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Which Culinary Art School in CA?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
I know there's a lot of threads already for which schools are good and so forth, but I haven't seen in schools mentioned that are in California (maybe because there aren't any?).

A bit about myself: I have no clue of how culinary art schools should be like, how to tell the difference between a "money-making" school versus a "true" culinary art school.
I'm in the LA area and decided I have to start somewhere so I requested info from CSCA (california school of culinary arts; le cordon bleu PROGRAM). Got a response really quickly and went on a tour around campus with an administration person.
Overall everything sounded okay. There were times where he sounded like a recruiter: interested in getting my other family members that I mentioned were also interested in patisserie to go to the school. Tuition is really high compared to the other schools I've been reading about in this forum. The little reviews I could find on the school were not good at all.
I talked to some of the students currently going there and they all seemed to like it a lot (so mixed reviews).
The recruiter, I mean admin. person kept asking me when I was going to apply towards the end of the tour/Q and A session. They couldn't tell me any statistics in terms of enrollment, loan default rate (to gage how successful their graduates are), acceptance rate, etc.

How do I tell which schools are recruiting schools and which are "true" schools? I thought the "le cordon bleu" program would mean that the school is pretty prestigious but I've been reading that it's a bit "out dated"
to do so.

HELP!! I really really want to go to culinary art school. BUT WHICH ONE?
post #2 of 15
Go to the one that you most feel comfortable with. This is the advice I woulda given myself several years ago before springing for a LCB program because they had blinded me with hype. Recruiters make an overwhelming amount of money to "bait & fish" prosperous students like you in, and they will say just about anything (even if it was made up and/or exaggerated slightly).

Keep your budget and goals in mind when selecting. Do not buy into "prestige" or "hype" as neither are much of a bargaining chip to getting a nice job. The jobs you get, how long you keep them, how much they pay, and how quickly you move up is dependent on you, not the school.

Best of luck in your endeavors
post #3 of 15
All schools will have recruiters or some such title and it will be their job to get you to sign on the line and get money committed. Many if not most will do or say anything to achieve that end as RAS1187 has indicated.

Look for longevity i.e. how long have they been teaching cooking at that location?

This particular line of questioning can be tricky and somewhat meaningless, because many people are excellent instructors/teachers as well as excellent cooks/bakers without being certified, but I would still ask the recruiter these kinds of questions. What credentials do the cooking instructors have? Are they certified chefs? Are any of them certified master chefs? What areas of cuisine do they represent? Here you would be looking for things like French, Italian so to speak, Mediterranean, Latin, Carribean, Asian etc, etc. The idea here is that you want to know if you are learning about foods and flavors from around the world or are you just learning some foundational cooking techniques.

The Culinary Institute of America, more commonly know as CIA in hte cooking worls has a school in California. Do the same sort of thing with them that you did with the other school and then find out about some of the other schools in California and visit several just as you have done once already. Ask lots of questions, which you should have written done and take notes on the answers you recieve. After each visit, write a summary of the visit and your impression of the school. When all the visits are done and written about, forget about it for a week. Then go back to your writings and read what you wrote about each school. You will most likely find in your writings which school you are most comfortable with. After that keep RAS1187's comments in mind regarding success in the field...."is dependent on you, not the school"
post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thank you both so much. I'm not familiar with the cooking industry and thus am not aware if schooling makes a difference in the outside world.

I'm in the dental field now and know there are certain tech schools that offer a dental program, but amongst the dental world, everyone knows that that tech school doesn't teach you anything and only eats your money. So I'm wondering if the same thing applies to culinary art schools.

I feel more confident in choosing a school based off of the previous replies. THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

I will definitely look into the culinary institute of america school.

Q: do you think the reviews I've been finding online (i.e. Yelp) are an accurate representation of the school? Or does EVERY school have a bunch of negative reviews? So far I've found A LOT of negative reviews for california art institute in LA and CSCA in pasadena.

I'm scared because you usually don't know how well a school is until you start attending. I hope I can try to avoid that mistake and know before I get admitted and waste LOANED money.
post #5 of 15
Yes the same thing applies to culinary schools as you are are aware of with dental programs.

Any school is going to have plenty of negative comments on websites such as Yelp. People who are mad or upset are the ones who tend to "vocalize" their feelings. People who were satisfied with what they got out of the school usually have nothing to "yelp" about.

All of this is why it is so important to do the research and hopefully find a school you are comfortable with. Every one of them is out to get your money which is fine, but you have to get what you want out of the school as well.
post #6 of 15
It couldn't hurt just to walk by the school and ask any current students their opinions. Usually you will get brutally honest feedback about what is good/bad.

I may have turned a few people away from my school from my brutal honesty when asked in person, but I would rather that then they make a mistake in attending a school that doesn't fit them.
post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 
Both replies are very helpful.

If you don't mind me asking. Where did the both of you attend culinary art school? Do you know of anyone attending culinary school in CA?
post #8 of 15
I went to the LCB school in Chicago, The Cooking & Hospitality Institute of Chicago (aka CHIC). It is not a bad school, but it is not a really great one either. I would have done more research so that I could make a smarter decision for my money if I could go back to the past.

And sorry, I don't know anybody attending school in CA.
post #9 of 15
I didn't attend culinary school. My education and training is in health care but my heart really is in food. I did work in restaurants and a bakery and eventually I had my own bakery for a while. I had wanted to go to CIA in Hyde Park back in the very early '80's but it just wasn't in the cards for me. One of my daughters graduated from CIA in Hyde Park. I'm drawn to CIA like a moth is to a light :D Looking back on life, I wish I would have put all the effort I put into healthcare, into the culinary arts--particularly baking and pastry. Although I do like cooking as well.
post #10 of 15
Thread Starter 
OMG! You sound just like me JBD! With the whole healthcare and being especially interested in baking and pastry AND I want to open my open pastry shop one day too.

It's inspiring to know that even though you start with a completely different background and haven't had formal training that it's still possible to successfully open a pastry shop of your own. Thank you. :D

Do you mind if I ask how you did it? Built the confidence in opening your own shop with no formal experience? (even though I know it's not required inorder to open your own shop).

I'm thinking if I don't attend a formal institution, I could take community college courses that I've been seeing on baking and pastry, nutrition, etc. Would either of you say those courses are just as good?

And Ras1187 do you think if you hadn't attend LCB you would have done just as well as you are now knowing what you know? Have all your other colleagues had formal training as well?

THANK YOU BOTH AGAIN for taking the time to answer my many questions.
post #11 of 15
I have a feeling that no matter what school I ended up in, I would have a foundation of basics to build up on, but I could have done it for alot less money.

My kitchen is full of CHIC grads. The former chef, former sous chef, current chef, current asst. sous chef, and 2 of 5 PM cooks I work with all graduated from there. The general consensus is what I already stated, wished they had looked at other options before committing 45k to help pay off that intense marketing program that LCB schools have.
post #12 of 15
This is my third attempt to reply so this will be short. Lots of self study and practice. Also I worked for almost three years at a bakery that did everything from scratch working with a baker who had been there for over 30 years and had never known any other job. I learned so much from him.
post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thank you both very much! I appreciate the time you both have put in to answering my questions in detail.

I will take everything told to me and hopefully pick the best school for me with no regrets! :roll:
post #14 of 15
Good luck with your research and keep us posted on your findings. Keep in mind that there are a lot of knowledgeable, experienced people here on cheftalk so feel free to ask any questions you come up with while researching schools and other learning options.
post #15 of 15

I suggest that you check ShawGuides, for a community college in California. Otherwise, check out ACF's Apprenticeship Program, California. Good luck. chef.gif

Edited by TheUnknownCook - 12/16/10 at 1:20pm
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