School thoughts from the fringe

Joined Oct 1, 2006
Greetings to all.

Since this entire section is dedicated to selection of cooking schools, I am sharing my opinions on this topic. Just my point of view from the fringe!

The single most important element on the path to becoming a good chef has little to do with which school you choose to attend.

The most important part is YOU!

I have worked for both a Green Card, Frenchman that graduated from the Cordon Bleu in Paris and a graduate of the CIA in Hyde Park, NY. What did they have in common? They were both fired because they weren’t any good at being a Chef.

Those schools are really good schools! The variable is the attitude, drive and determination of the person attending the school, YOU!

I only attended a community technical school in northern Wisconsin and I never anticipated that I would have the amazing career I had, but which school I chose to attend wasn’t really the important part. Evidently...

A fellow student of mine blew me away with perfect scores on almost every test! It was a little depressing actually. He challenged an instructor on a test question, he was right, and they had to change the test. I mentioned to an instructor how I wished I could be like him and have that encyclopedic knowledge of food and cooking! He said, “No you don’t. He has knowledge, but no passion and he can’t cook. Taste something he made, you’ll see”. He was right. Knowledge alone will not ensure success.

If you have a thirst for knowledge and passion for cooking, you do have the key to success if…

If what? If you have the perseverance to put forth the time and effort, and endure the hardships required to succeed.

Your effort is far more important than the school. IF you get really good, people will want to hire you! (It is nice to still get job offers, in retirement…)

Last thought for you to consider.

I also suggest that you work in a small restaurant, for at least a couple months, before attending a school.


1 If you are thinking of opening your own place, you will probably start small. You will be able to observe the peripherals of being a chef, like scheduling, ordering, inspections, receiving and storage of everything, pest control, Repair techs, sales Reps, etc. up close, not on a different floor or in another part of the building.

2 In a small operation, you will have a larger variety of products to deal with. In a large operation you may make 500-800 portions of just a couple of different products in a day instead of dealing with 30-50 different products. (down the road you should learn the many differences between these type of operations)

3 Working in a kitchen (any size) can be a little insane and usually stressful. This gives you a taste of what your life could be if you do become a Chef! You may not like the conditions, the pace, the heat, the hours, etc... You should know that you won't have too many Friday or Saturday nights off...

4 Working before school gives you a better filter for the difference between school information and the real restaurant world. (Very few restaurants have a Saucier, Pastry chef or Garde Manger positions if there are only four or five cooks on the payroll.)

I hope others voice their opinions on the above “food for thought”.

I will answer any questions you have.

Good luck, and success to all you young Chefs.
Joined May 5, 2010
Spot on everything you mentioned. I too have worked for CIA graduates who could not manage people nor boil an egg.
It is the person and not the education. Thanks for this and I hope all would be Chefs read it.
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