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Looking for professional advice...

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

I am a female neering my 30's. I am changing careers, and I LOVE culinary arts, I'm just not so sure if Culinary school is worth the money. I was also very interested in going abroad to study for a semester. Would this be a better way to start and get experience? I really need advice in making the best decision.

post #2 of 14

Have you worked in a restaurant/commercial kitchen?

 

There are two distinct "schools of thought" in regards to obtaining a "culinary education":school and experience.

 

IMHO, BOTH can be helpful but, more importantly, working in a commercial culinary setting will "clarify" whether your "love of culinary arts" is infatuation or a true passion. Once you've determined that, then you can pay attention to "getting an education".

 

If you "have the money", culinary school is an excellent way to spend it , remember, what you get out of it depends on what YOU put into it!

 

As a "generality", I seriously question whether anyone except the HR department cares whether you went to culinary school or not, most chefs worth working for will decide whether to hire you after watching you work for a day or so.

 

Of course, I OLD, my "undergraduate degree" is from MHC and my "graduate degree" is from SHK! So, take that into account when reading the above.

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
Reply
post #3 of 14

Flavorcraze:

 

Please see:

 

So You Wanna Be a Chef

 

Cooking Schools interview

 

Shaw Guides

 

Be certain that cooking is vocation, and not merely an avocation to you. Then, I would suggest that you consider a community college instead of a private culinary school. Finally, try to work at the best restaurant kitchen that you can find while attending school.

Good luck.

Buttercup: You mock my pain!
Man in Black: Life is pain, Highness! Anyone who says differently is selling something. -- The Princess Bride
Miracle Max: Sonny, true love is the greatest thing, in the world-except for a nice MLT - mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean...
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Buttercup: You mock my pain!
Man in Black: Life is pain, Highness! Anyone who says differently is selling something. -- The Princess Bride
Miracle Max: Sonny, true love is the greatest thing, in the world-except for a nice MLT - mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean...
Reply
post #4 of 14

Flavourcraze,

 

This question has been posted countless times, so I will give you my "stock" answer:

 

Get thee to a restaurant or hotel and work.  Wash dishes, plate salads, mop floors, watch the other guys and gals.  I won't sugarcoat it for you, because after culinary school you will be doing this.

 

The question is, will you still be in love with cooking after paying for an education and then earning minimum or close to minimum wage?

 

I need to be brutally honest with you, no Chef or HR will pay top dollar for a culinary graduate with no previous working experience.  Hence the pre culinary school employment.

 

Please, do it.  Work in a kitchen before you sign on the dotted line.  If you don't like it, it hasn't cost  you anything.  If you do like it, it will add to furthering your carreer.

 

Hope this helps

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #5 of 14

One does not have to go to Europe anymore . There are many places  here that are just as good if not better. Years ago Europe was better because to the people is was not just a job but a life. That attitude has really changed over the years and today it is economics that drives them. If schools check out a comm. college. They teach the same basics as the $40000. cooking school for a lot less . Before enrolling in any school try getting into a food service place to see if you really like it. Many people think it is show business because they watch to many TV chef shows.Believe me it is not its hot hard work and a lot of hours and you have the privilege of working holidays .Not like cooking home. Good Luck

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #6 of 14

I agree with getting a job in a restaurant before you decide if you want to spend the money. I went to community college and out of a 1st year class of about 150 people there are maybe 20-30 of us actually working in this field.

post #7 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thank you so much for your replies. They have been extremely helpful. I now see more the reality of all this. I have had a good job for the last 7 years, paying top $. Unfortunately I have to retire and move on to something else, I don't think I could take minimum wage at this point. Not if I have a choice. I might just keep this one my passion and a hobby. Thanks again.

post #8 of 14

The replies posted were all great!  If I can add a couple of thoughts...

 

1)  Read "The Making of a Chef" by Michael Ruhlman.  Keep in mind there is a reason you are considering the profession.  It will help you.

2)  Two schools to look into to complete your research process (though there are many great ones). The Italian Culinary Institute - You gain cooking experience from one of the top schools, and learn abroad in Italy as well as New York.  Culinary institute of the Rockies - a Farm to Table concept and more affordable.

I'm not advocating either - just a thought.  Cordon Bleu has gone to a mass marketing campaign for their schools.  Tours of their facilities can be helpful.

 

I had my first culinary experience where a friend and myself, through a stroke of luck, started a cafe in Paris to make money to pay for graduate school.  We opened and closed the restaurant daily, hired, fired, mopped, cooked, created menus; bought from the butcher, baker and the poissioner. I kept the books, worked with distributors, and on occasion removed a drunken patron. I managed to make good money and graduate on time, and made the restaurant experience my thesis.  I never worked harder and never enjoyed myself more.  I employed excellent chefs and learned from everything they did. I spent more hours in the cafe than school and any personal time combined. I started the cafe with minimal capital and made it successful with a lot of passion and elbow grease.  

 

Looking back it was one of those occasions where I did not have a plan but saw an opportunity and jumped on it.  

My advice is not to over think it and follow your heart, but study enough to have the information to make an informed decision. The rest will take care of itself.  Good luck.

 

 

post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 

This is very good insight. I have been thinking about an internship in Italy. Weather I make it a career or not, something about this tells me you just can't go wrong with this. I could get hands on experience and, since I love to travel and always wanted to visit Italy, this could give me more of an idea of what is in store for me if I decide to do this as a career or simply for my own life experience and kitchen pleasures. I would love to know what your opinion is on Traveling abroad, since I am ready do apply and am thinking seriously about this trip. Mainly for myself. If I don't do it I'll always wonder what would have been if I had done it. Thanks

post #10 of 14

The one thing to think about going abroad is the cost of travel.  The Euro's strength makes it very expensive right now to do so.  The reason cooking school is an option is because it is almost all inclusive once you get there.  There is another program which is 3 months - Google the Italian Culinary Institute and look at the masters program.  The prices are on the site as well as the cirriculum. You will need a student visa for your schooling.  Most programs circulate throughout the year and begin in January.

 

It would never hurt you to have a culinary certificate from another country on your resume (or for personal reasons), or to pick up another language in some form.  Italy is beautiful and full of history.  It is a great place to immerse yourself.  The program which is affiliated with the Culinary Institute of America is worth checking.  It is about $40k plus room and board for your New york stay.  They offer a crash course in Italian while you are there and boast of an excellent placement program.  Call and talk to one of their associates for more info.

 

Good luck!

post #11 of 14

You have just proved  what I have been preaching to everyone  for years. That even though you own the place, and are the owner you still have a strict boss, and that is the Front Door. It must be staffed, cleaned,insured, heated, cooled, purchased for, prepared for  etc. Thank You

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply
post #12 of 14

Here is another informative article about high paying culinary schools:

http://wweek.com/editorial/3405/10113/

 

In summary, even if you go to a "well respected" and expensive culinary school that puts you in debt for years to come, it does not mean you are going to land a job that will raise your salary. You will probably have to down grade your lifestyle if you want to work as a cook

post #13 of 14

Well put Ed!

 

A wise, successful chef/owner told me as I became involved in this industry said everything he attributed to his success was what he thought about in preparation before he entered his restaurant.  He said if he did not he put at risk the talented people that worked for him.  He said it was his job to make them successful.  

That always stuck with me.  It definitely stuck with the people that worked for him.

post #14 of 14

Flavorcraze,

 

I have talked to a lot of career changers over the years in admissions. One thing I would want to know is what is your previous career or skills? Reason being, I know someone that left the mortgage industry, went to comm college for culinary and now is their purchaser. So it is food industry but she is using some of her previous skills. You can work in the food industry but maybe not in the way you considered. 

 

Here is the article I wrote on it http://culinaryschooladviser.com/?p=217. If you have specific questions, feel free to get in touch.

 

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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