Seattle Culinary Academy for pastry

12
13
Joined Apr 13, 2018
I'm having trouble finding info beyond the website of the Specialty Desserts and Baking program at Seattle Culinary Academy at Seattle Central CC. Any alums or people familiar with the program able to share their take?

For background, I'm contemplating a career change (currently 32), and opportunities might be bringing my SO to Seattle (I'm in DC right now), so I've been thinking about attending culinary school on the west coast starting next January. For a few years now, I've thought about pursuing a career in food (spent the last 10 years working in politics and communications). I think about food/baking constantly and for the last two years have spent my Sundays working at very busy farmers markets on top of a very stressful M-F job. After considering a transition to something more related to my current job, I'm really thinking that cooking is where I want to be, at least in the near future. I'll be stageing (sp?) at a restaurant soon to get the feel of a professional kitchen (only kitchen experience, other than taking baking orders from home, has been working food production for the market vendor I sell for and some time as a cater waiter in college) and have been meeting with chefs and pastry chefs to talk about the field.

I'm mostly interested in pursuing a career in fine dining, maybe hotels, so I'd like a program where I can learn solid classic technique, but also keep up with innovative and modern trends. Obviously, being able to learn from leaders (either as professors or guest lecturers) in the local or national food scene is also very important. I've also looked at the 6 month program at ICC, but unless I can bag pretty major scholarship $$$, I'm very hesitant to go into debt as I'm just now finishing paying off my undergrad student loans. At 32, I feel like I'm pretty late in the game, so I want to make sure I'm doing what I can to get ahead.
 
442
197
Joined Oct 1, 2006
Hi GTK,

All I can do is provide a few issues for you to ponder.

Chef and Pastry Chef are different occupations. The school program you are looking at is for a Pastry Chef career track, yet working in a restaurant to "get a feel" will probably not involve any baking or pastry. Working at a bakery would. I think this is your first decision point.

Your "pursuing a career in fine dining" is indeed a pursuit or goal that comes after many years of experience and mastery of basic skills. (Applies to both Chef and Pastry Chef career paths) Bottom line- The time and effort you apply to your goal is proportionate to your chances of meeting the goal.

Any cooking school, regardless of cost, can only expose you to the basics and provide familiarization with techniques and products. You are taught a product, make it, and move on to the next lesson. I think every cooking school teaches a class in pâte à choux. Some of my classmates had a fail but, the class and lessons moved on. The instructor will tell you what the likely cause of failure was and you move on...

I did a search and found these tidbits:
Some good news!

With a background of politics and communication a skill set that you already possess is coordination of many moving pieces and attention to detail. Having a "Plan B" ready instead of wondering what happened and wondering "What do we do now?"

Because of the planning and coordinating requirements involved, you could excel as an event planner or catering manager far sooner than either Chef occupation.

Lastly- If you still want to pursue a career putting your hands on food, I would always recommend working for at least a couple of years in the area you want to pursue before going to school. That hands on experience gives you a practical knowledge base to ask instructors additional questions that only real world experiences provides. What ovens does the school have? A rotary oven? Combi ovens? Gas ovens? Convection ovens? Convection ovens w/steam? If you don't know the different types of ovens how would you even know to ask how a formula might change depending on the oven. Some students in baking programs across the world will assume that every bakery has the kind of oven they were taught on.

The only possible shortcut to financial success in the food industry I can think of is a food truck that only offers six really good products.
Then all you have to know are the six products. Chefs and Pastry Chefs need to know thousands.

Good luck!
 
12
13
Joined Apr 13, 2018
Thanks for the response. Sorry, I should have clarified that my stage is with the pastry team (it’s a cafe owned by a Michelin star chef and pastry has a big role, though they currently do not have a plated dessert menu). I actually worked yesterday, and it went well. I’m going to continue staging there every other Saturday for at least the next few months. The reason I want to go to culinary school is the basics. I mean, I know a decent amount but it’s self taught, and I know there are gaps. I’ve never had anyone teach me the right or wrong way or how to apply techniques on a larger production scale. And by fine dining, I don’t mean that I will be head pastry chef for a big restaurant right out the gate, but I would prefer do some sort of work in a higher end or “trendy” restaurant with interesting, creative plated desserts (even if pastry also does breads) rather than a bakery environment. I’ve seen those two sites listed but I’ll check out the yelp person. I’ll be talking to other chefs and pastry chefs here in my city over the next few months about making a possible career change, but have relatively few connections in the Seattle culinary world at the moment.
 
4
0
Joined Apr 15, 2018
I'm having trouble finding info beyond the website of the Specialty Desserts and Baking program at Seattle Culinary Academy at Seattle Central CC. Any alums or people familiar with the program able to share their take?

For background, I'm contemplating a career change (currently 32), and opportunities might be bringing my SO to Seattle (I'm in DC right now), so I've been thinking about attending culinary school on the west coast starting next January. For a few years now, I've thought about pursuing a career in food (spent the last 10 years working in politics and communications). I think about food/baking constantly and for the last two years have spent my Sundays working at very busy farmers markets on top of a very stressful M-F job. After considering a transition to something more related to my current job, I'm really thinking that cooking is where I want to be, at least in the near future. I'll be stageing (sp?) at a restaurant soon to get the feel of a professional kitchen (only kitchen experience, other than taking baking orders from home, has been working food production for the market vendor I sell for and some time as a cater waiter in college) and have been meeting with chefs and pastry chefs to talk about the field.

I'm mostly interested in pursuing a career in fine dining, maybe hotels, so I'd like a program where I can learn solid classic technique, but also keep up with innovative and modern trends. Obviously, being able to learn from leaders (either as professors or guest lecturers) in the local or national food scene is also very important. I've also looked at the 6 month program at ICC, but unless I can bag pretty major scholarship $$$, I'm very hesitant to go into debt as I'm just now finishing paying off my undergrad student loans. At 32, I feel like I'm pretty late in the game, so I want to make sure I'm doing what I can to get ahead.
 
4
0
Joined Apr 15, 2018
As a career-changing, 1995 graduate of Seattle Central’s culinary program, I can strongly recommend it. You’ll learn the basics. Call the school. They will certainly take you on a tour where you can speak with the instructors. The bread/pastry instructor, Don Reed, just retired. I don’t know who replaced him.

The program is classically-based and very hands-on, although there is a strong classroom component.

FYI, after I transitioned out of broadcast news a few years ago, I attended the International Culinary Center’s artisan bread program in NYC. I later returned to Seattle and work as a baker. There are no “big bucks in baking,” but the work is rewarding.

Good luck!

Stephen Knight
 

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