May I ask where you are from? I have some schools that I have researched in the US as well as France.
I find ENSP crossed off my list mainly for the reason that the students from the previous programs had told me this school is unorganized and are not fully equipped. From what they said, it is exactly what whoopie had stated. Gas problems, light problems, water system problems, and equipment problems, as well as not enough equipment for the amount of students they accept. Majority of students I have contacted, seemed as though they only had one good thing to say about this school, which is; this school has great networks. Other than that, I agree with Whoopie's post, because if you are unhappy with the school because of frustration from the schools lack of organization, than how will you be able to just focus on pastry and love what you do and make the best out of your experience if you are constantly frustrated with the school. I am not willing to lose motivation for a school's disorganization. From what I heard, the international programs are very new and need improvement. The previous student I spoke to were the first FPA program students. Students I spoke to from the 2 month programs said it felt like 2 months was too short and with that little time, how can you learn as much as you can to your highest ability? If you plan on attending any patisserie school in France, be sure to study on your French, because you will need to regardless of whatever French school you attend.
Ecole Gregoire Ferrandi is a good school. I hear this school is better for students who have already had experience in the industry, because it is much more independent work. You can expect the chef to not always be there to direct you and steer you in the right direction to avoid mistakes, because you will make mistakes, and you will have to learn from your own mistake. But with any school, you follow a recipe and the product doesn't look like the chefs, and you wonder what you did wrong. If you didn't know, I'm sure the chef wouldn't know, but he can give you an idea of what you might have done wrong, but only you can teach yourself to avoid your mistakes. Ecole Gregoire Ferrandi is pricey, but can worth it based on how and what kind of learner you are (or if you have experience as well).
Valrhona, which is a chocolate distributing company, has courses for students. Of course, if your interest in chocolate, but they also have a variety of different courses that also include patisserie and different types of yummy sweets and galore! Be aware that Valrhona as workshops vs. actual courses that end with internships. However, the students I spoke to are quite happy with how the classes went, and the chefs are amazing, and the school is organized in their teaching systems.
For the United States, I have looked into the Art Institutes, where they have great art programs, but also provide baking and pastry courses. Depending on the location, each AI lab is different, but from the variety of students I've spoken to, AI is among the cheaper schools to attend. You pay for what you get, and it is cheaper for a reason, you can learn a lot, but the labs can be crowded, and can be limited in space. Cincinnati, Atlanta, California, Colorado, are among the ones I researched and I can't base everything on just pictures I've seen but from what I heard, California is supposedly one of the bigger ones, and Colorado has tight and crowded labs. The program is set up very well for beginners though. The system is categorized where you will be able to learn and see what it is you would like to do as a main profession, from chocolate, to sugar, to classical French desserts, entremets, ice cream, breads, or cake decorating.
Le Cordon Bleu is also categorized in the same way, and they have many locations. If you ask me, I think Le Cordon Bleu in Las Vegas would be great. Majority of the students have their internships at the Bellagio Casino, MGM Grand, Aria, or even the Wynn. It really depends, but be aware that these are huge production industry in their buffet, so a lot of the things you do may be more machinery based than hands on. However, at the Bellagio, I have seen the staff make desserts at the buffet for decorating, but in the back of the kitchen I am not sure if they make everything from scratch, hand, or machinery. Jean Philippe’s Patisserie at the Bellagio and the Aria has amazing dessert. I remember hearing they do accept interns. Their desserts look amazing and you can always look to see if there are any positions open for interns.
Johnson and Wales University has equipment that is very well kept, and they are very professional. I have visited one of their schools, and they switch chefs for different categories. In my opinion, having different chefs to teach breads, classical desserts, plated desserts, and cake decorating, etc. Is a much better way to learn for the reason you are learning from chefs that are teaching in a subject they have passion for and are really good at. If you are stuck with one chef who teaches you breads to desserts, it will be very different. A baker and a pastry chef have two different levels of patience and techniques. If you have a bread chef teaching cake decorating, I’m sure you will not have efficient class training. That's why Johnson and Wales system is the best way to learn whether you are a beginner or intermediate. You can imagine, I walked into their kitchen, and it was so clean and there were bowls piled high. There was an oven rack for each table so students can mise en place all of their products and make up the products after everything is measured out to bake for that day. It's a really good system. There are students from different age and such. The only thing is some campuses provide only a 2 year degree. Be aware, you are paying over $7,000 each term. And not all of the terms are lab work, so you will be paying 7,000 for academics. So you will have 2 terms (6 months) of lab and 1 term (3 months) of academics. 4 year programs are along the same line, but they have classes that will relate to the food industry and you will learn regardless.
However, I was planning to go to France, but I cannot learn French. It's very difficult for me. But the more I research and speak with students at Johnson and Wales; I have decided Johnson and Wales University in Providence. They are all motivated, they hold competitions for students, and I live in the United States, and Johnson and Wales has a great network in the US. You will be guaranteed a job, with a Johnson and Wales degree. I hear there was a partnership between Johnson and Wales and ENSP, but apparently, there are some study abroad programs at Johnson and Wales for pastry students who actually go to ENSP (previous school I mentioned). So yet again, I did research and found Johnson and Wales students who have gone to ENSP and they said the experience is great, just to be in another country. The chef is great, but they said it's not much to see. They said that you learn different things from different chefs, so if they had a French chef teach them entremets at Johnson and Wales it would be the same time. You're mainly paying to go abroad just to see what France is like, but learning in the lab is no different than learn back at home for them. Some Johnson and Wales students also said the labs are not fully equipped like Johnson and Wales labs. Hooks, paddles, and whisk are not always provided. Other students from other labs are always going into their lab using their equipments. Obviously shows ENSP has labs with more equipment than others. If you're lucky you might get the good lab. Give or take, I choose Johnson and Wales, because they are professional, they treat you and train you as professional, and that what I am looking for.
What research have you done? What do you recommend?