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Culinary school for someone with experience?

post #1 of 8
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I didn't go to culinary school, I went to school for physics and decided afterwards I wanted to cook for a living. I've been working in the food service industry since I was 14 with various breaks, but only over the past two years have I studied and tried to understand as much as I can. In those two years, I thought I was decent, but after recently moving jobs to one of the top restaurants in my area as a line cook, I'm starting to wonder. Chef thinks of things that I never would have thought of, and of course he seems to know just about everything.

I can make stock. I can make consumme. I can butcher beef, poultry, most fish very well. I can juggle 12 pans of saute dishes at a time. I can tell the doneness of a steak by just looking at it most of the time. Basically, I'm a good prep or line cook in just about any restaurant. But sometimes chef will ask me, "Any ideas on what to do with duck breast as an appetizer?" and my heart just sinks. I really don't know how to pair ingredients as well as I wish I could, and even when I think of a good combination, I often can't think of a good way to implement it. Worse, I can tell if something tastes good, really good, or fantastic. But I can never seem to think of the ingredient(s) to add or reduce to make it go from good to really good, etc. Culinary school is a lot of money, and cheffing in a restaurant doesn't pay a ton of money. Is there any long term value in going for me? Do they offer any kind of accelerated courses? Do I just need more experience?
post #2 of 8
Go the more experience route, keep your eyes open and always ask WHY.
Never say you cant until you try it, otherwise how do you know you cant?..:D
CHEFED
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CHEFED
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post #3 of 8
I'm with Ed. Schools will pretty much only teach you how to cook, not what to cook. The creative part comes with time and seeing a lot of different dishes.
Anulos qui animum ostendunt omnes gestemus!
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Anulos qui animum ostendunt omnes gestemus!
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post #4 of 8
it's not only a question of time & experience, it's a question of talent / gift.

I've been trying to "sketch / draw / paint" since high school. I still can't.

hate to be a downer, but if you don't have the gift - and I don't - you will only be able to follow / mimic other recipes - with very few inventions of your own.

if you don't got it, especially at some level of experience, likelihood is you'll not never got it - so at some point you need to decide whether you want to invent the art form or just copy it.

if the ability to stick of spoon of X in your mouth and say: Gosh that would be super with a dash of Y! could be taught or "learned" in a structured environment the list of ten star restaurants would be very very long.

some people excel at math, some at politics, some at cooking. not everyone excels in any field they chose....
post #5 of 8
I always mention this book for many reasons and in your case I think it might help.
THE FLAVOR BIBLE by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
"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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"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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post #6 of 8
Read every cookbook written by an important modern chef, or from an important modern kitchen you can get your hands on. High-end food magazines (i.e., pretentious) are also very helpful. Spend as much free time as you can afford hanging out in bookstores. Much time. Free.

Be aware that a lot of this is pure trendiness.

Your chef isn't coming up zillions of novel combinations and pairings entirely out of his own head. Most of it comes from hearing ideas, only a tiny part, for any cook, is purely original.

Besides research, work to develop your "virtual palate." This involves going out to ethnic places and shopping at ethnic markets for your own home cooking. The broader your knowledge base, the better you'll do at association.

Tough duty but someone has to do it.

Good luck,
BDL

PS. I still spend time reading recipes in French (a language I don't speak other than to read recipes) in order to stay up with what the "important" chefs are doing.
post #7 of 8
Well, you have the chops to be a life long cook so thats the plus side. However, it seems to bug you that you may have peaked.

School couldn't hurt but where do you live? Check out www.acfchefs.org for a listing of programs in your state/area.

I work in admissions so if you had some questions about school, even if it isn't mine, I could help to the best of my ability.
See the truth about the culinary education industry at www.culinaryschooladviser.com 
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See the truth about the culinary education industry at www.culinaryschooladviser.com 
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post #8 of 8
What BDL said!

Experience and passion rules at the end of the day. Talent plays an important part of creativity but essentially you also need to know the classics (there is a reason they are called 'classics'!). Once you understand the flavour combinations behind them, then you'll be more equipped to adapt and get creative but there is no point trying to be creative if you don't understand the flavours and how they work together.

Markets are my personal favourite and whenever I visit a new country I make a point of visiting the best market. This way you get to see the background behind the culture. I've been to markets in Spain, England, France, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Holland and Ireland and NEVER get sick of them. You can't help but get inspired! The stall holders are also a wealth of information if you want to get to the roots of an ingredient and it is the biggest compliment you can pay them if you ask questions.

Never be afraid to research and make mistakes. When my chefs ask me a question I never give them the answer. Instead, I refer them to a decent book such as Larousse, Roux Pattiserie, etc or simply Google or wikipedia.com.

Good luck and happy cooking!
Kiwisizzler's blog

Good food is food that tastes of what it is!
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Kiwisizzler's blog

Good food is food that tastes of what it is!
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