Culinary school lists like US News college issues

Discussion in 'General Culinary School Discussions' started by sujiwan, Jan 11, 2005.

  1. sujiwan


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    As the mom of 2/3 sons entering the college market, I spend a fair amount of time on various college boards/ forums to get additional information beyond the marketing hype received through the mail from the colleges themselves.

    I posted a query about culinary schools and received very little information on the traditional college boards which don't seem to have much at all to do with non-mainstream degrees. Mostly I get references for hotel schools like Cornell or "food sciences"--developing mass produced food, flavor enhancers, chemistry based stuff, etc. Of those mentioned in this forum, I have seen only Johnson and Wales as a familiar name.

    Those persons who are applying to colleges--looking at GPAs and SATs here--apply to SAFETY schools (know they can get into them easily, above range of the incoming class), MATCH schools (at the same level as incoming class and REACH schools (have strong desire to attend, but applicant is below statistical range of the school--especially those accepting less than 30% of applicants.)

    Further, schools are divided up into Ivy League, top universities by reputation or quality of professors/research, subdivisions based on specialties like engineering, liberal rts, and business, private vs public and so on.

    Kids today seem to be really status conscious if the boards are much of an indication--there are so many applying to the Ivy Leagues for prestige, hope for connections and hopeful payoff of higher paying jobs than other university choices. Of course, not all of the expectations are realistic since there are no guarantees per individual that all these reasons to go come to fruition to justify the costs. I'll bet that even those for whom the experience was not as sold, will self-justify to some extent. Further, not everyone can afford to attend the college of their choice, even if they have the credentials.

    So, what I am slowly getting around to is whether culinary schools can be organized in the same manner as traditional colleges, i.e. Ivy League, Select, State and/or specialties. Does higher cost of a school lead to similar outcomes as one would expect in traditional colleges (generally better jobs, more $). I have noted there are culinary schools with similar tuition to , for example, the CIA, yet no one on this board has mentioned them.

    So far, if I were on a college board, it would seem as if the denizens of this board were ony talking about 2 groups for the most part--"select" or "community college". There is not much information about the in between choices (all the others that on college boards would be "State schools", smaller liberal arts colleges and so on in 2nd and 3rd tier).

    Why is this? Is the study of culinary arts and the growth of schools part of the result of a "Yuppie-interest" explosion such that many of the schools are too new to rate for education consumers? Or is there such a different metaphor underlying culinary arts such that, unlike traditional college, classroom education does not guarantee a return on investment? Is it really about internships and on the job training more than education?

    If after 5 years, so few culinary students are still "in the kitchen" what does that mean? Most traditional college programs will not tell you that you have to love what you are doing, that only a few can make money (the TV foodie stars) or that one's education won't raise you much above the level of a "pink collar" job (based on some of the hourly wages I have seen posted here).

    My underlying questions are: *except* for those who are totally keen on the culinary artist ideal (art for arts' sake, **** the money, self-expression)-- is the "classroom" education at $$$ only going to lead to short-term employment for the majority? Is it better to have additional fall back degrees (non-kitchen) if most people won't stay in the kitchen anyway? Shouldn't there be a quality guide beyond just certification to *all* the culinary schools if they are worth the price (in objective outcomes for students) to attend? Can the schools be organized along any similar groupings like traditional colleges use?
    Here is a interesting link from Escoffier which gives information on what criteria to use in evaluating a culinary school:
    (By the way, thanks for the first posting with all the resources.)
  2. jellly


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    Professional Pastry Chef
    I can't answer your questions, but I do agree with you. When I decided to go to culinary school I did a lot of research both online and at the libraries and had a hard time comparing programs.
    In the relatively short time I have been out of school I have noticed two things: 1) There are people working at some of the best restaurants in my area with an education from the community college "level" and they are doing great. It has a lot to do with work habits, motivation, etc. So a person could definitely get a good start in a culinary field without going into a lot of debt.
    2) I have noticed that in some situations someone from one of the "Ivy League" schools may have a better understanding of why certain things happen in the kitchen (why bread doesn't rise one day, how to fix a broken sauce, etc.), but this observation is really based on two particular people I work with, so is not a good sample. The bigger and more recognized schools do offer a lot of benefits - like networking, the use of top quality ingredients in class, etc. but is it worth the extra money? It was to me, but will be different for each person.
  3. frizbee


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    Professional Chef
    And I will chime in with my experience and decision, making process, and some observations in my time.

    I am an older student (33) that in my opinion didn’t have a lot of time to waste. So I opted for a name brand education, more of the ivy league of culinary schools. Specifically because I wanted the name on my degree to carry some weight in getting my foot in the door. I feel that you can have excellent experience, but if it is in a place your interviewer has never heard of, you may have more to prove. My choices were narrowed down to J&W and CIA. When I looked deeper into both programs, (which cost almost exactly the same) I opted for J&W for several reasons. J&W had campuses in several places so my options of local were greater. CIA was directly in the snow, and I didn’t want to live in the snow and it is in a higher cost of living so things like rent and car insurance would run me more. J&W placed a balance emphasis on management training as well as culinary training and to me that was very attractive. I know too many people in general who may know what they are doing trade-wise but have no clue in managing people, which as we all know works hand in hand in successful progression on the job and off. The job placement ratio and networking system are invaluable to me. I know many who have attended smaller schools who have no idea where they will work when they graduate, they have no help, and J&W has serious ties to many major businesses that employ a significant percentage of its graduates. I suspect that CIA has the same.

    I know young men and women (in their late teens early 20’s) who ask me how much better is J&W than other smaller culinary schools. I tell them, first to take a job in a high volume casual dining kitchen or above for a summer, if they still want to be in this business then opt for the less expensive quality school, because experience will beat an education almost all the time in the kitchen and they have plenty of time to get good quality experience to go with their degree. My degree will ease my way in the door, but they will value my experience more on the line and in the kitchen. Also because so many young ones have romanticized this business because of celebrity chefs, they have no idea really what we subject ourselves to nightly on the line, why waste your parents money?

    I am also very passionate about the artistic side of cooking and truly do love what I do, however I have no interest in killing myself in someone’s kitchen for the duration of my career. In my experience I have noticed that front of the house managers make more than comparable level chefs (comparing general mgr with exe chefs, sous with restaurant mgrs and supervisors with each other), and I want to progress to where the money is for a time, then open my own business. So it is important for me to have the culinary base as well as the mgt education, which is why I am at J&W, to effectively produce on both sides of the kitchen.
    I have heard from some that CIA teaches more culinary technique, than does J&W, their classes are longer in duration, and it is a more intensive culinary program, but again that isn’t my personal career focus.

    Any program no matter how good can teach you a lot or just a little; it just depends on the student and what they apply themselves to learn. I certainly knew many of the things already from being in the industry that I have been taught and in those instances I looked for the things I didn’t know like history. I have seen kids, literally throw grades away not turning in assignments, projects or simply taking too many days off. I am the epitome of a nerd these days, because I really give a crap what I get out of it.

    If I were you I would make a deal with my kid, and send them to a restaurant washing dishes for a summer (that is where you start with no experience generally). We have all done it and been there, and let them work their way to prep or pantry or the morning crew. If they survive that and still want to do it, I would find a program that is the least expensive and the most reliable. Take to alumni or talk to us who have been there. It seems like your on the right track, but nothing compares to going to the campus and asking the students directly. They will be very honest and frank about the limitations of their particular programs, and the things they liked.

    Lastly there are many different paths that one with a culinary degree can take, so don't discount the fact that they may find something that is food related they like more than actually cooking. Their options are really unlimited in this field.

    I’m sorry about the length, but I hope it helps in your decision!