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Culinary Arts Major in Community College! Please Help!

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

Straight after graduating from High School, I began my search for what Culinary School I wanted to attend. I looked at Le Cordon Bleu and The Art Institutes, but they were all too expensive, and I figured that I can just go to a Community College which is cheaper.

 

Below is the school I am attending. 

 

http://www.cypresscollege.edu/academics/academicPrograms/VocationalCareerTechnicalEducation/HotelRestaurantCulinaryArts/CulinaryArts

 

Anyways... Currently I am in general education classes. I have NO culinary classes as of now, and I feel like I am in High School all over again! I feel deprived of my passion! I want to cook! I want to work in a kitchen! I have worked in a professional kitchen before, so I have a little experience, but I am no where NEAR where I should be. My parents (I am 18) won't allow me to work at a restaurant while I am in school, because they prefer that I focus 1000% on school.

 

Here is my issue! I feel like I am not tackling my dream. I am taking an English,Theater,and a Counseling class.... These classes have NOTHING to do with my career choice. I was forced to take these classes because, in order to get my Associates degree, I need general education courses, and these classes were the only ones I could get :(

 

I spoke to my counselor and she told me, that I am a hands on type of person, and I shouldn't be bored out of my mind in an academic environment. She said that I need to be learning hands on. She told me that next semester I can just go ahead and take my culinary arts courses (Where I will be learning hands on) and I can just get a certificate that is completed with a internship, or I can stay in the classes I am in and attain my Associates Degree.

 

My question to the experienced Chefs on this forum is: Must a chef have an Associates Degree in Culinary Arts? Or will a certificate of skills work too? Should I just go straight into the Culinary Arts program where I will be gaining experience in the kitchen, or should I just wait and stay in my general education classes? 

 

Thank you! 

 

post #2 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by CulinaryDreams View Post
... Must a chef have an Associates Degree in Culinary Arts? Or will a certificate of skills work too? Should I just go straight into the Culinary Arts program where I will be gaining experience in the kitchen, or should I just wait and stay in my general education classes? 

 

Thank you! 

 

In addition to knowing how to cook, a chef needs to know:

  • Personnel management
  • Basic business accounting
  • Inventory control
  • Basic labor law and regulations
  • Fundamentals of plumbing, HVAC, refrigeration, carpentry (or have LOTS of money crazy.gif)

 

On the other hand, an AA can be an asset when you discover that 40 hours at $10/hour is not great, especially when the career ladder reaches 60-70 hour work weeks on salary.

 

My advice? Suck it up, get your AA, then go to work in a restaurant/hotel/cafeteria to figure out what you don't know/understand. At that point, you'll figure out whether to:

  • Keep working and learning on the job, or
  • Go to culinary school, or
  • Go back to college and get a BA/BS or even a Masters, the exact disipline doesn't matter near as much as does the degree.

 

Remember, cooking is a trade. To excel as a cook is to prepare exactly what your told exactly the same way 20-100 times a day.

 

Guessing, maybe 5% of cooks become head cooks, 5% of head cooks become Sous Chefs, 10% of Sous Chefs become Chefs, 5% of Chefs become Executive Chefs, and 1% of those become recognized chefs in the trade.

 

And remember, Sous Chefs and above are managers and rarely have any production input and, if a degree is going to help, it will begin to help at those levels.

 

BTA,WTHDIK!

 

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
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post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PeteMcCracken View Post

In addition to knowing how to cook, a chef needs to know:

  • Personnel management
  • Basic business accounting
  • Inventory control
  • Basic labor law and regulations
  • Fundamentals of plumbing, HVAC, refrigeration, carpentry (or have LOTS of money crazy.gif)

 

 

 

 

Everything you listed is offered in one of the courses that I must take in the certificate program

 

 

  • HRC 100 C Nutrition
  • HRC 101 C Introduction to Hospitality Careers
  • HRC 120 C Sanitation and Safety
  • HRC 125 C Restaurant and Banquet Operations
  • HRC 135 C Culinary Fundamentals I 
  • HRC 136 C Baking Fundamentals I
  • HRC 145 C The Art of Garde Manger 
  • HRC 152 C Menu Planning and Purchasing
  • HRC 231 C Cost Controls in Hospitality
  • HRC 235 C Culinary Fundamentals II
  • HRC 255 C American Regional Cuisine
  • HRC 265 C International Cuisine  
  • HRC 295 C Hospitality Internship

 

Anyways.... 

 

I really have no problem with sucking it up and finishing my AA. I am not a lazy person at all! I just don't know how much longer I can last in High School part 2... I want to be a chef, because I love to cook, not because I want to be rich and make lots of money. I understand that people with degrees generally make more money than people without degrees, but I always thought that in this field, skill was more important, and that working your way up was more respected rather than walking in with a piece of paper. 

 

 

 

post #4 of 17

No one is going to hire you because you have a useless piece of paper from a CC that says you have have an AA in culinary arts. You need some experience to go with that.

 

There will be 100 people out there with years of line experience fighting for the same $10 hr line cooks job your applying for. Guess who's going to be considered first?

 

Why can't you work part time, weekends ? They don't teach at school what you will learn in a busy kitchen.

 

Another tip.... brush up on your Spanish or you will be lost in a kitchen in LA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

post #5 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by CulinaryDreams View Post

...Everything you listed is offered in one of the courses that I must take in the certificate program

Good luck, if you believe what I listed is included in your list of culinary classes, then I did you a disservice by not making myself clear.

 

Each of the items listed cannot be learned in a few hours in some other class. If you wish to rate it in "college semester hours", exclusive of culinary classes, you would be looking at not less than 40-60 credit hours (credit hours, you know, 3 credit hours is one hour a day, three days a week, for 18 weeks or approximately 54 class hours plus, um, 108-162 study/homework hours), in other words, at least three years!

 

It is apparent, from your comments, that you have made up your mind and are hoping to find someone to validate your choice.

 

Good luck, most of us will be here when your "rose colored glasses" fog up.
 

 

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
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post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 

 


 

 



Quote:
Originally Posted by PeteMcCracken View Post

Good luck, if you believe what I listed is included in your list of culinary classes, then I did you a disservice by not making myself clear.

 

Each of the items listed cannot be learned in a few hours in some other class. If you wish to rate it in "college semester hours", exclusive of culinary classes, you would be looking at not less than 40-60 credit hours (credit hours, you know, 3 credit hours is one hour a day, three days a week, for 18 weeks or approximately 54 class hours plus, um, 108-162 study/homework hours), in other words, at least three years!

 

It is apparent, from your comments, that you have made up your mind and are hoping to find someone to validate your choice.

 

Good luck, most of us will be here when your "rose colored glasses" fog up.
 

 


 

You're dead wrong! I have not made up my mind. I am sorry that because I didn't respond with "Thank you so much! I will do what you say right away!" you think that I already have my mind made up. I am trying to weigh out all options.

 

I understand what you are saying, I personally feel like I am wasting my time with unnecessary classes. I don't see how these general classes (that I just took in High School by the way) are going to help me! You basically told me to hang in there, and complete my AA (Which is the certificate program plus 25 credits of general education)...I respect your answer and I am actually considering getting my AA and dealing with these non hands on classes. My question to you is: Does the paper matter (The certificate plus general ed courses which = The AA) Or does skill matter (The certificate alone)... No matter which route I choose, the steps in the certificate program that I listed will still be taken, it's just general ed or no general ed.... I don't know what I am going to do yet...

 

By the way Chef... I am not wearing rose colored glasses! If that were the case then I would have blew my money on Le Cordon Bleu, and expected to be a Executive Chef after graduation (Which a lot of people believe).... I am actually very aware that this is a long process of many many years, and blood,sweat,and tears. I am sorry if I pissed you off, that was not my intent. Your response was pretty pessimistic and harsh... Contrary to what you may think, I know that I am going to fall down, and I know that I am going to get "fog in my glasses"... I don't think that my dream will be handed to me on a silver platter. I am bound to make mistakes. I apologize for giving you the impression that I am a naive dumb ass that wants to hear what I want to hear and nothing else. 

post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 

I just want to make it clear one more time. I DO NOT BELIEVE that I am going to learn the ins and outs of the industry by just taking those classes, and I know that by taking those classes that I am not going to be a "master chef" right away. I am 100% aware of that. No matter Culinary School, College, University, what ever... They want people with SKILLS and with experience... I understand that.

 

It's just that at my CC that is what they offer. So I am asking myself... Why do the worthless GE classes, when I can go straight to the core curriculum and the internship? I am not saying that the curriculum they offer will land me a big time career! I am just saying this is what they offer. They offer the certificate (core curriculum) and they offer the AA/AS (The curriculum plus 25 units of GE... Math,English,Science,Theater,Counseling,etc...) Regardless on which route I choose, I am going to apply everywhere I possibly can this winter in hopes of getting a part time job in a kitchen.  

post #8 of 17

CulinaryDreams,

 

My apologies if I sounded harsh.

 

First, your question about certificate or AA. In my experience, and in my opinion, neither will advance your employment opportunities. The AA will open up future educational opportunities that the certificate will not.

 

The culinary trade classes will definitely enhance your knowledge, as will the General Education classes, if you approach them as learning opportunities.

 

Do you need a certificate or AA with culinary concentration to get a job in the culinary industry? In my opinion, no. Will either help get a job? In my opinion, only if those who are competing for the same job have less experience working in the culinary world than you do. 

 

What I was attempting to point out, obviously not clearly, culinary arts is a trade, similar to an electrician, plumber, carpenter, etc. Trades have existed for centuries and were generally learned through apprenticeships, which provided necessary training but also provided an opportunity to learn from experience.  Trades offer an opportunity to make a comfortable living with hard work. IMO trades do NOT offer a great way to express your passion or creativity.

 

If you truly have a passion for culinary arts and wish to be able to express it in the future, you need to look beyond the culinary certificate. Those that are allowed to express their passion are managers, either as a chef or chef/owner. Both of which are business persons, not trade persons.

 

Whether you take the culinary courses or not, get a job in the industry as quickly as possible, even part time, at the best place you can find. Continue you education but focus on what you need to know to manage a business, business law, labor law, business accounting, personnel management including management philosophy, marketing, advertising, in other words, a BA/BA in Business Management.

 

It sounds like you are in your late teens to early 20s. You have 30-40 years ahead of you to work and find an opportunity to express your creativity. Develop a solid foundation in the next 2 to 6 years that will provide you with the flexibility to achieve your goals.

 

Whether you go for the certificate or the AA, do not ever stop learning and going to school. In my opinion, if you stop with the certificate or AA, unless you are very lucky and extremely talented, you will work for wages in the $10-$15/hour range for quite a while and you may be fortunate enough to move up to $20/hour.

 

Sorry if I seem pessimistic, but reality is reality. A culinary certificate is not a license to riches, neither is an AA.

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PeteMcCracken View Post

CulinaryDreams,

 

My apologies if I sounded harsh.

 

First, your question about certificate or AA. In my experience, and in my opinion, neither will advance your employment opportunities. The AA will open up future educational opportunities that the certificate will not.

 

The culinary trade classes will definitely enhance your knowledge, as will the General Education classes, if you approach them as learning opportunities.

 

Do you need a certificate or AA with culinary concentration to get a job in the culinary industry? In my opinion, no. Will either help get a job? In my opinion, only if those who are competing for the same job have less experience working in the culinary world than you do. 

 

What I was attempting to point out, obviously not clearly, culinary arts is a trade, similar to an electrician, plumber, carpenter, etc. Trades have existed for centuries and were generally learned through apprenticeships, which provided necessary training but also provided an opportunity to learn from experience.  Trades offer an opportunity to make a comfortable living with hard work. IMO trades do NOT offer a great way to express your passion or creativity.

 

If you truly have a passion for culinary arts and wish to be able to express it in the future, you need to look beyond the culinary certificate. Those that are allowed to express their passion are managers, either as a chef or chef/owner. Both of which are business persons, not trade persons.

 

Whether you take the culinary courses or not, get a job in the industry as quickly as possible, even part time, at the best place you can find. Continue you education but focus on what you need to know to manage a business, business law, labor law, business accounting, personnel management including management philosophy, marketing, advertising, in other words, a BA/BA in Business Management.

 

It sounds like you are in your late teens to early 20s. You have 30-40 years ahead of you to work and find an opportunity to express your creativity. Develop a solid foundation in the next 2 to 6 years that will provide you with the flexibility to achieve your goals.

 

Whether you go for the certificate or the AA, do not ever stop learning and going to school. In my opinion, if you stop with the certificate or AA, unless you are very lucky and extremely talented, you will work for wages in the $10-$15/hour range for quite a while and you may be fortunate enough to move up to $20/hour.

 

Sorry if I seem pessimistic, but reality is reality. A culinary certificate is not a license to riches, neither is an AA.



Thank you so much Chef Pete! I misunderstood you, and this is much more clear! I am going to complete my classes this semester and I am going to do my damndest to get a job in the kitchen on my winter break! I get what you are saying completely now. 

post #10 of 17
Thread Starter 

By the way I am 18 years old... My first plan was to major in Hospitality Management (which is like Business Management and Culinary Arts combined), and transfer to Cal Poly Pomona's Collins College of Hospitality. I will heavily reconsider that... Regardless I am going to get a job in a kitchen so I can get my feet wet as much as possible, and work my way up if I can, and overall learn from the real deal.  

post #11 of 17

I forgot one point, if your career objectives include working for any organization with a HR department (Human Relations, which, IMHO, is miss-titled , it should be Inhuman Relations crazy.gif), definitely get your certificate, they really don't care what you know, laser.gifonly what someone else says you know.

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #12 of 17

One of the best Garde Manger/Decorateur  Chefs I know here in Florida hardly speaks English is from Dominican Republic and does not even have high school never mind college diploma..  Its in the hands,, you either have it or you dont.

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 #13 of 17

Dear Culinary Dreams,

 

Firstly congratulations on choosing a CC rather than a big name school--good move.  Also a good move to work first in a kitchen.  Everyone here on this forum as well as your instructors would suggest you to keep on working while in school.

 

Your parents need to know that cooking is a trade, a manual trade, not an academic pursuit.  School will provide you with knowledge, but you need hands-on experience as well, and experience is jut as important as knowledge.

 

A clear defintion should be made regarding "cooks" and "Chefs".

 

A cook is judged by what they put on a plate.

A Chef is judged by how well they run a kitchen.

 

In other words a Chef is a manager, and needs a complete different set of skills, as well as cooking skills.  

 

Pete was correct in telling what is needed to become a Chef.  You need to know the basics of refrigeration, for example, since 70% of your inventory is either refrigerated or frozen; and if such equipment breaks down, what to do, what information is needed to give the repair man, or even if a repair man is needed.

 

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 #14 of 17
Chef,
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post #15 of 17
Thread Starter 

After reading that article Chef Pete... I still want to be a chef! lol

post #16 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by CulinaryDreams View Post

After reading that article Chef Pete... I still want to be a chef! lol

Great! As long as you go into it with your eyes wide open, ears tuned, and mouth closed crazy.gif
 

 

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #17 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by PeteMcCracken View Post


If you truly have a passion for culinary arts and wish to be able to express it in the future, you need to look beyond the culinary certificate. Those that are allowed to express their passion are managers, either as a chef or chef/owner. Both of which are business persons, not trade persons.

 

Whether you take the culinary courses or not, get a job in the industry as quickly as possible, even part time, at the best place you can find. Continue you education but focus on what you need to know to manage a business, business law, labor law, business accounting, personnel management including management philosophy, marketing, advertising, in other words, a BA/BA in Business Management.



+1 I say get an AA that will transfer to a four year college well. Ask your advisor about possible articulation agreements with universities in the area. To do this, you'll probably have to take the gen. eds., but do not despair. The AA will open the door to a bachelor's in business management, hospitality management, or something else that will make it much easier for you to be able to do your own thing. Along the way, those sit-down, non-hands-on classes will also hopefully prepare you for the non-cooking things you will have to deal with in your career. If the cooking part is already easy for you, that is just one more reason to really focus on that stuff. The tricky part is keeping yourself fresh on the cooking part while you do the academic thing. Demonstrate to your parents that you're doing exceptionally with your classes and then get a part-time job working the line somewhere.

 

This, however, is only one way to do it, and is no guarantee of being a great chef, but it is a way to maximize the possibility that you will be financially solvent and be in a position to be a manager or owner of your own place. The bad part is that it'll take away from your cooking time. A lot of the big names in cooking got there by spending a lot of time working for pennies at big name restaurants. If you have the talent and like abuse, travel and intern and work until you make it. Be prepared to be poor with no diploma to fall back on if that doesn't work, though.

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