CC vs 'Culinary School'

Joined Jan 8, 2002
With the soaring costs of education at traditional culinary schools, who here has gone the community college route? There is a CC in my town that has several culinary classes leading to certification or an Associates degree. At a few hundred dollars a semester compared to multiple thousands, I'm leaning quite heavily towards the CC. Anyone able to compare and contrast the two types of institutions? I'm thinking of contacting different instructors for their views, but thought I might find better and less biased opinions here.
Your thoughts are greatly appreciated!
Joined Feb 17, 2001
I am currently attending the culinary arts program of a CC. I did speak with professional chefs in the area before registering, and it became obvious pretty quickly that this particular school had an excellent reputation - much better than that of another local, for-profit and much more expensive cooking school. I think that unless you really have your heart set on one of the big ones like CIA or J&W or one of the New York City schools, a CC will give you the education you need. I also found that chefs (in my area anyway) really have a lot of respect for the CC students as generally very hard working and dedicated. Of course I can only speak for my school. If I had had the foresight to do what I really wanted to the first time around when Mom&Dad were paying for it and I was 10 years younger than I am now, without any kids, etc., I probably would have tried to go to CIA or J&W instead of getting a generic liberal arts education. Now, though, since I'm paying for it and can't really afford those, I am finding that the CC I am going to is more than adequate.

I hope this helps.
Joined Mar 7, 2001
I attended a technical college and got a great education in the basics of cooking. It is what I did with that education in the work place that got me where I am. Upon graduating I had a teacher reccommend me to the only 5 diamond resort in the mid west. The executive chef there was impressed by my teachers thoughts on me and hired me on..... mind you the pay was horriffic but I was able to move through several kitchen and gain more skills and experience I was there for three years.... I made it all the way to executive chef for a private college worked in some great kitchens and am now running my own bakery. I would say my money in tech college was well spent ( I hear that they now offer classes approved by the CIA and can count as credit if you chose to go there after) Try to talk to graduates of the program if the school will release any names find out their thoughts
Joined Jun 28, 2001
I am in this situation right now. I am attending the local CC to recieve a Tech Certificate in Culinary Arts, only because I really cant afford to go to a "larger school" right now and get an Associates degree.

Now I find out Monday of this week that it will take me like 3 semesters to take the remaining 5 classes that I need.(this is because they offer no actuall cooking classes in the summer semester)

I really want to go to some higher end places to work In the Atlanta area and had looked into the Art Institute and many of my CC classes will transfer, so I may go that route.

My instructors have good things to say about my "basic knowledge", but then again I have been cooking for over 10 years.

If I were hiring a cook and had 2 applicants, I think I would hire the one with the greatest passion for cooking and a good "basic knowledge" of principles rather than somone straight out of Culinary school with no actuall kitchen experience.

Joined Jan 8, 2002
BillyG60- I'm of a similar mindset. I can obtain my AA in addition to certification from the CC here. If at all possible, after my AA or perhaps even before, I'd consider a transfer to a more "traditional" institution if I felt that it would be any sort of advantage.
I really wish that there were evening courses offered here, but alas, averything is day-only. The only other culinary programs they have in the area are for drug addicts and the unemployable. I got an earful when I asked the director of said program whether average citizens could also particpate...
Joined Dec 8, 1999
amw5g, if you're talking about CPCC, you're in luck; they've got a very good reputation. An AA from them should do you just fine (at least from what I know of them, which is 6 years out-of-date).
Joined Jan 8, 2002
roon- in a nutshell, it was that since I'm not down on my luck, I shouldn't expect any handouts from charitable organizations (heck, I would have *paid* the woman to let me attend their classes). Plus, over the phone I sound kinda young and so I think she thought that I was just some "punk kid" looking for a free ride. She softened up a bit once I explained that I had graduated from college more than a couple years ago. Still, she wasn't happy that I, an average citizen, would dare to try and particpate. I mean, the program is called "The Community Culinary School of Charlotte"! My reasoning was that I am a member of the Charlotte community and as such I wanted to attend the local Culinary School. But alas, the program name is quite misleading....

Greg- I am indeed talking about CPCC. As was mentioned in an earlier post, I'm going to try and find some alumni and get their opinions about the school. Also, I contacted the local ACF chairman and he suggested I attend one of their meetings near the end of this month. He stated that there is a "social" afterwards which might give me a chance to talk to local chefs in order to get a better feel for the business. I explained that I can't do anything in terms of leaving my current job until at least September, but he was very persuasive that now is the time to begin asking questions.
Much obliged to all who have responded thus far!
Joined Nov 29, 2001
CC vs. Culinary school is the same as any other field. It's what you make of it. If you go to Harvard, you get an education steeped in years of dedication. If your family happens to be rich enough to pay for you to go to Harvard but you're a mediocre student, you probably won't go very far. If you go to CC and excel, you'll reap the benefits of having been enriched by the experience.

I don't believe the in-depth curriculum offered by specialized Culinary schools can be mimicked in CC's. It's comparable to getting a medical education in a CC vs. a Medical School.
Joined May 26, 2001
Sorry, Chiffonade, I have to disagree with your last point.

When I was looking at schools in NYC, not all the private culinary schools had comprehensive enough professional programs for me. One high-reputation school taught cooking. Period. No kitchen management, no front-of-house, no practical service experience (not even simulations). Another made you work in their restaurant, but didn't expose you to many different cuisines (and BTW, their FOH experience was considered a joke by every student there I've ever talked to). Another just taught you to be a prep cook, and not really anything more.

On the other hand: even though I know that 1 person from 1 school is a ridiculously small sample: look at someone like the late Patrick Clark, a product of New York City Technical College (one of the CCs in the City University system). Obviously, he was able to learn enough there that, combined with his other experience and studies, he was highly successful and more to the point, made great food! Does that make NYCTC "better?" No, but it certainly doesn't seem any worse.

What it comes down to is the same point many people here make over and over again: it will all depend on how much YOU bring to the experience. Both "good" and worthless graduates come out of every program in the world. If you really work hard, ask lots and lots of questions, read everything you can get your hands on, volunteer as much as you can, etc., you will get the education you want and deserve no matter where you are. If you try to breeze through without working, you will also get the education you deserve. And as Snakelady1 pointed out, what you do when you finish school is of major importance, as well. Finally, only YOU supply the drive to succeed, and your own definition of "success."

Unfortunately, if you go to Harvard, or CIA or J&W while we're at it, no matter how well you actually did and how much you really learned, you already do have a leg up. If you don't give it your all, eventually you may be found out -- but in the meantime, a lot of people are way too impressed by seeing that on your CV to ever really look at YOU carefully.
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