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  1. This news article is worth another repost: "Burnt Chefs: Former admissions representatives at CCA say they preyed on students’ dreams of becoming celebrity chefs and glossed over the painful economic realities of the industry": http://www.sfweekly.com/2007-06-06/news/burnt-chefs/ The article specifically deals with California Culinary Academy, but note also the mention of Career Education Corporation, the for-profit diploma mill which bought the school in 1999. This is the same company which owns the Le Cordon Bleus in the US. Hence the high pressure sales pitches you got. Here's another, which mentions the link between Career Education Corporation and Texas Culinary Academy: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/08/us/08def...ta1&oref=slogin Pat
  2. Interesting. "[C]ulinary school with great chefs[..]" perfectly describes the vo-tech I graduated from. So here's my anecdotal twopence: - Of all the thoroughly stressed, burned out and plain cynical cooks I've ever met, by far the highest percentage came from expensive private schools, including yours. Reason is easy to see: debt load which lasted years, and misguided expectations. - Most recent CIA grad I worked with did all of the following: a) Insisted on saucing my dishes with a fish spatula. On his third day on the job. b) Put plastic lids on hotel pans before popping them into the convection oven. c) Roasted several full hotel pans of duck confit on the maximum 500F overnight. d) Repeatedly served cold food even after constant correction from chef, sous chef and other cooks alike. e) Couldn't sear a piece of fish to save his life. Repeatedly. So you were a good student? Good for you. So was I. My degree has hardly been the obstacle you seem to think it is. But I'll take the $6,000 price tag anyway, thank you. Pat
  3. Yes! Like right now! The snow and hail fell, and the streets cleared! I just got all my shopping done in 10 minutes! Pat!
  4. You already got lots of good advice, and yes, it's definitely doable. I also live near the market, about the same distance as you. I can't remember the last time I went to a chain grocer like Safeway or QFC, but I do go down to the International District a few times a month for Asian grocery shopping. There are bare basics available at Pike Place Market, namely a few fruits and veggies at Lina's Produce, and the shop connected to the Filipino food stall for dry goods and bottled and canned items, but the selection is still quite limited, as well as a lot more expensive compared to the ID. Ex. Chaokoh coconut milk is .69 a can at Viet Wah, but $1.79+ at the market, and there won't be any fresh galangal or lime leaves whatsmore. Basically, if Asian ingredients are important to you, you'll need to make extra trips elsewhere. Also, in addition to the farmers on Wednesdays and Sundays, there's an organic fruit and veg stall. iirc, they're next to the dried hand-made pasta stall. Lastly, there is no organic or pasture finished meat available. For those, you'd have to go to a Whole Foods, PCC, and the like. Or go to one of the neighborhood farmer's markets. Or alternatively, have Thundering Hooves deliver you some: http://www.thunderinghooves.net. Pat
  5. I'm a community college grad, and I got a great education for very little money. As with anything, school quality varies no matter what the cost, so it's best you check out the votechs and private schools yourself before making any decisions. Talk to the students, and have meals there. It's a definite plus if they will also do transfers towards an affiliated F&B management degree. In addition to my restaurant jobs, I also do temporary contract catering work via an agency. This means whenever I have a spare day, I get sent out all over the place to help out a day here and a day there at different catering outfits, corporate kitchens and such. Anecdotally, I've yet to see any votech cooks other than myself, but I do see plenty of high end culinary school grads (yes, including CIA, J&W, LCB, AI, etc.) who end up in those outfits full time because they got burned out and couldn't manage the crazy debt load. Our hourly wage is the same no matter the pedigree, but my day to day money worries are much less. Make sure you know this is what you want to do; if nothing else, you won't have plunked down 40k+ first before deciding reheated mashed potatoes in a bag is where your future lies. As far as networking goes, I've never had a problem getting into good kitchens, no matter where (or even if) the chef attended school. It's always been a matter of keeping up with restaurant news, asking for a stage at places which interest me, then going in and doing my best. Even if they did not have a place for me, sometimes they'd send my resume onto other places and I'd get calls that way. Even if you already have a job, it's still a good idea to do a stage elsewhere every now and then, just to do your own networking, as well as get exposure to new learning and how different kitchens do their thing. Then when it comes time to leave, you have options you can call on. In the end, it really does come down to your own sense of inner curiosity, willingness to be taught, teamwork and enthusiasm in the face of grueling work conditions. And no matter how much money you end up spending, be ok with being called to help out in the dish pit, or empty the grease trap, or whatever else needs doing. There's plenty of work for responsible competent cooks, no matter where you come from. Pat
  6. Everyone gets hit hard during a heat wave. Pantry doubly so. "STOP! ORDERING! OYSTERS!" And concerning attempts at getting broken A/C or fridge units fixed, I keep telling my superiors how I could just show up, look around, then disappear and not come back for only half what they get charged by the repair crews. I'm expecting them to take me up on my offer any day now. Pat
  7. Well, there's a couple different angles to the whole "respect" thing. There's respect accorded from outside, ie. the adoring dining public and food critics, and respect within the organization itself. The former, I personally don't care about, though our brunch did get routine raves from the foodies. The latter though, let's put it this way: Brunch pays all of the bills. Dinner would be a heck of a lot less interesting and financially solvent without brunch to help subsidize the whole shindig. Plus you get exercise for the speed and volume muscles, which is easy to translate into slower/more refined dinner services. Not so in the opposite direction. It would be a big mistake to think the brunch crew I was once a part of were "B Team", but that's also a tribute to the organization itself. Our brunches were a lot nicer than typical brunches offered at hash slinging joints, and for all that it was an incredibly gruelling experience, I have zero regrets for having been through it. I don't get to call myself a chef now, not for awhile yet, but if it were me and my own place, I'd pay the brunch cooks more. Fair is fair, reward for the money brought in, vs. reward found in the work itself. Because I'd want the happy eggmeisters to work it every weekend and make repeat customers out of everyone because they can rely on the quality and consistancy, and it staves off issues of turnover at one of the most lucrative spots in the kitchen. Pat
  8. Hehehe, you probably came very close but you did not break 500 because you did not work Mother's Day Brunch in 2006, where we set the cafe kitchen record of breaking 500 for the first time at 515! Nonetheless, agree about the Hell Shift aspect as well as the sheer volume. People have no idea how tiny the kitchen is, as well as just how few cooks are there to crank out all that food. Made me strong though. And probably a little bit messed up too! Pat
  9. When not at the restaurant, I pick up additional catering gigs to supplement my vast riches, hehehe. And when I have a Real Day Off, I cook for my friends! What's wrong with me!!! Pat
  10. Short explanation: your station gets killed (killed!!!) during happy hour. Long explanation: regular major projects in the form of making large quantities of dough, proofing them and punching them, balling them, cooking and reducing your sauces, and prepping all of your toppings. And you'll be tending your oven regularly, keeping it stoked without generating so much top heat that you burn all your toppings, and you have to find lots of speed in rolling out the pizza crusts. Woodfired ovens cook very, very fast, and chances are, you'll burn lots of pizzas in the beginning because it seems like you only got them in an eyeblink ago, but no. Expect days where it literally feels like popping the pizzas into the oven, turning around, then looking back and "Goddamnit!" Schlepping big bags of wood. Splinters. Ash and dust. Scooping out the oven. Wiping the insides. Routinely wiping down your entire station and all the walls, shelving, etc. because ash dust gets everywhere. Routinely knocking ash out of the flue so it doesn't fall into the food. Possibly cooking things in the oven overnight if your place does that. It's fun too though. Very primal, and it's really cool to watch the food transform right in front of your eyes like that. I love woodfired ovens. And they're great for family meal too. Pat
  11. To answer the OP, the best thing to do is to visit the schools themselves, take tours, speak to the faculty, and eat meals at the restaurants. And of course, talk to the students too. Beware the places that tell you your progeny will become the next TV star, or that they can expect to become sous chefs upon graduation, or if they basically avoid any mention of the realities of the hard slog, pay, and working conditions. We just let an extern go because they worked with our crew while wearing those assumptions. I'm a SCCC grad, class of 2005. If your daughter is still trying to decide, I'll be happy to answer questions about my time there. Also, it really is true about success ultimately lying with the fire in one's belly. It has to in our industry, it's too hard not to love it. Being curious and self-motivated about learning will go a very long way no matter which school she chooses. Pat
  12. Yes. My school told me the same thing, and the health department dinged my last kitchen over a couple of us wearing wristwatches. If it's part of the regs, they have to teach it in school. Nowadays I carry a digital clock/kitchen timer with a magnet in the back. Stick to metal surface, toggle between clock and three concurrent timers as needed. Sometimes one learns the most useful things from the pastry crew. As for other suggestions for the OP, for home, get an aloe plant and an econo-size bottle of ibuprofen or whatever painkiller you prefer. And sleeping with a pillow under the knees will aid in foot pain/fatigue recovery. Think elevation = better circulation. Overall, try not to go overboard with tools, including my timer suggestion. With time, as you learn how to move around, you'll learn more about yourself and what you need to function at your best in that particular kitchen.
  13. Roast Beef Kimmelwick sandwich at Buffalo Deli, downtown on 1st Ave. between Lenora and Blanchard. Pat
  14. Interesting. When I examined their work via the knives ScorchedPalette and seacrotty showed me several months ago, compared to my Kramer sharpened knives the work seemed nearly identical, so much so we all thought it was the same sharpener. Do you know who specifically sharpened your knives at EE? Pat
  15. That just makes me sad ← They are moving downstairs into the old No Boundaries Cafe space. Pat
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