Oh my god, Im glad I found this post. Sorry for the long post in advance, I want to fully explain this school.I graduated from Oregon Culinary Institute(OCI) four months ago and I still treasure the day that I signed the paper work to enroll. This school was life changing, and it all starts in one of my Culinary classes in High school. One of the field trips we took during the year was tour of all of the Culinary schools in the Portland. We went to OCI, Le Cordon Bleu, and one more that I cant remember. Anyways, we went, got a tour of each campus, and were given information, and then sent on our way. We went to Le Cordon Bleu first, and I cannot say I liked it one bit. We were greeted promptly, ushered into a room, and watched an hour long video on why Le Cordon Bleu was the top school in all of the NW. They handed us brochures and quickly pushed our class, yes pushed, us through the rest of the campus. They asked us when we were going to attend, as if we were already going. It felt hurried and it felt that they were forcing info down our throats. It was extremely uncomfortable. Unknown to me, Le Cordon Bleu suffered from a lawsuit for false advertising. I dont want to misquote, but Im sure you can find it. We left and chattered in the bus on the ride to OCI. We walked in, and we weren't given a single paper. They sat us down in the dining room, gave us a three course lunch and then students came into the dining room and explained why we should go there. An actual insider. They told us that it was hard. But it was one of the biggest steps of their life, and they haven't looked back a day since. Student after student was genuine answers that almost inspired us. They gave a complete tour of there campus, and we even marched through classrooms, sat in and listened for a few mins, and spoke with all of the chefs along the way. This place was absolutely amazing! A man named Brian Wilke, one of the nicest human beings I've ever met, took us into a classroom and explained to us everything about the school, answering questions along the way. He explained that almost all the teachers at OCI were originally from Le Cordon Bleu. They left a few years back because Le Cordon Bleu wanted to raise prices and cut material out of students classes. They knew they could do better. He then told us that they joined a partner ship with Pioneer Pacific College, under one rule. If they entered a partnership, PPC could make no rules for OCI. They couldn't write curriculum, or schedules. Thus OCI was born. After this presentation, we were offered to sign up to hear more, and ever since, I have never regretted a moment of it. I enrolled a few weeks after graduating high school.
A bit of a side note, but there are three programs at OCI. Culinary Arts, Baking and Pastry, and management. Pair any two classes and it becomes an associates degree. I chose Culinary AND Management.
We were told on the first day of school that this would be a quick program, but nothing would ever be left out. It was going to be quick because they could get you out of school with an associates degree in one year, and job placement. It was quick. We got quite solid amounts of homework. It wasn't overbearing, and there were more than enough people we could talk to for assistance. It was the fact that all the work on our heels made us really put our noses to the grindstone. The craziest part was the fact that EVERY SINGLE TEACHER knows your name. From the receptionist, to the PM baking teachers, they know who you are. They will even drop a happy birthday if they know it is. Its the little things that amazed me. Back to the school: I memorized recipes and measurements. Its fast, but never unbearable. All the chefs come from different backgrounds which will teach you a variety of ways to learn. There are also these little perks of each teacher that really makes the whole experience stick. Chef Brophie would bring in things from his garden, and things he made to sell on friday. Habanero suckers, apple wood from his trees, eggs, spices, you name it, he had it. Chef Maxine who is the wine expert frequently travels the world discovering and enjoying wine. She even brings some back to share with the class. Chef Ramona, the ethics teacher, used to run a management class, and she has two food carts in portland! Chef Vaidya is from Nepal. He is the spice master. Tell him what you are making, and how you want it to taste, and he can give twenty spices, amounts, and health bonuses from each. Down to the salt to taste! This school is absolutely a dream come true. I could've never asked for a better school. I sincerely mean that. We wrote recipes, learned conversions and more. Part of the Culinary Arts class was running the Dining room Kitchen. Half the class worked the line, complete with student specials, and the other half prepped items in the back. It was amazing. You go in, make tons of food, look to your classmates, and you are just taken away. You learn that a team can make such a difference. Every moment was a learning experience for me. We had chefs who would buy weird and unusual items, teach us how to utilize them. One time, our chef brought Durian. Which, if you have never experienced, is bewildering. One person even took it a step further and made a cake with it. Despite the smell, the taste of this cake was amazing. It was this creativity and freedom that let me know that I chose the correct school.
Towards the end of my days there, I was sent on my required externship. I wrote down a few places I though would be neat to work, and I was pulled aside because an administrator knew that there was a perfect fit for me. She placed me at Ringside Steakhouse, and it was magic. I learned more than I thought I ever could have. I finished my externship, and I was told that I was one of the best externs that that restaurant has ever had. That made me feel fantastic, but knowing that OCI was what got me there, put so much faith in me to guide people to OCI. I tell everyone I know about OCI. I get stopped on the bus with questions. I answer all, still in my chef uniform. People tell me how they never took the leap into schooling. I give them the schools card, and usually I hear a week later from the administrator (yes I stay in contact with almost all of my mentors from there) and she told me that I had brought in two more students. I felt amazing! I showed two more people this amazing place. I want to share my experience because I felt it was so fantastic.
I know this might be a little weird, but if you ever do decide to come check it out, let me know. I'd be more than happy to give you the grand tour.
My best wishes,
Eric R Calkins
Kitchen Ninja for life!