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

post #31 of 34

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 34
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

 

Reply
post #33 of 34

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 34

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?

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