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What is the Best Culinary School from an Exec. Chefs perspective?

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

I have been searching for some time now about which culinary school/ institute/ academy is the best from an experienced Executive Chef's perspective. I have read things like "just go to the cheapest one" and "it doesn't really matter" as well as "choose the one with the best instructors". I think the last of those examples is fairly obvious but how do you determine which schools actually have the best instructors from the ones that just say they do. I have been in the food industry for over 5 years and have been mainly concentrated on baking until this point. I am extremely dedicated to learning and want to furhter develope my culinary skills by attending a school in the near future for a Culinary Program (not pastry). I have been looking at the CIA and Johnson and Wales the most and would like to hear opinions about these schools or any other suggestions. I am really just looking for opinions from people that have experience in hiring and working with culinary school graduates. Thank you very much

 

post #2 of 14

The CIA is the big stand out for me. I'm not a fan of the CC college route but any education is better than none in many cases. As a CIA alumni doors and opportunities can open for you for you that other schools simply can't match just based on the number of other Alumni in the field alone. That's of course assuming you do your part and have the chops to match the paper. I've hired CIA grads that weren't worth the powder to blow them up and others that have gone on to earn more and do bigger things than myself. No matter where you opt to go to school you get as much out of an education as you put in.

My view has always been that if your going to do a job then do your best. If your going to go to school, go to the best. Education is a solid investment as long as you know what your getting in to and actually spend your career in the field you study.

In your case with five years in the field I would think you would have a solid handle on that.

If CC is the most you can afford or the best fit for you go that route. Just remember that every city in the land that has a CC with a Culinary Arts program touts how great it is. Yet once you leave that area it's very likely no one has heard of it. Have you ever heard of Schoolcraft CC? At one time they had more CMC's in the program than the CIA did. Yet very few had heard of them.

Every one knows of the CIA or J&J.

The step you are taking now in planning for your future is one of the most important steps you will take. Choose wisely and take the time to go visit the schools you are considering if you are undecided.

 

Dave

I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
Reply
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
Reply
post #3 of 14

As the above poster mentioned, look at the credentials of the chefs that are teaching there.Also keep in mind the tuition, CIA and J&W can leave you with a pretty heavy debt load coming out of school especially if you are looking at a bachelor's degree. With the previous experience and a good school you will be out working and climbing the ladder instead of starting out after 4 years as a prep cook until they see what you can really do.

post #4 of 14

We have been asked this question on this sight over and over. My answer is always the same "It is not the school it is the student"" They all teach you almost  the same thing. It's how you percei ve it and what you do with it that counts.  Learn something every day, apply it, watch other chefs , and  don't do it fast , do it right.. If you want to pay 44000.00 to learn how to make a Bechamel at CIA fine. You can spend 2000.00 at a community college and learn the same thing. Without starting your career in debt.

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 #5 of 14

I've gone through a Culinary Course taught at my hometown that was sponsored by the ITA (

British Columbia Industry Training Authority).

 

I'll admit, the sources and amount of education was extensive, but the lack of communication with the ITA and instructors made the course outline very confusing. From my perspective, if I were to go back to a Culinary School, I'd check their backgrounds. Yes, sometimes cheaper is better, but if you want to make sure that you're ready for action, ask others who are or used to be a part of different Culinary schools. In this case, you can figure out if it's worth the extra pennies for a more expensive course.

 

If you're ever in Canada however, I'd suggest something that's not under the ITA Authority, it'll save you the headache.

post #6 of 14

I was working as a chef in New York and was asked if I wanted to teach. I said yes and was then told I would have to go to take courses in How to Teach which I did. This  gave me a good insight as to what to do when dealing with students. Unfortunatly as you brought out, you cold be a good chef but bad teacher. Like learning cooking, you must learn how to teach. EJB

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 #7 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thank you all for the helpful replies. I have the option of going to basically any school that I choose for free by using the G.I Bill from my military service, so I will start off with no debt no matter where I go. I am extremely dedicated to learning and becoming the best at whatever I do. I started baking bread without any previous knowledge at a local bakery and while learning there I baked at home on weekends and read almost every book that I could find on the subject and within two years I was the Head Bread baker of a bakery where I designed the whole line of breads and the production schedule for the storefront and wholesale using bakers percentages etc. I had progressed more and faster than 95% of the people that I had been working with that had over 10 years experience in bread. I intend to put in a maximum effort in whichever school I attend. From what I understand the CIA has the largest network in the food world as far as schools go and I know from experience that those types of connections really help.

post #8 of 14

Take 40 students from any school and 5 years later 15 will still be in the same field.

      Everybody thinks its show biz. Well take my word for it it is not. It's hard sweaty work that includes weekends and holidays Forget an 8 hour day , thats only if you are lucky, usually 10 to 12 hours  is more   like it. if    I were you I would go into the management end seeing you know layout, planning etc.  Johnson and Wales is the best in baking as far as I know they were always known for it. You have already gone a long way,no reason to stop now.

I personally think CIA is overrated and overly expensive.  They pin laurels on some of their grads who have exelled and made it big, but what about the rest. I had a student who became a Chef Saucier, and then Sous Chef  at the Hotel Pierre in NY . But he was one out of 40 or 50 who was good or as I say" Had it in the hands"

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 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by PDXBread View Post

From what I understand the CIA has the largest network in the food world as far as schools go and I know from experience that those types of connections really help.



There it is in a nutshell.

The CIA and J&W are Universities. While you can be taught the basics of cooking many places only a few places combine that with a BA. Put that GI bill to work. Just reading your posts it's clear to me that your one of those who will truly benefit from going to a University.

@ Chefedb All schools pin accolades on the successful. J&W gave Emeril Lagasse an Honorary Doctorate. Emeril surely deserved the degree but it was still a good bit of marketing for the school.

 

Best of Luck,

Dave

I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
Reply
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
Reply
post #10 of 14

Emeril deserves any honors he gets. Its a long way from Fall River Mass. to Ex. Chef at Commanders Palace in New Orleans to the  Food Network which in my opinion he helped build and put it on the map. then was screwed by them, cause he was getting older. The man put in his time and ran the gamut . He was and still is one of my favorites.  Emeril paved the way for the new generation of the so called celebrity chefs Flay, Rocco, Gia and the 30 minute one  whatever her name is, Oh yea it's Lee. The N.Y.Governers squeeze . He made it easier for them .

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 #11 of 14

Emeril is a heckuva nice guy and I agree on deserving the accolades. Emeril at least in my opinion did more for the Culinary Arts that just about any other singular Chef in modern history. His show literally started the movement that made cooking fun and a desirable career path.

 

Dave

I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
Reply
I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
Reply
post #12 of 14

CIA was a great experience but I feel it is cost prohibitive now like so many educations. I think working for 1 great chef for 2 years you will get a great education and one be broke.

Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
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Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
Reply
post #13 of 14

Hi PDX . I  looked at J&W but the cost for a two year degree....40k....???? I decided to go the CC route, a two year(AS) degree between 5k-6k. No regrets.

post #14 of 14

Thought I'd reply from a Culinary Student's point of view also.  I attend the John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, LA, they offer associates or bachelors of science in culinary arts.  I keep a full time schedule usually and it will cost you about $3K a semester.  JFCI teaches you EVERY aspect of the culinary industry and you will have hands on training, not just an instructor demo for you.  I just finished the spring semester taking Bistro, which is where the students in the class operate a fully functional restaurant near campus.  It's completely student run with Chef Instructor guidance and you will be required to perform every duty from front of house and back of house.  You even get a chance to be Ex. Chef and create your own menu, which requires everything that goes along with it, writing your recipes in HACCP format, fire schedules, purchase orders, pull sheets, etc...everything a real Ex Chef would have to do, you experience it, it's your night.  You even do front of house duties, yes we must wait tables, set the dining room, check linens, keep the place clean, all of it.  We learn A La Carte, Buffet and Russian Service.  It's a wonderful experience and for those who have never worked in a professional kitchen(myself), it's brutal, the pace of a real restaurant.  The courses you must take are all lecture and lab, with lab being Chef Instructor demo and the student then performing themselves. You learn how to properly execute the cooking methods, saute, braise, poach, grill, steam, etc and how to apply the methods to vegies, fruit and protein.   You also have meat fab classes where you are actually butchering youself and graded on it.  These skills are needed for all classes to follow.

As far as having contacts in the culinary world, Nicholls has great relationships with Chefs and Restauranteurs through out the south, with some Chefs, many well known, actually working with students as the visiting Chef and students execute the dinner for guests.  Just this past spring I worked under Chef Alon Shaya, Ex. Chef at Dominica (co owned with Chef John Besh).  Chef Alon is a wonderful person, kind, patient and you could see the joy in him as he instructed us on preparing his menu.  Many other renowned chefs, Chef Lea Chase (Dookey Chase), Chef John Besh (Restaurant August, Dominica, American Sector, La Provence, LUKE) , Chef Andrea Apuzzo, (all local chefs) Chef Edward Leonard (ACF Culinary Olympic Team Manager from Chicago, Ill) and even chefs from Europe have been Visiting Distinguished Chefs to work with students on executing dinners.

Then you have the namesake, Chef John Folse who is world renown as the leading authority on Cajun and Creole Cuisine and History.  I also just finished Chef Folse's class this spring and was amazed at the knowledge the man has on Louisiana history and cuisine as a result of the 7 nations of immigrants, as he calls it.  He breaks down the cooking techniques we have already learned and specificaly explains each process, his demonstration on a roux was enlightening.  I've been making roux for 30 years and he taught me things I had no idea about.  He truly teaches you to master heat and flavor, after all, that's what chefs do.  All the Instructor Chefs have worked in the industry and now have chose to come to Nicholls to teach, they are all kind, patient, dedicated, knowledgable people who love what they do and will lead you to whom ever it is you need to attain your culinary dreams.  Of course it takes hard work and dedication on your part and they see who the dedicated ones are and remember them when the 5 star restaurants are calling for Nicholls students to fill positions.

 

This is just my experience that I wanted to share with you from the student's stand point.  As others have said, you can gain knowledge on cooking techniques from CC's.  But if you are interested in taking it to an Executive Chef's position, I personally believe you must be educated in all aspects, including financial, in the cuilnary industry. Nicholls is the place to get it all...it is an option.  http://www.nicholls.edu/culinary/

 

 

Good luck in your decision and your career.

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