Culinary School vs Experience

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by kaiquekuisine, Apr 18, 2013.

  1. kaiquekuisine


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    Line Cook
    So right now im basically kinda in the middle of a decision. Im currently working on the line and as an apprentice at a great restaurante. The restaurante during a 2 year period was basically gonna shut down , until about 4 months ago they got a new head chef , she was great and really helped out. So 1 month ago i entered to work as an expiditor for the restaurante witn the intention of actually getting some cook and prep time. The head chef really liked me , and when one of the cooks got fired she offered to train me and let me into her kitchen. Ever since then i have been working in the kitchen for 3 weeks.

    So basically my head chef , she reall liked me and sees alot of herself in me wanting to do everything possible to train me. But i was thinking that in about 2 years i would head to culinary school to learn more. So now she tells me that she has alot of contacts and . thinks she could get me a scholarship if i was really this dedicated to the industry.

    I put in 40+ hours a week , do overtime just to help out as much as possible and really enjoy what im doing. But now im worried should i stay in this job for lets say 2 years and keep gaining experience through other kitchens , or try going to culinary school? Do you think she actually could be so great she could get me a scholarship? 

    I feel like a door opened , but to me im dreaming lol.  

    Im 18 years old and currently have been living in Brazil for 3 years...

    My head chef has a great resume:

    Graduated from a 2 year culinary course in Anhembi Morumbi , Full Scholarship ( probably one of the best culinary schools in brazil ) 

    Graduated from Le Cordon Bleu Le Grande Dimplome : again full scholarship

    She has a degree as a sommeleir as well

    Lived 5 years in italy working various restaurants and even worked in a michelin restaurant

    1 year working in France

    2 Years working in Spain

    That and her trying to save a restaurant that would have been shut down without her arrival

    All this and she is only 31 

    Obviously me being 18 i have a poor resume , but its not like im useless. 

    I have 2 culinary courses done , one on basical knife skills and basic cooking skills and another course i did on restaurante tendencies and culinary basics as well. 

    Basically im just kinda stresses , my thoughts were to work for 2 years and travel to Europe soon after to go after some  knowledge and experience , but now with the arrival of my new chef/mentor i feel like she opened a new door for me. Possibly getting me a scholarship and teaching everything and anything she knows. 

    IDK WHT TO DO....

    So anyway pardonmy rant , but i want to know from professional chefs what you guys would do in my given situation. 

    Give me you opinions , thoughts , comments and ideas , i would love to read them.

    Agains sorry for the rant
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2013
  2. chefwriter


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    Professional Cook
    You seem to be in a great position. Stay where you are, learn everything you can from her, let things develop. You can always go to Europe in a few years. If she can get you a scholarship, that will save you a lot of money. So stay, work with her on training and school, go to school, then go to Europe. 
  3. chef daveed

    chef daveed

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    Professional Chef
    I tend to believe that graduating from a culinary school, ANY culinary school, does not make you a chef in itself. Certainly culinary school will teach you food theory, history, vocabulary, technique and so on, however, nothing takes the place of or holds a candle to experience. After 25 years in the business and never setting foot in a culinary school, I can hold my own with the best of 'em.  I have trained under some great chefs that were in the kitchen before most schools were in existence. So, don't sell your self short; watch, listen, learn and imitate. If you want to go to school in a few years, have at it, but don't set it as priority one if you want to be a great chef.
  4. wvman2374


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    Professional Chef
    Understand that most of us in this forum are probably from North America and the United States in particular.  So there are likely some differences in the "culture" of food service between Brazil and what most of the people on this forum have experienced.

    One question would be how expensive is culinary school in Brazil?  It appears to be a two year program?  

    How important is it in Brazil, or wherever else you would like to work, to have a culinary education?  I mean, as far as gaining employment elsewhere in the the areas you wish to live and in the types of places you would like to it a big help to have a culinary degree?  Is it a moderate help?  is it little help?

    The real issue is for you to determine how valuable a culinary degree would be to you...not just financially but including all other factors such as your sense of personal achievement, contacts made through school, ability to gain more valuable employment, and anything else of value you might gain from it...and compare it to the costs of attending...not just lost income and cost of the school but experience lost from not working, restraints on your time, etc...and see if the value of attending is worth the cost to you, now and in the future.  This isn't an easy task for anyone making a big life decision, but it at least gets you to focus on the true costs and benefits involved and helps you make a more informed decision.

    Fortunately you are quite young, and that is a good thing, as you seem to already know what you wish to do with your life.  So right now time is on your side, and you can take the time to gain experience in whatever way works best for you, whether going to culinary school or working under experienced chefs.  Every day you spend in the kitchen or in culinary school will only add to your abilities and experience.  So whatever way you wish to go forward, don't allow yourself to feel pressured to make any decisions "right away."  Take the time necessary to think things through fully.

    For me personally, considering what I know of your situation just from your message, I would stay where I'm at for at least 6 months or so or even a year or two and learn all I could from your current chef.  (Pay attention not to just the cooking but also the management aspects of the kitchen and the restaurant as a whole...ordering, food cost, scheduling, managing the staff, etc..)  It seems as if you have only been cooking for a very short time now, and that you are in a great restaurant with a great chef who is actively teaching you;  this is a very fortunate position to be in at such an early stage.  Many people (at least here in the U.S.) could go to culinary school and afterwards still not be in as good a position as you are in now...I would say even most U.S. culinary grads here would be extremely lucky to end up where you are already.  Also, I would personally consider the experience gained through travel and working in other countries, particularly in Europe, to be more valuable than attending school, both from a professional standpoint but also from the view of personal growth and experience...others might disagree, but again you would have to weigh the value of those things yourself.

    Best of luck to you in whichever way you proceed.  I would guess that you will be successful no matter what you decide as long as you keep a good work ethic, ask questions when appropriate and do as you are told, work well with others, and always try to learn more as there is always more to learn.

    Two final bits of advice:

    1) always make your employer other words, be more valuable to your employer than it costs them to pay you

    2) never make your coworkers work harder than they already have to...don't make other people have to clean up after you or do tasks that you should be doing

    Good Luck!
  5. wurzel


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    Professional Chef
    I spent 2 years at catering college and to be honest, I learnt far more in my first year working in the real world than I did at college.

    As wvman said above it does depend on the culture in Brazil and how important qualifications are, here in the UK that bit of paper helped get me my first job in a good place and every job after looked at my experience only. If it's similar in Brazil, you're already in a good job so it would maybe be a waste of time considering what you could learn working in actual restaurants in that time. If people really care about qualifications though it's obviously going to benefit you more to do it.

    I can say that from my experience here to get a job you're going to be asked to do a trial shift and what you show there is going to determine if you get the job, not a piece of paper.