European Culinary Schools-worth it?

Joined Mar 7, 2002
I just want introduce myself, first off, and say that I am new here and happy to find this great forum.

This question has two parts:

1)If I want a solid education in classic French technique, with a program length that is a year or under (a year and a half is fine), which school should I pick?

2)Should this school be in the states or in Europe? Does this factor matter in the eyes of Executive Chefs? Will I have an upper hand over state side trained culinary students by being trained in Europe?

I have been working Washington DC area in a professional kitchen (as a pantry/cold foods chef) for a year or so now and really feel that cooking professionally is the place to be. But I have found that I lack a solid foundation of skill to allow me to progress and take my job into any state of fruition. I want to build my foundation of skill in classic French technique but am not sure which culinary school would be the best for solid/hard core French technique.

These are the culinary Schools I have been looking at:

***Le Cordon Bleu (London)***

***Ritz-Escoffier Ecole de Gastronomie Française (Paris)***

***Ecole Superieure de Cuisine Francaise Groupe Ferrandi (Paris)***

***The French Culinary Institute***

----I am having a very hard time trying deiced between these schools. Or any other one for that matter. :confused: The Institute of Culinary Education (formerly Peter Kump's New York Cooking School) sounds Intriguing as well. Is there any place any one can point me to figure out which one will be the better program. Which school has the better program and for what reasons? I am very turned on by Le Cordon Bleu and the Ritz schools because I can take both pastry and cuisine at the same time. The French Culinary Institute sounds wonderful with its cadre of master of master chefs and its on-site, Critically acclaimed restaurant externship. But I want to know the small details that will help me decide between these schools and this is why I am asking for help. AND, would I be getting a better education in Europe, than in the states, for learning classical French technique? And why. Does it matter if I am European trained? Who cares where I am trained? I feel, personally, that I would be getting a better education if I went European side but I do not know. Is this ture? I also think that I would have a harder time finding a job stateside if I get trained abroad. Is this ture? The French Culinary Institute has a very extensive job placement office, which I can utilize after and during my schooling at the institute.

I would love to hear from current or past students and chefs of all levels (bottom to top) of these schools (or other schools for that matter) on what your thinking is on this post questions. ANY help, hint, or clue is greatly and wonderfully appreciated. At this point I am tottaly lost.......

Thanks very much

Erik :D
Joined Feb 21, 2002

I am at the end of the Basic Cuisine course at Le Cordon Bleu London, Monday is my final exam - I will be continuing to the Intermediate and Advanced courses and then the can teake them simultaneously also...

I highly recommend it - I have never been to another culinary school, but there are some students in my class who have left other local schools b/c of poor training and having to purchase their own ingredients! Several of the students are already working chefs who are there to improve on skills or gain experience to further their careers...

In my class there are about 50 people, we are separated into practical classes of 8-10 in the kitchens, and the chef is always circulating and following what you are doing - always available for questions or problems.

Do you speak French? I know that the schools in France offer translations, but that may not always be sufficient, will there be a translator in the practical classes so you can communicate with the chefs? Also life in general may be more difficult if you don't speak it, which will take away from your learning concentration...

I don't know about the employment issues here and in the US...

Let me know if I can answer anything else for you

Joined Mar 7, 2002
Thanks Sandra for your reply.

Everything I have heard about Le Cordon Bleu (London) program is good. From your experience it sounds like that the there are small class sizes which is great. I am also wanting to take the same program you are in; the Grand Dimplome which encompasses both the pastry and cusine dimploma in one. I bet the promram is very intensive. How long are you in class each day? And how many times per week do you meet? I am just trying to get a feel for how intensive the program really is. How many hands on classes do you do compared to demo classes by the chefs at Le Cordon Bleu? I am also wondering are you planing to take an externship? How does the externship work at Le Cordon Bleu London chapter? Are students guaranteed an externship or does it work another way? I also like the idea of the option of taking the basic and intermediate leves in London and then taking the advanced level in Paris. Does Le Cordon Bleu help its students find jobs in restaurants after graduation?

So, this brings me to my next question out to anyone who can answer it. If I go to a European culinary school how hard will it be for me then to work in Euope after graduation? In other words how hard would it be to get a work visa after graduation? And then how easy would it be to then work in the us coming from Europe? I just dont know what to expect after graduating from a European school as an American? What should I expect in terms of getting a job after a european school?

Thanks for any help,

Erik :bounce:
Joined Jan 21, 2002
Well Eric,
I spoke with a representative of the program before and this is what she told me. For one, cuisine courses are taught Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday. Patisserie courses on Thursday-Friday-Saturday. An externship is a required component to any diploma program. Usually three months in duration. It is from there that jobs offers usually come (but this part can be true for any culinary school). As far as guaranteeing an externship I believe they help in getting one but to forgo the hassle of acquiring a working visa just do the externship in your home country. Check ou their website by clicking here.

Also you can call 800-457-CHEF and they will send you a brochure on any of the international schools. Or you can email them at "(london, ottawa, australia or paris)
Joined Feb 21, 2002
Erik and Culinarian,

The classes are as follows, you start out the day with a demonstration that lasts 2.5-3 hours, the chef will show you how to make a variety of recipes, of which 2-3 you will be making in a practical class that afternoon or the next day - practical classes last 2.5 hours, although if you are finished before then, you can leave after you get your grade - you are graded on a scale of 0-50.

The demonstartion classe encompass the whole group, about 30-40 students, the practical classes in the kitchens are broken down into groups of 8-10 max, you stay with your group for the duration of the term.

Each practical class is headed by a different chef, obviously not necessarily the one that demonstrated.

The classes for cuisine are 3 days a week, last term it was M T W, this term I have W TH F. I am not taking the patisserie yet, but those who are, attend the other 2 days of the week - I'm not crazy about baking so I will take that separately after cuisine.

They have also introduced theory classes which take place one day a week strating after school and ususally go about 1.5-2 hours - they cover topics such as history, kitchen departmentalization, culinary terms, butchery, etc...

You will also have to take a Food Hygiene course which is on one Saturday and lasts 8 hours - you get a nice certificate from it if you pass the test at the end of the day.

I'm not sure about externships or visas, I live here, so not a problem for me. I do know the school tries to help with placements, I haven't gotten to that stage yet.... Also, there are sooo many restaurants in the area which take students...

What else can I tell you??

Joined Mar 25, 2002
I just wanted to say that I am glad that you are at least considering some of the European options when it comes to culinary schools.

I myself am a graduate from Le Cordon Bleu - Paris with a Grand Diplome in Cuisine and Pastry. To me, the experience was really immeasurable. I think that I was able to get a lot out of the year that I stayed in Paris, not only because I speak french (therefore easier acceptance and communication), but because I was very serious about my education and I actively pursued what I wanted to learn.

I saw how some of the other students acted at school (even though they had the privilege of attending) and I think that their time spent was truly a waste. You really have to want to be there, experience everything that you possible can. You will also have to spend a great deal of time in the European milieu if you want to really learn.

I had the opportunity to do two stages while in Paris and to this day, I would not trade those experiences for anything. One thing for sure is that I did not have an easy time, nor was I accepted in the beginning and the days were not short.

All I can say is that no matter what culinary school you choose, your education is what you make it. Le Cordon Bleu has an amazing wealth of information, teachers, products and resources at your disposal - you just have to know how to use them effectively.
Joined Mar 7, 2002
Thanks so much, to everyone, for the replies. :D

splm, I now have a clearer picture of what the program entails. The program sounds very intensive and a very good experience. Thanks!!

Kafka_66, you are very right, it is all about what I put into my culinary school experience. IF I put 110% into my culinary education I'll get it right back 10 fold. From all the posts and from what I have heard elsewhere, the Cordon Bleu has an awesome program with a solid foundation in classical techniques. Finding a school with such a foundation is very important to me and I will put in that 110%, once I am in a program, and soak in the experience by doing as much as I can. I do not speak a foreign language and I do see this as a barrier to getting the full European culinary school experience. By learning in Europe I'll have to, by default, learn about a new culture which will take some time to get used to. This time could be used to learn more about cooking and less about getting comfortable in Europe if I stay State side. And as you said, "One thing for sure is that I did not have an easy time, nor was I accepted in the beginning..." I am weary of this break-in period and it wont help that I don't speak a lick of French. I am going to apply to the French Culinary Institute in NYC and dive into the NYC scene. I can always after working in the biz for a number of years go abroad. I see no need to rush into things.....

Has anyone out there had good experiences (or bad ones) with the French Culinary Institute? How intensive is the program and do you feel that it prepared you well for entering the "real world" of professional restaurants? What about its on-site restaurant, L'Ecole? Is the L'Ecole experience equal to other schools externship programs? I have heard that the French Culinary Institute has a solid foundation in classical French techniques and produces competent future chefs but I would love to hear it from the horses mouth so to speak. What can you graduates (of the institute) and chefs who have come in contact with these graduates tell me specifically about the FCI? Can anyone give me any feedback in the same respect with Peter Kump's?

Thanks again for all the awesome replies made (and ones to come)!

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