Oh my god.....I have SO much to say about this subject, but I'll try to keep it brief.
I went to a technical college for 2 years. One year was culinary arts, and one year was strictly pastry arts. This was 1990-2. My cost for both programs?
$3000. Yep. $3000.....not freaking $33,000.
My training was very rigorous, and I'm certain, after talking to a lot of grads from CIA, LCB, and Johnson and Wales, that my culinary/pastry training at the technical college was at least as good and thorough as theirs.
In fact, in my 17 years in this business, I have had to work with and hire culinary school grads. Even though I was a "grad" myself, I never entered the workforce with the grandioso attitude that grads seem to now. In fact my instructors at the technical college told us over and over again, that even though we had training in the field and had an edge over other applicants that had no training, we were, in effect, inexperienced pond scum. I entered the workforce with the attitude that I still had much more to learn, and there were experienced chefs out there that I should listen to, and that attitude has served me well. I've LEARNED A LOT....in fact EVEN MORE IN THE WORKFORCE, than I EVER DID IN SCHOOL. School was my stepping stone. I consider $3000 a reasonable price for a stepping stone. $33,000 most certainly is NOT.
Consider this recent experience I had. I was the sole pastry chef at a retail wholesale bakery/cafe operation. I desperately needed an assistant. We had to look for a LONG time to find someone with experience, because I didn't have the time (nor patience) to hire someone with no experience. Finally, out of the blue, we get an app from a girl who'd just moved up from California with her husband. She had recently graduated from the Cordon Bleu program down there. I was very happy to get someone with experience PLUS Cordon Bleu training! Hired her on the spot. Well. She was the biggest let down of my life. She happily told me she graduated at the top of her class. She also told me during conversations that the reps at Cordon Bleu gave her RIDICULOUS figures as to what kind of wages she could expect. My boss was paying her $12 an hour to start (which is very good for food biz wages in this rural area), and I was making exactly one more dollar than she was. I didn't tell her this though. She probably had the illusion that I was making $25 an hour or something.....ha ha.
She couldn't make meringue. Or chiffon cake. She didn't know how to be efficient or productive. Her ganaches were broken. Her eclairs collapsed. She overcooked the macaroons. Her cheesecakes cracked. She underbaked the creme brulees....consistently. She'd make a cup of tea, and sit there and sip on it while she watched her cream whip. Top of her class? Gimme a break!
Then after about a month or so she starts hinting to me that it was about time for her to get a raise. HUH????? That really set me off. I had just spent a month babysitting her, and helping her fix her mistakes and now she wants a RAISE? I finally told her that I made $13 an hour. You should have seen the look on her face. She went into some diatribe about how I was being taken advantage of and our bosses were the enemy and if we didn't get more money we should both just quit. I had to shake my head and laugh. She kept telling me that she had to pay off student loans and couldn't make it on $12 an hour. I told her that the LCB salespeople fed her a load of crap about wages in this business. I also said if she wanted bigger money, she'd have to move to a bigger city, because li'l ol' Port Hadlock isn't gonna pay her what she needs. Well, she finally quit (with no notice of course), and left me holding the ball. She wrote a nasty email to my boss about what a cheap ogre he was, and that he should be nicer to me. She apologized to me about leaving with no notice, but that must made me madder, and totally soured me on LCB grads. Of course, I know they're not all like that, but my view of them is tainted forever.
I guess the point of this post is that you can gain the skills you need without spending all that money. Really. The SMARTEST thing you can do if you want to change careers, is take a few courses, or a moderately priced program at a local community college or trade school. Then get your *** in the workforce, where you'll REALLY learn something, and TRULY find out if this is the career for you. Because places like Cordon Bleu don't give you the accurate experience of what being in a real working kitchen is REALLY like (that's probably why they make you do an externship).
Epilogue: I now have an assistant who rocks my world. She never went to culinary school, but she is fast, knows what she's doing, and can even do some things better and faster than I. She spent 22 years in the food biz, doing a lot of different things and it shows. She never spent one cent for her education; rather, she got paid to learn. She also possesses the brains, the energy, and the work ethic to bring it all together.
Ok, so maybe this wasn't so brief, but what I say really should be considered seriously. Honestly, $33,000 for a culinary education is a rip-off. :mad: