Sorry this reply is a bit late, I only just joined today! I wanted to add something re the CIA.
Although I, myself, have never been a student (nor personally would I want to attend the CIA) my cousin is currently in the CIA's Culinary Arts Program (4 years for their B.S. Bachelor's in Applied Culinary Sciences, or something similar to that), two of my fellow students came from the CIA (one transferred and was there for about 2 years while the other did the 4-year program) and I've spoken to a Notter graduate who is now attending the CIA.
ok, so...to make this short and not all drawn-out and lengthy, here are the pros and cons they've given me:
- Very Reputable
i. Good Connections within the Culinary World
-Very in-depth as far as Culinary Arts are concerned
-Externship Program and post-graduate job placement is supposedly very, very good
-Culinary Arts program does cover the basics of baking and pastry art, but does not delve in-depth
-Not all graduates are placed in high(er) well paid positions
-Larger class sizes
My cousin is very happy to be attending the CIA, personally, I believe that because of the CIA's reputation, the students tend to be a bit snobbish and cocky. Yes, it is a good school, but no, you don't know everything about cooking/baking, etc.
One student is very happy she went to the CIA and has met many humble CIA grads and interns. However, because she wants to pursue Baking/Pastry Arts, she is now attending the Notter School, her words "CIA is good for the fundamentals, they focus a lot of savory rather than sweet, and if you want to do broad, general Culinary Arts, than the program is excellent"
The other student is incredibly knowledgeable, however, he oftentimes unintentionally holds himself back by assuming he already knows the answer, the technique, etc, because of his experience at the CIA. That being said, he does know quite a bit, and even though he is a recent grad of the CIA, his skills are immense.
The Notter grad who is now attending the CIA regrets not going sooner. In fact, she has said that, rather than attending the Notter School, she should have just gone to the CIA. She mentioned that their reputation is greater, the contacts within the industry are better, and their course is much more in-depth.
So, I would think that the CIA would be an excellent choice if you plan on pursuing Culinary Arts, or if you are looking for industry contacts and reputation. However, that being said, you already have hands-on, practical experience, and that is worth more than anything else. With your experience, I'm sure that your business will succeed. And when it comes down to it, you will gain more of a reputation, and earn more respect, if you are able to prove yourself based upon your own skills, rather than a diploma from the CIA. Good luck!