When, how, and If i should go to culinary school

Discussion in 'Choosing A Culinary School' started by atatax, Aug 11, 2015.

  1. atatax

    atatax

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    So, i'm 28, american, ,i've been a line cook for about 2 years, worked at a gastro pub for most of it, but currently have been working a seasonal fine dining job since may. The fine dining job should probably last another two months. So i'm thinking what to do next. I'm the only cook at the fine dining restaurant that hasn't gone to culinary school, so i'm a little skeptical about the need, because i'm already doing the same job. And yeah, they're a bit more knowledgeable, but i'm also only been a cook for 2 years. I'm afraid that if i go to culinary school, i acquire a bunch of debt, learn a little, then make like 1 or $2 more an hour. Especially because i hear a lot of culinary school is very remedial. 

    Am I really handicapping my future in the industry if i don't go to culinary school?

    If you think I should go to culinary school, is this a good time in my career? I know you're supposed to get some experience before going to school, but how much is ideal? My understanding is many schools have long waiting lists, should i apply now expecting to get in, in several years?

    What should i take into account in choosing a school? Is there a good resource to see the strengths of different schools? Barring applying to some super high profile restaurant or moving to like New York, is it likely to matter to an employer which school i choose?

    What do schools want to see in applicants? What would make me most likely to get into the school i want? 
     
  2. grande

    grande

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    The benefit of culinary school is it's comprehensiveness. In a restaurant, you don't learn things that don't come up. So I regard it as a positive, especially combined with a couple years cooking. You already know the realities of the business, so I would assume you wouldn't want to take on too much debt. I personally went through a community college program and am none the worse for it, but I suppose it depends on what level you want to work at.
    Just for the record, I've worked withmaybe two cooks in the last five years that have been to culinary school, but maybe 40% of kitchen managers I work with have
     
  3. sincerebeazt

    sincerebeazt

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    DO NOt GO!!! Its a waste of an financial investment. Culinary was a great idea before we had so much technology and diffrent books etc. If you think about it alot of great chefs did not go, they were self taught. Think about this. You go to culinary school for 2-4 years and dedicate your time to it. You work part time at a restaurant. Only to graduate and make 12 dollers an hour. I suggest you save yourself the debt and teach yourself. Watch diffrent videos on how to prepare. All of the mother sauces, different cuts of proteins, learn the basics and fundamentals of moleculer gastronomy and about kitchen equipment. Every culinary school teaches you the same thing. I didn't go to culinary school but i have 10 years of experience working in gastropubs sportsbars, hotels and now im at a french fine dining brasserie. No doubt it might be a good stamp on your resume that you attended culinary school, but at the end of the day sir/ma'am if your a graduate from one and you apply at any restraunt i guarantee you your first task would be prep or cutting or peeling potatoes. See culinary students are very cocky and think since they attended culinary school that they know more than anyone...no sir you know that your going to be in debt for years getting paid hourly the same thing everyone else is making 12 bucks and hour!!! My advice is dont go and waste your time. Invest in yourself read books study diffrent chefs. Watch cooking shows. Ddedicate your time to youtube. Hope this enlightened you
     
  4. Iceman

    Iceman

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    Well ... there it is. Your answer ... from a first-time poster. 

    I'm gonna puke again.
     
  5. foodpump

    foodpump

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    Actually, sincerebeazt you have a lot more in common with culinary schools than you think. 

    See, both you and the schools have a hard time acknowledging that repetition and practice are just as important as instruction.  Just because I watch you-tube vids on learning a golf swing doesn't mean I'm going to master it, and I can't ask you tube or even books for that matter questions, or more importantly, to critique my golf swing.

    I've spent close to thirty five years in the business, and I have never found one employer that could show me all the techniques I learned in school.  Along the way I've know employers to show me shortcuts or b.s. techniques, along with employers who actually gave a sh*t and took the time to train me to master a technique.

    Don't knock the culinary schools if you haven't tried them.  The schools have their share of problems, but they do teach, which is what they re designed for.  A workplace is not particularily designed to teach, they are there to get the job done, and if that means shortcuts or b.s techniques, they really don't care.

    Welcome to Cheftalk.

    Iceman, don't you dare hurl all over my shoes......
     
  6. sincerebeazt

    sincerebeazt

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    Well foodpump this is to prove a point to Atatax thats falls in the category of self teaching oneself. Obviously you cant just read and observe studies without putting them into action. He already has restraunt experience as it is. Its not much, compared to yours. Hell im not even compared to you. Look i have books, all sorts of books that i either bought or were giving to me by diffrent chefs along the way. I promise you if your really sincerely interested in bettering yourself not just as a chef but as a person. You have to think about this!! If you dont have a passion for this and do it with your heart its no point of even going to school studying culinary arts etc. Ok now as i was saying. I promise you everything you will learn in culinary school you can learn online or by reading. Culinary school doesnt make you a chef at all. You make yourself a chef by determination and having drive and being dedicated. Take notes!! As questions, dont be afraid to fuck up and experiment with all kinds of diffrent foods. Honestly bro start with the science of cooking forst. Know you temperatures of meats poultry etc. This is a must. Learn how to braise, stew sear meat the correct way. Know at what temperature does water boil and freeze. Learn about why do you add salt to water when boiling or freezing. Learn about sanitation and diffrent types of bacteria found in foods and how to kill it. All of these things and more can be learmed thru reading online at diffrent forums and youtube (cheftalk) also, and. Yet all of these things are taught in school. I know alot of chefs i live in Miami. Trust me when i say its a scam. Your sitting in a class that looks like the restraunt kitchen that you work in. They give you a big book and tell you to read it. Yes you will have quizzes and interact with different students who basically are on your level but what can you learn from them except how to not be focused. So your going to waste 50k of your money that you could have saved or invested in other priorities in your life just to sit in a class and learn yhe same things that you could teach yourself by watching videos and reading books that you bought yourself which are wayy cheaper by the way!!! Ask any chef for an honest answer! Ask your chef were you work would he prefer a student out of culinary school or would he prefer a aspiring you chef who self teaches himself and is willing to learn everything he knows. Ask him what task would he give the culinary student on the first day of work. Ask him or your exec chefs Gm or anyone you know that works were you work would the prefer a culinary student over two years experience in the feild....sorry for the long post haha
     
  7. sincerebeazt

    sincerebeazt

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    Foodpump if you beg to differ i will listen and acknowledge your truths. I dont think you could tell me diffrent. I can make a roux a veloute, a hollandaise sauce, espangola sauce stocks, broths, coulis and all typres of paste confits and i have not set foot in a classroom. And im talking about the real way to do these sauces as the french would do it. Which is how they teach you in culinary school, i can make them just as good as any chef teacher at school. And Atatax can also if he just plays with it. Read about it. Take notes and try to make it. You will eventually get it right by the second or third try. Just dont give up and always refresh your memory by continuing to read read read observe and observe. Point solved...culinary school what is that
     
  8. foodpump

    foodpump

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    No one's disputing that you can make all of that stuff, and for the record my first cookbook (at age 12) was Pepin's La Technique. I got it because of all the step-by-step photos. Other truly great books in my collection are Peterson's Sauces, the C.I.A. Books, and some of the classical ones.

    Books are great, but it's not the same as having someone stand beside you, give you instructions, repeat, then stand back and watch you and comment. I truly wished I had that when I was 12 and trying out every technique in Pepin's book.

    If you like we can continue our discussion via p.m. on why I feel that culinary schools have something important to offer.
     
  9. Iceman

    Iceman

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    Hey look ... my mistake. I guess that if you can make mother sauces you can't possibly use or learn anything more in culinary school. How foolish of me to think any different. My sincerest apology.




    ... and just for the record ... In all the places I've ever worked (Michelin* places included), it's never made any difference whatsoever who could make a mother sauce.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2015
  10. chefwriter

    chefwriter

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    I''m hoping Atatax hasn't given up on this post. 

         Let's find a middle ground by dividing this question. 

    1. Is it worth going to school? 

    2. Is going to culinary school worth the money? 

        In answer to the first question the answer is a resounding YES. Going to school for anything is better than not going to school. A school is a place completely dedicated to teaching. There are instructors/professors to guide learning the right information in the right order. Class and lab times are for focused learning of the material with the opportunity for question and answer, trial and error and the students development in understanding the topic at hand. The school curriculum has been set up to pass on as much established information on the topic as possible in a given time frame. School will expose the student to the history of the topic to understand how the current state of the topic was arrived at, present a broad and inclusive scope of the topic in its contemporary form with multiple perspectives so that the student is aware of as many aspects of said topic as possible. In doing so, the student is provided with a better overall understanding of the topic generally and where various areas have their place within the larger scope. School curriculum has been prepared in such a way as to prevent the student from wasting time and effort in learning information that is irrelevant, immaterial, incorrect or misguided. Learning is guided and graded before graduation to ensure the proper lessons have been understood and the student has shown a certain level proficiency. In certain kinds of schools this may include the development of a "professional" outlook, including appearance and attitude and method of relating to others. 

           In terms of efficient learning, school has no equal. You can spend decades trying to learn on your own while sifting through useless, pointless information or devote yourself to the time and effort of school to learn so much more in so much less time. I was once told "Someone with a degree will learn in five years what someone without a degree will learn in fifteen years". I have found that to be true. 

     2. Is going to culinary school worth the money? It used to be but these days, mostly No. I hate saying that but as everyone has pointed out, spending 50K on a two year degree only to get out and earn $12 an hour is absurd. I had the good fortune to attend Johnson and Wales University in Providence RI back in the early 1980's when tuition was about 7K per year. I graduated with about $3K in debt. That was tough enough to pay off at the time but my education was excellent and had a profound effect on my career afterward, both in greater opportunity and in my professional development as a young cook. Culinary schools have sprouted up everywhere and I have serious doubts that they can all provide the level of education I received at J&W, whatever price they may charge. 

         I'll finish by using an analogy to illustrate the difference between school and no school.  A good culinary education, or any other good schooling for that matter, is like paying admission for a guided tour to an enormous mansion with all the lights on in every room. The tour is quicker than you would like as you pass through each room but you do get to see each room and at least gain some understanding of its' contents. When you leave, you are no expert but you are at least aware of what the mansion contains overall, how the various rooms fit together and which rooms held the most interest for you. 

         Not going to school is walking in to the same mansion with No lights on but it's "free". It may not cost the admission fee but you have to fumble around from one room to another until you find a light switch. You may eventually and with great effort find the lights in more than one room but given the effort it takes you are quite likely to give up searching and simply remain in the room you were in when you decided you had enough of fumbling around. Because of this, you are never really aware of what all the other rooms have to offer although you may hear rumors but you aren't inclined to continue searching when you have become so accustomed to your surroundings. 

         So I will say it is a beautiful mansion with astonishing rooms and grand interiors. But the price of admission has gotten out of hand. 
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2015
  11. atatax

    atatax

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    It sounds like monetarily, culinary scool doesnt make sense. But if i want to learn and improve my skills and become the best chef i can be as early as possible , then culinary school is the way to go.

    Agree or disagree?
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2015
  12. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    Hypothetical Scenarios.

    Not cast in stone. In real life there are always variables and militating circumstances. Strictly posted for contemplation. Input and opinions welcome.

    Hypothetical Scenario #1

    potential employee #1 two years spent in school

    potential employee #2 two years spent working in restaurants

    Depends upon what the employer is looking for, but the nod probably goes to #2 because he is more restaurant ready

    Hypothetical Scenario #2

    potential employee #1 two years spent in school and then two years working in restaurants

    potential employee #2 four years spent working in restaurants

    Depends upon what the employer is looking for, but the nod probably goes to #1 because while both candidates are restaurant ready, #1 probably possesses more knowledge
     
  13. chefwriter

    chefwriter

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    I will suggest a couple of things. 

    First, it doesn't matter if the employer likes your school. You need to like the school. By that I mean you pick a school that offers a great education, not one that happens to be nearby or even has a notable name. And remember, whichever one you pick, give it your best, most dedicated self. You will get so much more out of it. 

         At 28 years old, moving should be part of the plan, especially if you have no wife or children. SO.. do some research on various schools. Study the curriculum each offers. Go visit a few. 

    Hopefully you find one in or near a city with numerous good restaurants. Move there. Take one class at a time if need be.  Talk to the school about your options. See about opportunities to work for the school in exchange for classes. (Teaching assistant or mopping floors to start if it cuts down on tuition costs.) Work in a local restaurant or hotel, particularly a hotel with several outlets so you can experience a lot in one location.

         Building maintenance for small apartment buildings (less than 50) in exchange for rent is a great way to cut down on having to work so much while in school. Get an used RV and live in that. If possible, your chosen school and city has a relative of yours in town who you can stay with while you are in school. Get a room mate or five. Take the bus to school/work. Or ride your bike. 

         Living costs while in school add to the expense. Any loans and financial aid should go to tuition alone, not living expenses. Figure out how to do it so you aren't walking out of graduation with enormous debt. The quality of the school and the quality of your dedication matter. The location does not. 

    As I posted, school is great. Paying for it is not. 
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2015
    butleraustin92 likes this.
  14. sincerebeazt

    sincerebeazt

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    I have both of those books by the way 8th edition CIA and the la techniques. Look people he wanted a straightforward answer he got one. The fact of the matter is that he will be in debtttttt. Just go go to culinary school and graduate with debt. Who cares if he has someone standing over him babysitting him while he is making diffrent varieties of foods. He dont need a babysitter he needs knowledge. The hell with a degree. Atatax go sign up for school and come back 2 years from now and i will love to see your post about how you regret doing it and blah blah blah. So not let these old farts persuade you to make a mistake. Hell look at them they went to culinary school and still are line cooks and sous chefs haha thirty years later. So just imagine school is much more expensive then the 80's and 90's listrn bro at the end of the day no matter how much advice you get its ultimatly your decision and money your loosing
     
  15. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    While this was meant as a dig, it actually is a reflection on you.
     
  16. sincerebeazt

    sincerebeazt

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    Cheflayne. I dont know what type of restaurants you have worked in but seriously i highly think that if a person who dedicates his time studying and also working in the arts presents himself in an interview knowing his overall things he wont get the job. Yes you can get a job as a line cook with or without a degree experience is always going to outweigh culinary school. Can a person handle the high volume of a restaurant? Can he take pressure from a 500 top rush that last 3 hours? Can a person be counted on not to quit and come in to work tomorrow. Thats the real question. At the end of the day like i said you can gain all the knowledge from culinary school yourself. Management skills doing inventory, ordering, using POS systems. Time management all of that can be taught by the chefs at your job if you really show dedication to your work and have good work ethics and get promoted to a chef'de partie or sous chef. No matter what he will still have to start from the bottom.even with a degree. Dont send this guy into debt. Culinary school cost money now a days. Its no more 3k and 7k. Haha for a community college alone its atlease 30-40k. If you.goto johnson and wales its 80k if le cordon bleu its 70k if you go to CIA which has a waiting list its more than that. So you will waste two to four years of your life learning things you couldve taught yourself and learned from other people in the business just to get out making 12 bucks an hour. You will be paying back atlease 300 a month for 25 years...so go ahead. Like i said earlier im a sous chef at a french restraunt in miami making 1700 dollers every two weeks not from going to.culinary school but from dedicating myself to the arts and teaching myself and listening to everything everyone has told me or shown me on my journey. Wiah you the best atalax but your headed for destruction
     
  17. chefbuba

    chefbuba

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    When you don't have anyone to teach or watch over you while you are learning. this is what you get (From a post in another thread)

    This has been popping around in my head for a couple days please let me know what yall think.
    Blueberry risotto topped with a lemon Dijon chicken garnished with tarragon chiffonaude.

    Youtube couldn't tell this guy that these flavors don't work.

    How many hours a week do you have to work to earn those dollers? You are young and will learn it's not nice to brag about how much money you make.
     
  18. sincerebeazt

    sincerebeazt

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    You become the best chef you can be not by going to school but by passion and determination. School cant teach you how to cook. You teach yourself
     
  19. foodpump

    foodpump

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    Sincere,


    What you might not realize is that there are smart culinary students.

    Most employers--including myself-look for work experience in an applicant first. School is gravy. Smart culinary grads know that if they have two yrs experience PRIOR to school, then they have two yrs experience after graduating, and much better options of getting a decent job. The grad who has no prior experience soon finds out what the employer is looking for, reality is a b*tch, eh?

    This is my biggest beef with the N. American culinary schools: they'll take anyone's money and leave the grad to figure out if they do or don't like kitchen life, and saddled with debt.

    However, things in Canada are different than south of the border. We have a Gov't recognized qualification for cooks, and many employers are asking for this qualification and paying the salary that goes with it. In my province (B.C.) the way to get this is to go to school for 3mths, write a cook i test, work for a thousand hours, take the next block of school, write the cook ii, work again and take the third and final block. Other provinces are different, but all have a cook's red seal qualification.

    Most european countries have apprenticeships, usually three years, where the spprentice works 4 days and goes to school one day per week. Probably the best system there is, and
    I know personally because I did such 3 yr apprenticeship 25 years ago in Switzerland.

    Have you ever thought about working outside of the U.S. and exposing yourself to different cultures, ideas, concepts, ingredients and techniques?
     
  20. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    In this you are correct.