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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.
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.
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.
Pros - Lost of interaction with instructors, same mindset, atmosphere to be whoever you want
Cons - no free time, very little time for social life or work life
A great school to go to if you are serious about becoming something more than a line cook in your life. Only approached by the strong of heart cause they take good cooks and turn them into successful fantastic chefs.
Pros - Top of the line facilities and curriculum, beautiful campus, proximity to NYC
Cons - Cost
My experience with culinary schools has come full circle.
After graduating from the CIA in '84, I now find myself as a chef/instructor at a NYC high school.
I have to admit that I am not so certain that going to culinary school is essential anymore.
Granted, I am a little biased here. I still think that if you're going to go through all of the expense and time of going to school, you might as well go to the best. In my eyes that would be the Culinary Institute of America.
When I graduated the school only offered an AOS in Culinary Arts. Now you can earn a BA in a few different disciplines. That's very important if the kitchen life is not for you. You can always concentrate on the business side of the industry.
I visited in October of '14 and after being away for 30 years the place still felt hallowed and I knew that what was being taught was pertinent and rigorous.
Every aspect of this institution and campus is top notch and it attracts sponsorships and relationships from the top businesses and associations from all over the world. Nothing is done half-way. It is the cream of the crop, no questions asked.
But, you have to ask yourself; are you ready to go into debt and realize that when you graduate you are not a chef? And everything you learn will not translate immediately into your daily bottom-of-the-totem-pole tasks. It will take years of learning and paying your dues before all you learned starts to make sense.
That's why it's a growing popular belief now is that one should go and just begin to work instead of "wasting" time and money for so long.
As I said earlier, I'm on the fence about going to school now. But, I am 100% certain that the CIA will offer the best culinary education available anywhere.
Pros - best chef instructors, plethora of resources, location offers great foraging, the amount of information available to students, the instruction after g
Cons - cost, the school has been getting softer/easier, corporatism is rounding the edges of what made Cia great, president Tim Ryan, daily tours congesting
The CIA has alot to offer a young chef, but due to the price, i woild only reccomend this school to the most serious of chefs. The cia was once a school that sculpted young monds into chefs, with rigorous courses, and extreme chef instructors this day is gone, and students unwilling to learn will fall through the cracks, and essentially waste a 100k $ education. Tim Ryan is too busy trying to turn the CIA name into a common household name to even concern himslf with the matters going on around the school. I graduated May of last year, since then i have landed a seasonal head chef job, and have worked overseas in Holland at restaurant pure-c with sergio herman, and sryco bakker. since i have taken some time off and have beentraveling the world, and learning as much I can from the new experiences life poses. You learn so much when you're out of your own way.
Pros - The Harvard of Cooking Schools
Cons - The Harvard of Cooking Schools (Price)
The Culinary Institute of America is hands down the best of the best! If you want to be connected with anything related to food this is the place to be. Whether your in Hyde Park, Greystone, San Antonio, or Singapore.
You get what you pay for! Yes it's expensive, but also a change of a lifetime. I've met chefs, celebrities and people that one can only dream about meeting, and often in the same place. Each campus has its own pros and cons, I cannot speak to them all, but the CIA will open up a new world for you.
You get what you give. Once you get in, after a number of tests, references, etc... the real work begins. Do not be scared to fail. Yes the chef is going to yell at you, and yes that's ok. If you can't handle it, your in the wrong profession. The chef instructors are going to drive you to be the best that YOU can be, but they can't make you be the best if you do not allow them to push you there.
Read, work and get involved with any and every group you can. These people will not only be your classmates, but your future colleagues and friends - family. Network, network, network! The entire CIA community is at your disposal, chefs, administration, professors, alumni, and even guests.
There is a reason that many CIA graduates dominate the Food Network, they are serious about food!
One last thing, don't be afraid to try new things. As a chef, your job isn't to "like" a food, it's to take quality ingredients and make them into something edible, fantastic and eventually artistic.
Pros - learn new cooking methods, knife skills and meet the best of the best in the industry
Cons - barely any time for part time work, very expensive, very hard
I graduated from the CIA back in July 2013. I learned a lot from this school and don't regret it. My knife skills and cooking improved drastically as well as my pace in the professional kitchen. I've had more opportunities and exposure in the industry since i graduated. If your not willing to put hard work into classes and tons of homework, then by all means do not go here. This school is for the hard working and dedicated individuals of the culinary industry. I met a lot of awesome chefs here that are certified master chefs and they know what they are talking about. The CIA actually gives you experience working in their own restaurants which gives them an edge over most culinary schools. I would recommend this school to anyone who plans on becoming a chef because they teach you all the basics that are expected of you once you step into the real world. Having this school on your resume will take you places beyond your wildest dreams!
Pros - Excellent teachers, outstanding campus, comprehensive curriculum
Cons - Expensive, Student life a little crazy
The CIA was my first choice when looking at culinary schools and I am glad it is where I ended up, it was a fantastic experience. I actually graduated from the CIA in 1991 and at that time the cost of the tuition was $25,000 which back then was a lot to invest in a culinary degree. However it was worth the investment and it was truly a life changing experience.
From the moment you arrive the campus is spectacular being set on the banks of the Hudson River in upstate Hyde Park, New York. Back then the campus dorms were not much to look at your basic college dorms. However I have been back to the CIA in recent years and the dorms are amazing and the campus is even better. They dorms now have a full athletic work out area with Olympic size pool, and clay tennis courts that is absolutely incredibly. This photo of the current campus says it all.
Fall is spectacular at the campus as all the leaves turn colors. Being in upstate New York there are plenty of outdoors activities to part take in and on the weekends you can take the train into New York City.
The first couple months (may of changed since my time) were all sit down classroom. Culinary math, food costing, sanitation certification, culinary French, etc. It was my experience that many students thought they would escape math by attending culinary school and this could not be farther from the truth. If you do not have a good grasp of basic math you will like many of the students flunk out. Math was not difficult but you need to be able to do fractions, division, multiplication etc it is a part of a Chef's daily life costing, recipe conversion etc. I would also encourage every student to take a writing class even if it is at a local community college. You will be required to write papers and if you slide through high school in this area you will struggle a bit. Nothing hard, basic math, basic English grammar is all you need.
The culinary classes were excellent and some of my favorites were the basics (stocks, sauces, prep). Some of the more advanced classes in baking, charcuterie and working in the restaurants were along with the basics the most beneficial in my opinion. The 3 week classes in Asian cooking or Latin cuisine were a complete waste of time in my. Don't spend thousands of dollars and 2 years to learn unique cuisines at the CIA. You are going their to learn the foundations of cooking and how to handle yourself in a professional kitchen.
Top notch every single one. Some are kind and will help you through it others will be all of over you if you don't know what you’re doing. This is not a school for the sensitive or those without a bit of a thick skin. Each instructor will put into your learning exactly what you’re willing to give. If your just interested in showing up to class everyday you will get class every day. If you ask the instructor if you can help him with any weekend catering gigs he has he will probably let you. You will only get a meaningful education from the CIA if you put in the time. And for the now $60K price tag you better put your game face on.
Back in 1991 it was tough to justify $25K for an associate degree in culinary arts and it is impossible in my opinion to justify $60K for an associate degree in culinary arts. When I graduated I got a job working at one of the top restaurants in Chicago making minimum wage and it did not include benefits or help with downtown parking. Did my CIA degree help me get the job? It sure did. Did it help me get a big payday right out of school? No way, not by a long shot.
Generally the students I met were fun and focused people. Don’t get caught up in the competitive environment at CIA just focus on your education you will enjoy yourself so much more. There were a lot of drugs on campus and this caught me a bit off guard. There were also regular weekend 3:00 am fire drills in winter. My laundry was stolen (I left it there all day instead of staying with it) and it was loud (college right). There are plenty of excellent student activities on and off campus to build your culinary confidence so I encourage you to take advantage of those things.
CIA is an excellent school no one can say different in my opinion. My advice is if you can attend the CIA without going into debt to do pay the tuition you will have one of the best experiences of your lifetime. Hope this helps others.