Should I go to culinary school or not

Do you think I should go to culinary school as an established caterer or continue to self learn the business?

  • Go to college, get a degree

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Go to a trade or training school, get a certificate or diploma

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Continue to self educate

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    0
10
10
Joined Jan 23, 2017
Hi culinary family,

I am a self taught chef based in New York and I am the owner of a small catering and event planning company.  I have a team of three including myself and we have been heavily considering going to school for culinary arts and some business management in the culinary/hospitality field.

The problem has been deciding what training/degree(s) I as am owner and my support team would benefit from the most. We are having a problem deciding what angle to go from here. We have been looking into a few places to study and courses to take, but we are still really having a hard time deciding what to start with and where to attend. 

I want my team and I to be as well rounded as possible and also know all the new and old techniques there is to know in the culinary field. I feel as an owner of a catering business, with no culinary experience outside of this catering and event planning company I need to broaden my knowledge base both culinary and business wise.

I would like to know what trainings, books, culinary schools and proper degree(s) that you think would be best for me and my team to invest in to further our skill set to be a better culinary team. 

Any suggestions will be appreciated, Thanks.
 
1
10
Joined Jan 25, 2017
Culinary school is probably just going to teach you things you already know, plus some things you could teach yourself given some time, effort, and YouTube tutorials. A class at your local community college might be worth it, depending on what's available, but culinary school most likely won't unlock anything for you that you couldn't figure out on the job or on your own. I can't speak for business degrees, but my gut says that a basic 'how do I run a business' CC course would do you. Food safety training, also, is a worthwhile and fairly cheap investment.

It's hard to answer this without knowing exactly what it is you feel like you need to improve on, what sort of food you make, what your goals are, etc. Do you want to tournee a carrot? Make the ideal taco? Figure out how to appeal to people planning their wedding? Learn how to cost recipes and labor?

Full disclosure, I'm just a lowly prep cook, but I've been in the industry long enough to know that degrees are mostly just fancy pieces of paper you hang on the wall. They're not totally worthless, but you don't need to go that route - experience is king. Decide what exactly it is you want to learn, and then research the best/cheapest ways to learn them. Just vaguely going to school isn't gonna get you anything other than a bill.
 
984
212
Joined Jun 23, 2015
Have you read the replies to your thread, Looking for Career Advice?  It seems to be the same question.
 
10
10
Joined Jan 23, 2017
Thank you so much for your reply and taking the time to ready post. You're awesome!

I am looking to learn some new food decor techniques, food and fruit sculpting, learn some more food terminology and cooking techniques, learn breads, desserts and pastries, decorating cakes and gum paste art, business management, proportions and plating skills, lowering food cost, better marketing and advertising skills, learn more about event planning, weddings, and attracting new clients, Id like to improve on my event decorating skills as well.

Basically Ive mastered basic American cuisine, African American Southern cuisine, African cuisine, Jamaican and West Indian cuisine and also Hispanic Cuisine (Mexican, Honduran, Puerto Rican, Guatemalan, Dominican, Cuban). Im also pretty culinary fluent in french and Italian cuisine lol.

My plan is to continue to cater and event plan until our client base is steady and recurring. Once the business can run itself Id like to move into the Bar and grill setting with a mosh up of bistro/cafe meets mom and pops feel Bar and grill. Nothing huge but Id like a nice sized one. Once its able to stand on its own I'd like to open a bakery/candy shop. Small but it would be an extension of my restaurant. I know its alot but I have it in me to do it all. I already am lol.
 
10
10
Joined Jan 23, 2017
Thanks for your reply. I figured I would put it in different forums because I wanted replies from all culinary walks.
Also at first I thought it didn't go through. I didn't know if it was created.

Thanks though.
 
984
212
Joined Jun 23, 2015
"Full disclosure, I'm just a lowly prep cook, but I've been in the industry long enough to know that degrees are mostly just fancy pieces of paper you hang on the wall. They're not totally worthless, but you don't need to go that route - experience is king"

Welcome to cheftalk.  Spoken from the stand point of some who does not have any formal training.
 
10
10
Joined Jan 23, 2017
Thanks again Jimyra.

I was just worried about credentials and if I was
Missing out on aome important training that
Had ro come from attending school.

I do feel I can improve my skills around the board
And at the same time comfortable with the skills I
Have for now.

I was given a few books and sites from other fellow
Chefs. I am going to purchase them and study myself

I will look into mini classes to sharpen what I need to know.
 
9
15
Joined Nov 3, 2014
The worth of formal training like college or culinary school is something I have thought about a lot. Having worked in kitchens for almost 20 years (between other jobs) one thing I have always regretted is that I didn't go to a culinary school when I was younger.  Yes, you can learn on the job.  There is no such thing as "self-taught", you are still reading books, watching videos - you are learning from other people's experience.  You can also learn from your mistakes.  However, why learn from your own while making them again and again, until you discover the right way when you can learn from someone who has made the mistakes and learnt already?  You would save time this way. 

Although, it's possible that I am just wishing I had something I never had. :)

PS Some time ago, while being drunk in a pub, I came up to a guy who I knew had been a chef for a long, long time, and asked his opinion on formal training vs experience.  He looked at me and said, Taz, stop being stupid and come work for me :)
 
10
10
Joined Jan 23, 2017
Thanks for sharing TazP

I too long to be formally trained.
It feels prestigious almost.
Like learning from the Gods lol.
I still will eventually go, well once I see one in NYC
That is not a total debt maker.

Thanks again for your input.
 
984
212
Joined Jun 23, 2015
You should not view school as learning to cook but as getting an education.  Along with culinary classes one should take business and communication classes.  Running a business takes more than burning up groceries. Its banking, human resources, marketing, accounting, proper writing skills, and customer satisfaction.
 
9
15
Joined Nov 3, 2014
Yeah, that's what I decided for myself, one day I will.  I am very lucky to live in a town where Ashburton Chefs Academy have a centre.  I once treated myself to a day-course there and it was absolutely amazing; their facilities are like Star Trek :)  I'll do their month course when I have £3000 to spare.
 
27
11
Joined Jan 15, 2017
it doesn't hurt. I had 7 years experience before I left to chef school in San Francisco. I worked in restaurants and also self taught myself, but I decided I wanted a sound foundation to build on so I went to the old California Culinary Academy (now cordon blue). I learned so much but that was a 2 year program 8-10 hours a day. It saved me at least another 5-7 years working for different chefs to learn what I learned.

Right out of school I opened my own place and had 3 restaurants for over 20 years. Now I am a private chef for a high profile athlete (12 years). Love this much more. Owning a restaurant can suck the life out of you. I don't regret owning my own places and I would never say "never again", but a private chef is a much less stressful job.

Bottom line is that if YOU feel you need more or YOU feel you are lacking in your training... then DO IT.... like I said, it doesn't hurt.... but find a school that will give you EXACTLY what you are looking for. Back in my day there were really only to schools, CCA in SF and CIA in NY... now there are schools all over the place.

Good luck Chef!!
 

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