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OCI/Oregon Culinary Institute - Basics, or More?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

I'm considering the Oregon Culinary Institute, because I've not heard a lot of bad things about it (while I've heard a lot of bad things about other schools), and it's relatively affordable. My question here is, can anyone tell me if what they teach you during the program is just the basics, or it they take their students to an advanced level of culinary learning? Obviously they're not a 2-year program at the CIA, but I'm wondering exactly how deep they get into technique and what I'll potentially walk away with, skill-wise.



post #2 of 7



I am the Director of Operations at Oregon Culinary Institute. So take my reply as coming from someone who has a strong positive bias and belief in what we do at OCI.


At OCI, we believe in technique. Technique and science are the foundation for all great cooking. The artistry of cooking, like the artistry of playing the guitar, comes after hours of understanding and practicing the science and the techniques associated with the craft. So at OCI students spend a great deal of time in the kitchen practicing the skills that will give them confidence in a commercial kitchen. It is interesting to us how many culinary schools feel that demonstration and lecture are legitimate ways to teach culinary arts. When you consider that it is less expensive for these schools to teach through demonstration and lecture, you begin to see why they implement these tactics.


The best way to understand who we are is to tour the school and meet with our students and faculty. They tell our story better than we can. Or, check out our website to see what industry chefs, graduates, and students say about us. We are an honest school, doing honest things. You should check us out.

post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 

Wow, thanks for the input, Ray. I'm hoping to take a tour of Oregon Culinary Institute the first or second week of July. Question - the website shows all the courses and hours for the Baking and Pastry program, but the page for the Culinary Arts program doesn't show the same information. Where can I find details on what classes and how many lecture/lab hours are involved for Culinary Arts?


Your school does seem like an honest school, which is the primary reason I'm attracted to it. :)

post #4 of 7

As a current student at OCI I can tell you that deciding to move to Portland to attend this school has been the best decision i have made in my life. 


I came to the school with about 3 years of previous cooking experience, and even so, immediately began learning. There is so much to learn in the culinary industry and it is always changing and evolving. The school and the instructors do a great job teaching us everything that they can and preparing us for in this ever changing industry. We are in the kitchen five days a week, while also spending time in the classroom. The kitchen and class sections are divided into 3 parts; T1, T2, and T3.


T1 is very much focused on the basics, such as basic mise en place and kitchen setup, knife skills and knife cuts, safety and sanitation, cooking styles, taste and aroma, so on and so forth. T2 which i am currently in, is more challenging and builds on what you have already learned in T1. There is a section on healthy cooking and vegetarian, egg cookery, game, sea food, and about a week on baking and pastry. One of the main focuses is a section called "live fire". It is a simulation of a lunch service on the line. The students are responsible for creating there menu, ordering there product, and costing. Costing is a major theme in T2. T3 is culinary artistry and line service. Cooking on the line in the schools restaurant. If you take the management courses you will also be the wait staff in the restaurant. 


The school is very well respected throughout the Portland culinary scene as well. There are tons of volunteer opportunities throughout the year. Last summer we even had chef Duff Goldman come to the school before a volunteer event he was doing with some students that evening. I recently worked with a handful of amazing chefs at the James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour dinner. I just cant thank the school enough for giving me the opportunities they have given during my time there.


I know you said you are already planning to visit, and I really hope you do. Come tour and meet some of the chefs and students, and come have lunch too!!

post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 

Hey thanks for that! Your reply is awesome and very helpful. Question - why did you decide to go to this school above all others? What other schools did you check out, and why did you decide not to go to them?

post #6 of 7

not a chef from any major restaurant. you get what you pay for so avoid.

post #7 of 7

Holy crap! Ray Colvin! You might not remember me, but I graduated about for months back! Its pudding skins! Hahahaha. Anyways, I responded to this question a few mins ago and I dont want to type it back out, so Im going to copy and paste it. Please forgive me. Here goes:


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!

Anyways, I dont want to go over things all over again, but this place is absolutely amazing. As for skills you will walk away with, we did everything we could get our hands on. We signed up to watch live animal butchery. We learned how to take apart nearly everything in the kitchen. Basic techniques were covered starting with knife skills, and more advanced techinques were slowly added on. It was fast, and it was hard, but never over bearing. You are constantly surrounded by teachers and peers who are serious about their future and will help you every step along the way. I cannot thank this school enough for everything they have done, and I attempt to give back to them by sending curious people to the school, in hopes that they will find what I did. Best of luck to you. I would go in for a tour if I were you, and see first hand what level this school will bring you to.


Best of wishes,

Eric R Calkins

Kitchen Ninja for life!

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