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post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

Chefs,

 

It's no secret that culinary school is pricey and I have loans on loans on loans to pay. I'm getting more and more frantic with my completion of the program and hearing all sorts of stories of former students not being able to get a decent paying job out of school. I was wondering what your thoughts are on how to handle it or where to look for work. If you have success/failure stories please share as well. Any feedback will help at all.

 

Thanks! 

Tim

post #2 of 17

Hey Tim, 

 

Welcome to ChefTalk. Getting school loans while attending culinary school is a tough situation to be in. Often when you complete school you will find you have to go with a minimum wage job and work your way up over time. Sharing from my experience I paid 25K for my CIA degree in 1991 and when I got out of school I was making minimum wage with no benefits. Here is some advice for you.

 

  1. Don't panic just get a plan to pay off your debt and focus on that for the first couple years.
  2. Accept that you will probably have to work two jobs if you are serious about paying off the debt
  3. Find a job that will pay you the most plus benefits such as a hospital, hotel etc. Don't go for the fancy 2-4 star place do that after you  pay off your debt.
  4. Get a copy of "The Total Money Makeover" by Dave Ramsey. My wife and I used this method to pay off two cars, 65K in school loans. There is nothing sexy of tricky about the program just a lot of hard work. 
    http://www.daveramsey.com/home/

 

 

Looking back it took me several years to work up to a job as a chef where I was making a decent salary. The first couple years can be tough but after that you should be able to make a decent income to keep yourself out of debt. Hope that helps.

Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
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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)
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post #3 of 17

You could marry a rich chick. One who's father owns a 3* restaurant would be nice. 

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

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"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

Reply
post #4 of 17

I didn't goto culinary school, and I attended a traditional college for one year and aquired some debt, not alot.  But I own my own restaurant at age 24.  I'm in a very lucky situation, and have no debt except my cars and paying off the former owner for the restaurant. 

 

I guess my point is, with the amount of FREE information out there, school isn't the only option to get educated, and in the restaurant business you DONT need a degree to get a job unlike traditional colleges.  It almost makes you wonder why goto culinary school at all...

 

I think a lot of people are filled with celebrity chef pipe dreams, and don't understand how much work it will actually take. 

post #5 of 17

Sorry, I went off on a tangent not really relevant to the post at the end there....

 

Like Nicko said, hard work is the only way out of a sticky debt situation... Keep your head down, and keep grinding. 

post #6 of 17

At the rate of pay you will get out of school. you will need either 2 jobs or plenty of OT to pay a loan and live besides. The schools are overpriced and In my humble opinion not worth it. . I know guys 30 to 40 years old still paying off student loans. This is crazy and a dumb ass way of starting out ones working life. To saddle yourself with debt  so you can say you graduated Joe Shmo's cooking school (meanwhile making 12 to 15 per hour )s to me crazy,i'm sorry After High school apply at various restaurants ,start at bottom  where you don't pay , you get paid and work your way up  you will do much better and safe $$$$. 

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 17

If you can't make enough to pay your loans then your not trying hard enough.

IMO there's nothing "dumb a**" about going to school or taking a student loan if needed. The bigger problem with student loans is not the cost of tuition, it's taking loan $$ and using it on vacations, over priced knives, beer etc.

Taking a loan is a pure financial decision.

Treat it like one. It's not free $$$.

There's a really flawed theory that gets regurgitated all too often here at CT from my perspective. That theory suggests that you just go get a job cooking for minimum wage or washing dishes etc and you will make more $$ in the long run. That may be true for a select few but certainly not the majority. The first problem is Joe Schmo at the local greasy spoon that hires people with zero experience probably doesn't know his rear end from a Chinoise so your not going to be taught much from Joe. Secondly even if you do move up through the ranks on average it takes several more years than those who go to school and most earn less $$ with out a degree.

There's a world of difference between being a small owner/operator and working at a corporate level. Nothing wrong with either option but with out a degree you almost completely exclude yourself from some of the best and highest paying jobs.

That doesn't mean you should go over your head in debt going to the most expensive school. But lets not forget that not every one needs loans to go to school.

Going to school and working are not mutually exclusive of one another.

School is of little value with out experience. Experience pays poorly with out an education.

Find a balance between the two. Find a skilled ACF certified chef and try to get a job, at least helping out at peak times and breaks while you attend school.

The shortest degree is two years. That's two years to plan where you want to go in a geographic sense and two years to pursue leads assuming the school couldn't help with placement.

If you are graduating soon I believe you have six months before payments start. That's plenty of time to still find a job.

In those first few years while you pay off your debt;

Use public transportation if that's an option. Car loans, insurance, gas, parking etc may not be necessary expenses. All that $$ can be paying down your debt.

Stop smoking and buying beer etc. Add that cost up for a year and apply it to your loan!

If you buy a car buy used.

Share housing with a room mate while your young.

If you have several loans at various rates consolidate them into a single payment. This can reduce your interest rate and your montly payment.

If you have SallieMae loans use auto debit for your payments. IIR they drop the interest another .25% for that.

ALWAYS pay more than the minimum payment even if it's only a small amount.

Adding to what Nicko said about Hospitals look for work at corporate HQ's that have cafeterias. Those are often run by Co's like Aramark, Hostess etc. It's not sexy work but it's often very stable, M-F, 8-4, No nights, no weekends, no holidays with insurance and steady pay. That leaves you free to take a PT job at a high end restaurant where you can pick up more experience but the pay is low.

Draft a written budget. Writing down how much you pay for every thing and setting aside the $$$ you need out of each check really helps keep the budget on track. That's a simple step  many fail to do.

Never take a job you don't want to keep for a year.

Try to be selective about who you work for but keep an open mind.

Best of luck no matter where you go!

 

Dave


Edited by DuckFat - 12/15/12 at 8:11am
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 #8 of 17

a GOOD FRIEND OF MINE INVESTED 44000. TO GET HER DEGREE IN VET MEDICINE.. DAY SHE GOT OUT OF SCHOOL, SHE WAS HIRED FOR  62,000. YEAR PLUS. TOOK HER 3.5 YEARS  TO GET DEGREE . CHEF SCHOOL 2 YEARS AND 32000 WHEN YOU GET OUT IF YOU ARE LUCKY.. NO % THERE

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 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by chefedb View Post

a GOOD FRIEND OF MINE INVESTED 44000. TO GET HER DEGREE IN VET MEDICINE.. DAY SHE GOT OUT OF SCHOOL, SHE WAS HIRED FOR  62,000. YEAR PLUS. TOOK HER 3.5 YEARS  TO GET DEGREE . CHEF SCHOOL 2 YEARS AND 32000 WHEN YOU GET OUT IF YOU ARE LUCKY.. NO % THERE

 

lol.gifNo one picked up a BA in the US and then went to med school for 44K. lol.gif

Some one was pulling your leg or they had a Scholarship. AFAIK a VET requires a BA which typically takes four years. Average tuition only cost for in state university students is around 75k total. Much higher if you are the resident of one state and go to another state University or private school. Med school is four years. Add another 100k just for tuition.

Then they work for next to nothing for three years to get board certified.

In contrast if culinary school was 32k and assuming an average student who is 22 at graduation, works to 67; That means school was a whopping $711 per year of their working career. If you couldn't earn 10x that annually over the average flunky with no education you simply failed.

There are those who will never take any risk because all they ever see is the negative aspect. The up side of going to school is that on average you only spend a few years at the bottom instead of ten. Most graduates that stay in the field won't peak out making 40-60k a year like those that skip school. Even 20 years ago CIA grads I knew were getting over 85K a year right out of school (pastry chef's). In the last several years I've known several who started off at over six figures their first year.

BTW the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts average veterinarian starting salaries around 55k. Average established vet salary is around 80k on a national basis.

A Culinary school student should still make nearly as much annually after the same three years of working **if they do their part. That would leave an average student 1/3 less in debt than Vet school even if you double your culinary tuition to 64k!  Clearly it takes the average student longer to pay off student loans but it shouldn't take any where near the age of 40, unless you went to school in your early 30's....Not that there's anything wrong with that. wink.gif

 

Dave


Edited by DuckFat - 12/15/12 at 12:39pm
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 17

You have and are entitled to your opinions as well as I am.. Keep in mind however I taught for many years in culinary schools both public and private. The public ones don;t really care and the private ar to concerned about profit and the almighty dollar..

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 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by DuckFat View Post

 

 Even 20 years ago CIA grads I knew were getting over 85K a year right out of school (pastry chef's). In the last several years I've known several who started off at over six figures their first year.

 

 

Give me their phone number.

post #12 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by kuan View Post

 

Give me their phone number.

 

 I'll give you what info I have if you want it, although I seriously doubt that's the case since you could have asked first....... but by all means shoot me a PM, email or better yet just pick up the phone and call me!  

BTW The Pastry Chef I mentioned was around 1985 so the graduating class was 26 years ago.

The general assumption here seems to be that every one that goes to school is a total dilettante with zero experience and will start at the bottom after graduation and work for minimum wage. That's not an absolute and never has been. The top of the class big school graduates often start out with good salaries, as do many of the culinary management people. Even the average CIA/J&A student with little experience often starts out making about $2 more per hour than those that didn't go to school. That's nearly a 20% return on the cost of tuition when amortized!

The fact remains that the majority of all culinary students never work 1 year in the field.  That's a hard fact and yes schools operate for profit. (shocking!)

However, If we focus on those who go to school with enough experience to know what their getting into, make responsible financial choices and actually study at school instead of partying then the simple truth is most do pretty darn well IME.

Either way it seems that it's been over looked that this is the "After Culinary School" sub-forum. Talking about not going to school or not taking on debt doesn't help the OP.  Clearly with your vast experience as a Chef and a Moderator here at CT you can offer at least some tid bit of advice for the OP aside from snark.

Just a thought. wink.gif

 

 

Dave


Edited by DuckFat - 12/17/12 at 8:33am
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 #13 of 17

Pastry chefs always command more in particular down here in Florida . Thing is when in pastry school ,you can learn the art but you first must have that built in artistic ability in you and in your hands, and only few are blessed with this. Thats why salaries are much higher. Its called supply and demand.

 

PS A lot of  this could change with the new health insurance laws. It was where if done in volume making ones own cakes and pastry was less costly then buying. After this new law however which mandates employees to pay medical insurance. It could be cheaper not to put on employees and buy product already made instead. Only time will tell.. Government may be trying to help in one respect, but hurting us in another.

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 #14 of 17

I agree Ed and the Pastry Chef I mentioned from years ago was very talented. Read exceptional and hired by a large property management group for a city club. I still don't think that salary would have been there with out that CIA paper. Putting that in perspective for the same region when I left Disney in '89 IIR the starting, base wage for an Exec Chef was around 58k. No way to get that job or salary either with out a degree and this is why I advocate so hard for education.  

 

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 #15 of 17

What do you get out of culinary school. Just the basic and you can learn these at a community cooleg or trade school for a lot less money. Going to a big name school is suppose to impress people but the education you get from a trade school is the same. In France you do a 3 year apprentice program and for the first 6 to 9 months your job is to keep the fires going in the stove and clean then at days end. You work long days for no pay and hopefully you get room and board. In the US everyone wants to start at 12 to 14 dallors and hour and work short days.

post #16 of 17

Hello,my situation :  I went to culinary 26 years after I graduated from high school.I ran into some health problems while there.And got behind on bills I had,like car.In December I had to get the loan to finish the last four months.Because I got behind I wasn't approved for the loan,and moved back to my hometown.Since then I got car paid for and credit is better.The Sallie Mae bill for schooling and apartment there was 25 thousand.I was looking at going back,that branch closed and the others do not carry that same program.If I would go back it is now 2 years.

One good thing it that I did sooooooooo much better than what I did in school when I was a child.

Also,I am ahead on Miss Sallie.

post #17 of 17
This post is very helpful! I graduated from culinary school back in 2010 when no one was leaving their jobs. By the grace of God i was able to get a seasonal part time job at a local golf course supervising a mini cafe. The pay was amazing but it was not worth it due to me taking on 2 jobs while working there. After leaving that, I had a difficult time when I left there and took a prep cook position. I was part time instead of full time as originally agreed. Someone did mention on here the first 2 years post college would be tough for a cook and it really was for me. Eventually moved up to be line cook after we ran through 2 KM and 8-10employees in boh and foh. All thAt to say .. Although i moved up learned how to run a line and manage 4 stations. i take inventory and wash dishes.. sweep mop floor and still some pre some foods. Im grateful and humble for the experience but i dont receive enough working hours to pay Sallie Mae let alone the car bill. If anyone is considering culinary school think about how you will pay before and after college. The bills are real and they are high. If you have the $$ to pay while in school pay off as much as you can even during the 6 month grace period. Go through a decent loan company if you decide to take out loans. Also keep in mind if this field is really for you. I have a Passion for this field and plan to stay in it and own my own restaurant in the future. Dont go into the field because it looks easy. Its hard work Sweat , tears. Muscle aches and the industry is demanding. Stay healthy and always have a goal in place. Although i dont have long hours now, i plan on getting another pt job where i can grow in my skill and have those long hours.
If your at a job and you have little to no experience and after 6 mo to 1 yr want to quit ,, dont quit stick to it put in the time. And it will pay off for you and God will work in your favor and helpyou get the dream job you need. I ve been at my current job for 2 1/2 years and my time to leave soon. Other chefs will look at how long you've been at your current job. They can tell if you been job hopping vs . you being loyal and committed to where your Current place. This is vey important.
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