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The future for a very young chef... I need some serious discussion.

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

I'm from Ithaca ny.. a very small place but an area with more restaurants per capita than the city and all consider themselves foodies.  I elected not to go to college after high school (third year out) because I didn't have a clue which direction I wanted to go and college is all on my own dime, not my parents'.  I've done very well for myself since then and luckily have moved up from the depths of the soapy suds of a dish pit six years ago to now being a sous chef at a very reputable fine dining spot in town.  I have met many restaurateurs around the area and have become friends with many line cooks and executive chefs that are intrigued by my fast moving "career" thus far as a cook.  It's also a strange thing to be twenty years old and now spend most all of my time around restaurant people that are 26+.  Sorry for the long intro... here is my dilemma.

Everyone that I know in the business tells me that whatever I do... stay away from culinary school, "Don't waste your money.. you've already learned what they teach you in four years." "Here is your piece of paper"... hands me paycheck.."Now go put it on your parents' fridge so that they can be proud of you!!"

For the last year of being around these people and their anti CIA attitude, I have agreed and told myself that I would save my money for my future moves in the business or what have you.  I have met CIA grads that don't make as much as me and have far worse jobs than me and I have felt proud of what I believed in and what I have accomplished.

NOW.. a few nights ago I run into an old high school bestie of mine who attends the hotel school at cornell and is doing very very well.  he spends his summers interning at the waldorf in the maldives and then during winter break he's interning at the waldorf in the city.  We start talking.. and he begins to tell me, "Man you HAVE to go to culinary school!  If you want to get to the next level in the culinary world and really go big time then it is absolutely a MUST.  now he is more into management and hospitality but through guest chefs and elective classes that are offered at cornell he has a great understanding of food as well.  It was strange because during the conversation he KNEW how much more knowledge he has than me and he was assuming that I had no technique and that someone other than me and the exec chef made the menu and changed it seasonally and that we don't throw specials daily and that we don't order, cost food, train employees, study gluten free dairy free low sodium  vegan vegitarean dishes in our time.

 

I am now very confused.  Is he right?  Should I be in school?  I understand and agree with him on a few points.. but the fact that the people I'm closest to in the industry advise me not to go to school and that it would be silly to waste the money and that I would be lost.. two or three years behind in my career if I stopped working.

 

Sorry if mods are upset that this is not in the culinary school forums, I have no qualms with it being moved I just really wanted to get the pro chefs thoughts..

 

What are your guys' thoughts? (If you got this far)

post #2 of 11

Take a look at http://www.cheftalk.com/t/69425/kendall-college-or-le-cordon-bleu-in-chicago#post_378911

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 11

Key word:

 

Exposure.

 

You can get it any way you like, some get it from culinary schools, some get it working in different cities and countries.  The more exposure you have, the more well -rounded and knowledgable you will be.

 

To get into hotels in the Maldives, France, Australia, etc. you will need contacts.  You will not get this by working in one place.  Some get thier contacts from culinary school, some from relatives, some from working at many different places.

 

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 #4 of 11

i look at culinary school as stage or a new job. you might have mastered the last thing you did but every place you start have to learn something completly different. culinary school is like learning a different kitchen except it is okay to fuck up and experiment and try new shit with worring about a p&l statement. its just another kitchen you have conquered in the end. either way its all learning

 

 

post #5 of 11

Whose money?

 

I made the decision on a career in food and worked my way from a new cook with no experience and no connections to working at a top (really) NYC restaurant (full time line cook for over one year).  In between I have seen quite a few kitchens and have come across many financially successful restaurant people.  Chefs, owners, sous chefs, teachers, bakers, caterers, entertainers, etc.

 

Some went to culinary school, some didn't.  I didn't.  Some never graduated high school while other had the best degrees.  I did attend college.  Just not for food.  Five years out, in this business, it doesn't really matter.

 

Cooking is a craft.  You don't have to go to school for carpentry.  You are already paying for an education.  The low wages we receive should be compensated by giving you knowledge to take for yourself and grow into a better position with higher pay or more satisfaction.

 

I suggest you make a list called "The Top 20 Restaurants I Want To See Before I Die."  Then go try to get a job at one of them and stay there no less than one year.  You might have to build your skills for some time, but it will pay off in the long run.  The most important thing is working with good and effective people.

 

Then after you've accomplished that, decide if it's still worth it to pay $50,000.

 

By the way, how's upstate NY?  I'm from the area.

post #6 of 11

Comparing Cornell and the CIA  is as apples are to peaches.

Cornel is known for Hospitality Management not Culinary,.CIA for Culinary not management. Cornell ia a ranked a true college CIA is not.

I don't knock CIA I just believe they charge to much for what they offer, and you can,  like yourself learn it while working and earning instead of paying. Some of the best Europe and American trained Chefs never went to Culinary School.  Also re. Waldorf Astoria, I worked there for a brief time in the 70s and even then , Inhilco which was owned by Hilton was starting to buy everything already made or being produced from their Chicago Commissary.. So if it comes in made what do you learn?,how to open or reconstitute it by adding water. They even used freeze dried canned  dehydrated shrimp for shrimp cocktail and sauce came from Hilton Chicago commissary canned and already made.

Another point , I would venture to say most of the good great chefs that guest in te schools are not culinary grads. They atended HKU

Hard knocks University. You are doing the right thing. Good Luck to you .EDB

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 #7 of 11

I am by no means an accomplished chef; I do have 10 years in the business and like to think I know a little something about it, however. I went to culinary school after high school, with 2 years under my belt as a line cook; I lasted three weeks. Went to a restaurant I wanted to work at at 3:30 pm, asked the chef if he needed someone, and bang. Back in a real kitchen making money. Like chefedb said, some of the greatest chefs in the world never went to culinary school.

post #8 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by thekarmabums View Post

 

Cooking is a craft.  You don't have to go to school for carpentry. .. 

ehhh.....No.

 

Carpenters have trade qualifications and thier salaries and education are based on these qualifications.  Cooking in the U.S. has no trade qulifications.

In oher words, there is a difference....

...."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 #9 of 11

Foodpump - True.  The career path and legal requirements are different for a chef and a carpenter.  The comparison is that a skilled carpenter develops a deep knowledge of his craft from experience working in the field, as is also true for a chef.

 

The fact you mention that these requirements are not necessary in the culinary profession should also be a factor in one's decision to pay for a culinary education.

post #10 of 11

FoodPump,

 

Would you be so kind as to point me to those trade standards you refer to?

 

The only thing I seem top be able to find is rather generic and then only at the State level in certain states. I cannot locate any Federal trade standards. Obviously, I'm looking in the wrong places.

 

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 11

A lot of carpenters were first called journeymen(even to get into the union) one must serve sought of an apprenice program with an experienced pro carpenter. Same applies with a good future chef ,apprentice first with a n experienced pro chef.

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
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