Those annoying culinary school graduates

Joined Jan 26, 2001
I am just wondering if anyone else shares my feelings on this.

I work in a restaurant kitchen where there are four major cooks. Our chef, the day cook guy, and the saute and grill guys at night. Our chef never went to culinary school, but educated himself through catering and just reading and tasting. Our day guy never went to culinary school, but I find his creativity and consistency to be very excellent. The saute guy has worked in restaurants since he was 16, and learned that way. He reads a lot, but tries a lot out. Also never went to culinary school.

Which brings me to the grill guy. Four years at J+W. Two years of experience cooking in restaurants. Yet it took him 36 eggs to admit he didn't know how to poach them (what a waste!) and food is constantly being sent back because it is cooked wrong. A well done sirloin, black on the outside and bloody in the inside. A piece of pork loin, still raw inside. Etc, etc, etc.

He insists that because of his training, he knows what he is doing. It is obvious that he doesn't.

I don't really have a question, I guess, i just need to express my frustration. It seems that the people who have come into the restaurant business slowly, and learned by asking questions humbly assuming they DIDN'T know the answers are much more thorough and are more willing to admit their mistakes. Is he a typical culinary school grad? If he is, I refuse to go, and will continue my education through work experience.

I have met chefs who have been in restaurants over 20 years who still ask questions and are very willing to admit there is more to learn. Why then, does a culinary school graduate assume he has nothing more to learn?

Joined Dec 12, 2000
It's sad that some people who attend culinary school wind up being cocky and thinking that they know all there is to know. I myself have taken a one year culinary course and a three year apprentinceship, and I know that I'll never learn everything that there is to know about cooking or food alone for that matter, because trends are constantly changing.


Staff member
Joined Jun 11, 2001
One wonders what they actually learn in culinary school. I've experienced this quite a few times. As a plain cook, I've had to work with "know it all" culinary grads. It was not fun at all. Despite how much I thought I knew, I managed to hire a few of these as well. I don't know if there is a solution to this. They normally get handed a dose of reality when they're given their walking papers.

Joined Sep 22, 2000
I have come across many / a lot of culinary grads. that will take 45 mins. to chop 2 bch of parsley. 2 hrs to make 5 pass trays. only able to cook one thing at a time. BUT, I have also come across a few interns that will give an effort to try to keep up with me.

I think that it is all in the attitude of the individual. I am more than willing to give it my all, when a new person comes up and ask a lot of questions and make a good effort. These are the type of people who will make it. I always give the same speech to all the new people... work hard, ask any question, try other/new ways....

I also will ask questions, Where are you from, then try to make them give me a recipe from their region or try to learn something new from them.

Shimmer, if you go to school and get that piece of paper. Will you think you know everything or will you constantly ask questions also.

For me I always try to learn something everyday.

J&W Grad,
Joined Jul 31, 2000
I feel exactly the same way as D.lee.

I am so blessed that the chefs early in my career took me under there wings.

J&W Grad 1980
Joined Jun 30, 2001
Shimmer, I'm presently near the end of my culinary training in the best school there is and I'd like to give my 2 cents on your view. In no way is a culinary school education complete in and of itself. There is only so much "theory" and even practice that can be experienced/learned in a 2-4 yr. program. Most of the time, a particular subject is taught and one might actually produce that product one time - if that! What we students do know is theory - what we NEED is practice!!!!!!! I can not imagine myself or anyone from my school graduating with an "I know it all" attitude based on our experiences at school - yet, I know they do. How sad :-( There is so much more to be learned, expereinced and practiced. Sadly, people like yourself will assume we are all the same and not give those of us who want to learn a chance.
Joined Feb 21, 2001
The one thing they really can't teach in the classroom, and the thing that is key to the working professional doing the hiring, is how to be productive in a commercial situation. I hired someone in another class to make muffins and quick breads and she was a straight A student, but every morning it was a race to get her muffin stuff out of the way before the avalanche of bread coming at us. It was a relief when she quit. I think the first couple of Saturday nights on the line goes a long way to curing some people of the know-it-all attitude. Right now we have a J&W student and a CIA student in the kitchen and they are both good workers.
Joined Jun 28, 2001
Shimmer, I totally know what you're talking about. I'm a culinary school graduate and even I can't stand some of us. I worked in pastry for 18 months before I went to school and I know that is what helped me not fall into the know-it-all trap.

It's very true: the more humble you are, the more you'll learn. It also prevents you from looking like a complete *** when you do something wrong. ;)
Joined Aug 9, 2000
I think part of it is the industry the schools pump these kids up I have talked to a lot of the schools and they will basically tell and promise you anything to get your money. Another is the old boy network Chefs who only hire from CIA or JW cause they went there a lot of self taught Chefs are treated like total hacks its pretty amazing for an industry that begs for good help. I have been to jobs where I wouldnt even be considered because of my lack of a degree even though I have 13 years I have been Chef and Sous and have done just about everything and put out some really nice food it is really disheartining to see 22 year old kids as Execs. or Sous straight outta school. Nobody but nobody is a Chef at 22 I don"t care what school you went to. As long as the biz is filled with gullible owners who after a bank loan think they are restauranteurs who are impreesed by the hype of a piece of paper on their wat to bankruptcy. To me the bottom line is you either have the talent or you don"t period if you don"t have it you can spend 10 years at CIA and and still be a hack.
Joined Jun 9, 2001
my two cents

right now i am a student at the cia and i am on my intership at the hotel dupont in delaware. (just a little background info)

to me, school is very important. it teaches you the importance of mise en place, the importance about safety in the kitchen, a good knowledge of theory, and teaches you the basics of cooling: braising, sauting, grilling, ect.

they seem to only touch on the basics but at least you have a foundation of the cooking basics.

i dont not think you know evetything after you get out of school.... not even close. BUT you will have some knowledge of the basics.

the area where most new grads go wrong is coming out of school thinking they know it all. you SHOULD be coming out of school with the intentions of working hard, honing in on your basic techniques, and the will to learn and the ability to ask questions.

so, is school worth it? i think so. you get a interduction onto the kitchen, you learn theory, and you get a basic foundation of the cooking techniques.

the draw back is that it is really not reality.

a little story: before i left for the cia, i was working two jobs and going to another local culinary school. one of the jobs was at a nice up scale restaraunt the the other job was working at a college cafateria. i learned a lot. i leared on of the most important things of all: HOW TO MULTI TASK. then i decided to go to NY and go to the cia. i leanred a lot but i lost the knowledge on how to multi task. trust me, 18 people taking two hours to pick and chop parsely was alomost an everyday thing. then when i left to go on my internship, it took me a good week to get back the knowledge on how to multi task. i used to just want to cook one thing at a time. now, i cook tons of food at the same time. i know what takes the longest and what i can do while i am cooking, ect.

so, i ask again... is school worth it? my answer remains yes. but i think that the knowledge you can get in the field is far superior.

staying humble for a new grad is very hard.

so there is my two cents
Joined Jul 31, 2000
Welcome to cheftalk bakingpw,

You expressed yourself very well for your first post.I think you will really enjoy cheftalk,it is a great forum to share ideas and help one another. I have trained many culinary students in my time and like said before me,everyone is different,everyone also has different levels of aptatude to learn.I hired a lead pm cook about 5 months ago to assist my pm sous with day to day operations,This individual just graduated from a local collage with a degree in hotel/motel managment,a degree in restaurant managment and a certificate in culinary arts.You would think this individual might consider himself fully trained and compitent to over see an operation...But this is one of the most opened minded, eager and energetic cooks I have had the pleasure to train.Yes he wants to move up in his career but he also understands what it takes to move up the ladder.I have worked with graduates from the CIA who at first had a little chip on there shoulder,but after working 70 hours a week for a couple months and reliezing that it's not all about how cool you look in a chefs uniform,but rather how important it is to pull your weight and learn how to be a team player.Some got it and some did not.One manages a bagel shop and another moved on the assist mark potvain in opening le cirque in las vageses bellagio hotel.To shimmers post about going through the school of hard knocks,I respect how cooks and chefs feel when a student comes in there kitchen and thinks there poop doesn't stink.That would turn me off to wanting to help this person,but also there are students that truely have talents to offer but do not have the practical expereience needed to excel,I'm a good judge of charector and I will always try my best to support a intern or graduate, If they give me 100% I will give it in return,if they don't well it's there lose.For every student with a chip on there shoulder there is a dozen who will do there best for you.
Joined Dec 8, 1999
When I attended J&W (Charleston '95), the chef-instructors there were very adamant about telling the students that they would not know it all nor would they be chefs when they graduated. They would say that all they were doing was giving us the tools to become a chef; the rest was up to time and our own efforts. Unfortunately, while all the students listen to this, not all of them hear it and internalize it. These are the students and grads Shimmer is speaking of. Also unfortunately, there's nothing to be done about this type of culinary grad. I'm just glad you have a place like this to vent, Shimmer; believe me, I feel your pain! ;)
Joined Jul 2, 2001
In my years in the kitchen I have had both the pleasure and disgust to work w/ many grads from both J & W and CIA. It all boils done to the student themselves. The last bad apple so to speak that I had I sent to the dishroom to work w/ my head steward. After working w/ him for awhile she saw just how much she didn't know. She has become a real asset to our organization.
J & W class of 83'
Joined Apr 17, 2001
I feel that some people are jerks whether they graduated from culinary school or not. I got the impression from your post that this is just a scared kid. Anyone with only six years of experience in the kitchen thinks they know a whole lot more than they do. When I graduated from culinary school I thought I knew a lot more than I did. It took a couple of really humbling experiences to put me in my place. I feel that everyone kind of goes through that, culinary grad or not.
However, I've got to admit it wasn't all my fault. I've experienced a lot of resentment and hostility from co-workers who did not go to culinary school. Often times I felt like they expected me to know everything because I went to school, and then took great pleasure in ridiculing me when I didn't.
You know what? I just tried to work harder than those people every day.
If you are torn between going to school or not, you should go. Obviously, you won't learn everything, but what you do learn will be the right way to do it. If you go in there and try to learn as much as you can, then you are going get something out of it.
Lastly, what were you doing while he was wasting 36 eggs? Do you know what he was doing wrong? If so, then why didn't you help him? Where's the teamwork? I hope you weren't just looking on with disgust at how little the culinary grad knew.
Joined Oct 12, 1999
That is a good point to analyze! Some graduates have the feeling that they know alot to set the tone of things, and then again there also other
people around analyzing their every move and expecting that they should "know it all" because they graduated from a culinary school. And this causes some negative attacks (knowledge and ability wise) sometimes towrds each other! I remember once when training a lead cook at a certain station. We went over the duties that were required for the station as we worked. Then when cleaning time came, I told him to clean the flatop griddle. I assumed he knew how to do it since he was in a leadcook's position, but he said in the kitchens he had worked in they never were required to clean the equipment. So I said "ok after tonight you will know how to clean one." "Because we are on the same team, we are here to help each other and work together as a team!" From then on we built a good, effective working relationship.
:cool: Everything was cool!
Joined Jun 14, 2001
LoL... i find this very funny. I just recently graduated from a small culinary school in NH. What did i learn?? a couple of things. A culinary school is a culinary school. It doesnt matter if you pay 5,000 a year or 20,000 a year at the end you get the same thing, a piece of paper and a rude awakining! :eek: I amone of those people who think Ya CIA great name great rep but now it is all the same, take people in spit people out. Same with the school i went to, the person who graduated on the top of the class couldnt make a buer blanc if her life depended on it.....i also have to ask the chef that are complaining about culinary grads why dont the take them in the kitchen for a dinner service and see what the can do before you hire them?? while i was in california the restaurant i worked at did it i know the laundry does it and many other restaurants in San fran..and if you say well i need people to staff my kitchen and it is hard to find help. Stop complaining, be happy that you have that body to pick herbs, set up the line, or peel garlic. I am not trying to sound like an A*% i know i have a lot to learn before i am even going to consider myself good; i have see some of the people that come out of the school! i wonder myself, i just ask you to be open minded and not judge all culinary grads due to a couple or a lot of bad apples. not everyone can be Thomas Kellers, Gordon Ramsays or Eric riperts and learn under great chefs. thats my 2 cents
Joined Jun 14, 2001
Oh i forgot one more thing. Holydriver do you know Galen Zamarra, bouley baker?? i belive he is no older than 25 26. and he is in my book a chef! check out his menu menu
Joined Jan 26, 2001
Wow, so that's how you get so many culinary school grads to come out of the woodwork. Nice to hear from you all.

Friedparsley- Actually, no, I don't know how to poach eggs. But he kept insisting he knew how, and was actually 'teaching' me how to do it. I am at the bottom of the scale, being called "Salad Girl" more frequently than anything else. My whole attitude has been to "Question, question, question," not even caring if I sound stupid or uninformed. Sometimes they laugh, but I learn.

I'm truly glad to know that not every culinary school grad thinks they know all. I'm glad also that some of you thought you did but learned otherwise.

Here's to the day when working in a restaurant becomes about teamwork instead of competition, workmanship instead of 'oneupmanship.'

In the meantime, you might hear me venting again.


Joined Aug 14, 2000
I graduated from the Hobart Cooking School. Mommy and Daddy didn't pay for my toque.

It's all in the attitude. I remember sitting up until the sun came up reading Escoffier and James Beard and I couldn't wait to go to work the next day.

There are a lot of great school graduates out there. I think if you walk into any kitchen you cannot just pick out the grads from the rest., but what you will see is who has a passion for what they do and who doesn't- that's apparent.
Joined Jul 18, 2000
within a cook/chef/whatever, certain things stand out.

Potential - regardless of education or lack thereof, anyone with potential has the ability to rise to a certain level if notmore

Humility - doesnt matter if you have been paid the most to be taught by the best, because eventually, you will come up against someone who knows something that you dont, and one should have the grace to accept such a circumstance.

Realism - im **** proud of my school (ryde tafe) and ever thankful for the level of professional teaching and passing on of skills from chefs IMHO are amongst the best that i have seen. However sometimes in the working world, practicality drives the car and adaptability yells the obscenities.

Dedication - need i say more.

My point is that everyone has these attributes in differing mixes and that you will find both brilliance and crappiness in virtually all workers.

You just need to enhance the strengths and strategically stifle the weaknesses as best you can.
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