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Le Cordon Bleu vs Austin Community College

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
Hi all, I'm having a dilemma that maybe you can advise on. I have been accepted into the Associates Degree program at the Texas Culinary Academy (TCA) in Austin, TX, which includes the Le Cordon Bleu certification.

I've already had all my federal funding approved, but I'm having real difficulty in getting the private loan approved. I am now looking at the Culinary Arts Associates program at Austin Community College (ACC), which has been in place for thirteen years and seems to have a solid reputation. They are also accredited with the American Culinary Federation, and the tuition is about 3-4 times less expensive than TCA/Le Cordon Bleu.

My plan is to become expert in American barbecue (Texas, Kansas City and Carolinas techniques) and traditional American Southern cuisine (i.e. soul food, "home cooking", Low Country cuisine, etc.), then open a restaurant in Germany, Romania or elsewhere in Central or Eastern Europe, specializing in this cuisine. I want the quality and authenticity of the food to be the focus, so this will not be a "theme" restaurant where kitschiness is the main attraction.

Aside from the desire to get the formal chef's training - I've been cooking this kind of food for most of my life, but I am basically self-taught - my reasoning has been that the Le Cordon Bleu certification will help me be taken seriously in Europe. But is it really worth the price, and will anyone outside of France even care? The TCA program is top-notch, but the ACC program also seems to be pretty good.

I guess my question is this: For what I want to accomplish - to become expert in fine-dining quality American Southern cuisine and barbecue, then open a restaurant in Central or Eastern Europe - is the Le Cordon Bleu certification really worth the additional expense? Maybe I could use the money saved, by instead attending ACC, to take some specialty courses and/or apprenticeships in the cuisine I want to become expert in?

Any help or advice would be very appreciated, especially from any European chefs or graduates of either TCA or ACC.

post #2 of 5
My personal advice after going to a LCB school and having a small scope of how kitchen life is America, go with the community college, seriously.

I was suckered into their game of promising me more things I can learn than other schools and the reputation of "Le Cordon Bleu". It means nothing. I cannot speak really for other countries, but from my experiences here in the States, it is seriously a waste of money. You will leave either school with a basic set of skills that prepare you for an entry level position in the field. You will have to make the rest happen. They may make all sorts of promises about the Blue Ribbon, but trust me, its all one big marketing scheme to get that 50k out of you.

I would actually advise you to try working in a restaurant first before moving further. Particularly one that specilizes in the style of cuisine you are interested in, but right now, nobody can really be too picky. Get a good feel of the work environment and see if you can see yourself doing this long-term for a meager starting salary.

Also if you want to open up your own restaurant, start studying marketing, feasibility management, business management, hospitality law, financing, HR management, cooking, beverage, construction and design, and various other topics that get your concept from idea to actual brick and mortar, hopefully making a profit.

Sorry if my demeanor comes off as negative, I don't mean it. It is not my gual to sway anyone away from their true dreams. If this is your passion, you can make it happen.
post #3 of 5
I've said it many times on this forum - I've yet to ask someone for their diploma during an interview. I want to see them demonstrate skill.

I've seen some chefs that paid thousands for their diploma and have horrible work ethic, are very book smart, but can't cook. I've hired others from the local community college that are excited to learn and do an excellent job daily. I'm not impugning everyone for the expensive schools, it just doesn't guarantee a better employee.

It's the person, not the diploma. I don't think an extra $50,000 spent on education will immediately return your investment. It might be different in Europe, but you say you want to start your own business. I'd use the money to seed your business, this is a better investment in your future income.

I've never thought of barbeque and fine dining together, but a unique niche is a necessary element of any successful business. You sound like you have a great plan and goal in mind. Go for it!
post #4 of 5
Hi elcoyoteloco! Once you have all your ducks in a row, I think opening a restaurant of the type you mention in Eastern Europe would be a smart move. Having recently returned from a culinary trip to Poland, I know that the Eastern bloc is almostly completely Westernized and Southern food would be welcomed. But, opening a new restaurant anywhere in the world takes business acumen, experience, financial backing, and so much more. Take things one step at a time. Get your degree, study hard, get some professional experience, apprentice under a good restaurateur, and you should be fine. I agree with Chef Todd that it's not the amount of money you spend on your education, but what you put into that education. If you feel you're not learning what you need to learn, push the instructors to give you want/need. Good luck!
post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys, I think I'll go with Austin Community College and use the money saved to get private instruction for the cuisine I want to become expert in.

Also, someone pointed out to me that since I want to do American food, having the American Culinary Federation certification would make more sense than the LCB. I hadn't thought of that, but it makes sense.
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