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Quick background.  I have a college degree.  I also have 12 years experience in rmany different types restaurants, and with high end coffee.  I've done catering, BBQ, diners, breakfast, dinner, Mexican, Tex-Mex, fast casual, casual, standard American fare, higher end var food, high volume, higher quality but low volume, QSR management, a few pizza joints, cafe and bistro.........No fine dining though, which I cannot break into in this city. 


One of the state universities in my general area has a downtown extension that offers free vocational training for low income people in my city.  Of all the stuff they have, one is a culinary program that leads to a basic ACF certificate.  It is not clear if a servsafe is cert included (I think not), and what this certificate means in terms of industry level or to employers higher up in the food chain.  It looks pretty basic, but says that it prepares people for entry and middle level positions.  It looks pretty decent, and covers a lot of kitchen math, and inventory, merchandising and menu planning/costing as well as cooking, baking and knife skills. 


But, I am planning on getting my ducks in a row to go to ICC in NY at some point in time.  I figure if I want to make cooking a career, now is the time since I have stuck it out in the biz this long and have a lot of the basics covered already, so I may get more out of culinary than a kid would.  Also, the Community College near me has a really good program that has a few courses I want to take without getting their degree, mostly a beverage course, a management course, a banquet course, and the management level servsafe.


Should I not bother with any of this stuff and just do ICC?  I kind of want to do the certificate for now because it is free and between 4 to 5 months long, and wouldn't hurt.  But, I also may not learn many new things at all and I could be getting more restaurant experience while I line up ICC.  Right now I have one job, but if I don't do this I will line up another more than part time gig for the day.  I also may gain more from some of the CC courses than this cert because it covers topics I could do at ICC, but at the expense of things I want more out of that place.  But I also can't help thinking that since this is free, I may get a feel for culinary school, and find out if I really want to pay a lot for it, or I may get even more of a leg up.


My goals are to become much more well-rounded, build my base knowledge, and break away from what I've done in the past and do fine dining for a while.  I want to own a place one day, but not fine dining.  So I want to use my strong math and computer background to my advantage in that regard, while also learning more about anything I possibly can.  I also want to have plan B such as maybe hotels or something I can do if i finally get sick of or too old for crazy restaurants.  I do want to go beyond ICC and continue to earn higher level certs as well.


What are your opinions, your knowledge, and experiences regarding these types of decisions?  Thank you in advance.