Northern California baking programs, and questions from a vegan

Joined Jun 17, 2010
Hello!  I'm trying to decide on a community college baking program, and I'm having a hard time.  I do plan to visit some or all of these schools before I make a final decision, but I'm wondering if anyone has any thoughts on any of the following schools (or any others I may be overlooking):

Santa Rosa Junior College

Laney College

Contra Costa College

American River College

I live in Sacramento currently, so American River would be ideal in terms of location.  They only offer a baking certificate, though.  The other schools I'm considering offer AA programs in baking and pastry.  Santa Rosa's program looks particularly good to me, but I'd have to relocate to go there (or any other school).  I don't know if it's worth it.

Background information: I graduated with a BA in English last year, and took an internship in a Disney World restaurant right away (front of house stuff mostly, but I did work a few shifts stocking the kitchen and running around fetching things for the cooks and servers).  I came home last month, and now I'm faced with the sad reality that an English BA is not very marketable right now.  Nothing I can think to do with my degree excites me very much anyway, so after a lot of thought, I've decided to pursue culinary school.  I want to bake professionally.

Anyway, I can't decide where to go.  Any thoughts?

Also, something else I'm concerned about: I'm vegan, and my ultimate goal is to be a vegan baker.  I'd love to own my own business someday, or at least work for a vegan bakery or restaurant.  I recognize that I'm going to have to use eggs and dairy while in school, and I accept that.  I want to learn traditional techniques and adapt them to suit a vegan diet.  I guess I'm willing to taste vegetarian foods, but I absolutely will not put meat in my mouth.  Has anyone gone through culinary school without being forced to taste everything?  I've looked into some of the few vegetarian culinary programs across the country, but they're all private and very expensive.  Community college is all I can afford right now.  I guess I need to ask the individual schools how they would handle this situation.

Sorry for the rambling, and thanks to anyone who wants to address any of these issues.
Joined Sep 18, 2008
Have you looked into locating a vegan bakery or restaurant that might consider taking you on as an apprentice?

At first glance, I would question whether ANY public education culinary facility would be equipped to handle vegetarian, let alone vegan, restrictions.

Looking at the baking/pastry area several potential "problem ingredients" spring to mind, inter alia:
  • Egg
  • Egg whites
  • Milk, Half&Half, Cream, Buttermilk
  • Butter
  • Gelatin
  • Lard
  • etc.
Learning by working in a vegetarian/vegan establishment would avoid those potential problems AND probably expose you to other areas that are essential for running a successful business.

Besides, have you thoroughly analyzed the potential job market for vegan cooks? You might think about that before you decide on going to a school. Sometimes a B.A. in English looks good /img/vbsmilies/smilies/talker.gif, especially when you consider that one more year and you can get your "teachers credential" and almost be guaranteed a job that will pay you enough to support a hobby as a "vegan pastry cook".
Joined May 4, 2010
Just to emphasize the sound logic above, my paper on Celiac (was on gluten but quickly became a rant on Celiac and it's role in the evolution of gluten-free baking, etc) which really trashed the whole idea of vegan baking (while admitting it's a valid category so long as it has a market) - got 100% smiley face from my Intro to Baking teacher =p

More to the point, our first fundamentals class will definately have you breaking down chickens. all our pastry majors have to take that class, as well as another 8+ or so that will have all manner of butchery involved, fish, poultry, meats, etc. 
Joined Jun 17, 2010
Thank you both for your replies.  I'll have to talk to the schools about how much meat the baking and pastry curriculum involves.
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