Studying Pastery in France?

Joined Jan 14, 2011
Hey All!

I'm 24, currently in advertising and itching to go to culinary school. My dream is to attend school in France, gain experience there, and eventually open my own bakery. What are the pros/cons of studying in a country other than your own? Are there any roadblocks I need to watch out for?

Also, any advice on where to attend? I've looked at Le Cordon Bleu and Ecole Ferrandi. I'm leaning towards the latter but didn't know of any others.

Joined Dec 16, 2008
Before any advice, how much money have you spent so far on your current education? Are you or your family independently wealthy or well off? What makes you want to study in Europe? Why the food industry? Have you ever worked in a bakery?  
Joined Jan 14, 2011
Hey jtobin625- Thanks for your questions! I wasn't quite sure what to write. I went to a 4 year college for Advertising/Public Relations and graduated a little more than 2 years ago. As far as how much was spent.. well let's just say it wasn't cheap. I had scholarships and my parents had saved so I luckily do not have any student loans. We are middle class not super wealthy by any means. My grandfather has set up a fund in my name though that can be used toward school which would help pay for culinary schools. I would still need to save as much as possible to cover the rest as well as living expenses.

Why Europe? I studied abroad in France and absolutely fell in love with the culture, history, language and of course the food. The day we left I stopped by a patissere to pick up treats to enjoy when I got off the plane at home. I returned two years later and visited other parts of France. I've have been trying to go back ever since.

Why the food industry? It's a passion of mine. I grew up learning to cook from my mother. I had recipes for cookies and brownies memorized when I was 9. I would gasp in horrer if the babysitter accidently dropped egg shells in the batter. haha Why haven't I tried to get into the industry earlier? I guess growing up I was always pushed to go the traditional route of college then get a desk job. All through college I started baking more and more. I'm able to tell if what I am making is the right consistency, if I need to make tweaks, when something is ready to be taken out of the oven, etc. I find myself criticing different sweets that I try (in my head of course when they're from friends!). I feel as if I'm always learning whenever I try a new recipe or bring out an old one. I'll bake for hours and hours and lose track of time. I stayed up until 2am one time baking a 10 layer dolce de leche cake for my friend's birthday. I don't serve anything I think is inedible. I'd rather try the recipe again than put something in front of my friends and coworkers that doesn't look and taste it's best. My baked goods are known around the office. I send out an email and they are gone within 10 minutes. People ask when I'm opening a bakery. Exec has started paying me to make desserts for different company events. A coworker is leaving for Iowa and loves corn? I made cupcakes that with icing that looked like corn. For our monthly bonding lunch they decided to have a red, white, and blue themed lunch for the 4th. Dessert was blue. I made minature cheesecakes with glazed blueberries on top. To me it's fun and I love doing it! I want to learn more about the science of baking and learn how to start developing my own recipes.

ok last question - Have I ever worked in a bakery? No I have not. I am looking for a part time weekend job though. It's hard when you are working full time and want to have the weekend to have fun and reboot. I was thinking that a catering job would allow for more flexible hours. Open to thoughts on that though. Does any one have any connections in Fort Worth that might help?

In short, I love the business, love baking, and want to be able to move to doing it more fulltime. I'm having trouble taking the leap though. A lot of it is my parents uncertainty about the business that keeps me from packing up and leaving for school. They don't think I am serious about it or that it's a good idea with the recession going on making it difficult to get a job. I, being the dutiful daughter, of course want their approval and acceptance before going. They aren't against it. They are just wary of the idea. There's also the issue of money- the fund from my grandfather would probably pay for most of the tuition but might have to be combined with a school loan. Last but not least, because I think about it all the time: I'm getting older (I know I know 24 isn't old in the least bit, but I'm feeling that clock ticking) and feel that I should make the change now, while I'm single, not tied down, and able to make crazy decisions.
Joined Jan 8, 2010
You really sound passionate about this and I think you have actually already made up your mind /img/vbsmilies/smilies/wink.gif

Just go for it! If you don't you'll end up turning 40 or 50, thinking "I should have, why didn't I" etc.

To me that would be a terrible thought...

If things don't work out, you haven't failed. You have tried and got it out of your system.

You'll be a better baker and you can always go back to advertising if needs be...
Joined Dec 16, 2008

Based on your responses, you have a good understanding of why you want to do it. My next question is, where do you live?

Although culinary school can be expensive, it doesn't have to be. Studying formally in France could be a possibility but there may be a school in your neck of the woods that can be cost effective and then you can take the money you saved and travel around Europe working under some of the best in the business. 
Joined Jul 28, 2001
Hi Yellowflamingo,

  I believe you mentioned you want to own a bakery in the future. It's really important to have a business background to be sucessful in business.

I would take the time to visit the programs offered locally at your community colleges. These programs have grown in leaps and bounds. I would never

knock the European schools but if you split culinary with business and get your feet wet though their apprenticship programs, you can always tweek in Europe

  Fort Worth Texas? Collin County, ElCentro etc. I'm not familiar with FW. I open my door to you to visit, have coffee, spend some time. Just make sure I'm available.


we're in Preston Center
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Joined Jan 14, 2011
Thanks Butzy! :)

jtobin625: I live in Fort Worth, TX. Dallas is super close though and I'm there almost every weekend. I do want to eventually live abroad and think that by going to school in France that would help me get there. That does sound like a great idea though! Question- how would you go about studying with different chefs in France? I'm thinking by networking and making connections in the business?

Andy: Very good point.... haha Thanks!

Panini: Hope you are staying warm in this crazy weather we're having! I do want to open a bakery in the future, hopefully somewhere abroad, and that is a very good point about taking some business classes. I took some business classes in college but I think it would be a good idea to revisit it before I open a business. I'd love to pop by. I'll be sure to give you a call. Thanks!


Taking classes at a community college is deffinitely a practical idea and one that my parents would most likely go for. They seem iffy about the idea of studying abroad but have mentioned the CIA several times. But they have also mentioned that there's a Cordon Bleu in London - maybe they're worried about the language barrier. hmm? Parents. And me the silly daughter, wanting their approval before I take a big step in my life.

I think part of the appeal of studying in France would be living in the country and experiencing the culture more than I have during my short visits. And it would of course be very fun! I also would think that going to a prestigous school would help me get a job in the field and access to different apprenticeships, but I've read a lot of different sentiments on that subject in these forums. I would love to live abroad and possibly open a bakery there in 10-15 years. Maybe a fusion of American and French treats to appeal to expats? Of course, going to school there would give me a leg up on that dream. I'm planning on backpacking for 15 days in June with my best friend in the British Isles and then making a stop in Paris to visit LCB and Ecole Ferrandi.

I'm very adventurous and love to travel. I know I keep talking about France (we might have a slight love affair going on) but I am open to other countries as well. So maybe it would, as jtobin stated, be a better idea to go to school here and then travel and learn from different chefs. That would be amazing! I'm assuming that you would use school to learn the science of baking and then apprenticeships to grow in the field. How do you hear about different apprenticeships? Has anyone done this and have advice to share? Such a hard decision!
Joined Dec 16, 2008
Learning can be done in many different ways. You figure that you can learn by money and time (going to school) or with time (working/staging and gaining experience that way). 

First off, do you speak French? If you want to "study" in France, I would highly recommend knowing the language well enough to communicate. 

What I would do if I was you... look into local community college options as someone else stated before me. El Centro CC has a program. I know little about it but it will not cost you as much and it should provide you with a foundation to build from. However, make sure its a decent program. If you attend, once you complete the program or even a few classes dealing with knife cuts, sauces, garde manger, and cooking procedures, you can spend time staging or interning at solid restaurants either in the US or France or abroad. 

You're young...I strongly feel that in the US, the mentality is to always be moving forward at 140 mph and if you aren't at a goal at a certain age, you are a failure. I'm not sure if that's how you feel but based on your posts, you seem to have this real urgency and I just don't think it needs to be that way. At least for me it isn't. However, you need to live your own life. 

Lastly, here is an interview I did with a senior in high school. Before his 18th birthday, he staged at Charlie Trotter's (2 Michelin Stars), Alinea (3 Michelin stars) and interned at Noma in Denmark. He never formally studied cooking
Joined Jan 14, 2011
Thanks for the advice jtobin! Right now I'm seeing what my options are and what would be the best move. I've been thinking about this for about a year but haven't gotten the courage to take that next step. A whole lot of talk and no action. At my current job I'm starting to feel stuck. Hardly a feeling I think you should have this early in the job world. I love my company, love the people I work with, I'm good at what I do and there's room for me to advance, but I'm just not really interested in it. There isn't that drive or passion that I have for cooking. It's that - well, kinda ready to do something different and pursue something I love feeling. I do feel that clock ticking- Darn that US mentality! There isn't a rush but I don't want to wait for years, or so long that I end up not being able to make the change. Right now I'm at a time in my life where it's easy for me to pick up, move, and try something different. No strings. No responsibilities. Except for an awesome dog :). I guess the biggest thing is that I want to actually do something, take some step toward this change instead of continuing to talk about it.

As I see it there's several things I can do- community college, culinary school abroad, gain experience in a real kitchen, internships. Many of these I can do at the same time either leading up to going to school or after school.

I've been researching schools in France and pretty much decided on Ferrandi as my favorite. I like the idea of having a 6 month internship following the program. The classes are small. The program is well established and taught in English. I'm currently learning French but they also teach the language and culture at the school. The cost of the program includes equipment, class excursions, materials, and chefs coat/pants. The school would allow me to experience French pastery where it originated.

I started looking at local schools this week. When researching community programs what factors will tell me if it is a good school? They all seem to lump together with the same sort of course descriptions. How do I know if one is better than the other? There is a local LCB but it's ridiculous how much it would cost. At $37K, it would be cheaper to live and go to school in Paris than attend school here.

Thanks Everyone!

ps. I was at the bookstore this morning and found a great cookbook called BakeWise. It's all about the science of baking- what works, what doesn't. Check it out!
Joined Dec 16, 2008
What you should look for in a school (this is all my opinion)....

- Who are the instructors? Where have they worked? (because where they have worked could help you figure out who their contacts are)

- Class size

- Theory vs Hands-on (Most classes and course descriptions will read the same because many of them are similar enough). How much cooking time do  

  you actually get?

If you haven't looked at my site yet yellowflamingo, check out "How to Test Drive a Culinary School." I pretty much elaborate on what I'm saying here.
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