Advice on Culinary School

Discussion in 'Choosing A Culinary School' started by Khadija Malik, Sep 22, 2018.

  1. Khadija Malik

    Khadija Malik

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    2 years in Franchise management and 1 year as a commis chef in restaurant.

    I ama 32 year old lawyer from Pakistan. About 3 years ago I moved out of law and mananged franchises we owned in London. I moved back in 2017 and undertook a culinary course, a Level 2 Diploma in Culinary Arts from City and Guilds.

    I know there is still so much more to experience in terms of new techniques, food innovation and in particular molecular gastronomy. I am considering undertaking either an associate degree or similar in Culinary Arts as a stepping stone to be able to work in abroad to gain experience int he above mentioned.

    I am in the process of applying to culinary schools, which are hella expensive, but it is quite literally where my heart is set. I worked as a chef in a restaurant in Lahore and enjoyed every minute of it, the good day, the bad days and completely unpredictable ones as well. I love being in the kitchen, creating something new, translating my passion onto a plate, every day. I have pulled long shifts of over 16 hours and still managed to love it. ( As this was something many people felt to warn me about)

    These are the american schools I have shortlisted ( on a recent trip, I really enjoyed the diversity in American food; both comfort and fine dining).
    1- CIA
    2-Kendall College
    5-Johnson & Wales
    6- Escoffier
    7-Le Notre
    8-Monroe College
    9- Newbury

    I am an international student so my obvious choice would be to prefer a school that gives out grants to international students. If anyone knows of any external grants I can apply to please feel free to share, as most schools only award very modest grants to international students.

    I am open to applying to Europe and Australia as well, for which I have short listed the following:

    1- Leiths
    2- Le Cordon ( London) (NZ) (AUS)
    3- Ducasse
    4- Ferrandi
    5- Dublin Institute of Technology

    I have also shortlisted two courses in gastronomy:

    1- Boston University
    2- AUT ( NZ)
    3- SOAS ( Food Anthropology)

    If anyone has been to any of these schools and could guide or share their experience please do.
    Additionally if you have been to a school I haven't listen, please do recommend. I am open to applying to a good school in other countries/ locations as well. I just want to know that my money is well spent on a good degree which will place me at a good internship etc.

    I am so confused and super stressed as I keep researching even more.

    Any help will be appreciated.

    Thank you!
  2. sgsvirgil


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    Retired Owner/Operator
    First of all, any one of the schools that you have chosen will provide an excellent education in culinary arts. However, they are expensive and those diplomas will benefit you only within the food industry and no where else.

    When a cook applied to work for me, I typically did not care if they had a culinary arts degree. As a chef, I was more interested in their skill, experience, technique, creativity and ability to adapt to my kitchen. The chef that ran my kitchen for more than a decade was not a culinary school graduate. However, I assure you that she is more than qualified to teach in any culinary school. This is one of the few professions where a formal degree is not necessary.

    I am not trying to dissuade you from pursuing a culinary arts degree nor am I trying to downplay the value of a formal culinary arts education. Rather, I am simply pointing out that your stress over what school and where you should go is really rather unnecessary.

    What I would suggest you do is spend another year or two working in a commercial kitchen. If, at the end of that time, you still retain the passion and desire to formalize your education by going to culinary school, then, by all means, have at it. The reason why I suggest this course of action is the average career lifespan in the food industry is about 18 months. Culinary school is a very costly and labor intensive prospect to gamble on a profession where the average career lasts less than 2 years.

    I have asked this question of every young cook who has ever asked for my advice: "What makes you think you want a career in the food industry." The reason why I ask that question is because I have seen many young, eager chefs realize after only a few months or years that this life is not for them. Each of them loved the stress, the chaos, the challenges and each had a passion for food and were quite talented. But, this life is a grind and its not for everyone regardless of aptitude. For some, it only takes a few months to realize this fact. For others, it could take a couple of years or more. However, no one knows for certain until they know.

    Good luck. :)
    nicko likes this.
  3. nicko

    nicko Founder of Staff Member

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    Former Chef
    @sgsvirgil absolute golden advice. What I always tell someone who asks my advice is there is a world of difference between "I love to cook" and "I love to cook professionally".

    @Khadija Malik I don't recommend culinary school it is so expensive now (at least here in the United) states that it is impossible to justify a two year associated degree in culinary arts for $70,000.00. If a person is truly serious and has their heart on culinary school there are many excellent community colleges that are much less in cost. One question I feel you have to reconcile to yourself is do you want this life for your family. Maybe you don't have a family at the moment but possibly some day you will. Is this the life you want for them because it truly is a field that permeates every area of your life. My last bit of advice is don't let your skills as a lawyer fall by the way side. I have seen so many of my friends along with myself who after years of culinary school and working in the business just couldn't take (hack) it anymore. It is good to have a fall back. I actually started out in the culinary field from High school on and ended up leaving after 15 years. As I got older I noticed that most of my friends who were married with kids were never home with their families. I decided it was time to find something that offered a better work life balance.
    sgsvirgil likes this.