Is experience better than school?

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by william kuch, Dec 26, 2013.

  1. william kuch

    william kuch

    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    So I've been cooking almost 6 years and have worked everywhere from mom and pop to a resort and stand alone fine dining joints. I'm currently working at a fine dining italian spot downtown. Its really gotten me passionate about cooking again, partly because its less stress and it gives me time to come up with things I could add or do differently to a dish. I think I have the fundamentals of cooking down pretty well. So my question is, would you advise me to go to culinary school and incur a lot of debt, or continue working and hope to learn by working in different fine dining restaurants until I'm able to apply for a sous position?
     
  2. jimmy lauria26

    jimmy lauria26

    Messages:
    35
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    culinary school has its pros and cons. For someone who has never seen the inside of a kitchen then culinary school would be good to teach you the basics. However, if you been working for 6 years in a fine dining establishments you probably no pretty much of the basic techniques that you would pay for I culinary school. the three main courses are your health and sanitation, nutrition and kitchen management. those can be learned through on the job training and by listening and talking to your sous or your chef in charge.

        Most people believe that a chef is a great cook, however, a chef is merely a manager with an understanding of cooking technique so he can train, teach and supervise his kitchen staff. to give yo an example a sous chef =a department mgr., executive chef=district mgr. and a master chef would equal general mgr.

       My advice to you on going to culinary school would be to continue on what your doing it seems like your o a right track keep it up and always keep learning. remember someone in this field will ALWAYS no more then you and that's how you progress.

    good luck. 
     
    chef abdo likes this.
  3. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    6,825
    Likes Received:
    391
    Exp:
    Retired Chef
    After six years in the industry and working in fine dining I would say nope.  Not much culinary school can teach you.  I would broaden my horizons by working in baking and pastry, banquets, and off site catering.
     
  4. kaiquekuisine

    kaiquekuisine

    Messages:
    1,128
    Likes Received:
    101
    Exp:
    Line Cook
    I agree with kuan. 

    6 years of work experience is fine , not much school can teach you that you dont already know. 

    But you could always enter different fields of work , travel , work under new people etc... 

    You could also maybe do a course or 2 be it in baking , charcuturie , etc... just to gain more experience in different areas of the culinary or pastry field. 
     
  5. william kuch

    william kuch

    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Yea, Ive been reading a lot of books lately, and have plans on creating my own "schooling" per say by reading, practicing techniques at home, and asking questions while at work.  Id love to go work in a big city like new york, work on a cruise ship, or do some catering.  I have some government money for school as well, so taking a few classes is a great idea.  I appreciate all the input, I'm new to these forums and really want to get an idea of what will work for best for me.
     
  6. cheflayne

    cheflayne

    Messages:
    4,190
    Likes Received:
    553
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Find a small independant restaurant, run by a quality chef, with a weekly or monthly changing menu.
     
  7. gabecr

    gabecr

    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Sous Chef
    I agree with all the opinions. Culinary schools can be good for certain cases, but also the fact that you will be in debt for years is something to consider.

    I went to culinary school myself because I made a career change in my mid twenties and wanted to get a fast start in the industry. But I would tell someone that start in kitchens since high school to just work their way up. Try to stage at good places also and make contacts and just build from there, and study books on your own to learn general terminology and stuff. In a few years you will be at the same level as any culinary school graduate with no debt.
     
  8. kweedon

    kweedon

    Messages:
    12
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    I have been cooking now for almost 9 years. Never went to culinary school but I have had the good luck to work under some really good chefs that have taught me so much. I have now been a Sous Chef for 9 months and I am doing great. I wouldnt change the way i learned. In my experience Chefs actually respect someone more that has been in the industry a long time over someone that is fresh out of culinary school.
     
  9. mikeswoods

    mikeswoods

    Messages:
    335
    Likes Received:
    19
    Exp:
    Professional Caterer
    I think you are on the right track,too.

    As an employer I looked at experience first----schooling last---

    Often a new hire was brought in as a 'temporary' or 'on call' worker so I could see the skills and work ethic ---

    Do keep learning new skills----one source is the off premise catering field--those people are always looking for on call workers to staff jobs.

    Typically they will call you with a list of upcoming events--and the times help is needed--you can commit to a job that fits your schedule or pass on them.

    Great 'extra' job---and you will learn a heck of a lot -----remember,like the restaurant trade--some caterers are fancy ,high end--and others are simple and plain----

    Just a thought on how to get some new experiences without quitting your regular job----
     
    flipflopgirl likes this.
  10. william kuch

    william kuch

    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Most of the guys I work with have some solid connections with the premier catering company around here. I'll probably try and see if they can put in a good word
     
    mikeswoods likes this.
  11. sqrtchefjason

    sqrtchefjason

    Messages:
    10
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Ive been a chef for 6 years and its only because i worked my ass off half the time for free under several chefs to hone my skills for the 8 years prior its worth it but you have to have the drive ...... there is a term i use a lifer as in this is the only thing you can do If you think you can give up every thing and replace it with a passion that you would never show a woman then your a shoe in no matter how old you are
     
  12. chefsluggo

    chefsluggo

    Messages:
    44
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    i made that mistake after 10 years cooking in fine dinning, went to culinary school... never studied and passed with A's.. i wouldn't say i didn't learn anything new, which i did, but i did get some great connections an friends for $220 a month for 12 years.. lol
     
  13. madchef2013

    madchef2013

    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    I do not think it is vital especially for someone with six years experience in fine dining. At this point I would say work for the best chefs that you can and keep going. Ideally you may want to locate a Michelin Starred/James Beard chef and work for him/her. I think you would find that the experience would take your career to the next level.

    Good Luck
     
  14. annabelles

    annabelles

    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Owner/Operator
    Dear William,

    You may want to check into JUNIOR COLLEGE curriculums. Many have Hotel/Foodservice Management Programs at reasonable rates. There are typically instructors who have worked in the field as well as teaching and you can learn a lot of information fairly cheaply--many of the junior colleges have grant money, scholarships and other funding available to help pay for the schooling / text books, etc.

    Also check out cooking videos on youtube and other food networks.

    Many foodservice vendor websites offer some interesting recipe videos while others cover technique.

    Start by googling restaurant chains, view their sites and see if they offer videos on their site. Many upscale restaurants also put up videos of their creations for their customers to be dazzled with.

    The foodservice suppliers post videos using their product line. (you can also check out service providers and equipment manufacturers... they offer instructional videos on how to use and maintain pieces of equipment and show easy repair tips to keep the kitchen equipment in tip top shape.)

    So for some time spent browsing online you can find a treasure trove of written recipes and instructional videos... /img/vbsmilies/smilies/thumb.gif

    Good Luck with which ever route you take to get you there!