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Culinary school as a hobby

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

Hello -

I have a unique proposal that I would appreciate some feedback on, if that's okay. I am currently in a very demanding medical program and all of my instructors keep telling me that when I graduate I need to have some way to relieve my stress because otherwise it could have some adverse consequences. :-) I have always dreamed about going to culinary school and have been debating about enrolling in a diploma program once I'm done here. I would do this for a couple of reasons:


1. I have always wanted to

2. I need some way of relieving stress

3. I want to become a much more prolific cook than I am now


I know that these programs are expensive but that hopefully won't be a major concern of mine once I graduate. I also thought about just taking some of the amateur courses that many schools provide but I would prefer something on more of a regular basis and I don't think that I will become nearly as good by simply taking a class here and there as I would actually attending the school.


So, I was just wondering what you all thought about this idea?


I would take it seriously, even though I wouldn't be doing it as a profession being that I have always been very dedicated to any school program that I have been a part of. I'm not the type to just slack off when it comes to things like this.


Thank you for your time and I look forward to your help.

post #2 of 11

I, too, worked in a pressured environment for many,  many years.


I have always taken short culinary courses to relieve stress - one day, a weekend, a week and longer!  I've been lucky enough to be taught by some of the best chefs in Europe.  I find that compensates more than enough for me!

post #3 of 11

It could help you . The cooking business on a pro basis is all stress however. It would be good for you as it could also help you in a physc classes, if you take them.

    The restaurant business is a crash course in human nature and  behavior. I can truly say that having been doing this for so many years I have never met a truly normal by definition chef, that includes myself. I applaude you for this undertaking.

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...


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...

post #4 of 11

As a culinary student 4 months from completing my program, I can tell you that those of us who are going through it for a career can spot the people who want to learn how to throw dinner parties a mile away. And those are the people that get weeded out first.


Perhaps my program is a little intense, but my class started with 23 people, and now we're down to just over 11. All the people that dropped out are the ones that were hoping to "become a vegetarian personal chef" or "win top chef a year after graduating" (actual quotes). These are hopelessly naive goals in my opinion. The school is definitely to blame for many of these poor choices (they sell it hard) but I feel that a professional culinary school is just not the place for these people.


On another note: I just finished a class that focused on banquets and catering. EVERYTHING we prepared in that class was done in batches of at least a hundred. A good cook has, as far as I can tell, two objectives: to be efficient with their preparation, and to be consistent with their product. These is not the same goals as a "hobby chef" has (which are generally to enjoy the process of making food, and have their stuff taste good, even if it may never taste the same again). So while I think hobbyists are not fit for a school like Le Cordon Bleu, CIA, or The Restaurant School, I also think that these schools would not serve them or their needs.


There is one exception, I think, to this idea that only those wanting to be professional cooks or chefs should go through culinary school. I used to be a dancer, and as a dancer, the fundamentals on which everything was based was ballet (also a french art). If you wanted to be a hip-hop dancer, it still behooved you to take ballet, even if you hated it.


For this same reason, I think that anyone wanting to truly devote their life and career to understanding food (food writer, food photographer, restaurant manager, food historian, sommelier, etc) SHOULD go to Culinary School and struggle through it. Only by learning from where modern fine-dining has come from, can they help shape its future. In my opinion.


It doesn't sound as though you are quite there with your enthusiasm about cooking. I would try taking some amateur night-classes before plunking down another $50,000 for tuition.

post #5 of 11

WOW. That was a nice post Christian. I can't very much say anything different. I do feel however, that too many people, mostly those of us in the profession, have too "holy" a definition of the word "chef", and too great a daydream of what the profession really is. I'm a CIA grad, I'm very good, I also work mostly for around $12/hr. I wish things were different, but it is what it is. I'm also an elementary school teacher and I sell dog/cat food/products. It aggravates the bageebies out of me that "hobbyists" think they can produce the same things that I do, but it aggravates me even more when I have to laugh at myself when things are finished and their stuff was all gone too, just as mine. 


Oh yeah, by-the-way ... lots of stress, but when finished, lots of feeling good. 

post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thank you for all of your helpful comments.


Ishbel - I sounds like you use this type of activity to help you combat the effects of stress as well. It's nice to know that it is an effective antidote, as well as an enjoyable pastime.


Chefedb - Thank you for your encouragement. It's relieving to know that medical professionals are not the only abnormal people in our society. :-)


Christian - Thank you as well for your words of advice. I know what you are talking about, since I have seen it many times throughout my education. It would drive me up the wall to see students that obviously did not care about learning the information that was being presented. You knew who they were within the first day or two of class. It made me wonder what type of reward their parents were going to be giving them in exchange for their diploma.

Having said that, I believe that the same activity can be used for many different purposes. Take baking soda, for example. Most people correlate baking soda with the act of baking and while indeed it can be used for this, it can also be used for many other purposes (deodorant, antacid, toothpaste, cleaning agent, etc.). Just because it isn't being used to make a cake, doesn't necessarily mean that it is being used in vain. As long as it achieves one of its purposes, it will have been well used.


Now, if someone attends culinary arts school and doesn't apply themselves nor takes advantage of being there, it will have obviously not served its purpose in the least. Does that make sense?


Thank you for your advice. If I do end up doing it, I will definitely take advantage of every opportunity afforded me.


IceMan - I'm looking forward to that "lots of feeling good". :-)

post #7 of 11

I have a retired vet who's doing the program for fun.  His grades are top notch and he is having a ball with it.  If you have the time and the money, go for it.  Life is too short for what ifs. 

post #8 of 11

I went to culinary school with a practicing surgeon who was on sabbatical in order to attend culinary school to feed his secondary muse with no intentions of making a career change.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thank you for your words of encouragement, Chasin Elk and Cheflayne. I think I'm going to go for it once I'm done here. I've got to follow my passion. Thanks!

post #10 of 11

I can sort of relate to you to.  I plan to go into the hospitality industry (hotels, restaurants).  But I am plan to go to school for hotel and tourism mangement and start my career there not culinary or baking and pastry.  During school I will work whatever small jobs I can find, even volunteer if I need to for fun on the side in a bakery or restaurant.  This way it will be an easier transition before delving into any professional culinary/baking programs.   When i feel able I will seriously pursue them.  Programs such as the Le Cordon Bleu campuses outside the US can give you professional culinary courses in three different levels (basic , intermediate, and advanced).  And you can complete up to whatever level you feel comfortable to.  I can work in two complete and totally different sides of the hospitality industry into my life some way or the other without having to choose one or the other.  I can voluneer to work for free on the side in the food industry, work professionally, have a business out my home while I work , and enter amateur or professional competitions on the side.  I can work up at my own pace and still be financially stable with another job I still love.

post #11 of 11
I think there's a lot of programs out there that could suit your needs very well:

Johnson and Wales: They have a program called Garnish Your Degree, which I've just been accepted to, so I've done a lot of research and may be able to answer questions. It's a program for people that have bachelors degrees already and want to pursue a culinary education. It only takes one year to complete compared to the usual two. You leave with an associates of applied science. But then again, you don't need an associates degree.

French Culinary Institute: Just visited the NYC campus and it's very impressive. They have an intense hands on program that only takes six months to complete if you take day classes and nine if you take night classes. They also haves a line of classes called "serious amateur" which can give you some good knowledge for hobby purposes. Also, they have an Italian program which seems amazing as well. You spend half your time in NYC and half in Italy learning everything there is about Italian cooking. You also spend time working at a restaurant while in Italy.

The CIA requires 6 months of professional cooking experience before they will admit you and it will take 2 years to get an associates. That was the turnoff for me.

Those are the only schools I researched but my position is similar to yours. I have a business degree but want to pursue cooking because I enjoy it and find it satisfying on an academic level, and it seems like you do as well.

A little off topic but if you want some stress release and a head start, pick up a couple books and read up and practice the techniques in them.

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