Is the degree really that important? HELP

Discussion in 'Choosing A Culinary School' started by maria1233, Oct 14, 2015.

  1. maria1233

    maria1233

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    Hello everyone, 

    I just got my complete Cuisine Diploma at Le Cordon Bleu. I have a Basic Patisserie Diploma as well, I would be missing the Intermediate and Superior Patisserie courses in order to achieve and graduate with Le Grand Diplome. 

    I recently attented a very important culinary event where I had the opportunity to work with many successfull chefs and some students from other schools. I was really surprised when Chefs asked about LCB tuition fees, (in a sort of mock humor) and two of them told me that it is not really based on what school you attend to, rather in whether the student has talent or not, and whether they have experience or not.

    I had this theory in which I thought that if I graduated with the "best culinary diploma" in the world, I would have advantage over the many, many students and chef aspirants in the world. Truth is, now I think that the degree you have is really worth nothing, and it is truly more up to experience and hard work. 

    I think LCB is a school for rich people and housewives, given the fact that they dont offer financial aid whatsoever, and they dont encourage you to go work and they really dont have any connections with restaurants to connect you with during your course period or when you graduate. 

    I think LCB costs a ridicule amount of money, (2 days a week/5months/ for 15000 dls) for something that I am not sure that it is truly worth. I made a huge effort to pay for the Diploma I already have, and it just doesnt seem right now.

    And I make it clear that I learned a lot during my cuisine course and I am grateful for their techiniques and their great hands-on-teaching method. I am just not sure if it is worth my money and my time, and I think their patisserie courses are outdated and old fashioned.

    I mean wouldnt it be better to go work as an apprentice at a pattiserie and learn a whole lot more and for FREE?? 

    How much is a degree/piece of paper worth in the real culinary world? 

    I would appreciate all of your opinions and advice, I am really confused and it would really help. 
     
  2. nicko

    nicko Founder of Cheftalk.com Staff Member

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    This part of your post says it all. For myself I had worked in kitchens for many years but had no formal training such as what was the ratio for mirepoix or how to make a brown sauce. Culinary school is a great way to get a solid foundation. However the costs of school have become so outrageous (Culinary Institute of America is $60,000) that it is truly difficult to justify that money for a degree that really isn't worth what you pay. What I mean by that is you can't teach yourself to be a doctor or lawyer so you have to go to school to get a license etc. But you can with effort teach yourself how to cook and that is what many great chefs did. My advice to you would be forget more school focus on what you want to cook for the rest of your life and spend time working in kitchens you respect to learn and perfect those skills. And, I always tell people make sure the kitchens you choose are profitable you have to (HAVE TO) learn the business end of making a profit at cooking not just the "I really like pastry" or "I love to make sushi". That just won't cut it. I think for now your done with school get out there and start working switch jobs ever 6 months and learn, learn, learn. Hope that helps.
     
    alexthechef likes this.
  3. chefwriter

    chefwriter

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    What any culinary school should have taught you is to be professional. By that I mean show up on time, dress appropriately, develop good work habits like being clean and neat in both your person and your work habits. Pay attention and show care in what you are doing. Show respect for your self, your colleagues  and the food you are working with. Recognize that there is a correct way to do things regarding proper sanitation, preparation, temperature control and storage practices. Understand some of the processes involved in cooking and how they affect the finished product. Be familiar with how various equipment works and what it is for. 

       No matter which kitchen you work in, you show yourself to be the better employee if you can demonstrate these things. Different kitchens may serve various types of food and cuisines in different ways and have different production needs based on size and style but what I outlined are basic to all kitchens. So it isn't so much which diploma you get but how much you practice good kitchen habits. You develop those habits by getting experience. 

    So go forward with your diploma and be professional wherever you work. You'll be fine. 

    Oh and Nicko is absolutely correct that you should learn how to make a kitchen profitable. The fanciest food doesn't matter if you go out of business. 
     
  4. foodpump

    foodpump

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      Precisely.  You have to acknowledge that just about every pastry chef and cook in continental Europe has done an apprenticeship--very few have gone through private schools. LCB was started to "educate' rich housewives how to cook, it never was intended to compete with the apprenticeship system or to provide future cooks for the commercial kitchens.  That changed big time...... 

    What most private schools refuse to acknowledge is that work experience is just as important as knowledge, and most schools will never address this--they just figure that fobbing off a student with "0" work experience on a employer is fair game.

    An apprenticeship offers many things.  Firstly, a typical 3 yr apprenticeship means that you have 3 yrs,work experience.  Secondly, you have no financial debt.

    But you are on the right track, you are gratefull for learning the techniques and the knowledge LCB has provided you.  Use this to your advantage.
     
  5. yumfood

    yumfood

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    Hi,

    I did the pastry program at the CIA in Napa, and before and after that was working in pastry production.   I learned a lot of great techniques in school.   But there is nothing like the environment of a professional kitchen.  For me, I think that higher prestige kitchens are more likely to hire someone with a degree.  But that is my opinion. 
     
  6. chefross

    chefross

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    The ongoing theme here is that a degree in any part of the culinary curriculum is only as good as the next employer deems as much.

    Some places value a degree and some do not. 

    There are places that would rather hire someone with no formal education. That way they can mold them their way.

    Other places expect that applicant should have a least SOME knowledge of a kitchen/ bakery and they work

    There are some things that simply can not be taught in a classroom.

    In the USA there are no professional standards that cooks and Chefs have to meet in order to get a job.

    To that end, a degree is not looked at as necessary, however; many places do value them.
     
  7. panini

    panini

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    I think that most education is the same. Schools are different. Unfortunately I think that many Culinary educators lack the basics in teaching. When you are just starting to develop there a 4 things which I think differentiates one school from another. My oldest son when to a Cistercian Preparatory school from the 5th grade until the 12th. The monks did not so much focus on the testing material, they first taught the boys how to read and understand what they were reading. Next, they taught them how to learn, not so much the regimented material but how to learn and retain the important components. Next, they taught them to respect others and to immerse themselves into society. Volunteering, community service, etc. Then nearer to graduation they are taught that they must be open minded for there is a plethora of ways to complete a idea or product. The monks followed this same pattern to educate.One example is the boys learned and studied Latin every year. They  didn't realize it, but the Monks weren't preparing them by memorizing material for testing but almost all of the 40 graduating boys aced the Reading and Writing part of their SAT's because of the Latin they learned.

    Almost every Culinary School I've visited has basically the same syllabus and the focus is on the final test. So graduates walk into my kitchen and I know that they have been taught the same basic

    products. They have not really learned why that combination of ingredients and the method and procedure produces the final product. For me, work experience over school experience weighs a bit more because if they have job accomplishments you hope they have learned to learn.

    Just me though
     
  8. chefross

    chefross

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    You are so right on this chefwriter.

    Unfortunately many culinary schools do not start out by examining the person, more than starting right in with culinary technique.

    Way back in the cave man days when I went to culinary school, there was an introduction to the restaurant and hospitality world class.

    It was held in a large lecture hall and it was a mandatory class.Every freshmen took the class.

    During the weeks that ensued the instructor basically sat on his desk and related terrible stories, and not so funny jokes about life in the restaurant world.

    Things like divorce rates, drug and alcohol abuse, sex at work,stealing and its' effects on the place, etc.......

    The class was meant to weed out those that thought working in a restaurant would be easy. And it worked. By week 12 more than 3/4 of the class had dropped out. That was in 1975.

    Seriously the time spent in a culinary school does not in any way prepare you for life as a line cook in a busy restaurant. Only experience does.

    Sure the classroom does expose you to the equipment, food, and technique, but really only repetition gets you the experience.
     
  9. alexthechef

    alexthechef

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    I've consistantly learned that having a degree is not necessary. I've also heard that it is extremely expensive to get a degree in culinary but not really worth what you pay for as far as experience. 

    I believe, which could be wrong because its an opinion, that working under a respected chef, someone who is professional and a good teacher, is much more valuable than going to school ( I don't truly know because I don't have a degree however) because they have the ability to train you and show you good habits, proper sanitation, storage methods, cooking techniques, recipe improvisation, creating etc.

    Things that I feel wouldn't be taught in school are things like listening and attempting to learn from the chef, rather than putting in your own two sense when you start at new kitchen environment, or something like having your chef coat and pants perfectly clean and pressed every day, with two towels on your apron at all times, one wet, and one dry, with a dry towel in your hand to grab anything that could be hot. habits like these have been created by highly respected chefs and wouldn't be taught with pen and paper, they would be taught on the job gaining experience. 

    I have a background of military culinary, so I have extreme standards for how I look, however I've got little knowledge of fine dining recipies and techniques, which is why i'm in fine dining. 

    The business side can also be taught, by a person simply already running a successful business. 

    My personal opinion. School isn't necessary in culinary world, its all about hard work, dedication, willingness to learn, showing respect, demanding respect, and being there on time, and looking amazing when you get there, every single time, and when you fail or make a mistake, learn from it and write it down, so you can strive to not make the same mistakes again. Thats What I follow, and I was taught that, I didn't come up with it. 

    Alex.
     
  10. chefross

    chefross

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    While I appreciate your words, I cannot help but reflect on my perception of what really goes on.

    If you decide to get education through experience you'll find it very difficult to find that one individual who has all that you're looking for in a mentor.

    To that end, what you end up learning is THEIR way.

    You'll stay a few years with this mentor, and learn what you think is invaluable information.

    Now....time for a change, and you go to a new place only to find that which you learned from your mentor is outdated, odd, or completely wrong.

    Since each Chef has their own technique and ways, how can one completely discern that what they are learning and absorbing is truly correct?

    Reading books about technique will only get you so far. Recipes are merely guidelines as well and can't teach technique the way hands on can.

    The decision to go to culinary school is subjective.

    ....and by the way....you would also be incorrect in your assumption that personal hygiene, and good grooming are not taught in school
     
  11. panini

    panini

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     For me, work experience over school experience weighs a bit more because if they have job accomplishments.

    I mentioned this for someone coming out of Culinary School without an apprenticeship program.

    I'd also want to comment about the myth of culinary school being so expensive.

    Where I am we have some of the best Culinary Schools in the country at our local Community Colleges. I've also been affiliated with their apprenticeship program.

    I would not hesitate to hire a graduate from these schools or give an opportunity for apprenticeship. It's usually the first place I look before looking publically.

    The program is terrific and affordable. Credit hours run about 59.00 which translates to around 4,000.for AAS.

    The apprenticeship program is recognized by All Chefs Associations as well as the Government. That program has a minimun pay structure of $ 9,25 Hr. and is 6000 Hrs.

    That program is very detailed and monitored to make sure apprentices don't get pigeon-holed into one position and get a truly well rounded education.

    My problem is that there is usually no one available when I'm hiring. We have had a few apprentices in the past and they have all moved on to bigger and better things in their careers.

    If funds are tight, there is plenty of financial aid, scholarship money as well as grants. Classes available in days, eves, Saturdays. Ride the bus for free, etc.

    Some things regarding the apprenticeship program and where you will be learning.

    What is it?


    The Chef Apprenticeship Training Program is an on-the-job training program whereby an individual (the apprentice) contracts with a qualified culinary facility such as a hotel, restaurant, country club, hospital, etc. (known as a sponsoring house) to be employed and trained for 6,000 hours based on the training program devised by the US Department of Labor and the American Culinary Federation. At the same time the individual is enrolled at El Centro College and must complete an Associate of Applied Science degree in either Culinary Arts or Bakery/Pastry. The US Department of Labor registers this program as a recognized apprenticeship training program. The duration of the program is a minimum of 6,000 hours. The US Department of Labor monitors the progress of each apprentice during training.
     

    What is a Qualified Culinary Facility?


    A qualified culinary facility for the purposes of the Chef Apprenticeship Program is a facility that meets the following requirements:
    1. Employs as its executive chef (supervising chef) an individual who has or is eligible for one of the following qualifications: CCC, CEC, CMC, CEPC or holds an Associates or Bachelor degree or higher in culinary arts or related studies from an accredited college/university in the USA.
    2. Offers full service menu with at least 51% of the items are prepared from scratch.
    3. Serves at least two of the following meal periods/experiences: breakfast, lunch, dinner, banquets and/or off-premise catering.
    4. Is recognized as a legal entity by the State of Texas and the United States government.
    5. Provides full-time employment for the apprentice. This is usually between 30-40 hours each week.

    What happens at the end of training?


    Upon successful completion of 6,000 hours of on-the-job training as well as completion of all required El Centro courses and receipt of the Associates of Applied Science degree apprentices will receive the Certificate of Completion of Apprenticeship from the United States Department of Labor. In addition, apprentices are eligible to apply for certification as a Certified Culinarian or Certified Sous Chef (depending on your documented job experience) from the American Culinary Federation.

    Just sayin
     
  12. jimyra

    jimyra

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    Listen to Flip Flop girl.  I also have experience in military kitchens.  I pulled KP many times.  I have great respect of the cooks and sergeants in the kitchen at that time. Almost 50 years ago.  In culinary school you will learn, " good habits, proper sanitation, storage methods, cooking techniques, recipe improvisation, creating etc."  Then your chef can teach you how to cook.  If you attend a college or university and get a four year degree you will also learn business, communication skills, and general knowledge.  Many larger companies require a B.S. for management positions.  Getting more education never hurts. 
     
  13. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    If I switched out the word "working", in the above quote. to the words " going to school for tutelage", it could well be a summation of a culinary school experience.
    If I switch out the words ""feel wouldn't be" with the word "was", it would be a summation of my culinary school experience, which included work experience in the school's different restaurants which were open to and serving the general public, not just pen and paper work.
    No switching out here, just a little editing and it is a summation of my opinion as well, whether your path includes formal schooling or not.

    A side note, this has me a little confused, could you explain a little further