So Many Questions

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Joined Aug 10, 2004
I start this Fall at the Art Institute of Seattle in the culinary arts program there. At this point I do not know what I want to do... whether it is simply being a chef, chef management, being a pastry chef etc. I do know that I have liked cooking all of my life and I am a very artistic person. I have also done well in school and work myself to death to get those good grades.

I want to go far in this career. I don't know what I should be exploring now. I have looked at the Art Institute of Colorado's 4 year Culinary program and it looks promising, but at this point I don't know if that is for me. I have looked for 4 year baking/pastry programs and most of them are on the east coast and I am in Washington state. Seattle Central Community College has a 2 year baking program which looks promising.

Is two years of culinary arts, plus 2 years of baking/pastry (totalling 2 associate degrees) enough for a person who wants to make a lot of dough and be happy at the same time? What salary would I be looking at? What would you do, what are your thoughts? Sorry for so many questions.

Ben
 
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Joined Apr 6, 2004
Why not just enroll in a baking and pastry program. I'm currenlty enrolled in NECI's new B&P program which is 2 years. For the first 3 months working in culinary kitchens and for the rest of the program u are working in the bakery's kitchen doing production.
 

kuan

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I guarantee you 2 years of baking and you will make a lot of dough.
 
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Joined Aug 10, 2004
Was that dough statement a joke? :D

I was talking with the head chef at the Art Institute and he said you weren't a real chef unless you have been exposed to culinary and baking. I want the experience is what I guess I am saying.

Is it wise to have a bachelor in Culinary Management, when I would probably be more into baking and pastry, and only have an associate degree plus the time at the French Pastry School? In other words, a higher degree in Culinary Management than Pastry/baking.

Aside from the CIA and Johnson and Wales, is there anywhere in the U.S. that offers a bachelor in baking and pastry?

What does a certification do for me in the field? More money? Better jobs? Is it better than a degree?
 

kuan

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It's difficult to oversee a baking and pastry kitchen when you don't know if the pastry chef is messing with you. I don't think a degree is that important, I think the experience is. Not many people have degrees in both, and there's a lot of overlap in terms of classes.

You need to have some kind of idea how long it takes to make 10 cakes, 20 tarts, 40 baguettes, and also how to do all that stuff. You don't necessarily have to be the best at it, you just have to have good hands on experience.

Don't even think about the money. It makes no difference that you have two degrees. What makes a difference is the size of operation. You could make 250k as exec. chef at a 5000 room resort hotel or 50k in a 120 seat restaurant. Size matters, you need the tools which will enable you to upgrade. You can get a chef position at a restaurant straight out of school but you probably won't have the experience. After a coupla years of that you might move to multiple outlet facilities like hotels or clubs where you might be a sous chef in charge of a shift. After a few more years you might land an exec. position where you can really call yourself an executive chef. ;) From there it's career building. Certifications, continuing education, community outreach, teaching.

Enjoy your life. Food is great! :)

Kuan
 
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Joined Nov 17, 2002
I think that Kuan had said it best...

Experience is worth more than school. In the words of one of my instuctors upon graduation he told me I "knew enough to go get my a** kicked"

Truer words have never been spoken...

If it were me? I would have definitely supplemented my education with some business courses above and beyond school. When you have the career that will put you in a Executive position, the more you know about business and numbers in general the better off you are...

Good luck with your endeavors and like Kuan says, if you are concerned about the money perhaps you are not making the right career choice our world is not about money it is about passion and love...if I was concerned about money I would have become an engineer or something like my Mother wanted...

Peace,
Cheffy
 
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Joined Aug 10, 2004
In my family, food was always a focal point. I remember as a young kid watching cooking shows with my parents and totally absorbing everything. I remember watching them make gross things, watching them make wonderful things, and watching them make things I know I could do better. Julia Child and Great Chefs were among my favorite shows. My dad is a great cook. It was never his profession but his pastime. He taught me how great food really is and the passion involved in making it turn out just right. I have my signature dishes (garlic mashed potatoes, biscuits, waffles... to name a few) that have become family favorites.

I have always been artistic and good with my hands. Food is art and I think that it is for me. I don't know if I will be able to love doing it for hours every day, but I do know that when I do cook, I enjoy it. I like to experiment and do what they show on TV (Good Eats with Alton Brown is my favorite show).

My previous degree had focus in Graphic Design and a little business. I am very good at it but was shyed away by the sitting all day long and long hours in front of the computer. I am 19 years old. I carry the hopes and dreams of my family. I want to go far in my career.

No, I am not soley concerned with money, but yes it is an issue. I want to make the most I can in the specialty I decide for myself. Really, I want assurance that I have the education I need so that later on I don't have to drop everything and go back to school for something I could have easily done now.
 
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Hey Ben...

Your message portrayed passion...passion is good, especially in this business, those that can focus passion into who and what they are, especially as a culinarian are often the best artists that this profession produces....

Going with your money thought...in order to succeed in this business the key is to learn, learn, learn, learn and learn...never be afraid to push the envelope, analyze every system you develop for yourself and improve on it, expand every horizon and always remain humble and level headed....

Just Cheffy's two cents...

Cheffy
 
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Joined Jan 31, 2002
Here's something to remember before you get carried away, as I did, in the romance of going to culinary school... Comes a day you have to start paying The Bill. Mine's in the order of 500 bucks a month. If you're working someplace real fine, that you're proud of, chances are you're not going to be paid that much. That loan bill affects your quality of life. You're driving a used car and praying that it keeps going, you need a roomate, you can't afford the newest cookbooks, or to upgrade your gear, or taste wines. You can forget about health benefits. You worry. Want to start a family? You can't.

Then, there are places that pay pretty good. They have health benefits. I work at one of those, any my school would likely count me as a success story because of it. But the thing is, we serve fruit cups in January with melons and strawberries that taste like cardboard. Every day I make mashed potatoes in the steamer with waterlogged potatoes that have been sitting in a bucket, peeled days ago by an anonymous prep cook, and I finish them with half and half and granulated garlic. It's a check, and that about it.

COOKING SCHOOLS ARE TRADE SCHOOLS. They will teach you some basics. Mechanics. You see it done. At a few schools you may even do a bit of it yourself. I, too, am a creative person, and quite bright. I am a compulsive reader. And honestly, I don't think my present position seems lacklustre to me because of anything I learned at school, because we served PLENTY of cardboard-tasting fruit cups there, too. I think its because of my own motivation and initiative that I discovered how and why to do better. And I feel that I would probably be in the position to take myself further sooner and be happier if I hadn't indebted myself to school.

I'm not bitter. When you're young and following your dreams there's some rough spots, to be sure. Sacrifices to be made. I'm living in a one room apartment with my fiance. Our bed folds down from the wall, and you can't dry your hair and make toast at the same time. Which is okay. And there were a few people at school that I felt privildiged to have worked with and learned from. Overall, though, I think for me and my goals, it was a bad deal. I'm the kind of guy, if I read a book about how to make stock, well then I know how to make stock, and I didn't need to spend six weeks and $10,000 having it drilled into me.

All I'm saying is, Fair Warning. Consider taking your culinary education into your own hands, working at the best place you can find for as little as they want to pay you, reading all the time, and with a little bit of room in your budget to go find out for yourself what the hype about foie gras is all about.

My Two Cents,
P
 

kuan

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When I was 18, 21, 23, even 25, I had no clue how much money it would cost to actually live a "good" life with few worries. Seems like every year we need more and more. We're lucky to have invested many many years in school so we can now live on one income. Even now, money can sometimes be tight. We can't go out and spend $100 on dinner just because we want a night out, or $100 on just anything. I worked all those years my wife was in graduate school and our student loans are $130/m. It's not $500, but still, that $130 makes quite a big dent in our annual budget.

I'm lucky. Repaying $500/m in student loans should seem like what a Doctor or Lawyer making over $100k should be doing, not a sous chef working at $16/hr.

For all you kids who are considering going into hock for culinary school, I suggest sitting down with your parents and going through your expenses. Get a book about money and investing, or some kind of list which helps you plan expenses. See what you're getting into. The amount may shock you.
 
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Joined Aug 10, 2004
My parents are paying for the vast majority of my education, leaving me with 75 dollar monthly payments for the associate degree.

I talked with the program advisor today and she seemed to know her stuff. She's got connections with other schools and might be able to help me out. She explained to me that Culinary Arts (like most any art) is based off experience, portfolio, etc, and that an extra 2 years after the associate is really not needed. It would be nice, but not needed. She also explained to me that baking and pastry diploma really is not all that different than a associate degree in baking and pastry. When you combine the two years of culinary arts plus the diploma in baking and pastry, it's the same. Apparently.

She also gave me comfort in knowing that there is no pressure on me. If I want to do baking and pastry, just tack on another few quarters. If I want a bachelor in culinary management, just transfer to Denver and go into debt up to your eyeballs.

All in all, I feel better. Still would like personal opinons from everyone; everyone's perspective is good to know for me and anyone else who may read this.

I got to try on my uniform today. Bulky. I was very nervous, and still am. I hope I made the right decision. I hope I'll be able to hear well in the kitchen (I wear hearing aids). I hope I do well.
 

kuan

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I cannot believe it's $40,000 to go to culinary school at the Art Institute. As a pretty seasoned chef with some crust forming around the edges, I just want to say that I would have never paid that much to go to cooking school. No way, no how. If it works for you then more power to you.

You are very fortunate that your parents are willing to pay for your tuition. Parental help is a big stepping stone to success. Student debt is one of the biggest obstacles to building wealth. That $40,000 will be worth $2.4 million dollars in 40 years when you retire. Some folks never get their $40,000 paid off and end up in a ditch at the end of it all.

Most of us who have been in for a few years had only a few choices. There was the CIA, San Francisco, and there was NECI. Later on came Scottsdale, Portland, and a few other small schools. They were all still very expensive to attend and once you were actually in the business there would be no time for school. Those of us who worked our butts off to learn and achieve what we achieved have difficulty adjusting to the class of graduating culinary students.

Take advantage of what your school has to offer, try to get on the culinary team as early as your first year. See if you can get a part time job working a nice kitchen. Doesn't matter what position. It will benefit you.

Good luck!

Kuan
 
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