to make money. I don’t just speak for myself but dozens of others who have attended culinary schools and still have the same trouble getting their foot in the door at places they thought they could have had a chance at after attending school. If you really want to get some kind of degree then the best option in the culinary field is to attend classes at a community college or university for business. This not only will prepare one for the business side of the culinary world but as well be a valuable degree if one decides to move their career elsewhere. You can’t do that with what you get from a culinary program therefore you are ultimately painting yourself in a corner with a huge student loan payment. This is not just a jaded rant it is sound financial advice. Out of the many people I know who have attended culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu, St. Paul Tech, and the Art Institute of Minneapolis have serious laments about how they obtained this piece of paper from these schools only to find that they can’t afford the loan payments on what they get paid as a culinarian working at a chain restaurant. The simple fact is that the job market does not pay enough for the amount you spend on culinary school. My advice is that you do not attend culinary school; you will only be wasting piles of money. Again if you really want an education to back up your culinary career then you should obtain a degree in business. After all what is a restaurant? It’s a business. Culinary school will never properly prepare you for the business side of the restaurant if all they have to offer is accelerated classes. Most all of the standard curriculum offered by a culinary program has one class for restaurant management that normally lasts 6 to 8 weeks. If you have no prior education past high school in economics or business then this class will be an utter waist of time and most importantly, money. My experience with Le Cordon Bleu only highlighted the reality that the school did not care one bit about the student and only seemed to care about money. This was displayed by their lack of integrity in not resolving the moral issue caused by one of their teachers and then hiding behind a policy put in place only to protect their business. What is that business? Getting suckers like you and me to pay them money for a program that in the end is not worth the time or the effort. I say this only after watching many others make the same mistake I made. So believe me when I tell you this; your culinary career will be much better off if you do not attend a culinary school.
post #9 of 10
Cooking in North America is a strange business. I see and applaud the newcomer to this industry who wants to go about gaining credentials in a logical manner, but this is not possible.

Cooking is not a recognized trade or profession in N. America, there are no national standards or benchmarks. If you look at this site, the topic of "What is a Chef/What is a cook?" comes up frequently. There is no set definition of what a Chef is.

So my question is for the schools that offer Culinary Instruction is: How do accredit a trade that isn't recognized? How do you design a curriculum when there are no benchmarks or national standards? For the person who studies the culinary school curriculums, they are frequently confused, and with good reason, because each school's curriculm is completly different, each school has different ideas of what a "Chef" is and how to attain this position, and what a "cook" is, and each school's diplomas are not recognized by other schools, and sometimes not even by the industry.

Bottom line is, for eduction in all culinary matters, anything goes--as long as you learn it right. When looking for employment, experience is trump, not eduction.
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #10 of 10


I posted this fascinating and quite negative article about an LCB in another thread, but I'll repost it here since this thread is right on topic!

I am a CC student and we run a restaurant too... not only that, but also a cafeteria, off-site catering and a full-service bakery. All students are rotated thru all areas, and many opportunities exist to participate in various extra events. From what I've seen of the local LCB, there are not nearly as many opportunities of this nature.
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