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What is The "Best" Culinary School for Fine dining?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

I was wondering what is the "best" school for fine dining? (I put best in parentheses because I don’t believe that there is a best school for every person). I want to work for people like Thomas Keller or Gordon Ramsay, I want to work for the best of the best, but how and where do I start? What would be the best culinary school to go to for that kind of thing? I have been looking at the CIA lately but I recently talked to a chef who just came from the CIA and said she was very disappointed. She said that they where more teaching her how to work for T.G.I. Fridays and less for fine dining. I am currently living in Utah doing concurrent enrollment with a culinary school, reading lots of books and getting a job at a local restaurant.

 

I am also looking at this school http://www.cookstreet.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=20&Itemid=76

What do you think? I like that it so hands on (I read lots of culinary text books already) and that it is one on one with the teachers. But I am concerned that it is too small/unknown that it will help me get the jobs that I want. Also I am not sure about the location, dose Denver have any respectable fine dining restaurants?

 

Thank you

-E.J.Dutcher

post #2 of 19

If you want to do fine dining, learn the basics, any school they are all the same(profit making) then write or visit the best fine dining establishment in your area  and volunteer your services for any job in kitchen. Cheaper and better then any further schooling, unless you want a degree?

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 #3 of 19

The fine dining aspect of what you are seeking is not so much reality these days.

The CIA is teaching students what the real world is really about and that IS the TGIFriday's, Applebees, Olive Garden's etc.....

 

Restaurants like the type that Keller runs are far and few between.

Fine dining in that respect is a whole other ball game in that these types of businesses cater to a select crowd and in order to stay in business have to be at the top.

Very few graduates of culinary schools go on to these types of places.

That's why the schools teach basic culinary technique so that the graduate can hone their skills and go where they can find employment.

 

I agree with the last post to train at a culinary school, while working in the industry, then, after graduating seek out those places you think you'd like to work at..

post #4 of 19

if you wanna go work for them, get a job in the best restaurant in your city. then, move to new york and get a job at the best restaurants there.  then send a resume. if you go to school with nothing on a resume, even for extern (intern) they'll pass you up. good luck.

 

ps ramsay is falling apart.

 

pps move to NEW YORK CITY!! or NAPA VALLEY!!

post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thank you guys for your comments, but I guess my question now is how do I get an internship with a great restaurant? Now I am guessing that if I try to go to the French Laundry they would never let some 19 year old from Utah into the kitchen no madder where how good my references say I am.  I am not going automatically get into a three Michelin starred restaurant, so where do I start?

 

Thank you

 

-E.J.Dutcher

post #6 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by EJDutcher View Post

Thank you guys for your comments, but I guess my question now is how do I get an internship with a great restaurant? Now I am guessing that if I try to go to the French Laundry they would never let some 19 year old from Utah into the kitchen no madder where how good my references say I am.  I am not going automatically get into a three Michelin starred restaurant, so where do I start?

 

Thank you

 

-E.J.Dutcher

By working in a not so great restaurant?

 

That's not meant to be sarcastic, one starts out knowing virtually nothing, either learns the fundamentals in a trade school or working for someone (apprentice), actually, when you think about it, until everyone is working for YOU, you are actually  an "apprentice" to whomever you are working for, one NEVER stops learning.

 

So, one starts where one can start, learn what you can, foster good relationships, never burn bridges, and move upwards as the opportunities arise.
 

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 #7 of 19

I don't know, I could be wrong, but I don't think so. You say that you want to work for guys like Keller or Ramsay. Do you have some kind of idea that these guys are right there in the kitchen with you directing all the action and cooking on the line next to you? It doesn't happen that way. At least it didn't for me. I was at the FL for 2 weeks during my "World Tour" of great places. I saw Keller for maybe 15 minutes, and those minutes were not all at one time. Those guys are very good at getting the best people to do important jobs the way they want. They are way too big and have way too many important things to do than to just be chefs any more. Like I said, I could be wrong, but that's the way my experience was. 

 

On another point, I'm kinda getting really sick of so many replies in this forum about schools that claim schools are not so much important. My training at the CIA is what got me the ability to do my "World Tour". I'm pretty good at what I do, and I got most of that from the CIA. Prep skills, NO, you ainte gonna get that from school, you're getting that from work. But knowledge of foods, ingredients, cooking, pairings, how to use skills and all sorts of very important things you will get from school. Now let me say that any piece of paper from a big school doesn't guarantee you anything without having good technical skills, but it got me good contacts that in turn got me good recommendations that then got me into great kitchens. I would have been tossed out of those kitchens faster than you could butter a slice of bread without the skills I learned through experience though. 

 

My "World Tour" was a five month chunk when I went across the US working in different big-named places for/with some big-named guys. I was able to do that only with the help of people from the CIA who trusted me enough to call somebody and say "Hey, I got this guy who is pretty good. He'll be around your place for a while. See if you can get him into your kitchen." Nobody would have done that if I wasn't any good. When I was leaving a place, somebody there would do it over again and call the next place. In 5 months I was able to build some great friendships and fantastic contacts. That could have never happened (for me anyway) if I didn't come from the CIA. 

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

Reply

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

Reply
post #8 of 19

ICEMAN

And I am sick of everyone asking which school is the best. I don't think anyone on here is saying schools are no good. I believe as do others here that almost all of the schools teach the basics(I have taught in 3) What is being said is,  it is then up to the student and what THEY DO with the basic knowledge how far they will go .I have had good students, and then I have had some who should have worked for NASA because all they did was take up SPACE and waste mommy and daddy's hard earned money. Do you think I would call up and recommend a student for a world tour if they were no good.??. You answered your own question regarding the schools. In regard to the original question re. fine dining, in reality none of them do, they may skim on the subject.

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

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 #9 of 19

I'm with chefedb, but I'll take it a little further.

 

If your goal is to work for a chain along the lines of Applebees, Red Lobster, TGIFs, Olive Garden, etc., your educational criteria are going to be far different than if you aspire to own your own, independent, fine dining restaurant, bistro, coffee shop, B&B, etc., or for that matter, an institutional food service operation.

 

One's career goal(s) really dictate which educational method or school is "best" to achieve one's goal(s).!

 

If one's goal is to "make a living cooking", probably the community college route is the optimum in terms of return on $ invested.

 

If one's goal is to become a "celebrity chef", one needs to seriously consider studying business management, communication skills( both verbal and written), presentation skills (acting school).

 

If one's goal is to manage a restaurant, maybe a degree in hospitality management is the best course.

 

The best school is the one that provides YOU with the skills and knowledge that will allow you to achieve your goal(s) in the most economical and efficient manner!

 

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 #10 of 19

BTW, anyone who attempts to tell me this is the way to achieve my goal(s) without taking the time to find out what my wants, needs, and goals are is either trying to convince me to spend my money to benefit them or to justify decisions they have made in the past, probably because they now question those decisions in the light of what has happened since they made those decisions!

 

Have I made wrong decisions? You bet! Does it make me feel good? Nope, but I feel better if others also made those wrong decisions, laser.gifat least then I'm not alone!

 

Will I advise anyone else to make the same wrong decision? Absolutely not if I can avoid doing so!

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Reply
Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Reply
post #11 of 19

EJDutcher:

I do not know of any culinary/cookery school which teaches haute cuisine, or "fine-dining," per se. Many schools offer a gourmet or fine-dining course.

As previously stated, all schools teach the basic fundamentals. It is incumbent on you to learn on-the-job-training after graduation in the real world.

Do you really want to spend $19,000 on Cook Street's tuition?

 

There are apparently four Culinary Arts programs in Utah:

Utah Valley University

Salt Lake Community College

Snow College

Bridgerland Applied Technical College

 

I would suggest that you consider doing an an ACF Apprenticeship at the Broadmoor, and afterwards, do a finishing Apprenticeship at the Greenbrier. CMC Richard Rosendale is the chef there.

 

It would also behoove you to earn high marks at school to gain a recommendation from a chef-instructor in order to possibly get a letter of recommendation for the establishments you seek to work for. Afterwards, you could seek work at those fine-dining restaurants. Good luck.


Edited by TheUnknownCook - 1/18/11 at 4:00pm
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 #12 of 19

To say schools don't teach fine dining is silly. All schools cover the basics but it's how often that the students are able to repeat those skills and how far in depth they go into the subjects that count. 

 

When it comes to fine dining "education," lets examine 2 Chicago schools I worked at. LCB Chicago (formerly CHIC) and Kendall College. Both have a "fine dining" class but KC's is far better when it comes to quality, service, menu, expectations, etc. They really don't compare. 

 

With that being said, one can learn all this without going to a school that teaches "fine dining." 

 

I did an interview with a teenager who may be going to CIA in the fall of 2011 and he's worked at Charlie Trotter's, Alinea, and currently works for Kith and Kin. 

 

I'd recommend doing what he did. Here's his story http://culinaryschooladviser.com/?p=228

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 19

"I want to work for people like Thomas Keller or Gordon Ramsay, I want to work for the best of the best, but how and where do I start? "

 

By learning the basics. With a good foundation rooted in the basics, you can cook anything. Period. Lose the ego, realize you're going to spend a lot of time doing grunt work, and work your a$$ off.

If you're good at what you do, you'll get noticed.

post #14 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by IceMan View Post

"I don't know, I could be wrong, but I don't think so. You say that you want to work for guys like Keller or Ramsay. Do you have some kind of idea that these guys are right there in the kitchen with you directing all the action and cooking on the line next to you? It doesn't happen that way. At least it didn't for me. I was at the FL for 2 weeks during my "World Tour" of great places. I saw Keller for maybe 15 minutes, and those minutes were not all at one time. Those guys are very good at getting the best people to do important jobs the way they want. They are way too big and have way too many important things to do than to just be chefs any more. Like I said, I could be wrong, but that's the way my experience was. "

 

 

"My "World Tour" was a five month chunk when I went across the US working in different big-named places for/with some big-named guys. I was able to do that only with the help of people from the CIA who trusted me enough to call somebody and say "Hey, I got this guy who is pretty good. He'll be around your place for a while. See if you can get him into your kitchen." Nobody would have done that if I wasn't any good. When I was leaving a place, somebody there would do it over again and call the next place. In 5 months I was able to build some great friendships and fantastic contacts. That could have never happened (for me anyway) if I didn't come from the CIA."


Sorry I did not be spacific. I know that the people like Ramsay and Keller don't spend all that much time in the kitchen or in the restaurants, but I want to work in there kind of restaurants. That World Tour sounds great, but I am really unsure about doing things like the CIA because of $$$.
 

 



Quote:
Originally Posted by jtobin625 View Post

 

 

I did an interview with a teenager who may be going to CIA in the fall of 2011 and he's worked at Charlie Trotter's, Alinea, and currently works for Kith and Kin. 

 

That is pretty much what I am trying to do now, but how would I go about getting an internship in Alinea?

 



Quote:
Originally Posted by TheUnknownCook View Post

 

It would also behoove you to earn high marks at school to gain a recommendation from a chef-instructor in order to possibly get a letter of recommendation for the establishments you seek to work for. Afterwards, you could seek work at those fine-dining restaurants. Good luck.



Well right now I am going to a school MATC, and i am taking the culinary program, My instructors always talk ver highly of me and are great refrences. Is going to MATC enough? should I go to somewhere like the CIA? I am also doing a internship with a very tallented chef in park city and am about to start another at one of Utahs best pizzerias.

 

post #15 of 19

Kid, I never said "Go to the CIA", I said "I went to the CIA". It ainte cheap. It ainte really even affordable. I went there because I had free money (free for spending time in the NAVY anyway). No chance in hey that I couldda gone any other way. I am a big fan of the Community College/Junior College/Trade School route. I have also lately become much more a fan of the Armed Forces Culinary Programs. Please don't hate the "... lines of Applebees, Red Lobster, TGIFs, Olive Garden, etc. ...". Working at those places GETS YOU PAID. You get to work out your skills at places like that. Also, wherever you go to work, if the boss tells you that you will be "probationary" for more than a week, tell him to kiss off. If any boss decides to pay you garbage wages for a month, tell him to kiss off too. I did not do my "World Tour" right out of school. OMG no. I would say to work for the places where you live that you would go to eat at. You can't afford the FL or Alinea or Charlie Trotter"s. Work for some good regular places, then move on when you are ready. 

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

Reply

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

Reply
post #16 of 19

Hey EJ,

The advise I am about to give does not all come from experience, it also comes from research and from the amount of time I have put into what I am doing as we speak. 

 

I am/would work in restaurants for at least 1 year. Save up and get yourself a good set of knives. Get your partying WAY the heck out of your system. Save up your money from that year of work and buy the CIA textbooks. READ THEM!!! Do not just sit down and do it once cover to cover. Save your money and buy some bitchin ingredients and make dinners for your friends and family [ask for donation so you can continue to do this for them, it may not pay for all you spent... but it will help]. Go to a community college and get a degree, not a cert. After you have graduated and are "trailing" your way through some nice places for experience in the type of place you want to work. Start building up your contacts list for important people you have heard about or worked with. Do the jobs as if your life depended on it, take it all VERY seriously[this is why I said get the partying the heck out of your system.] Spend your free time reading reviews of everyplace you can find and pay very close attention to the ones that are in the places you want to work. Once you have graduated and are working in some decent places, look into some continuing education programs, CIA has some that look very cool

 

As for your contacts list[database]... You want to add any and everybody that you can find[you do not have to actually have their number or address, just a name to start with]. I am talking about chefs, critics, even the vendors that are delivering the produce to your place. Get to know them all! I am not saying you should kiss their butts or anything, but take an interest in EVERYONE. You think that guy only delivers to your restaurant? When they say never burn a bridge, take it VERY seriously. The idiot you are working with today might be the guy that can get you into Ramsey's kitchen one day.

 

Take classes on networking and practice networking at every chance you get[Pro Tip 1: take a pen and write on the backs of any cards what you talked about so you can update your database under their contact notes section. Pro Tip 2: look up the contacts you think you might see before you are going to an event so you can "remember" anything you might want to talk to them about]. This is the way you are going to get into a place like you are saying you want to get into. If I remember correctly there are only 6 degrees of separation between you and Keller or Ramsey. You are only 19 now, but the years go really fast and you have time on your side, so take advantage of it while you have it. 

post #17 of 19

I say you go out into the real world and learn. Try to work in places that have a local/seasonal menu.  Those restaurants are the types that tend not to use vacuum packed or frozen anything.  Therefore, in my mind, less pre-made shortcuts bought and more prep work being done and the more you will actually learn.  Regions with rich agricultural tradition will go hand-in-hand with rich culinary traditions. Sadly that is becoming less common in the states.

post #18 of 19

If one insist on going to a school for upscale cuisine. I,  in my opinion would suggest  The French Culinary Institute in New York.  The faculty alone insures thet it is upscale. Andre Soltner and the rest of the staff were pioneers of  Haute Cuisine in New York with '' Lutece'' and places like it in the 60 s.

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

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 #19 of 19

The best way to get into a place like TFL, Alinea, or any of the other upper echelon places is to use connections. School can set you up with connections, but so can essentially begging the chefs to work there. There is a long waiting list for commis at these places. Be prepared to work for free, for about 12 hours a day, doing the "shit" jobs that no one else does. 

 

I agree that there isn't really a "fine dining" school, so choose a school based on your needs and go from there. The best course, IMO, would be to go to a local school and get in the best kitchen you can in your town. Get some experience under your belt...it is unlikely that Keller or Achatz will take you if you don't know some basics. 

 

If/when you go to school, start applying for internships early. Send TFL, Alinea, Daniel Bolud's, etc. your resume, cover letter, and all that, all the time. Start early. If you want to work for Achatz or Keller, don't be afraid to take a job at another place. Success begets success. Your ultimate goal may be TFL or Per Se, but a Daniel Bolud or Eric Ripert can be a stepping stone. 

 

NYC would be a good place to start. There are a ton of really great restaurants that might provide entry to other kitchens. You work for an up and comer like George Mendes, or maybe work for Dan Barber, or one of 1000 different options, then maybe Keller will take a look at you, or Ripert, or Humm, or whomever. 

 

You can use stepping stones. Like, work for the "best" chef in your area, move to a bigger city, work for the best chef there, then move to NYC, or San Fran, or whatever, etc, etc. 

 

Remember too, that it might not be in your best interest to work at a place like TFL right away. If you go to TFL as a commis (an unpaid, low rung worker) you will undoudtedly spent your entire shift brunoise-ing vegetables, shucking oysters, picking herbs, unloading deliveries, etc. All fine work, but you might actually do and learn more at a "lower" rung place, build your repetoire, and utilize that to move forward. I'm trying to say that you might learn more at another place, hard as that may be to believe. But what value is cracking coconuts in the basement going to be for you, even if it is at TFL. 

 

Another path of entry might be through the other "outlets" that these chefs have. Keller has Bouchon, Bouchon bakery, Ad Hoc. These outlets, while not doing the same level of cuisine as his flagships, still follow the philosophy of Keller and can get you into the "family," which is invaluable. So you might start off at Ad Hoc, do a great job, then get the chance to move on to Bouchon, then to TFL, etc. 

 

But hey, there is no set path of guideline for this life. You have to maximize opportunity and make the best of whatever you choose. Don't lower your standards and make sure you are always working in a place that makes you better...that is the key. 

 

Good luck. 

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