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Let me start off by stating to you all, fellow food lovers, slavers, and entrepreneurs, that I am a man of many passions.


One, art. I adore music and theatre and film and photography and all facets of hand-created art (sketching, painting, etc) all the way to animation and game design. I love video games for the simple fact that I am always in awe at the animation more than I am the actual plot and game mechanics!


Two, writing. I have been a creative writer and avid reader ever since I was very young, and many of my teachers always encouraged me to pursue writing.


Three, history. History was always my favorite subject in school and the class that I always took the most advanced level of so that I could get the most information out of it. I just wasn't as fascinated by any other subject, or as good.


Four, teaching (which kind of revolves around two and three, as those would be the only two subjects I would want to teach). I tutored for years (by request, mostly, once teachers saw how good I was with others and explaining concepts and things to them).


Five, food. I love food. I grew up around food, as we all did. I experienced family time with my mom, a Caucasian woman with Oklahoma roots, in the kitchen at a young age. I sampled and watched the process of creation of many Mexican dishes, with my father being Mexican and my grandmother being, well... a grandmother. Later in life, my mother's new husband was a chef and he would go on and on about new techniques and food and how to do this and that and show me and teach me things he knew. He would watch the Food Network all the time to improve on many aspects of cooking. I now realize that out of all of my male influences, I'm most like him. I have worked in many food environments, fast food and real restaurants, with different cooking styles and environments, in the kitchen (from dishwashing to prep cook/line-cook-in-training-apprentice-style) as well as in front of house (cashier, busser, and now server) and I thrive off of the energy. Yes, it's hectic in restaurants, especially at Mi Tierra if you've been there, but that's why I love it. Maybe I'm an odd one, but being part of the team that provided an excellent product to someone and being informed of their immense satisfaction and happiness - because of something I did - is one of the best feelings I've ever known. I suppose that began in high school when I was editor-in-chief of the yearbook and produced a product that was widely loved. These things on top of the fact that I love cooking. THAT is why I want to be a chef.



Now, back all of this up to the actual topic here - culinary school - and I apologize for the long introduction. I simply noticed that a lot of what goes on in these forums is questioning if the culinary field is really this person's choice of career and not a whim because they like cooking in their personal kitchen. Yes, I've had people question me. Yes, I've had the people try to scare me away. I can take the heat. Honestly, though, if you read through my list of options, none of them really have the best pay, the best hours, or the best benefits, so really there's not much to try to dissuade me toward.


Unless I strike it big and become the next Frank Sinatra, Bruno Mars or (insert famous filmmaker here)... I won't make much money and nor can I draw for the life of me. Same with writing. With my love for books, I'm constantly finding new authors that I'd never heard of, and I never hear of them again - no New York Times' Best Seller, nothing.. because it isn't very likely to make a six figure paycheck off of writing. Don't even get me started on teaching. All of these potential careers have just as many pros and cons as culinary, they have their high potential and low reality, just as being a chef does. It's what I want to do, I have thought it over and I thank you in advance for your concern. Now to mine.


I have three options in San Antonio.


The Culinary Institute of America - Next start date: January 2015 (with low possibility of September 2014)

The International Culinary School at the Art Institutes - Next start date: May 15, 2014 (just over two weeks from now)

St. Phillip's College (Community College) - Next Start date: Regular summer or fall semester, 2014


I am wanting to get my associate's degree in culinary arts. Yes, I know that a culinary school is really only what you make it because really, most will give you the same education (except, from what I'm learning, community colleges vary HIGHLY on whether their culinary education is premium or not). You have to work your ass off to take that education above and beyond your peers. I get that.


What I'm looking for is someone who knows about these schools specifically. If not specifically, then maybe their counterparts (NY and CA for the CIA or the many other locations nationwide and Canada for the Art Institute). From what I've read, the curriculum for the CIA seems a bit more extensive for an Associates of Applied Science than at the Art Institute, for roughly $5,000 more for the whole program. While I know money IS a big deal, finances aren't my focal point for my question. What is would be the quality of education. I know neither will guarantee me a great job (especially initially) or fantastic career path, but which will leave me better equipped at the end? Which do all of you suggest?