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To school or not to school, that is the question

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

First off, hello! (I'll introduce myself in the appropriate forums if I get the chance). 

 

Soliciting opinions on which route to go.  I can follow in either a school path, leaning towards a short-and-sweet and little debt or I can get hopefully into a kitchen and take the next steps there.  Long and short, I learned side-by-side from the late brother who graduated Cum Laude from J&W, so I have a very decent training in Haute cuisine...but at the time I wasn't paying as much attention as I now would have loved to (young and unsure), but I did work with him starting at the bottom and then through another restaurant experience and finally alongside him in his own place, spanning about 4 years.  I have done many kitchen tasks from cleaning pots/pans and floors to inventory to stocks/sauce/line/grill/etc/etc to plating dishes but feel I have some holes in my education (again I was young) but can certainly hold my own in a medium sized bistro environment. The other thing is, this was years ago and am in the middle of a career change.  I've never left the love of the kitchen, food or that environment.  I am dead serious in doing this, problem is there seems to be quite a bit of seemingly predatory schooling going on.   I just need some feedback from people in the industry who can give me a clearer perspective on what is worth it in terms of an education and what is useless. It seems to me that a 6 month to one year course might be ideal and a reasonable debt load (depending on the school obviously).  That in turn, if the school is decent will hopefully lead to networks.  The other route is to jump in the fire.  I really would love to be mentored but going from point A to point B seems to be mostly chance and opportunity. 

 

As to the "where"....well that's complicated.  My wife is currently researching schools to do her MFA and we are concurrently looking for places where I have the opportunity to kickstart a chef career as well.  Mostly food and culture lively places are going up on the map...NYC, San Francisco, Chi, Seattle, Austin (recent addition which surprised us).   Bard is on her list which is close to CIA Hyde Park, most of the other areas have LCB schools (again I'd be looking at the certificate).  NYC has FCI but that and CIA are more cash. 

 

Bottom line, what programs would you consider "worth it" and how does that stack up to just good old fashioned mentoring?  If you had your choice where would you go and why?

 

Thanks so much for brainstorming with me! 

post #2 of 10

 

Quote:
(I'll introduce myself in the appropriate forums if I get the chance).

Perhaps slightly less time spent on this post would have given you more chance to introduce yourself.

 

I am not sure that the reasons that I went to culinary school are quite as valid today as they were back in the dark ages, not to mention the cost has skyrocketed. I went to school with 10 years experience in the business. The reason that I went was that back then (30 years ago), restaurants changed their menus maybe once a year and stuck to one cuisine. To get exposure to different cuisines, techniques, ingredients, etc, you had to change jobs on a regular basis. Today restaurants are much more free wheeling and creative in their approach to dining so if you land in a good job with a quality chef you can get a lot of miles out of one job without leaving the building.

 

You mentioned networking, in my experience culinary school does present that possibility, but I feel that working in the industry (local chefs tend to know each other) and joining culinary focused organizations presents the same possibility but stays more current as you progress in your career than the networking of school which diminishes in the rear view mirror.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #3 of 10

You mentioned your brother, have you asked him?

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
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post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PeteMcCracken View Post

You mentioned your brother, have you asked him?



Alas, sadly he is among the departed. 

post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cheflayne View Post

You mentioned networking, in my experience culinary school does present that possibility, but I feel that working in the industry (local chefs tend to know each other) and joining culinary focused organizations presents the same possibility but stays more current as you progress in your career than the networking of school which diminishes in the rear view mirror.


Sounds reasonable.  That's one of the reasons if I do immerse myself in schooling that I'd want to keep it short.

 

post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 

Peter, sadly my brother passed from this world. 

post #7 of 10

My condolences, I realized my faux paux upon reading your post in the Welcome forum.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by zoebisch View Post

Peter, sadly my brother passed from this world. 



 

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Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
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post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 

Well I kind of got ahead of myself by posting here first, no worries at all, the mistake rests with me.

post #9 of 10

I was/am in a similar situation. I chose a local junior college. It is relatively cheap....about $5k-6k and is a two year degree(AS).

 

post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by savorychef View Post

I was/am in a similar situation. I chose a local junior college. It is relatively cheap....about $5k-6k and is a two year degree(AS).

 


 

That's pretty sound.  I certainly want to incur as little debt as possible if I go the school route to begin with.  It's odd from my perspective at least, that the culinary world is a toss up in this regard.  Some of the greats have been self taught and/or mentored, while some have been trained in schools. Your statement reminds me of that scene from "Good Will Hunting" where he says: "See, the sad thing about a guy like you is in 50 years you're gonna staht doin some thinkin on your own and you're gonna come up with the fact that there are two certaintees in life. One, don't do that. And Two, you dropped a hundred and fifty grand on a bleeping education you coulda got for a dollah fifty in late chahges at the public library".   But the thing is, it can go either way and just because one incurs debt doesn't mean one is stuck, but at the same time I am already turning up examples on this site that indicate this is an issue that cannot be ignored by those heading into CA. All I really want is solid technique to refresh my skills, fill in the gaps and bring me to the current edge of what is being taught.  If I can get that for what it is costing you, that sounds very appealing....hmmm...more to think about :D

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