Confused about whether Culinary school is worth it.


Joined Jan 1, 2010
I'm a senior in high school, and I decided that I want to be a chef, or have a culinary career. I didn't do all the research I needed too, and so I decided that the Culinary Institute of America was the school that I had go to :rolleyes:. They require six months of experience working in a restaurant before you can attend, and I'm working in a nice, albeit small restaurant as a dishwasher/prep cook. I'm absolutely sure that I want to be a chef, and be in this industry. However I've been reading through a bunch of the posts here and it seems that a lot of the people here don't think that school is worth it.
However, the head chef where I work thinks I should go to school, and another woman I know who was a chef told me the same thing, because of the job opportunities both felt they had lost by not having a degree from a culinary school. Another caterer I know also encouraged me to attend a culinary school. BUT...I realize that school costs a lot of money, and cooks don't make that much money. I also realize that experience is more important than a culinary degree.
I'm very, very confused and just wondering if I could get everybody's thoughts on this?
Joined Sep 18, 2008
Culinary school "can" give you a sound foundation in the fundamentals and a diploma/degree might give you a "leg up" in the corporate field.

Were I fifty years younger, I'd look first at a local community college that offers culinary training or to the ACF Apprentice program before I'd consider spending the "big bucks" for C.I.A., F.C.I., J&W, or any other "for profit" culinary school.

IMHO, regardless of the source of your "training", once completed, your job prospects will start at the "prep cook" level, say $10-15/hour, in most cases.

One to three years experience and you may have the opportunity to advance to line cook followed by another three to five years before you are considered for a "head cook/Sous Chef" position.

An analogy: you're a pretty good HS football player, what's you're odds of "making the pros"?
Joined Mar 3, 2007
I'm going to pastry school for the second time now (don't worry -not the same course, different countries!) I think going to school is really good because you get to learn the techniques, basic recipes, and legislation. Now I've got experience making gateaus, mousses, pastries, and plating, and I know the techniques to do it properly. So when I started at my last job, no one had to take ages telling me how to make choux pastry, and I was already confident in my techniques.

I don't think it's about the name of the school you go to, it's about the chef who teaches you. The first school I went to was the community college in my hometown, and my teacher here (I'm an international student at a pretty big college) is pretty impressed with the education that I already have, even though I keep downplaying it.

I don't think it's super important to get a degree, just an education.
That's my two sense. Cheers.
Joined Oct 3, 2006
Community College. I wasted money at a big name school for my culinary and kick myself for it every day.

Give it your all at your current job. The work is hard, the pay isnt great, but it becomes obvious who will succeed and who won't based on the work attitude everyone brings.
Joined Dec 17, 2009
I advise against wasting your money attending any private cookery school. Instead, I suggest that you do either: an ACF Apprenticeship Program, or choose a community college, whichever one you like the best. I suggest that you actually visit them, and talk with the instructors and students, perhaps even sit-in on some of their classes.

ACF Apprecticeship Program: Washington

Shaw Guides: Washington

After completing an apprenticeship, or earning an A.S. degree, consider going to the Greenbrier.

Good luck. :chef:
Joined Jan 3, 2010
I am a current student as well as a line cook. I only have 3 months left of school. But I will say I would definately look into an apprenticeship. You get the same degree and the experience in the field at the same time.
In the end it all takes time but this is probably the best way to speed things up!
Joined Feb 4, 2010
i did the school thing and school is not my thing but i would have to say it was the best thing i have ever done for my self the thing about being a chef is that u have to have your heart in it and u know u have to do it and there is going to be alot of chefs that will make you really mad but if u can get over that u will be just fine now im out of school and i enjoy what i and doing with my like so i think if u fit the part u should go for it. :chef:
Joined Dec 25, 2006
Community college is VERY cheap but having a state budget can affect how the program can operate. So i hope you dont live in California /img/vbsmilies/smilies/lol.gif. But a private school can give you the best experience possible, the C.I.A. has a staff that has the most certified master chefs in any program in the country, they have alumni that have been VERY successful, and they are of high standard. If i was in your shoes and knew what i wanted to do for a career i would of deffinately picked the C.I.A.
Joined Mar 5, 2010
I'm starting a culinary arts certificate prog at Dorsey Schools. Mainly choose over community college for the excellerated program and externship. And chosse it over the Art Institute because of cost and distance. I'll be sure to give an update in the future. I'm currently tring to find a job in a restaurant to further the work-school experience.
Joined Mar 3, 2010
I'm a culinary student and dont have much left either and i think i had the best time in school. some of the stuff you learn is amazing and the chefs that you meet is incredible each with their own skills and knowledge. i think going to school not only gives you a degree but networking and experience but having real world experience is a must.
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Joined Nov 16, 2009
studying in cooking school sure is great.
After you graduate, find a good restaurant to work on.
you will be much happy and worthy...
Joined Apr 1, 2011
I graduated my Chef apprenticeship in 1986 and started out as a line cook after graduating, eventually working my way up the ladder to Corporate Executive Chef. I've seen both sides of the coin here, my wife graduated the Culinary Institute of America in 1985 and we've worked in various positions in Hotels, restaurants , Food service management companies and Hospitals. I worked hard for tree and a half years and the experience was invaluble. My wife's education from the CIA was equally as rewarding and great experience for her. It's up to you, you can make it anything you want it to be.

Regardless of what you decide to do to advance your culinary training, don't "stay" around. Move if possible to another state (Country would be better) and get valuable work experience in Fine Hotels and restaurants under excellent Chefs. There are as many ways to make a Hollandaise as ther are cooks to make it (I think you understand) learn the cuisines from one region to another and observe, listen and enjoy the Chef life!!

Best Regards,

Tom Giles

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