Various culinary school questions...FCI, NECI, etc.

Joined Nov 6, 2002
Hello everyone!

First off, I just want to say that I am delighted to have found these boards! It's so exciting to find a group of people casually chatting about food, restaurants and cooking. I wish I had discovered this sooner! :)

Secondly, I have some questions about cooking schools. If anyone can offer any sort of advice or help, it would really be greatly appreciated. I've been thinking/wanting to attend culinary school for MANY years now, and I have decided to finally do it. I am closely looking at the French Culinary Institute, New England Culinary Institute, and the CIA. I really would like to make an informed decision so I am trying to do as much research as possible beforehand!!

My questions are as follows:

1) I am wondering how you graduates (or current students!) out there feel about the 2 year program which both NECI/CIA offer. Part of me is fearful that 2 years may be excessively long -- is that so? Or, do you feel the time is/was necessary towards your learning experience?

2) On the same token, I am wondering if FCI's program (I believe its around 10 months or so) may be too short. I am fearful that FCI's may be somehow rushed, or not as thorough, not allowing information to be fully absorbed and perhaps not offering the same quality education.

3) I am leaning towards the FCI because of its location in the middle of can you beat having thousands of diverse restaurants and markets available to you? I am wondering if students have found that having lots of these resources nearby has helped with your experience. Has being in a place more isolated like NECI or CIA hurt you in any way, or left you longing for better proximity to a large array of restaurants & markets?

4) Finally, I am skeptical of FCI because it doesn't offer externships, and I wonder just how thorough one's education will be if their only experience is in FCI's school restaurant. Yet again on the same token I am wondering how important externships actually you feel that CIA's one externship is enough, or is experiencing two externships through the NECI a really rewarding experience?

If you can't tell, I'm very confused...there are just so many things to consider! Yet again, thank you all if you've made it this far and thank you for your help and advice!

Michele :)


Staff member
Joined Jun 11, 2001
I peeked at your profile. If you have enough credits I would see if some of them would transfer. You may be able to complete an AAS in one year. This would discount FCI and leave NECI and CIA (or JW) as an option. I would call a counselor and ask them whether your credits will transfer. You may just have to pay the tuition and test out of some classes like English 101.

Another option if you're willing to invest two years of your time is to go for a Master's degree. If all you want to do is learn how to cook and the degrees don't mean anything, then I would go to FCI.

Joined Nov 4, 2002
I used to live in Minnisota as well, and I did some culinary schooling at Hennipen Technical college. And I have always been told by my Chef, who has won in the culinary olympics, is that a school with a big name does not make a chef, its all on experence. And i am not saying any of the big name schools are bad they are very good, but most culinary schools will most likely teach you the same thing in the basics. But my chef told me a cheaper school can also be good. thanks Ben
Joined Oct 1, 2002
The AOS program at CIA is around 21 months, depending on how long you spend on extern. Minimum extern is 18 weeks, although some rest. require at least one year. You start with the basics ie. sanitation, identification, culinary math, ect.,and then on to kitchen skills classes, and then on to cuisines of the americas, asia,garde manger, and breakfast and lunch cookery. Extern is next, followed by nutrition, management etc, and three weeks of baking and pastry. Wines and beverages and rest. law is last.
Not familar with FCI....was not interested in a school that focused solely on french cuisine.
CIA is not as far out in the middle of nowhere as you might think....they take several trips into manhattan to go to rest's, and the market in the square(i think thats what its called, or something close to) There is also a club.....the chefs collaborative club, where you go to visit local area farms (fruits, produce, free range chicken etc....) This is something i will be involved in as the chef/farmer relationship is an important one if you want to offer top quality ingredients to your customers, and have some knowledge as to where the stuff you are selling comes from.
Check out the CIA's website at for plenty of info on the school, and if you would like to know if your credits transfer, call their toll free number, they would be glad to help you out.
Joined Nov 6, 2002
Well, thank you all for your input! I never even thought that perhaps some of my undergrad credits might thank you Kuan & Paisan for mentioning that. Knocking a few of the basic courses out of the way will certainly make CIA more attractive an option.

I am still wondering whether a 9 month FCI program may be too short a period of time to fully learn the basics ... if anyone has input on this, please let me know!

Thank you!
Michele :)
Joined Jan 21, 2002
I think FCI is a nice school. But they really should look into revamping their program to award an AOS. It (IMO) is becoming a standard in which a lot of prospective students are measuring schools by.

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