Time to get serious about Culinary School

Joined Jan 31, 2002
Okay, so here's my story.

I got a letter yesterday. I've been accepted to graduate school to study English Lit.

I don't think I want to go. I'm almost certain I don't want to go.

I want to go to culinary school.

I went to a name-brand undergraduate univeristy. I did not do exceptionally well. The only reason I could possibly have been accepted to graduate school was that I went to a name-brand university. It counts.
Also, I'm fairly convinced that the education I received really was better. I've certainly been more challenged than many of my high school friends who went to the local public school.
For these reasons, its pretty important to me to go to a name-brand culinary school. I was told that when applying for an undergraduate education names really don't matter as much as people make out, which is true, but doesn't mean that names don't matter at all.
One of my problems, however, is that I don't really know which culinary schools are the name brands. I've been looking at lots of them, but beyond J&W and CIA, I don't know what to make of them. I certainly don't want to spend two years in Rhode Island (just a random personal predjustice), but perhaps Denver and Virgina are contenders (does it matter wich campus one attends?).

The CIA looks great, and Devotay's previous posts have me looking seriously at New England Culinary Institute. So, that's three potentials. Are there really no others? Some of the more famous NYC schools are vaugely interesting, but seem to grant certificates, and I'm rather intent on getting an associates.

Places like IUP are far less expensive, but don't seem to have name recognition in the culinary world, even though the rest of the university is quite respectable in academic circles. Other places, like Atlantic Culinary Academy and Culinard have very snappy brochures and impressive rhetoric, but is it to be beleived? And what, exactly, is the deal with Le Cordon Bleu "Programs," which seem to be in effect at regional schools across the country?

Furthermore, does my acedemic experience in school selection not translate to the culinary world, which is still a little medeaval in a lot of ways -- apprenticeship, for example? Also, I'm planning on doing like I did for college -- apply to three or four and see what turns up. Is this how it's supposed to work? Or should I set my sights on just one and work like heck to get in there?

I'm sorry for venting like this, and anyone responding gets much props for patience. I'm really pretty lost, though. I simply don't know any other culinarians who can tell me how things really work. My University guidence department actually laughed at me when I told them I'd rather go to culinary school than graduate school.

worried, confused, and thankful,
Joined May 6, 2001
I'm not a culinary student but if I were to go I would chose NECI. With an eight to one student teacher ratio I think it's a clear winner. Just my humble opinion.:)
Joined Jan 31, 2002

NECI looks good to me too. I'm going to VT to take a tour on Monday. My only concerns are 1) it seems super competetive and 2) the training is super rigourous.

These are not nessecarily bad things, but NECI has a student body of 800 on two campuses... there simply can't be as many spots available as at J&W or CIA which have nearly three times as many students. I worry about getting in.

Also, the training itself is a fifty+ hour week, monday through saturday. I'm all for working hard, and I know it's a more realistic simulation of the resto industry, but I don't want to burn out at 25 or 30, either. And I value the oportunity to learn outside the classroom, and that seems less likely if I'm already working 50-60 hours in the classroom.

If there's interest I'll post my impressions of the campus tour.

Joined Jan 21, 2002
What kind of funding do you have available? Are you willing (and able) to travel abroad? Do you prefer culinary or pastry arts? The "basics" can be had almost anywhere. The answers to the other questions can either narrow or broaden your selections. Choose wisely. But don't tie your heart to any one school. I did and I moped around liked this :)( ) for a while. There are graduates from CIA and J&W on this board. As well as other schools. Take your time and you'll find the perfect "fit" for you.
Joined Jan 31, 2002
I have no funds available. I don't have any debt, either (yet). I'm planning on taking out loans... that's kinda grim, but hey.

I am willing, I suppose, to travel abroad... I really have no capacity to learn foriegn languages, however. I've spent four years in french canada and can just barely order lunch. I suppose going to school abroad would make the financial aspect of things nastier.

I prefer culinary arts. ("The pastry guys are always the most intense. Must be all the sugar." -- Wolfegang Puck)

What school made you :( ? What did you end up doing? In fact, where did most of the people on this board go? Y'all seem on your game.

Joined Dec 8, 1999
Here's one thing about NECI. Although you may not have time while you are on campus to apply your learning to real world applications, they require not one, but two, externships. Most schools do only require one (at J&W, the school I attended, you may not even get any time working in a kitchen separate from the school). Also, I'm pretty sure when you are working in a kitchen on one of the NECI campuses, you are serving the public, not just other students. I'm not bashing J&W and CIA here; they both have fine programs and, if you apply yourself, you'll do well and learn plenty, as is the case in any culinary program one might attend.

Two other quick notes: First, CIA has just revamped their program so that the education you receive more fully reflects what is going on in contemporary kitchens. Second, I recommend the J&W Charleston campus, if J&W ends up being your choice. Virginia is too small, Denver is too new.
Joined Apr 19, 2001
Don't know anything about the J&W Charleston cirricula, but having lived in that lovely old bastion of the South for 15 years, I can say that it's a great place to live! Lots and lots of old South charm, and it's becoming quite the 'food' city; lots of rather wealthy tourists are supporting a booming restaurant industry!

Let me know if you'll be going there to check it out; my oldest son still lives there - he's quite a foodie, and has become a great home gourmet!!! I'm sure he'd be happy to show you the sights!
Joined Jul 18, 2000
heh, if your ready to come to Syd Au, the cookery courses are quite cheap ($220 a year AUD for residents), sets you up for trade quals and prob leave you with some pocket money, after expenses (at a rate of 1 USD = 1.96 AUD). Thats quite a saving, and we have LCB at Ryde. So at about 112 USD a year, thats quite a saving, and the Aus teaching content isnt exactly lacking in content.

for information, see: http://www.tafensw.edu.au/cgi-bin/rd...NO=4570&MODE=H

Just an example.
Joined Jan 31, 2002
Thanks, Nick.Shu

That's about the reasoning that had me go to University in Canada. My parents picked up the tab for that one, though.

A couple of questions:

Is the rate higher for non residents?
Is it hard to obtain a work visa?
Can one hold a work visa and a student visa?

In Canada non residents can only work or study... not both. It's been a little tough... I've no way to earn extra money, even pock cash. I'm thinking this'll be more important once I'm suporting myself next year. Then again, going to someplace like NECI, where school takes 50 hours for six days a week doesn't seem to leave a lot of room for a part time job either....

Something to consider, and definately something of an adventure.

Joined Jul 18, 2000
im not sure about non residents, but it is definitely a option. One school of reasoning would be, that even at full fee paying it does nt come close to the US prices especially once the currency was factored in.

Working/Student visa information probably would have to be looked into at either the Aus consulate or high commision (which ever operates in the US).

i couldnt really tell you about the visa requirements, you would have to refer it to the above.

I do know for a fact that Ryde TAFE is qite well regarded education wise, and there is a lot of students from asia attending. Ive been there since 96 and the reasoning for a lot of international students attending is both the currency discrepancies in their favour and the quality of their education. We even have Le Cordon Bleu and many other options for study. There is also a pathway which enables students to attend university with dual quals, i.e:

cert 3 commercial cookery + apprentice = trade
cert 4 commercial cookery = 1 year off dip hosp mgmnt
Diploma Hospitality Management + bridging course = 3 yrs off BBA
Bachelor Business Adminstration

so in reality, you would end up with certs III (trade) and IV commercial cookery, Dip Hosp Mgmnt and BBA.

Off course, the options dont stop here. There is scope to study, B App Science (food service), B Management (tourism and hospitality), B Comms and in some universities, B Economics.

Also given that there is a system dealing in exemptions, once you have gotten the diploma stage, you may find that your qualified in another stream, due to its similarity i.e:

well, ive done CIV comm cookery - same subjects as CIV catering ops, ask the college if you are eligible - voila, certificate award for no extra work.

The thing is to check what subjects you have studied previously and to see how they pertain to other subjects.

as i stand this is where i am:

CIII commercial cookery
CIII catering ops
CIV commercial cookery
CIV catering ops
Bakery Skills
Diploma Hospitality Management

3 subjects to complete CIII commercial cookery (pattiserie)
3 subjects to complete CIV commercial cookery (pattiserie)
Joined Feb 2, 2002
Has anyone on the forum evaluated (or even better, completed) the program at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts just outside of Boston? Just wondering how their program stacks up against places such as NECI, J&W, CIA, etc. Their website is http://www.cambridgeculinary.com for more info.


Staff member
Joined Jun 11, 2001

Since you already have an undergrad degree, why not inquire into the possibility of a Master's in say, restaurant management with an emphasis in culinary arts? It would seem like a waste of a good education, and all your credits, to emerge from another two years of schooling with less than what you started with.
Granted, you never ever lose your degree, but if you're not going to be in the field, then maybe you can use those credits to propel your career in another.

Joined Nov 26, 2000
I just met with Susan Notter yesterday regarding Culinards new Pastry program. I have more paperwork on both programs but now with me. Ill tell you what I remember.

It takes just over 2 years, It is an associate degree. You are in school 2 - 4 days per week depending which quarter you are in. (either 2 9hour or 4 shorter days) You will be working in a restaraunt that the school operates.

It's about $30,000 for the culinary degree and $33,000 for the pastry degree.

They offer morning or evening classes to accomodate different work schedules.

I have had freinds that went to the NECulinary school and they loved it.

Well, that is all I have for now.

hope it helps.

Joined May 29, 1999
J&W is huge, the name, the fact that it is a University, the fact that you can get your feet in many doors. You can get your masters there as well as an AOS or BA! Just something to chomp on.
RI is a sweet little place to be and if you have the bucks, J&W is well worth the time! I was lucky to spend 2 years in pastry and 2 years as a fellow (as a paid employee and comp'd education) earning a BA in fsm.(many years ago)
reality biscuit: You only get out of it what you put in. big name or no name!
best o' luck finding your way. :chef:
Joined May 29, 1999
ps scholarships are a big part of cooking schools, try james beard foundation, contact all the schools to see what they offer and look into government grants!!!!!
Joined Mar 17, 2002
I'm new here (just found you all today) but I'd like to share my opinion on schools with you.
I attend Sullivan University in Louisville, KY, and have loved it. (Moved here from the west coast just to attend) We have some great instructors and a fabulous internship program with chefs who want you to get the best out of your time there. Louisville is also inexpensive enough to live very well for very little. Since its the Derby capitol there is an extensive local restaurant scene for great places to work, and its growing...
Enough of tooting our horn.. I was also lucky enough to meet several students recently from other schools in my region (SouthEast) and found that some of the happiest were J&W Virgina students. One of their instructors Brian Campbell is extreemly sharp and I would not be suprised if he was known nationally soon. Also J&W Virgina now offers Bachelors and Masters programs.
I found that Culinard students did not feel very satisfied with their educations. Several believed that the pastry program was over rated. Of course that is just the opinion of a few select students from each school but I hope it helps.
Joined Feb 8, 2003
the csca is no good you will lose you money believe me i have been there i took the course and did not finish. biggest waste of time. the school blows. all the students are not taught the same things in class and when tests come up you are lost. i know about cooking went to a tech high school and believe me the school should be shut down :eek:

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