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Trying to figure out whether cooking is a career or hobby. Is the Natural Gourmet Institute the answer?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Hi all


Apologies in advance for the long post ...


For as long as I remember I’ve been passionate about food, in particular cooking healthy fresh meals. I started cooking for myself in my early teens when I became a vegetarian. Since then I’ve enjoyed nothing more than cooking and entertaining for my friends and family.


I work in marketing and love what I do but have always questioned whether a career related to food is my true calling. Potentially one day opening my own café or perhaps even a catering business.


I plan to immigrate to NY next year with my partner. I will be a dependent on his Visa which means that I will be unable to work for at least 3 months while my authorization to work is being processed. My thinking is that this would be an ideal opportunity to find out whether I should work in the food industry.


I have been looking into schools in NY and have am interested in the Natural Gourmet Institute, it appeals to me because:

  • Of the cooking style and focus on health and well-being
  • From what I've read it’s not just designed to produce chefs but rather professionals across a broad range of careers from catering through to education (which is helpful as I don’t know exactly what I want to do and would like to use a period of study to define my career goals)
  • Length of study being only 5.5 months as opposed to long term 2 or 3 year course


The only thing is that the school does seem expensive at approximately $25,500 and I’ve read that in recent years that price of the course has increased and is now overpriced. I’m questioning whether I should invest this much when I’m not 100% sure whether cooking should be my career as opposed to my hobby.


Given my situation I’d love any thoughts on what I should do to work out whether a career in food is for me, and / or alternatives to the Natural Gourmet Institute to figure this out.


Thank so much in advance.

post #2 of 7

25 grand to learn how to cook lentils and bean sprouts?

post #3 of 7


where did you learn? did you go straight into a restaurant? how long was this?

post #4 of 7

I learned 32 years ago, at a well known school that has a different name these days. Was working while in school. Learned more at work than school.

post #5 of 7

Two chefs I respect immensely are both graduates (Amanda Cohen and Bryant Terry). If you want to learn some cutting edge vegan/vegetarian cooking and nutrition info, it is a great (but ridiculously expensive) program. However, I think that you might do better to knock on some doors, work some prep and line in the type of place you envision and then decide if $25k is a good plan for you. If I were in your shoes, I would go visit Pure Food & Wine, Blossom, Candle 79 (or Candle Cafe), Dirt Candy, Gobo, Angelica Kitchen, Caravan of Dreams, maybe Josie's West, Counter or Teany, and ask for some stage time or prep work.


As a "work permit dependent" you will likely work under the table, but the experience you will get will be priceless. You will know in 6 months if it is the correct path for you, and if you can stage or work at Dirt Candy, you can pick Amanda's brain about the value of the NGI degree too, because she will be on the line every night with you.

post #6 of 7



1) Be prepared that working permission may take much longer than 3 months.


2) You can work marketing within the food biz, and then do booth the things you like to do :-)  Here is an example of some food marketing:  I know its about pork and you are a vegetarian, but it is a good example of the thought people put into selling food.  If that example is too dry don't worry because there are plenty of interesting things to get involved with.  A good sommelier is 50% salesman, people need their health food marketed, you can even get into product development and marketing (like how someone did with goji and acasi berries).  


I don't know anything about NGI, but 25K for 6 months seems like A LOT!  What exactly are they offering that you can't get anywhere els?  Do you graduate with a magic ring and a letter of recommendation from a congressman or something?  (LOL)



post #7 of 7

Most of us older guys went to HKU  (hard knocks university)  I would strongly suggest a community college. Try in NY/  NYC Technical College great course AAS degree in culinary arts, and much less expnsive,

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