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College Grad looking into Culinary School .. help?

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
Hey all!

My name's Paolo and I graduated from the Johns Hopkins University in May of this year with a double BA in Biology and Spanish. For the better part of my college years I was pre-med, but around my third year I realized that medicine wasn't the career for me. I have always loved to cook and it has always been my passion but I never thought of seriously pursuing it until after I graduated. I have heard all the horror stories about how hard it is to work in this industry, the pay sucks, working in a kitchen is grueling, etc. but I am still willing to learn and go through the experience. I did a lot of soul searching and talking with various people close to me and I think that I am ready to drop the whole pre-med track and start over with culinary school. Problem is, I have no clue where to start. I did some marginal online research of various culinary schools but for the most part I am lost.

I guess what I'm trying to say is ... where do I go from here? I want to go to culinary school but I don't know what sort of programs to look into. I'd like to start school as soon as possible but it seems like I should have (need?) work experience in a kitchen first. Does my college degree change what programs I should be looking into, or am I just starting over no matter what?

Anyway hope you guys can help me out. Thanks in advance!
post #2 of 24
Hi, Paolo. I graduated from Hopkins in 2002. I am not in cooking school but I CAN tell you that if you really want to do this, you should. You are lucky to have a passion! I don't think many people can say that.

If you're still in Baltimore, there is a cooking school here - Baltimore International College. I don't think they require restaurant experience. Good luck!
post #3 of 24
Thread Starter 
Hey, MrsPeacock, thanks for the reply!

I have looked into a few schools. Obviously CIA and J&W are supposed to be good so I am considering applying there. Is Le Cordon Bleu in Boston any good?
post #4 of 24
Save yourself alot of money and go for a community college. I graduated from a LCB school, my friend from a program that costed about $30k less, and the difference isn't even noticeable. We learned the same things, though not particularly in the same order.

Your success is going to stem from your passion/dedication and how it stands through the trials of the kitchen. Best of luck Paolo, try to keep in tabs with the forums, connections come from the most surreal of places :chef:
post #5 of 24

Culinary School for Career Changer

Paolo-
3 words- Follow Your Passion.

I graduated from Baltimore International Culinary College after a massive life and career change, and you can too. Fear is usually the only obstacle. Once you identify your greatest fears that are keeping you from making a decision and ask if they are true. If they are true fears, can you overcome them?

I was an advertising executive for 15 years. I had a company car, expense account, a closet of expensive suits, and woke up one day and hated where I had landed.

I went to Gibbys in Timonium and started steaming oysters at night to get the feel of the restaurant. Then, I quit my job, sold my house, sold everything I owned and enrolled in Baltimore International College. I went from six figures to six dollars an hour in one afternoon!

I graduated the 2 year program in 13 months because of my bachelor's degree. Because of my business experience, I quickly held top level jobs, including a Chef at the NSA at Fort Meade.

I've owned my own business for 8 years, opened a cooking school of my own, which lead to videos on YouTube, a DVD series, and now I'm developing weekly cooking lessons on the internet.

My point? At the time, I was giving up everything to go to culinary school. What I've realized, is that I actually gained all that became important. I follow what I love to do, and I do it for myself.

Look into BICC if you're at Hopkins. It's not CIA or JW, but will give a smart person like you a good background to act upon. The rest is up to you. Are they fears or opportunities?

Chef Todd Mohr
post #6 of 24
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the replies, again!

I'm actually out of Baltimore right now and seriously looking into the LCB at Boston since I love the area and I've heard some good things about LCB. Is that school a wise choice?
post #7 of 24
Well, look at it this way:

You're looking to start a career in culinary by working as a "prep cook" or "kitchen apprentice" for, say, 6 months to a year, then work as a journeyman line cook for 3-10 years (at, oh say, $10-15/hour), at which point you "may" be fortunate enough to make Sous Chef, and another 3-10 years before you are Chef.

How much are YOU willing to pay to get started?

LCB, J&W, CIA, FCI, etc., are all well thought of, expensive, and teach the same basics as almost every community college with a culinary arts course. There "might" some benefit to the "old-boy" network associated with the name schools.

Before you leap into an expensive school, I STRONGLY suggest you get a job working in a restaurant, not a "fast-food" or "chain" but a restaurant, even as a dish-washer, and really see what it is like before spendding dime one!
Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #8 of 24
Paolo,

Research LCB on the various threads on this forum. Heck, you can even google "60 Minutes CEC" and you will find a wonderful expose on the practices of admissions representatives within their network of schools (LCB being one of them).

However, if you don't want to do any research through third parties and you If you want to be "sold" on your dreams, you will find yourself with a perfect fit at any LCB school that exists in North America.

Take the advice of those that said you should work in a restaurant. If you like it, then consider culinary school.
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 #9 of 24
Thread Starter 
Hey, thanks for the reply.

I couldn't find the 60 minutes CEC on Google, could you link me to it?

Also, in regards to your second statement, are you saying that LCB is NOT a good choice? I'm a bit confused. I did a quick search on here and there are a lot of mixed opinions on LCB schools in general, but I was wondering if anyone had any info on LCB in Boston, which is what I am looking into.

I know that it shouldn't matter what school I go to, it matters what I put into it, but I was wondering how good or bad the LCB in Boston is. I wanted to stay on the East Coast and I really love the Boston area.
post #10 of 24
I second everything Pete Mc Craken said , in his answer above!!!
CHEFED
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CHEFED
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post #11 of 24
Here's something to read BEFORE committing to ANY culinary school:

6 Things Culinary School Won't Teach You - Chef's Blade
Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #12 of 24
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 #13 of 24
Thread Starter 
Hey guys, just wanted to update you on what's going on. I am heading over to Boston to go to LCB's open house on Saturday to get some more information, and I've also arranged an appointment to speak with an admissions rep. Will let you know how I feel afterwards.
post #14 of 24
Paolo, I'm also from Baltimore. Glad to see Baltimore up in here! I have been cooking for about 5 years, and the last two 2 years I have become very serious. FWIW, I looked into attending BIC but I just didnt get a good feel for the college. The facilities are nice from what I can tell. I have worked with about 5 guys coming out of BIC and most seemed average, and one being very good. Seems more like a bussiness vs. a school.

About 5 months ago I took a visit to the French Culinary institute. I would have to see I was completly in awe. The admission counselor took me on a 45/60 min tour and showed me everything. Meet with 1 master chef and saw A. Sailhac and A. Soltner teaching. Personally CIA and JW's are great schools, but I think FCI really teaches future chefs how to cook w/ proper technique apossed to carrying a clip board and being a master of numbers. Plus FCI is literally in the heart of NYC(SOHO)I'm planning on attending FCI in June. The only negative is it is the most expensive of the major schools, and offers a diploma vs. 2 year AA.

Paolo, It's hard to talk food in this city so if your interested in talking cook books or any of that I'm feel free to grab a beer at lets say Mic o'Sheas!:beer: I would love to hear back from you about LCB Boston.
post #15 of 24
Thread Starter 
I looked into FCI but was slightly turned off by the price, the short duration of the program, and the fact that they only offer a diploma. How important is it to get an AAS vs a diploma? Do employers care that you have a diploma and not a degree? How good is the school? I've heard lots of great things about FCI, and that it is a great way to immerse yourself right away, which sounds like what I want to do. Can anyone shed some light on that for me? Thanks!

Off to bed for my meeting with admissions rep tmw. Will update y'all on what's going on, thanks for all the replies; I really appreciate the input.
post #16 of 24
Why spend so much money for just a diploma/certificate. Even having a degree doesn't mean much in the industry, but it is better than having a certificate. Other people will at least recognize the accredited degree as being somewhat valuable.

*edit* I just got off the FCI website where they had quotes from a "chef" saying that "I hire FCI students on their graduation day" and was trying to hold back laughter
post #17 of 24
Thread Starter 
Yeah, that's what I was thinking.

Another question: What advice would you give to someone who, someday, would like to own a restaurant? This is my dream and eventual goal, and a lot of people are telling me I'm stupid for pursuing it but I've decided it's something I want to do. I know I can't jump right into the business, but what tips can you guys offer? Any owners out there want to chime in? Thanks!
post #18 of 24
Paolo the only difference between the FCI's diploma program and 2 year AA is the general education classes, which are meaningless in the day to day bussiness. Especially if you are looking to cook in a very highend French style restaurant. If you are looking for a corperate gig carry a clip board as a head chef then a traditional school might be best. If you went to a school like CIA you would be taking only cooking courses, because you already have your JHU degree.

I also have prior 4 year schooling that I hope will off set my diploma much like you so I'm not worrying to much about that.

Isn't LCB also a diploma program?
post #19 of 24
Theres probably a few ways to go at it (and I am not an expert on this subject), but heres my best guess.

Submerge yourself into the worlds of cooking, baking, wine, business management, marketing, financing, HR, law, and countless other fields. I know I missed a few things on my list, but what I am trying to say is understand the many different aspects of owning a business from originally concepting the restaurant, to pouring down the concrete, to opening day, to (hopefully) the 1 yr anniversary of staying in business. There are so many countless things involved to get from A to B, so investigate them all for yourself. If you cannot master all these skills, form a partnership or hire someone whose skills will offset yours.

Keep in mind ive never owned or operated a restaurant. This is like my best attempt at answering your question
post #20 of 24
RAS, That is Danny Meyer quote, he is the most sucessful restaurantuor in the USA. 12 time Beard winner:D

Paolo, from what I hear the Insititute of Culinary education in NYC is also very good. They are diploma as well?? You see a theme here?
post #21 of 24
Thread Starter 
LCB has a 2 years associates program, IIRC. All will be revealed tomorrow at the meeting, and Saturday at the open house. Good night for real this time!
post #22 of 24
I have an AA from a LCB North America school, but they also offer certificates.

And there is also a major difference in programs as well besides the gen-ed. The Associate of Applied Science is an accredited degree, a standard, that is generally recognizable among various employers/educational institutes. The "diploma" is pretty much a piece of paper with the schools name on it. I highly recommend going for the degree, but that is my opinion.

*edited* I did a little bashing on the diploma, so decided to re-word and ease up a bit
post #23 of 24

Culinary School for Career Changer

In my opinion, people put too much emphasis on the school, and don't focus on what they are going to do with the education. Simply, you get out of it what you put into it. Whether the school is $100K or $10K, you have to demonstrate skill. School by itself won't get you a job, and won't get you promotions and raises. Only your effort and commitment will.

Maybe it's my Baltimore pride, but you can find very average students, as well as excellent students, coming from every school. The difference is the approach of the student, not the school.

Frankly, I don't think the school matters that much. I've never had someone ask for my diploma. They usually ask me to make a sauce or cook something.

I think it's been suggested above, but perhaps your local community college culinary program would be a good, inexpensive start. Spend a year learning the basics there, then transfer credits to the more expensive school.

Don't depend on a school or a teacher to educate you. You educate yourself based on your practice of the skills.

Chef Todd Mohr
post #24 of 24
I am almost in the same boat as you. I am wondering if it would be better/cheaper to go to a community college, verses an actual culinary school? I am interested in reading your reply on how it goes with the rep.
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