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Tue Apr 10, 2012, 08:50 PM

Culinary school advice needed.

Hey Gang,

I love DU for reasons like this, no doubt I am sure many of you might have thoughts on this and I would really love to hear them. Well, I have decided to make a radical career change, in short its time to follow my heart and take a new journey. I have decided to follow my passion into the culinary arts.

I am at the beginning phase of narrowing down a school of choice. So far I am looking Le Cordon Bleu (Paris), C.I.A. Culinary Institute of America and F.C.I. French Culinary Institute (Chicago at Kings Kennedy). I really like what I see in the LCB Paris Grand Diploma program, the pastry program offers an opportunity to train with an M.O.F. and is a 9 month duration, which is perfect for me.

However before making my decision I want to get all the facts. Its important to me that I train with a well respected institute whose diploma will get me into any door in the culinary world. This is a big deal to me and on this adventure, I want the best!

If any of you have thoughts on one school vs the other, if you have friends or family that might have thoughts on this, please know that I would GREATLY appreciate your help.

Thanks for reading, everybody!

Firebrand Gary

19 replies, 2103 views

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Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 19 replies Author Time Post
Reply Culinary school advice needed. (Original post)
Firebrand Gary Apr 2012 OP
OffWithTheirHeads Apr 2012 #1
Firebrand Gary Apr 2012 #2
OffWithTheirHeads Apr 2012 #3
Firebrand Gary Apr 2012 #8
bluesbassman Apr 2012 #4
Firebrand Gary Apr 2012 #5
Firebrand Gary Apr 2012 #14
susanna Apr 2012 #19
riderinthestorm Apr 2012 #6
jmowreader Apr 2012 #7
HopeHoops Apr 2012 #9
Firebrand Gary Apr 2012 #13
geardaddy Apr 2012 #10
Firebrand Gary Apr 2012 #15
geardaddy Apr 2012 #16
Lydia Leftcoast Apr 2012 #11
Rowdyboy Apr 2012 #12
susanna Apr 2012 #17
GermanDem Apr 2012 #18

Response to Firebrand Gary (Original post)

Tue Apr 10, 2012, 08:59 PM

1. You might want to X post this in the cooking and baking forum.

There are some amazing folks there.

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Response to OffWithTheirHeads (Reply #1)

Tue Apr 10, 2012, 09:03 PM

2. We really have a cooking and baking forum?

I will hunt it out! Thank you for the advice!

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Response to Firebrand Gary (Reply #2)

Tue Apr 10, 2012, 09:09 PM

3. We really do! Man cannot live on politics alone.

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Response to OffWithTheirHeads (Reply #3)

Wed Apr 11, 2012, 01:34 AM

8. Amen to that! n/t

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Response to Firebrand Gary (Original post)

Tue Apr 10, 2012, 09:30 PM

4. Please don't take this as discouragement, just some alternate thinking.

My good friend went to the California Culinary Institute in San Francisco and afterwards got hired at Thomas Keller's The French Laundry in Yountville. He's an excellent chef, but found that the job was not for him. I asked him his advice and he said if he was to do it over he would go to work at a top restaurant first to see if he liked it. Then make the plunge for the training. Cooking is not for everybody, and the real world in a restaurant kitchen is different than what you may think (like any other job really).

Do you have any experience working at a restaurant? May be something where you want to get your feet wet a little bit first.

Best of luck to you Gary.

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Response to bluesbassman (Reply #4)

Tue Apr 10, 2012, 09:58 PM

5. No restaurant experience....=(

I love to cook, i've been doing it for friends and family for years. I have a great grasp on baking as well! I have lateral business management experience, some food service, pr, marketing, etc. I have all the nuts and bolts with the exception of direct restaurant experience and I need to dramatically raise my game when it comes to cuisine.

My goal is to open my own restaurant with three years, I am keeping a simple menu that is geared towards breakfast, brunch, lunch. A Cafe/Bakery if you will. Maybe 7-10 years down the road after I bulk up my own talents and experience I might go for something a bit more upscale, but I am no where near that at this time.

I should also note my support system, we do have a few restaurants in the family. My second aunt owns a Round Table Franchise and on the other side of the family an uncle in law owns four (very popular) mexican restaurants.

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Response to bluesbassman (Reply #4)

Thu Apr 12, 2012, 02:09 AM

14. I have some experience, kind of.

My first job out of high school I worked for a mom and pop neighborhood grocery store. We had a full service deli, meat counter and produce department. I worked in that grocery store for four years and I learned many unexpected things, like how to properly breakdown a half of beef, how to grind and mix hamburger, stuff sausage, etc.

When I turned 21 I went to work for a friend in the SF bay area at a very popular nightclub. Its hands down where I found my love for the fast paced work environment, and I was good at it. I stayed at that night club for nearly 10 years (the last 5 years was 2 nights a week)

I have a lot of other experience that I can translate into this line of work as well. So the atmosphere and tempo is perfect for me, but I have got to become a much better cook to get to where I want to go.

Thanks for the luck, I am going to need it!

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Response to Firebrand Gary (Reply #14)

Thu Apr 12, 2012, 11:38 PM

19. You know, with your butchery skills...

You might consider specializing in garde manger work. It's fascinating. Unfortunately, we in the U.S. tend to discount it; we have diluted it in most restaurants to something called the "pantry station" (salads, cold apps, and some hot apps) and that's a shame. Currently, "true" garde manger (charcuterie, preserving, smoking, ice and fruit carving, pates, terrines, hors d'oeuvres) is more often practiced - and definitely more respected - in Europe. Some larger classical restaurants and hotels in the U.S. still have need for it, though. So all is not lost.

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Response to Firebrand Gary (Original post)

Tue Apr 10, 2012, 10:01 PM

6. My husband was a line cook for a 5 star restaurant (the chef was JFKs White House chef)

he had worked his way up in that restaurant after starting as a busboy at 12 years old and is a damn fine cook but the hours (standing) are killer. It paid his bills through college but working in a restaurant is tough.

I only say that as a word of caution to make sure you've actually done that kind of work before and love that environment before you commit to a school program.

(and fwiw, my husband left the cooking biz to become a professional athlete/rider who works even MORE and CRAZIER hours than the restaurant and LOVES it so don't let my downer thoughts rain on your dream...)

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Response to Firebrand Gary (Original post)

Wed Apr 11, 2012, 12:12 AM

7. If you don't have any foodservice experience, go get some NOW!

The Culinary Institute of America requires a minimum of six months foodservice experience, at least 12-15 hours/week, in a non-fast-food environment that works with fresh ingredients.

http://www.ciachef.edu/admissions/requirements/default.asp?source=GenHome&segment=CAAdmRequirements

I couldn't find anything similar on the other two schools' websites, but they'd probably really like it if you'd at least worked a little while in a commercial kitchen before.

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Response to Firebrand Gary (Original post)

Wed Apr 11, 2012, 10:27 AM

9. Try to leave with as many fingers as you started out with.

 

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Response to HopeHoops (Reply #9)

Thu Apr 12, 2012, 01:58 AM

13. Hahaha, noted.

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Response to Firebrand Gary (Original post)

Wed Apr 11, 2012, 11:11 AM

10. Which CIA campus are you considering?

The East or West?

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Response to geardaddy (Reply #10)

Thu Apr 12, 2012, 02:15 AM

15. Hmmm

I would probably go West. However, I am only two generations back from French ancestry, so I may head to France for this new adventure. I have always wanted to develop a better connection to my families history, so I just may take it to the extreme. I am thinking it would take place next year, so I am still in the planning stage of all of this.

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Response to Firebrand Gary (Reply #15)

Thu Apr 12, 2012, 10:04 AM

16. France does sound more enticing.

I love Paris.

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Response to Firebrand Gary (Original post)

Wed Apr 11, 2012, 11:18 AM

11. What I've heard about culinary schools is that there

is huge potential for ending up with a lot of debt and a low-paying job. The restaurant business is extremely unstable.

Just because you love to cook is not a reason to make it a profession. In the real world, running a restaurant or even working in one is not the same as cooking for friends.

I'd say go get some practical experience before you commit yourself to a huge outlay of money and perhaps a career that you don't really like. You may find that the fantasy and the reality have nothing to do with each other.

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Response to Firebrand Gary (Original post)

Wed Apr 11, 2012, 12:43 PM

12. Any chance you could work with one of your family-connected retaurants for a bit first? It would be

an intro to the business, gives you a little hands on experience and help clarify your skills and interests. You might love it but it could also drive you crazy. The stress and hours can be downright nightmarish and even well run restaurants managed by good chefs are having a hard time in this economy. Just be really sure before you commit that this is the life you want-I'm sure you already realize that some of the schools you mention are pretty expensive.

If you do go through with it, I wish you the best of luck. A well run restaurant is a thing of beauty. We have a local guy who runs three high quality places at once-a sandwich shop, a fabulous pizzeria and an upscale Italian place. All of his staff is top quality-they love the boss and work really hard to keep their customers happy. The food is always superb and the atmosphere comfortable. Like I said-a thing of beauty...

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Response to Firebrand Gary (Original post)

Thu Apr 12, 2012, 11:27 AM

17. Hi Gary!

Strangely, I read your post just as I am about to graduate (with honors) from culinary school. I chose to go to a community college in my area that is focused on turning out executive chefs (heavy management curriculum). I chose a community college because frankly, some of the big schools charge a pretty penny for training in what is definitely a low-paying line of work. It was much more affordable on the CC level. Though a degree from the CIA or LCB might get you in the door, a solid work ethic and reliability will be the things that keep you there. I am assuming you have those, so please do take a look at colleges in your area. You might find you can invest less money but still get an excellent, foundational education in the field. Your management experience will help you if you decide you want to go on to own your own place. Since that is your goal, look for a school with serious management courses. Restaurants are paper-thin margin operations and you will need all the tricks you can gather!

I, too, changed careers. It's been a crazy ride but I have enjoyed every minute of it. On a more surprising note, I found that I am also really good at front of the house work. I did not think I would like it, but I do. I am considering continuing my studies for a four-year hospitality degree (again at a local college).

I will also agree with several posters that note you should get experience in a commercial kitchen before you take the plunge. It's a crazy, adrenaline-packed business and is extremely repetitive. (Think assembly line with food instead of cars.) Cooking at home is not really comparable, as you are in charge in the home kitchen and you can be creative there. In a restaurant, you cook someone else's dishes, over and over and over again. Personally, I find that my relationship to cooking has changed a great deal via schooling and professional work (garde manger and line, large hotel). I can no longer "putter" around the kitchen; my entire focus is now about speed, efficiency, and the conversion/costing of recipes. Don't get me wrong - I still love cooking - but I sometimes I do miss the slower pace and more experimental aspects of cooking for friends and family at home.

All that said - best of luck to you on your career change, and whatever way you go, enjoy every second of it! You get out of culinary school what you put into it, and i sense from your post that your passion will take you far. Congratulations!

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Response to Firebrand Gary (Original post)

Thu Apr 12, 2012, 01:24 PM

18. A friend of mine got a degree from a CIA on the east coast (I think).

She's an excellent cook, she does catering now, and home-delivers meals. I think she loves it, but this not a job that will make you rich for sure. I agree with the other posters here, I would try to get a job in a restaurant first before investing in this education. Cooking in a restaurant is a brutal job, high pressure, past-paced, very demanding physically. I had another friend who was a professional cook who quit his job at a 2-star restaurant because it was too stressful for him.

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