Culinary Institute of America - Hyde Park

Culinary Institute of America

General Information

The CIA is the world’s premier culinary college. As a true not-for-profit college, our mission is to provide the world’s best professional culinary education. Students come to the CIA for our gold-standard education programs, expert faculty, world-class campuses in the U.S. and Singapore, and outstanding career opportunities. Our programs are for anyone with a passion for food—from students striving to become the next Charlie Palmer (CIA Class of ’79), Grant Achatz (CIA Class of ’94), or Cat Cora (CIA Class of ’95) to professionals looking to advance their skills to food lovers seeking the best in education for the home cook.

Latest reviews

Pros: Very well rounded intro to basics, many connections to the industry
Cons: expensive but you get what you pay for
I graduated in '95 and went back this past Thanksgiving w my 9yo daughter. We eat at the French restaurant, Escoffier. It was great!

You get what you pay for. The problem is that many of the students who graduate, think they are chefs upon completing the program when in fact, they are just glorified entry level line cooks for the most part. With that being said, as a Chef or Director, seeing a CIA grad vs someone who graduated from most other schools (excluding J&W and NECA), I know I am looking at someone who has been exposed to much more and while they will still need training, it wont be on knife skills or making stocks.

I had worked in the industry for classic French chefs prior to going to school and I worked full time while going to school at Maximes. I also built a house by myself in Rhinebeck and sold it to pay for school. I think I took out about $6k total in student loans.

When I graduated, my first job was down in Mississippi as the Exec Chef at a large university. All the interviews were done over the phone and I was hired sight unseen. They even paid for me to move down there, and paid for a hotel and storage for a month while I found a place to live. When I finally got there, I commented on how I was hired without them meeting me in person. The response was "you graduated from the CIA". I was hired by a management company, Sodexho/Marriott and during the course of my 8 years employment with them, worked in almost every state as well as Antarctica. I've worked in hospitals that served 25k meals a day with 125 cooks in the kitchen. I was known as the "hatchet man" because every job I was sent on was to cut the budget. I didn't learn this type of thing in school but the school gave me the "credibility" and opened the doors for me.

I learned the most in the cooking field by finding the best restaurant and working there. I learned the most from the cheap old school French Chefs. Cheap because they spent money on ingredients, not staffing so I often worked 16-18 hours a day, 6-7 days a week. If you cant afford the best culinary schools. don't compromise unless your going to do a CC program. Find the best restaurant in your area and work for free if you need to. Start as a dishwasher or busboy if you need to. One day, someone will call out sick, get fired or walk off the job, and that will be your opportunity to step in.
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Pros: Chef Instructors; Full Equipt Kitchens; Establishing Networks; Hudson Valley
Cons: Large class sizes; Price Tag
A little bit about me:

I grew up in the Hudson Valley about 30 min. away from the CIA.  I knew I wanted to go to culinary school since I was in 10th grade and started cooking for my family avidly.  I almost chose to go to Johnson an Wales because I wanted the college experience, far away from my parents.  Fortunately, my neighbor is a Master Chef that worked at the CIA and swayed both myself and parents that this would be the best place to go for a culinary education.  I graduated from the CIA with a BPS degree in Culinary Arts Management in 2007.     The CIA absolutely prepared me for my career in the food industry.  

First, let me address the pros:

The chef instructors are experienced professionals that genuinely want the students to succeed. They are there to help guide you through each class and are very engaged. I still keep in touch with my favorite instructors, and use them as a resource. 

The facilities at the CIA are always improving.  The kitchens utilize high end equipment, and are typically clean, organized and well stocked.  It may actually be shocking, depending where a graduate works, to see the other end of whats out there.

Like most college experiences, students develop relationships with each other. But, unlike other colleges  I feel the CIA community supports not only their comrades, but all alumni. I still keep in touch with many of my fellow graduates and love discussing current work challenges and successes with them.  

Like I said, I am from the Hudson Valley and love the area. I am currently living in New Orleans and am missing the bounty of New York.  There are so many opportunities available to explore every avenue of a culinary career in a very close proximity to the CIA.

And now the ever looming cons:

I started school with a lot of recent high school grads in 2003. At the time,  we were the largest incoming class. Being in a class of 25 people and working with a partner does not lend itself to "real" world kitchen environment.  Sense of urgency in this environment is lacking.  Chef instructors are challenged to engage with all students. Ultimately, its up to the individual to engage the instructor and get as much out of the class as possible.  

The CIA is expensive. It may or may not be worth it to many individuals.  I feel as though I am prepared for this career, but so are others that did not pay for it. Competing in the culinary world is challenging, having the education may give you an edge, but it may not. Having the CIA network helps.  I never thought to equate what my potential earnings and the cost of my education and I think that is something many need to realize.  You will not start out making much money and truthfully many of my fellow grads are not making more than $60,000/year currently. New applicants need to make an informed decision and understand the burden they are taking on, in the form of debt, if they are taking out loans to pay for this education.  
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Pros: terrific chefs, great facilities, good all around knowledge base
Cons: would have liked more electives to dive deeper into specific "subjects"/skills
Great all around experience in a beautiful college environment.  Great chefs, serious students, exposure to lots of knowledge.  Wonderful facilities!  Can't go wrong.  


Although i put "recent grade" in my profile, I graduated from the CIA 15 years ago when they still had a certificate program. (I worked in the industry for 3 years then left to raise a family, now I'm getting back into the kitchen, but it's been so long I though it more appropriate to call myself a recent grade then a seasoned professional!) The program I took was a 30 week course that was intergraded with the associate & bachelor students.  The program included all the core instruction/kitchen classes (kitchen plus math & sanitation).  After completion of the 30 weeks, students in the certificate program left to get jobs & students in the 2 & 4 year programs left for exterships, then came back from academic classes & on campus restaurant experience.  The cost of that program (the 30 week certificate program) was actually less expensive than a similar course at the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan I was looking at. At the time, my parents were generous enough to pay for it, but I've been required to bring desserts to every family function for the past 15 years ;) Sorry for the long winded answer!
Not long winded at all that is a great insight. I wish they had the certificate program when I went to school I did the 2 year program. I am dating myself but when I attended it was $25,000 for a two year degree in culinary arts. Back then that was a lot for a two year associate degree. What I find sad is when I got out I was making $8.00 a hour as a line cook at a restaurant with a good name. The tuition has gone through the roof and now you are lucky if you make $10.00 - $13.00 as a line cook. I no longer feel culinary school is worth the money for the amount of loans most people end up with and there is usually an 80% chance they will get out of the business at some point simply because it is such a hard life on them and their family.

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