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Did or did you not go to culinary school? Was it worth it? - Page 2

post #31 of 64

As a current Johnson and Wales student, I can't claim to have complete knowledge of this, but I can tell you what I do know. I've realized looking around at some of the alumni I've seen that the degree itself is fairly meaningless. What isn't, however, is the amount of resources at your disposal from within the school. If you're willing to take a few extra steps, talk to people outside of class, and make use of everything outside of the main curriculum, there are quite a few doors it can open to you (or so it seems to me.) 

 

Basicallly:

 

Don't go just to add a degree to your resume - do it with the intent of learning things. If you don't know what you want to get out of it, or what you want to do afterwards, you'll be wasting your time and money. Make use of everything available to you there and make sure you're continuing to learn on your own and not just what your being taught. Make sure you have actual restaurant experience to back up your education (this one appears vital....your current job sound like a great place to stay for a while before considering school.) Of course...this is all operating under the assumption that you wish to go to a school. Don't feel pressured to, because as you can see from the many experienced chefs before me it's by no means a necessity. however, know that there are ways it can help you, and doors it can open for those willing to try.

post #32 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by foodpump View Post

Get a grip on reality........

 

Look, let's say I have a position open for a line cook,  pay @ X$/hr.  I'll turf the dude out if I have to show him/her how to temp a steak or explain to him/her that you have to get the pan hot and the oil hot before you put in a chix breast.  On the other hand I'll gladly show the salad guy those things and patiently explain to him/her the hows and whys.

 

Employees don't have a god-given right to have information spoon fed to them, they need to earn that right. I don't know how to make this point any clearer.

 

Let me put it to you another way.  Had a culinary student "attatched' to me for two weeks.  One day I got in a case of oranges and explained that I would be making marmalade with her.  Student was whinging the whole time.  From the one case of oranges we made 60 1/2 pint jars of marmalade that I sell at $5.00 a pop--you do the math of how much I made on that $25.00 case of oranges.  But that's not all, After the student had whinged and moaned all the way about peeling and blanching the orange peel 3 times, I candied the remainder of the peel--aprox 3 kg's worth.  If I buy candied peel from a supplier, it's around $6/ a kg diced and well over $10 whole or in strips.  I use my own peel  in my pastries and desserts and sell a lot of peel around October when customers ask and buy it for making fruit cake.   But that's still not all, I still have 4 liters (1 gallon) of intense orange flavoured syrup left over from the whole process.  When I worked in hotels the bartenders would go nuts over the syrup, and I would use it in sorbets and cakes as well.

 

I took the first whinging from the student good natured, and explained the process of making marmalade.  It was not well recieved. So I Shut up and just gave straight orders and explained the bare minimum.  Student had the opportunity to learn, and I would have gladly explained the process of  marmalade, of natural pectin, why the peel needs to be blanched so many times, of hot packing, and of candying peel.  But why bother if the student is whinging about "slave labour"  the whole time?

 

Same thing with another employee  when I get in my weekly case of whole chicken.  We boned out breasts and thighs, packed up bones into bags so that we could make fresh chicken stock daily, took all the fat and skin and rendered it down. The only thing that gets thrown out is the platic bag liner.  Employee couldn't care less, couldn't do the math on what kind of money I was saving over buying in boned out breasts and leg meat even with the labour factored in.  Frustrated at the process of putting together a hobart meat grinder and would't try to practice assembling it on thier own time.  No, I'm just a cheap stubborn s.o.b. for not buying in pre fab chicken.

 

I've been on this forum since the oh.. early 2003?  I have given out a tremendous amount of advice since then and continue to do so today, I don't do a lot of tutorials, but have a few picture tutorials to my credit.  I don't automatically dispense knowledge, but I will gladly give it out if asked.

 

Employees don't have a god -given right to be spoon fed information.

 

Training up the competition is another story, and when an employee takes a sudden interest on how you aquired this piece of equipment, or how much it cost, or how you got this account, or what criteria you need to open up a kitchen.........  Well then, you figure it out. 

I'm not sure what your post has to do with me getting a grip on reality, it doesn't really make a point against or for anything I said, but whatever's clever.

 

You obviously don't have a problem teaching people, and I don't know where the "spoonfeeding" comments are even coming from, no one suggested hiring people who don't know how to cook. My point is, any chef that refuses to teach their employees anything other than what is absolutely necessary to do their job is too insecure to be a great chef anyways and not worth working for.

 

Great chefs teach all they can. That doesn't mean they hire unqualified people and "spoonfeed" them until they can cook, on the contrary, great chefs should be able to pick and choose those that already know how to cook well enough to perform the job. What they are teaching are advanced techniques, or even management processes or leadership. Great chefs produce great chefs. I have two chefs working for me now who came out of a kitchen with a great chef. They are great employees. Not only did they have to be at a certain level before they worked for one of the best chefs in the region who is also a James Beard award winner, but they learned a lot while working for that chef too because that chef was a great teacher. Then, they were ready to move into a position where they get to cook their food instead of someone elses, and have a greater opportunity to express themselves through their food, not to mention to make 50% more money.

 

I'm not going to be able to teach my girls and guys what they learned under their mentor chef. I am not a "great chef". I do consider myself a "great business person" however, and I will do all I can to teach my employees everything I know about growing a business, giving them the skills and tools to take their next step up when the time is right. Rather than fret about the potential competition, I wear it as a badge of honor when one of my former employees goes on to be successful in their own right, then I'll find more like them and repeat the process. That's what a great boss does, "chef" or otherwise. Thank god the two of my employees who shared a mentor worked for someone with a similar attitude. They were never a threat to take her job, they make great employees for me, and so will her future employees when they too are ready to take the next step up.

Brandon O'Dell

 

Friend That Cooks Home Chef Service

www.friendthatcooks.com

O'Dell Restaurant Consulting

www.bodellconsulting.com

 

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Brandon O'Dell

 

Friend That Cooks Home Chef Service

www.friendthatcooks.com

O'Dell Restaurant Consulting

www.bodellconsulting.com

 

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post #33 of 64

What I mean by spoon feeding is giving information to employees that don't respond to it, don't ask questions, don't use the information, and basically don't give a hoot.

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #34 of 64

I went to culinary school (LCB London). When there i realized that it was a total toss up for a good vs. bad experience. For some reason only 20 people enrolled. The class before had 120 and the class after had 180. So we had alot of  supervision. When i went to other classes to catch up on lectures the difference was huge. I hated the big classes. The chefs were so busy and questions were alot more difficult to ask, due to the numbers.

 

The saving grace for me was that my chefs had all earned Michelin stars in classic french cuisine and boy they could cook. And when i was in my core class (which i was in for 90% of the time), everyone got along and there were 3 other guys had cooked before. So we began competing against each other, we pushed hard, we raised each others game. More than that we saw each others style and the way they worked through their mise en place lists.

 

When i was done there, my chefs got me stages at 3 different Michelin restaurants, something they didn't have to do. Now I send them updates of my progress, and serve as part of my  knowledge base. Those 3 guys... one of them has become a great friend whom i will know for the rest of my life.

 

It comes down to what you do to get out of it. Much like foodpump says - information is given to those who ask. Find a school that has accomplished chefs, with a history in successful kitchens that have bred successful chefs.  Or a kitchen with the same criteria. The most important thing is the personal drive to better yourself and the will to ask questions.

 

Culinary school allowed me to study french food, from french chefs and lay on 2 years of pent up questions and get up to 5 head chefs giving me answers. In that it succeeded immensely, i learned so many little tips, tricks and timesavers. Would it have been able to set me up for the real world... of course not. There is only one real world. Think of it as a law student going to law school - you do lots of case law, and a couple mock trials BUT it does not make you a competent lawyer.

 

It all comes down to intent and purpose. Why are you going to school? What will a culinary degree accomplish? Will the fees leave you in debt? Have you tried to work in a kitchen even for a few weeks?

post #35 of 64

Every job has pros and cons, but it won't stop you if you want to chase your dream. I love baking and want to go back to school to become a professional pastry chef even though I have 4 years degree and have been working in doctor office since 2008. 

post #36 of 64

i have heard very good things about international culinary centre.

 

they also have these 6 month courses which are more pragmatic than 3 year long degrees from CIA.

 

and also provide externship.

 

 

 

in my case, i have done most of my cooking from home and less than a year of restaurant experience and i got into cooking after quitting my career in marketing...so yes i definitely need some sort of certification.

 

but if u started very young , i think you must have built lot of work experience by now

post #37 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by foodpump View Post
 

 

 

Now, not trying to sound like a smart alec here, but.. "why"?

 

Why should a Chef show an employee all that he/she has learned during the course of their career?.  Most Chefs and bakers that I know of  will show employees stuff that only pertains to their job, and no more.  Why?  Simple:  You're just training up your competition.

 

Not a romatic picture of an old hand showing the young one all the tricks of the trde is it?  but an accuarate one..............

i was lucky to be assigned a chef who taught me a lot and went above and beyond and taught me how to make cakes and breads

 

i can do a lot on pan but breads and pastry is my weak area .

 

he didnt worry about me becoming better than him but just wanted a top performing team

 

 

i guess not everyone is lucky to have such a chef

post #38 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by foodpump View Post
 

Hi Kaique,

 

If you are serious about cooking as a career, then the answer is yes, you need school.

 

Here's why:

 

A restaurant's prime concern is to make money. If it makes sense to cook omelettes on the flat top, then staff are instructed to do so.  If it makes sense to mark off steaks before service and pop them in the oven to order, then staff are instructed to do so.  A restaurant or Hotel has no"contract" or duty to instruct staff right ways of doing things.

 

A school's prime concern is to teach the curriculum.  You might not learn how to move quickly, you might not master techniques because there isn't enough repetition, but the school has a duty to teach you the right way of doing things and more importantly, why things are done that way.

 

You may learn a lot from one Chef at one place, but you will not learn all you need to.  You might get this knowledge by working for many Chefs at many places, but there is no guarantee that what you are learning is the right way, or that the explanations are correct (I.E. searing off meat to  "lock in the juices".....)

 

Hope this helps....

 

 

You need certification! - I totally agree, going to culinary school is a must.... that is if you want to make it big.

post #39 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chef Brah View Post
 

i was lucky to be assigned a chef who taught me a lot and went above and beyond and taught me how to make cakes and breads

 

i can do a lot on pan but breads and pastry is my weak area .

 

he didnt worry about me becoming better than him but just wanted a top performing team

 

 

i guess not everyone is lucky to have such a chef


Thats not quite the context I was talking about.  If you are better than me, it will show, and nothing will stop you from becoming better than me.  No issues with that, I don't get jealous of people with more talent than me.

 

However, if you imitate everything I've shown you, and work for someone else or yourself and under price me, or set up shop across the street from me,  then you are my competition, and I only have myself to blame for putting in so much effort to show you things only to have it bite me back in the butt. 

 

O.T.O.H, if you have taken everything I've shown you, analyzed it, digested it, and applied that knowledge to what you are doing currently, which is not imitating my style, then I have taught you well, and I take pride in that fact.  

 

My business motto is very simple, and it has served me well for over 20 years and two businesses, it goes like this:

 

If Johnny across the street is selling apples, I want to sell oranges.  Neither of us are the competing for the same dollar, and we can both charge what is necessary to keep our respective businesses going.

 

Hope this clarifies things

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #40 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by georgev View Post
 

You need certification! - I totally agree, going to culinary school is a must.... that is if you want to make it big.

 

Nobody told Thomas Keller.

 

Everyday on the job can be viewed as attending culinary school for the day. Not all education takes place in a formalized pay for environment.

 

I have nothing against culinary school. I graduated from one.

 

I have nothing against certifications. I have a few.

 

Certifications will not keep a job for you.

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 #41 of 64
Just work in great places and surround yourself with decent chefs to learn from, not cowboys. Cook school teaches you only half what u need. Techniques and recipes are great but u can't learn how to handle service and pressure at school. Without learning that u could have all the technical knowledge in the world but be useless in real life. Repetition is the key to getting quicker and nailing your prep. Stay at work and bollox to the qualifications. Read books on your days off instead. smile.gif
post #42 of 64
Yeah-butt....
"bollox the qualifications" I do have a problem with.

I've talked with enough H.R. people who feel that qualifications are the only way to assess a potential hire. To use your words, this is utter "bollox", (the only way to properly assess is to watch the guy in his/her first shift or two) but the thing is, H.R. almost always has final say to the Chef's choice before you can be hired. It ain't fair, but it is very typical of most H.R. Depts, and the places that do have H.R. dept's are the places you can really pick up skills and watch real professionals move about.

I also would have never got financial loans for my businesses or got my leases signed without any qualifications to back me up.

So I have to disagree with that part of your post. But the rest is pretty much bang on.
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #43 of 64
Ok I'll give u that. It will hold you back from some things, visa applications being one of them.

As a business owner i don't even look at qualifications. I'm more interested in work history and attitude. I get chefs in for a trial and it doesn't take me long to evaluate their skills.
post #44 of 64

You are looking for cooks.  Qualifications help people being leaders.  If your starting your own business banks and investors want qualifications.  They don't care if you held a line cook job for twenty years.

post #45 of 64

Those that never went to culinary school,

 

Heston Blumenthal, owner and head chef of The Fat Duck in Bray, Berks, UK 3rd Michelin star in four years - the shortest time for such an accolade 

Heston is one of only 2 chefs without formal training to receive Michelin Stars the other being:

Alvin Leung, the ‘Demon Chef’ spent 20 years as an engineer, then 9 years ago with no prior training, he opened Bo Innovation, holding 2 Michelin stars. 

Charlie Trotter,  2 Michelin Star rating.with many James Beard awards.                                                                           Thomas Keller,  3-star Michelin restaurant,                                                                                                                           Tom Colicchio, never went to culinary school, and has five James Beard awards                                                                         Ina Garten, First worked in the White House as a nuclear policy analyst.                                                                                     Jamie Oliver

Don't forget, Le Cordon Bleu to closed all 16 culinary schools in the U.S. because students complained about being misled by the school on job prospects after graduating. Further told they were chefs, which proved to be very wrong, so that sheep skin is not worth the sheep it's written on.

Education is something, a place to start, Experience, willingness to continue to learn, drive/work ethic, passion, positive attitude and humility is Everything,

Show up early, be ready to work, your ass off and remember you're part of a team, repeat.

 

"Ars Est Celare Artem"

 

True art, is to conceal art......

 

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"Ars Est Celare Artem"

 

True art, is to conceal art......

 

https://www.instagram.com/smokehouse_84/

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post #46 of 64
I have to say I attended a culinary course at the local community college. Thought it would be the best way for me to learn. I only paid for materials and my uniform, the education was free. (Thank the lord it wasn't $50,000+) Paid about $450 out of pocket, but given enough time to gather materials, feels like I didn't pay anything at all.

I took the course twice and got to work with both chefs (both with different styles of cook. One growing up with the classic French cuisine, and older gentleman. The other Chef was in her late 20's and graduating with a masters in culinary science.) I learned a lot from both chefs in the sense of being a professional chef. Flavors, hygiene, discipline, teamwork, etc. I also really honed in on my knife skills and learned all the basic/ advanced cuts.

After about 3 months of the program when we started cooking I would begin to lose interest and focus. I would stop showing up to class and eventually dropped out of the program. With having the knowledge of the business side, and the skill of cooking my chef has presented to me, at the beginning of the week, the opportunity to become the Sous Chef at our location.

School is for the one that can sit there and pay attention to lectures and don't understand the professionalism inside a kitchen, almost for a novice cook. I did learn a lot in the school and I would never trade it for anything, but do research and find out where you're going. There are other certificate programs the Community colleges offer that will give you the skills needed, it just has to be on you to hone into the skills on your own time.

-
post #47 of 64

It's a touchy subject.  I graduated from a 2 year school in Palm Beach in 2000.  So I received a A.A. in Culinary Arts.  Not once in the last 17 years was I asked to prove anything.  Culinary school is what you make of it.  It's a business there to make money.  You can learn things if you choose or you can graduate not knowing the difference between oregano or thyme.  I worked at a ski resort and 70% of my staff were externs.

 

Unfortunatly the way the world is going a degree will get you more job opportunities (at least interviews)  I always am looking online out of curisoty for new jobs.  Every year I see more jobs with "Culinary degree required" .  That never exhisted 15 years ago.  Since food network came out and being a chef became cool in the late 90's/early 2000's there is a lot more competition for young chefs.  That's when all the fly by night Culinary schools started popping up in every city. 

 

On the flip side, the cost of going to CIA and J & W is absoultly insane unless you have wealthy parents or are loaded yourself.  With a chefs salary you will be paying it off for the rest of your life!!!!  The US has the most f#cked up system for young collage kids looking for an education.  Nothing like starting your life at 22 years old making 10 bucks an hour with over 100,000.00 dollars of debt in student loans!!!  Unfortunatly culinary degrees are the norm now.  Kind of like having a collage degree 30-40 years ago.  When an employer has 50 resumes and 45 went to collage/culinary school who do you think gets weeded out first.  It sucks but thats how it is.

 

It all depends on what you want in your future.  Small private restaurants don't really need a degree.  Big corporate/ hotels/ resorts/ chains ect. ect.  You will move up higher if you have a degree.  If I were you I would find a smaller Culinary school or one that has closed (cough:::  Le cordon Blue).  Do your research.  Find a friend really good at computers and make a quality fake diploma and save 50 to 100 grand. Like I said " after 17 years no one ever asked to see my diploma"!  Work and learn proper culinary techniques.

post #48 of 64

I went to culinary school for education. I went to expand my foundation, my knowledge, and my skills. I got what I went for and along the way I got a piece of paper. I went to culinary school with some people who went for the piece of paper. They got what they went for. It is kinda like work. I work to challenge and push myself. I work to expand, refine, and hone my skills and knowledge. I get what I want and along the way I get a paycheck. I work with some people that work for a paycheck. They get what they want. We make our choices and results are a reflection of those choices.

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 #49 of 64

I must prefix this in saying that this is not always the case but......

 

For everyone of the famous celebrity Chefs that did not go to culinary school there are countless more Chefs and cooks that are as good as they.

They work tirelessly day after day not even remotely interested in fame or fortune.

Money isn't everything.

Some would say that these celebrity Chefs "sold out" to the almighty dollar.

They were discovered, groomed, and choreographed, for your television entertainment.

Their food at their respective restaurants was not theirs alone, as many times it is a collaborative effort with all cooks involved.

 

As for culinary schools......it's the person not the education.

 

How many of you have attended school and watched your peers in class?

Were they attentive?

While in the kitchen, did you notice others slacking or completely unable to complete a task in the time allotted?

Did these lacky's graduate with you?

Sure they did.

 

What we see come through the door with resume in hand are some of these people I mentioned above.

You can detect how they will perform in just an hour or so watching them work. 

 

Culinary school is a personal choice, however the business world is a different story altogether.

post #50 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chefross View Post
 

I must prefix this in saying that this is not always the case but......

 

For everyone of the famous celebrity Chefs that did not go to culinary school there are countless more Chefs and cooks that are as good as they.

They work tirelessly day after day not even remotely interested in fame or fortune.

Money isn't everything.

Some would say that these celebrity Chefs "sold out" to the almighty dollar.

They were discovered, groomed, and choreographed, for your television entertainment.

Their food at their respective restaurants was not theirs alone, as many times it is a collaborative effort with all cooks involved.

 

As for culinary schools......it's the person not the education.

 

How many of you have attended school and watched your peers in class?

Were they attentive?

While in the kitchen, did you notice others slacking or completely unable to complete a task in the time allotted?

Did these lacky's graduate with you?

Sure they did.

 

What we see come through the door with resume in hand are some of these people I mentioned above.

You can detect how they will perform in just an hour or so watching them work. 

 

Culinary school is a personal choice, however the business world is a different story altogether.


ChefRoss pretty much said it.  Hard work ethic will always take you farther than a piece of paper.  That's why cooking is cool.  The last no bull shit profession in the world!

post #51 of 64

A-yup, the last no-bullsh*t profession in the world... 

 

Also one of the very few professions in N. America where the pay is typically below or hovering on the poverty line, and also one of the very few professions in N. America where there is no industry standard, and no recognized qualification. (Yes the schools put out their hunk o'paper, but that doesn't mean any one else--including other schools or Gov't bodies recognize that qualification)

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #52 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by foodpump View Post
 

A-yup, the last no-bullsh*t profession in the world... 

 

Also one of the very few professions in N. America where the pay is typically below or hovering on the poverty line, and also one of the very few professions in N. America where there is no industry standard, and no recognized qualification. (Yes the schools put out their hunk o'paper, but that doesn't mean any one else--including other schools or Gov't bodies recognize that qualification)


Thats why I work on yachts!  Work smarter not harder!

post #53 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by hookedcook View Post


Thats why I work on yachts!  Work smarter not harder!

How do u get into that?
post #54 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChefRobbie View Post


How do u get into that?


​There are crew agencies.  Mostly based out of Ft. Lauderdale.  If your single with no ties it's really the best cooking job in the world.  Cook for 4-10 guests.  No budget and catch or spear fresh fish.  You live on the boat so no bills.  I take at least 4 months off a year and travel. 

post #55 of 64

if you started cooking at a young age in a professional environment, i dont think you need to go to culinary school.

 

 

but if someone started very late like myself in mid 20's...culinary school will cover up for lack of professional experience

 

dont get me wrong..i have been cooking since i was 20 but as a home chef or more as a strong hobby.

post #56 of 64

O.K., how will culinary school make up for "lack of professional experience"?

 

If there's one thing most employers can agree on, its the fact that culinary schools do not provide the repetition needed to master a certain skill

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #57 of 64
Quote:
Originally Posted by foodpump View Post
 

O.K., how will culinary school make up for "lack of professional experience"?

 

 

Better yet, how will it " cover up" for lack of professional experience? Professional experience can't be faked and lack of can't be covered up. The only substitute I know of for professional experience is...oh that's right, there isn't one!

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 #58 of 64

The culinary program I went to was education not how to be a professional chef the first day out of school  The head of the department told us the first day his job was to educate us and expose us to all the aspects of cooking and restaurant management.  When we went on the job the chef would teach us how to do the job and gain experience.. .  

post #59 of 64

Well, if I've learned anything from this thread, forum, and many of the comments, there's not much difference between being a medical intern and being a newbie in the culinary world (except for the degree requirement maybe), so I think I will be fine.

 

Thanks for all the comments.  Everyone sure has their own experience.

post #60 of 64
I've just graduated from high school and have an interview in the coming week for scholarships where culinary arts is an option. If y'all could be kind enough to advise if following the dream I had since I was 12 years old, is worth it or not? I've read a zillion posts here and am more confused than I was.
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