Is the reputation of the university a big deal in the kitchen industry?

Joined Aug 23, 2016

My name is Edgardo or Ed, I'm 22 years old from Puerto Rico. I've studied everything from Biology to Psychology and Anthropology but Baking has been my real true passion. I transferred to Johnson & Wales (Providence) to do a bachelors in either Baking and Pastry or Baking and Pastry/FSM. I love my classes, I love the kitchen, I finally feel like I found "my" thing. But, JWU is really far away (12hr trip, 2 planes) from where I live, I have no friends or family over there, I stay in dorms and it's really expensive at 40,000$-50,000$ a year without counting plane tickets and luggage and necessities( I was just there for 1 trimester and had to come back home due to health issues) I had surgery and I'm better now so I had plan to return but another offer opened up. I spoke with my grandparents ( I don't have a mother or father)  and they offered me and apartment they would pay and a car already paid off in Orlando,Florida. I thought about it, and it sounds great, I'm blessed enough to have the opportunity to have my own place and car while I attend college, which means I could also get a job since I couldn't in Providence due to me living so far and having to come to Puerto Rico every 3 months and I also have friends and family in Orlando. I called a very good friend and she told me she could get me a job at Universal Studios while I study, which is great because I thought, once I'm done I can transfer to a restaurant or bakery inside the park and work my way up from there. I started looking for colleges and I found that Valencia college in Orlando has a Baking program and then they would transfer me to UCF to finish up with FSM. Since I will be a Florida resident Valencia would price at about 3,000-5000$ which is extremely cheaper than JWU. Sadly, my grandparents can only give me all that in Orlando. It's tempting for me to take the Orlando offer because I would be comfortable and it would be a great start to my life.

My concern and why I'm writing here is because I'm looking for advice. I understand that JWU is expensive but I hear they have a great reputation in the industry and that they would open many doors for me in life. That with the job I'll get from graduating there the debt wouldn't be much of a burden. But Valencia is much cheaper, I'll have a job with my own place and car and I'll be 2hrs from home to see my grandparents if they have an emergency or something. I've heard many people say that in this industry it's more about what you put into it than the degree.  I would love to receive some feedback about which program is worth it since I have no knowledge of the working kitchen industry.

Thanks in advance! 
Joined May 14, 2014
Yes and no. Depending on the jobs you are after, it can make a difference. But let me stress that you will be applying for entry level jobs when you come out of school. What matters most to the peoplehiring for those jobs is attitude and work experience.
Any one who tells you the debt coming out of J&W wouldn't be a burden doesn't know what they're talking about.
Joined Aug 2, 2014
That, sadly, is an impossible question for a stranger to answer for you.  As you are seeing, even before your career is starting, there are so many paths that life can take you down.  Reading your post, it sounded like you answered your own question "...Orlando offer because I would be comfortable and it would be a great start to my life".  Make your decisions based on what you want in life, not by what you think your decisions looks like to other people.

As a baker you can develop a portfolio of work based on what you have accomplished, this has nothing to do with the school name that you attended.

For me, being a corporate chef and an equipment manufacturer, any culinary degree is good to have, but a business degree is a must as well.  How much different would my life be if I went to the Culinary Institue rather than the NAVY?  Odds are, I wouldn't have met my wife and had the job I have and love today.

I mean honestly though, how often does anyone in this industry talk about the school they went to?  Most conversations that I have are about who is where, and what big projects are in the works.  "It's who you know" kind of world right?
Joined Oct 10, 2005
My advice?

Get a job in a bakery.

See if you like it, baking at home, and production baking are very diferent.

Look, your ultimate goal is to become a baker, right? School is a way of doing this, but school is not the ultimate goal.

The last thing you want is to go through school, incur huge debts, and then find out you don't like production baking, and the lifestyle.

So get a job in a bakery first, doesn't matter if you're washing pans and boxing cakes.

Hope this helps....
Joined Oct 31, 2012
Did you know JWU has a campus in North MIami? That might help you work things out. They are also involved in the Epcot Center at Walt Disney in Orlando. So you are not far from them even if you attend Valencia College. 

     But as a graduate of JWU many years ago, I would advise you to take your grandparents offer.

Grande is correct in being concerned about the enormous debt. JWU is indeed a great school with a great reputation but they and many others are now charging way too much tuition. 

      No matter where you go to school, what effort you put forth will make more difference. There are plenty of great books on Baking and Pastry you can study on your own in addition to school. Getting a job so you can practice what you learn is also very important. 

     Life outside of school is important as well. Having a strong support team, as you would in Orlando, can be vital to your success. Having to worry about living and travel arrangements is major distraction to school. Why do that if you don't have to? 

When you graduate, as Grande pointed out, you will be getting entry level offers. No reason to have enormous debt just for that. 

     Where you graduate from is less important than how you decide to live your life.  There are plenty of graduates from fancy schools who can't cook worth a damn and there are plenty of cooks who never went to school who can cook rings around any graduate. 

     I believe it is important to remember that any school is the Beginning of your education, not the end of it. Once you graduate, you should remain open minded and inquisitive about what else there is to learn for the rest of your life. Opportunities will continue to present themselves in many ways.

 So take your grandparents offer and make the beginning of your education as trouble free as possible. 
Joined Jun 27, 2012
IMO you are finished with full time classes and are ready to work.

Take the generous offer from your g-parents and get on with your life... you can always keep a lookout for any conferences and/or certificate classes that sound interesting.

Food shows as well.

Orlando (working for the mouse or not) can be an education on its own.

The kitchens in that area usually spare no expense for ingredients as the dessert menus can be a big factor when booking up hotels and restaurants.

After all most of the tourists are sugar loving kids (and kids at heart lol).

I am a bit envious /img/vbsmilies/smilies/smile.gif.

Joined May 25, 2015
 I've studied everything from Biology to Psychology and Anthropology but Baking has been my real true passion. I transferred to Johnson & Wales...
You sound like what I like to call a "professional student". Time figure out what you really want to do and get a job!

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