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CIA vs FCI vs J&W vs Cornell

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Right, so it seems that these 4 schools are the top in culinary courses and hospitality (mainly Cornell for that). The problem is of course which to choose, in terms of both course and school.

All 4 schools are pretty darn expensive, so lets forget price for the moment and start with CIA.

CIA: Big, established and obviously so well known. Now ive heard TONS of stuff about it, both good and bad, but it seems like a pretty good place to go to if you just want a pure culinary course.

FCI: Same as CIA really, except maybe smaller, but from what ive read, its reputation is well earned and the its quite highly respected.

J&W: Seems to offer the most balanced as you can take culinary AND hospitality. Its also a university instead of just a pure cooking school/hotel management place. The issue of course, is it as good as the first two?

Cornell: No culinary courses, but they do have an exchange with the CIA for that part. Also a university and not just a cooking school, but would it be too business like for me as i prefer cooking?

These are my thoughts so far on the subject, and am having a very hard time too choose. Anyone else with any thoughts?
post #2 of 11
It's not the school , it;s the student and what he or she wants to learn. , and how they apply themselves
post #3 of 11
You've told us nothing about yourself and your background. Do you have restaurant experience of any kind, other than as a diner? Who is going to pay for your schooling and how old are you? What are your expectations?
post #4 of 11
Thread Starter 
Of course, sorry about that.

I'm thinking very much to be come a professionally trained chef, ive got a bit of part time experience in a few cafes and restaurants that total probably under 5 months. I'm 19 years old right now but ill be 20 by the time i finish my national service in the army and go to school then. I'm pretty passionate about food, in general, and i do enjoy cooking. During my time when i was working part time i did find it very tough though as most people would know about the F&B industry.

After talking to quite a few family members are just other people in general, they have advised me to go to take a hospitality course, probably in hotel management as it is seen as "safer" which i can see why. It makes sense, but looking at the curriculum as such from most hotel management schools (Cornell, Le Roche, etc) they all seem more business minded then anything else. I could be wrong of course, but it just seemed to financial orientated for me then anything else, and not something that would have had enough of a F&B expereince that i wanted.

I'm saying money isn't a problem right now, not because i can easily afford either, i can't, but if i'm able to single out which school i think may be best for me based on course and merit, if money seems to be the biggest issue for me getting in, atleast i know which to go onto next. As it is, i think all 4 schools seem to be very roughly around the same price anyway.

Of course there's the other route as many have also mentioned, to go persue what you wish in perhaps a totally different field and just start from the bottom like many others being a commis/busboy or whatever and training through hard work and determination. To be fair, i'm gonna admit and say that ive grown up with a pretty good life, and after knowing what its like to go out and work part time and being in the army, i'm more then ready to jump back into school then go straight to work again.

So as it is, right now i'm torn between these four, i'm not excatlly quite sure what i want, i just now that i think the best would be something to do in the F&B industry, whether its managing a restaurant or cooking as a chef.

Thanks for any advice given.
post #5 of 11
That's a little scary.

My recommendation would be to pursue another field, or at least get a little more experience before spending money on a culinary education.
You don't sound like you are ready for the hard work this field demands.
You will not come out of school "a Chef".
You will have to work hard to achieve that.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
post #6 of 11

Based on the schools you are looking at, I have to assume you are on the East coast. Am I correct?

Also, is it important to earn a degree? If so, I am under the impression that FCI does not offer a degree but is a well-respected program. If it doesn't matter, then it's a good option in NYC.

It's good that you have any experience working in cafes. If you love it after 5 months, you'll probably like it after 12 months. Lastly, the fact that you have military experience should help you. The military instills discipline. That is an extremely important trait to have to succeed in the industry.

Good luck to you.
See the truth about the culinary education industry at 
See the truth about the culinary education industry at 
post #7 of 11
It's great that you have some experience...the CIA usually requires 2 letters of recommendations and likes to see at least 6 months to a year of continuous experience. That being said ed buchanan really said it best
it's all UP TO YOU...
I go to a pretty reputable by no means is it the CIA or J&W but all those schools are charging for is their name. Half of the educators on my staff graduated from cooking schools in Europe or the Restaurant school and the other half are CIA graduates. Find a school with all the necessary qualifications and that offer a good teacher to student ratio.
It also seems to me that you're parents are making suggestions with lofty goals in having your own restaurant or being an executive chef at the four seasons but I'll be the first to bring you back down to reality and let you know that your first job WILL NOT be that. You cannot be a "chef" right out of school. School teaches you the basics and gives you the history and a comprehensive understanding but going to culinary school is not like going to harvard law and turning out a quarter million dollar a year salary right away. This job is quite literally an art...and that's not to say you can't make money being an artist (painter, musician, chef..) but that would be like me picking up a guitar and proclaiming I'll be as good as Stevie Ray in 2 years time and able to sell out carnegie hall or just won't happen.
Cheffing makes you a living not a millionaire.
I understand full well that I'll be making as much as a postal worker or a social worker when I graduate and that's fine with me..(mainly because I've been living off 15,000 a yr my whole life) so something along the lines of 30 sounds fantastic to me..but I also know that I cook food and create dishes because I love it..I love it as much as Stevie loved his guitar..I love it as much as bob ross did bushes and tree's.

so, with all that in mind if you're creative, love putting out a perfect plate and get as much pride and confidence in yourself when you put on that double breasted jacket as a soldier coming home from war..
than you have happened upon the right career and I wish you much luck
and I think you'd do fine in any half decent program not just the 80 thousand dollar ones :chef:
post #8 of 11
Thread Starter 
Hmm, i think ive made some wrong impressions here.

Firstly i know how hard it is too cook, ive heard all the stories, ive done some time working as a commis and it was hard as heck.

The thing is, i had a mixed reaction coming back from the experience, i enjoyed some times, when you get the rush as i'm sure you all do after ending the service, too see all the food going out (and looking good). I wanted to learn more, but i wasn't sure if its what i wanted for the rest of my life.

The thing is i dont think i'm all that creative at cooking. I can come up with a few ideas here and there, and i reguarly do just for the fun of it more then anything else. At the end of the day, i enjoyed the cooking, but maybe not the reality that comes with being in the profession full time - the low pay, the long hours, physical and mental challenge that is in the kitchen and of course the brutal turn over of the restaurant industry itself.

Also just to clear, my parents aren't the ones that are pushing me in any lofty goals, their all coming from me. My parents are really quite happy for me to pursue any of these vocations.

As i was discussing with a friend of mine, my dream, and this i know is really something that is going to be incredibly hard to acheive, is too reach the heights and level of the names that we often hear all the time - Adrias, Keller, Bras, Blumenthal, so and so forth.

I get that mostly you learn the profession by just working on it, not by "studying" it, but at the same time, the child left in me has realise that school is so much better then work, no matter what, and i would like to "study" what i THINK right now, i would like to do in the future.

I understand the fact that these four schools ive named have a reputation of being there just for the sake of having a name on your degree or diploma, but the matter of fact is, i feel (and im hoping it is) that what i learn can also easily be applied to other job areas incase cooking doesn't work out.

Going back to not being creative, i also wonder if its because i am still unsure of the basics, that after i go to culinary school and i guess probably work a bit (since assuming i spent all that money and time) i would start coming out with more things.

Ultimately what i'm afraid is persuing this course of action that ends up as a waste, or that i finish the course, spend all that money and realize i dont want to do it as a profession. But at the same time, i could come away from all this and just affirm my passion for doing it.

So yeah, this is the dilema im facing, whether i should go into this course plan or not, to take up culinary or hospitality or at the end of it, just find something else..
post #9 of 11

You bring up good points.

As an admissions representative, I deal with a lot of people that have a real interest in culinary but will need to change careers because they took the "safe" route and studied something completely different because they thought it was safe.
Now they dislike their jobs or lives or both and think "what if?"

Follow your gut, it is usually right.

You can find examples of people not going to culinary school and are considered geniuses. You can find examples of people that never went to culinary school and only talk about working in restaurants but don't have the chops or drive to do anything. You won't know about them because no one writes about people that have achieved nothing in life.

A college degree will help you. Statistically it is proven to give you an advantage. If you want to go to college, go to college. It might not pay off in the way you think it will in the end, but once you have it, no one can take it away from you.

I will disagree with those that say that all culinary schools are the same and that you pay for the name. There's a reason why the alumni at places like CIA, J+W, and Kendall (my school) have gone on to do great things. There's a reason why they have good reputations. The value of anything is determined by the individual.

I have also worked for two different culinary schools and can tell you that the level of education is different. Alumni from my current college has a better reputation industry while alumni from my previous school is not highly regarded in general. However, the individual is the one that will make or break themselves in the end. There are always exceptions. A college cannot make you a chef but it certainly can help you move up in life.

Lastly, being creative is overrated. Sure, it will help. Being disciplined is the key in my opinion.
See the truth about the culinary education industry at 
See the truth about the culinary education industry at 
post #10 of 11
I'm sorry if what u read from my advice was that I'm a d*ck or something, i wasn't intending that.

Furthermore, I do not know everything about the culinary field my self..we're all always apprentices, we're all continually learning but your post is a very common one...the dilemma you face is a typical one..and especially typical of a 19 year old. When you ask us for advice it is firstly, coming at face value from people here who may or may not have more culinary experience than you ...
but I actually wasn't giving you culinary advice...
The advice I gave you was coming more from an age and life experience aspect. If I only knew what I know now when I was 19, my life would be a lot...A LOT different (and not just educationally or career-wise) but as they say, hindsight is 20/20

There is nothing wrong with going to a top school, but, I was giving you MY advice and opinion (take it for what it's worth)...
That being: You really don't want to be buried in absolutely ridiculous loan payments on a small salary...and especially not if you regret it.

If you are interested in learning more of the business aspect of hospitality and are unsure of your creativity or what your input would be worth as an actually chef someday...
and you are also unsure if you'll question taking up a vocational education rather than a more text book approach than I would go with the text book type of school for business/ can always take a few actually culinary (lab) classes individually and/or pick up many skills through workshops as well as apprenticing.

If you are really that unsure still, I always recommend HS graduates take a couple years off to work and travel. Finding a perfect career is always a life long struggle and it's something that I've learned not many people EVER actually achieve. Aside from taking some more time off to work around and think about it the next best thing you can do is enroll in general education credits this way you get a head start on your degree and can choose your specialty later.

With all that being said, my apologies once again and I'll leave you with which to ponder...
A young conservative has no heart. An old liberal has no mind"-Winston Churchill
post #11 of 11
I agree with everything you said except making as much as a social worker or postal worker upon graduation. If your lucky, around $12. But I wouldn't expect anything over minimum wage until you prove yourself.

Money should not even be on your mind upon graduation. Experience should.
"To be a good chef all you got to do is lots of little things well" -Marco Pierre

"As far as cuisine is concerned, one must read everything, see everything, hear everything, try everything, observe everything, in order to retain in the end, just a little bit." -Fernand Point
"To be a good chef all you got to do is lots of little things well" -Marco Pierre

"As far as cuisine is concerned, one must read everything, see everything, hear everything, try everything, observe everything, in order to retain in the end, just a little bit." -Fernand Point
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