Did or did you not go to culinary school? Was it worth it?

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by kaiquekuisine, May 14, 2013.

  1. kaiquekuisine

    kaiquekuisine

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    So i was just extremely curious to see how many of you guys actually went to culinary school , and for those who did or didnt in the end was it worth it. 

    How did you guys get involved and or got started in the culinary industry. 

    Me i still havent yet decided if i will be going to culinary school. 

    Im at a great position in the restaurant i work at now , that uses great seasonal ingredients. Im basically considered the baby of the group but they all say i have talent and im working alot and loving every minute of it. 

    My chef is mentoring me and i feel like a positition like mine many people after culinary school dont even get an opportunity like this so easily. Besides ending up in debt doesnt sound so great and i prefer to travel and backpack and see the world all while learning, then going to school and paying when i could be out there enjoying life. 

    Regardless i still consider school or some type of course just since its another thing i could add to a resume, and would give me more credibility even tho i believe you see someones skill on the line then through some paper. 

    Anyway enough about me and more about you , lets hear some stories XD
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2013
  2. miss kim78

    miss kim78 Banned

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    If you decide to go to culinary school, make sure it is highly a reputable one. Some schools (like the Le Cordon Bleus of America) are merely a scam. They provide shitty education and leaves students in crapload of debt. There are many respected chefs that did not go to culinary school. They worked their way up (I have met many that started as dishwashers) with years of hard work, dedication, and having the talent and passion to reach high positions in the industry. I think culinary school is good for gaining book knowledge…well the school I attended wasn’t. Most of the things I know now are from what I have learned in the real kitchens or on my own…not from culinary school. But then again, I am sure that the more reputable and credible schools would provide a better learning experience to grasp the theory aspect of cooking…just please stay away from Le Cordon Bleu.
     
  3. veronporter

    veronporter

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    Don't go. If you're in a good kitchen/learning from a good chef you have no reason to waste your money(other than to say you did and for "networking", which you can also do without school).

    Just study, read and cook all you can. Stay with your current chef until you feel the amount you're learning slows down greatly and when that happens; talk to chef about how he can help take your career to the next level. If he is a true professional, he'll be happy to oblige. I'd also think about places you'd like to stage and start doing some of that. Set goals for yourself and make them happen!
     
  4. kostendorf

    kostendorf

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    i decided to go to School first because i knew nothing about professional cooking.  went to a technical School and had a 2 year cooking program.  played volleyball for the collage so my athletic scollarship paid for the school.  i feel i got a good Basic introduction to professional cooking and also all the classical stuff you might get on a red seal test.  the Chefs there were great and every day they prepared you for the culinary test.  also got many good contacts there.  and hey man it's school.   collage life,  chicks, booze, drugs,  parting with collage chicks.  think i will re-enroll and take the professional baking course and do it all over again.  o yea i was 26 years old when i did this.
     
  5. foodpump

    foodpump

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    Hi Kaique,

    If you are serious about cooking as a career, then the answer is yes, you need school.

    Here's why:

    A restaurant's prime concern is to make money. If it makes sense to cook omelettes on the flat top, then staff are instructed to do so.  If it makes sense to mark off steaks before service and pop them in the oven to order, then staff are instructed to do so.  A restaurant or Hotel has no"contract" or duty to instruct staff right ways of doing things.

    A school's prime concern is to teach the curriculum.  You might not learn how to move quickly, you might not master techniques because there isn't enough repetition, but the school has a duty to teach you the right way of doing things and more importantly, why things are done that way.

    You may learn a lot from one Chef at one place, but you will not learn all you need to.  You might get this knowledge by working for many Chefs at many places, but there is no guarantee that what you are learning is the right way, or that the explanations are correct (I.E. searing off meat to  "lock in the juices".....)

    Hope this helps....
     
  6. paul alfred

    paul alfred

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    I am an advocate for learning via an apprenticeship, such as you are currently doing.  That is how I got started in the culinary field, and my brother did as well.  I'm now a line cook in a great hotel and a promising future with them, and my brother is an executive chef for a hotel where he lives.  I could list many more people I know who are doing well as chefs who never attended school, just as I could list an equal number of friends I know and work with who have gone to culinary school.  Either option works, it really depends on you and how you prefer to learn, as well as on the chefs you are able to find to teach and mentor you.  By your description, I think you're better off (for now anyway) staying on with your chef and learning as much as you can.  If you determine later that you want to go to school, then go for it...but I think you'll be fine without it.  You'll pick up the business part along the way, or you can always just take a business class at a local community college.  On the bright side if you choose to go to culinary school after working with your chef for a while, you should have no problem getting accepted into a culinary program anywhere.
     
  7. wurzel

    wurzel

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    I did 2 years at catering college myself. In all honesty I'd say I learnt more in my first 3 months working in a real fine dining place than I learnt in 2 years of college.

    The way I see it, qualifications get you first job, experience and ability get every job after that. You've already got the job so I don't see any real reason to go to school unless qualifications are a lot more important in Brazil than they are here.

    Foodpump has a good point that in the trade you generally learn the fastest and/or least expensive way to a job but you can get the classical methods from books to back up your practical experience. You never really get to do anything enough in school to master it anyway so book learning wouldn't put you too far behind on that. 

    @kostendorf, you've missed a trick... <mod edit:  Belongs in PM>
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 17, 2013
  8. foodpump

    foodpump

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    Maybe I should explain that I did do a one year culinary course at a local C.C.in Canada, and with that under my belt, figured I was ready for the big brave world.  Booked a one way flight to Zurich and grew up in a hurry.

    See, Continental Europe doesn't "Do" Culinary Schools, they exist, but only for hobbyists. Matter of fact,  Cordon Bleu was originally designed for non-profesionals.  The professionals in Continental Europe do apprenticeships.

    One week in Switzerland taught me that there is a HUuuge difference between those who completed a cook's apprenticeship, and those who didn't-- a difference in terms of salary and status.  At age 19,  I started on a 3 year cook's apprenticeship, and I was considered "old" as my clasmates were 15 or 16, I was 22 when I completed. My papers declare me a Cook, not a Chef, and Cook in all of Switzerland's three official languages too, so there's no confusion.  An apprenticeship is a 3-way contract between the apprentice, the employer, and the Gov't.  It (apprenticeship) is treated like highschool, a continuation of basic schooling.  You work 4 days at your employer's and take one day of school.  That one day is split into two parts, the first part with everything to do with your trade, and the second part dealing with the German language, bookkeeping, state law, and correspondence. You are tested regularily during those three years, yet those tests will only make up 45% of your entire mark.  55% is set aside for your practical exam, screw up on your practical and you can kiss those 3 years goodbye.  In other words you gotta know how to cook.

    In order for an employer to offer apprenticeships, the Chef and at least 50% of his staff must have completed an apprenticeship as well.  Trained trainers training the trainees.  Should the Chef be replaced by an unqualified one, or the ratio of un-apprenticed employees to apprenticed ones change, the Fed. Gov't can remove an apprentice and move him/her to a new kitchen with qualified staff.  These guys take apprenticeships very seriously.

    So, I repeat, you need some form of schooling.  Your Chef might or might not do things the right way, you may read books until you go blind, but you can't see the technique of say, making a sabayon, which is crucial to making a Hollandaise, or feel the consistancy of meat farce, you need to see them, and more importantly, repeat them under the eyes of someone who has mastered those techniques.  And the hows and whys need to be explained too.  
     
  9. wurzel

    wurzel

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    That does sound like an excellent schooling foodpump.

    They do something kind of similar here in the UK but it's more about cheap labour for the business and people off the unemployed list for the government, you don't come out knowing much about food at all really. I did 1 year of that myself with my second full time at college. This was becuase  the people who are supposed to check the restaurants out obviously didn't bother and I would have failed as they didn't do food covering more than half of the curriculum. If I recall, the head chef had to go and talk to someone at the college to get his 'trainer' qualification and that's all they needed.

     If we had something of the quality your apprenticeship sounds I'd be all for it.
     
  10. kaiquekuisine

    kaiquekuisine

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    Yeh i basically dream of doing something like that...
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2013
  11. dennisb

    dennisb

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    I went to a technical school in 1996 for culinary arts, and needless to say I feel it was a waste of time. You should get a job in a kitchen and work as much as you can in various positions. Have an eagerness to learn, ask lots of question, observe what the chefs are doing and ask why they are doing it. Show commitment, and enthusiasm, and you will succeed. Also get some books, research online, and practice at home. Cook for friends and family, take notes, and refine your skills. This trade takes patience, practice and above all a devout commitment. You cannot be afraid to ask questions and take notes I reiterate.. take notes!! Also ask the chef or chef's if you can try and run sauté on a slow night, or the grill. Good luck and don't give up.
     
  12. brandon odell

    brandon odell

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    I noticed this year for the James Beard awards that more than half the chefs up for "Best Chef Midwest" (my region) did not go to school. I think whether or not it is the right answer for you depends on your goals and your current situation.

    There are very, very few great mentoring chefs out there. As someone who has worked in many different food service sectors and worked with, for, hired and fired many degreed chefs, I can say that simply going to school means nothing. If you don't go to the right school, your education will eventually fail you and you'll be in the same boat as those without one. I have seen several graduates of a great local community college program run circles around CIA Hyde Park, Le Cordon Bleu and Johnson and Wales grads in my day.

    Sounds like a lose / lose by what I've written, but that's not what I'm getting at. The truth is, "school or no school" has no right answer. Mentoring under a great chef will teach you more than you will ever learn in school, up to and including how to run a profitable kitchen. The trouble is there aren't a lot of great mentoring chefs out there. Going to a great school can set you up to run circles around your average "mentored" cook, assuming you can find a truly great school to go to. You have to weigh your options based on your situation. If you are currently working in a successful kitchen for a great chef who loves to teach and is good at it, do not leave to go to school. Absorb everything you can and ride that train as far as it will take you. If you find you are running out of things to learn, lose your teacher, or have hit a glass ceiling, it may be time to start finding a great school to get the piece of paper that will open more doors for you.

    In my experience hiring chefs, I have always placed a lot more weight on experience than education BUT I look for someone with both first. I often require the education to even consider applicants at all. I personally did not go to culinary school, but I also never intended on being a career chef. I ended up a career chef by way of starting my own business. I am a business owner first and a chef by trade, not by degree or certification. Eventually, I will move completely out of the chef role and no longer use the term to describe what I do or who I am. The chefs I employ are a mixture of degreed and non-degreed cooks with a particular set of skills that qualify them to be called "personal chefs" by me and by the families I find for them to cook for.
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2013
  13. foodpump

    foodpump

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    Now, not trying to sound like a smart alec here, but.. "why"?

    Why should a Chef show an employee all that he/she has learned during the course of their career?.  Most Chefs and bakers that I know of  will show employees stuff that only pertains to their job, and no more.  Why?  Simple:  You're just training up your competition.

    Not a romatic picture of an old hand showing the young one all the tricks of the trde is it?  but an accuarate one..............
     
  14. lagom

    lagom

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    Most of the chefs I know, both in the USA and in Europe will share not just what you need to work your position but will show you what your willing to persue. Ask,ask,ask, if your not persuing the knowledge they wont thrust it upon you. I have only met a few chefs in my life that were stingy with knowledge, I dont remember their names or food and no one else woukd either.
     
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  15. jliestman

    jliestman

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    Hello all, first post to these boards.

    I personally, at the young age of 20 attended a Culinary School for two years after high school.

    I started working in restaurants at age 15, as a dishwasher of course, and fell in love with the entire atmosphere.

    By age 16 my hard word and positive attitude had paid off, and I was on the line cooking in a small establishment.

    I believe Culinary School is worthwhile for a few reasons... I had a great Chef to learn off of as a younger person, but he got sick shortly after I started cooking and it kind-of left me in the dark... I knew more than most people in the area, but definitely not enough to try and get another job...

    This was my deciding factor to go to Culinary School.

    I believe it's worth it because I learned enough of the basic principles to continue moving up in my career and I also got out and saw new techniques, learned about Baking (Which is a lot bigger deal than most think, in my opinion) and I learned a lot about who I was as a Chef.

    My Culinary Class was 32 students, which was larger than my chef was comfortable with, but he made it work with hard word. 

    25 of these 32 students had no prior kitchen experience, and were looking for an easy way out.

    The year ended with 23 students remaining, and less than 10 of them are working in a restaurant now.

    Culinary school is an investment. I would definitely recommend anyone go to it if they are interested in the profession, as long as they stay away from Le Cordon Bleu, which is a joke in my opinion.

    You will learn enough in the two years you put into schooling to make it worthwhile in the long run for your career.

    I hope this made sense, coming from a Culinary School I believe it was more than worth my time and effort.
     
  16. bughut

    bughut

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    Yes I did...3 years day release. 1 day a week from my job which the company paid for. after 3 years they cancelled so I did a year full time on a bursary grant to get management training too, all good.

    I was a mature student. I'd held posts as chef in the past by "Blagging it" But wanted the confidence of that certificate. I would never have started my own business without it. I know that.

    I have 2 sons who are also chefs. Both tried college temporarily but gained their experience, credibility and reputation on the line. so heres an argument for both sides.

    No. 2 son is now a trucker in America, Ohio...What can i say. Doesn't even cook now.
     
  17. lbrax27

    lbrax27

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    I was signed up and ready to go to the Cia because my chef went there and it was the best of best at the time; and eveni asked fir a letter of re went back got is master chef; and when I asked for a letter of recommendation; he told no your not going you want to learn; I said yes explained to him what I want and why I enjoy it. At this time I was a senior at unveristy of north Carolina; he said I will teach andyou wont waste money. Work under him fir two yearsand its paid off. If you work fir a good chef and haven a solid team around you; the goals you want are there for you to take.
     
  18. twyst

    twyst

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    CMC exam is no joke, I didnt realize there were actual working chefs who bothered to try to get it anymore.   There are only like 60 of them in the US, and most of them are culinary instructors from what Ive been told.
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2013
  19. brandon odell

    brandon odell

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    If a chef isn't willing to teach you, they are not a good chef so it doesn't really matter why. A great chef is one that has a passion not only for their food, but for their craft as a whole, their employees and their entire industry. A great chef is not so insecure as to think they are training their replacement if they teach their employees everything they can. THOSE chefs only get replaced when they move on by their own accord. "Training up your competition" is just an excuse used by chefs that are either too lazy or too insecure to be great themselves, and they aren't worth working for in the first place.
     
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  20. foodpump

    foodpump

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    Get a grip on reality........

    Look, let's say I have a position open for a line cook,  pay @ X$/hr.  I'll turf the dude out if I have to show him/her how to temp a steak or explain to him/her that you have to get the pan hot and the oil hot before you put in a chix breast.  On the other hand I'll gladly show the salad guy those things and patiently explain to him/her the hows and whys.

    Employees don't have a god-given right to have information spoon fed to them, they need to earn that right. I don't know how to make this point any clearer.

    Let me put it to you another way.  Had a culinary student "attatched' to me for two weeks.  One day I got in a case of oranges and explained that I would be making marmalade with her.  Student was whinging the whole time.  From the one case of oranges we made 60 1/2 pint jars of marmalade that I sell at $5.00 a pop--you do the math of how much I made on that $25.00 case of oranges.  But that's not all, After the student had whinged and moaned all the way about peeling and blanching the orange peel 3 times, I candied the remainder of the peel--aprox 3 kg's worth.  If I buy candied peel from a supplier, it's around $6/ a kg diced and well over $10 whole or in strips.  I use my own peel  in my pastries and desserts and sell a lot of peel around October when customers ask and buy it for making fruit cake.   But that's still not all, I still have 4 liters (1 gallon) of intense orange flavoured syrup left over from the whole process.  When I worked in hotels the bartenders would go nuts over the syrup, and I would use it in sorbets and cakes as well.

    I took the first whinging from the student good natured, and explained the process of making marmalade.  It was not well recieved. So I Shut up and just gave straight orders and explained the bare minimum.  Student had the opportunity to learn, and I would have gladly explained the process of  marmalade, of natural pectin, why the peel needs to be blanched so many times, of hot packing, and of candying peel.  But why bother if the student is whinging about "slave labour"  the whole time?

    Same thing with another employee  when I get in my weekly case of whole chicken.  We boned out breasts and thighs, packed up bones into bags so that we could make fresh chicken stock daily, took all the fat and skin and rendered it down. The only thing that gets thrown out is the platic bag liner.  Employee couldn't care less, couldn't do the math on what kind of money I was saving over buying in boned out breasts and leg meat even with the labour factored in.  Frustrated at the process of putting together a hobart meat grinder and would't try to practice assembling it on thier own time.  No, I'm just a cheap stubborn s.o.b. for not buying in pre fab chicken.

    I've been on this forum since the oh.. early 2003?  I have given out a tremendous amount of advice since then and continue to do so today, I don't do a lot of tutorials, but have a few picture tutorials to my credit.  I don't automatically dispense knowledge, but I will gladly give it out if asked.

    Employees don't have a god -given right to be spoon fed information.

    Training up the competition is another story, and when an employee takes a sudden interest on how you aquired this piece of equipment, or how much it cost, or how you got this account, or what criteria you need to open up a kitchen.........  Well then, you figure it out.