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Advice wanted for an Aspiring Chef...


Sher.eats
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Hi all!

I'm a 20 year old female, seriously considering a career in the restaurant kitchen.

I've been studying Food & Nutrition and now I realize that professional cooking is my true passion.

I'm considering studying at Le Cordon Bleu for their "Grand Diplome".

How important is this kind of culinary education?

How much "ahead" can I get than just starting as an apprentice?

Which Cordon Bleu is better? London, Paris or Ottawa?

I've heard that Le Cordon Bleu has become quite commercialized over the past years, Could anyone suggest another culinary school?

Is it worth the money & time to go to such a pricey school or should I take my time and work up the Brigade de cuisine from the bottom?

Or should I try working in a restaurant for a couple of months before I commit to this business?

Thank you very much!

Edited by Sher.eats (log)

~ Sher * =]

. . . . .I HEART FOOD. . . . .

Sleep 'til you're hungry, eat 'til you're sleepy. - Anon

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Or should I try working in a restaurant for a couple of months before I commit to this business?

This. This. This. Realize that youre committing yourself to struggling for a long time, with your health, sanity, and addictions. That your loved ones will have to deal with the 50 hour weeks and you not eating dinner with them for a loong time. If your love for food can go through that, then you can probably make it through the tough times.

Get some real restaurant experience, I cant stress it enough. I dont want to paint a bleak picture, and it certainly is always, but as a fresh piece of coal, youre going to get chewed up and roughed around for awhile before that diamond starts to form.

Rico

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Or should I try working in a restaurant for a couple of months before I commit to this business?

!

I, personally, wouldn't recommend making any kind of career decision before you've worked in a kitchen for at least 6 months. It is NOTHING like cooking at home! It's as rewarding as it is hard but it's not for everyone. If you've got a serious passion for food and you enjoy being worked like a horse then you've come to the right place. But, for the love of god, you have got to try it out first before you go spending over $100,000 on an education. It is bloody hard work, the pay is low, the hours are long, it's hard on your body, but it's fun as hell.

Be prepared to get worked.

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Yes for sure do the work in a restaurant thing. And if you really wanna get the long & short of it, be a dishwasher and watch and listen carefully from that vantage point. In other words, be happy to be low on the food chain in this initial time investment. You have to work and work and work and work to get any higher even with the diploma and years of experience. Which is why that pricey diploma is ever the more bloated.

Tomato-boy there in the avatar has a Cordon Bleu diploma that he will be paying for for a looong looooong time. In my opinion, it is not worth it to go for Cordon Bleu. A culinary diploma yes. Restaurant work first though. But the designer label is not worth it, just an inflated price for some words. Well my experience is state side too. I don't really know about France, London or Ottowa. But yes in the states they are needlessly commercial and tragically over priced.

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Thanks for the advice so far.

I'm quite worried about the "woman in the restaurant kitchen" thing too. How tough is it for a female? How tough does the female need to be to compensate?

Will focusing on "Patisserie" be any easier? If a Patisserie is what I should am for I'll only study the "Intensive Patisserie Diplome" (half the price, half the time, still $$).

Thank you very much.

~ Sher * =]

. . . . .I HEART FOOD. . . . .

Sleep 'til you're hungry, eat 'til you're sleepy. - Anon

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Hi all!

I'm a 20 year old female, seriously considering a career in the restaurant kitchen.

I've been studying Food & Nutrition and now I realize that professional cooking is my true passion. 

I'm considering studying at Le Cordon Bleu for their "Grand Diplome".

How important is this kind of culinary education?

How much "ahead" can I get than just starting as an apprentice?

Which Cordon Bleu is better? London, Paris or Ottawa?

I've heard that Le Cordon Bleu has become quite commercialized over the past years, Could anyone suggest another culinary school?

Is it worth the money & time to go to such a pricey school or should I take my time and work up the Brigade de cuisine from the bottom?

Or should I try working in a restaurant for a couple of months before I commit to this business?

Thank you very much!

Definitely try working in a kitchen before you spend on school.

And to answer your questions on culinary education - it's not important, and it won't get you any further ahead than starting as an apprentice. Every place I worked, the culinary school grads started out peeling vegetables, sorting through lettuce greens, scrubbing oysters, etc...

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And to answer your questions on culinary education - it's not important, and it won't get you any further ahead than starting as an apprentice.  Every place I worked, the culinary school grads started out peeling vegetables, sorting through lettuce greens, scrubbing oysters, etc...

Interesting to hear you say that, Mikeb19... What I've been told -- and this is from local chefs (not the culinary school) -- is that a culinary education (degree) equals approximately 5 years in the business, assuming all other factors like knife skills, speed, etc, are the same. You'll still start peeling vegetables, sure, but you'll move up much more quickly.

It's an interesting experience to be the only cook in a kitchen who knows how to make a buerre blanc without looking it up first. I thank culinary school for that.

Edited by vogelap (log)

-drew

www.drewvogel.com

"Now I'll tell you what, there's never been a baby born, at least never one come into the Firehouse, who won't stop fussing if you stick a cherry in its face." -- Jack McDavid, Jack's Firehouse restaurant

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Interesting to hear you say that, Mikeb19... What I've been told -- and this is from local chefs (not the culinary school) -- is that a culinary education (degree) equals approximately 5 years in the business, assuming all other factors like knife skills, speed, etc, are the same. You'll still start peeling vegetables, sure, but you'll move up much more quickly.

It's an interesting experience to be the only cook in a kitchen who knows how to make a buerre blanc without looking it up first. I thank culinary school for that.

Obviously different people have different experiences...

I started out as a kid off the street, living in the housing projects, getting into trouble with the law, etc... I was looking for a job, and I accidently walked into the top restaurant in the city (not knowing where I was) - the hostess wanted to kick me out but the executive chef wanted to talk to me. He hired me, and within 3 months I was a Chef de Partie at that restaurant. 2 years after that (at age 21), and I was the first cook (as well as pastry cook) in a restaurant that was considered one of the best in the country. Later that year I was offered my own kitchen (which I turned down, still too young), and instead took a position as a pastry chef.

Anyhow, if you're willing to learn, put in time, you can rise through the ranks quickly - school or no school.

I'm glad you had a positive experience at school. Unfortunately my experience with culinary school grads has been less than positive...(I could go on for hours) The ones who were decent had experience far beyond school...

The chefs who taught me, none of them went to school. They came from 2/3 Michelin star restaurants in France and Switzerland...

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...What I've been told -- and this is from local chefs (not the culinary school) -- is that a culinary education (degree) equals approximately 5 years in the business, assuming all other factors like knife skills, speed, etc, are the same. You'll still start peeling vegetables, sure, but you'll move up much more quickly.

It's an interesting experience to be the only cook in a kitchen who knows how to make a buerre blanc without looking it up first. I thank culinary school for that.

I disagree with all due respect. Your assumption invalidates your position.

The truth is culinary schools do not equip their grads with these skills. What about the all due diligent kid who was at the dentist with a tooth ache on buerre blanc day. Good thing somebody wrote it down somewhere.

Those skills are a whole lot harder to come by than a formula.

I mean, no offense, but your buerre blanc example proves my point.

Recipes are easy. Skills take lotsa time & dedication.

A little less ego and a little more people skills help a lot too. Or know your politics--that's very helpful as well. Kitchen specific politics that is.

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once again here we are. You can get a great education wherever you go - it is what you make of it. For some reason in this field the non grads flip off the grads which i don't get. I have a degree from culinary and ivy league - I guess that make me double bad. look culinary schools give you lots of basics and gives you and opportunity to screw up without getting yelled at too badly and not near as bad as you would on a line somewhere. They are for the most past designed to build up your skills from a foundation on. I went to the big bad cia - not because it was the best in the world - but I am an older student that really felt like I needed to hit the best for a resume build, but also for contacts. The CIA has been huge since I have been out. Even the couple of people that hate culinary schools have to say well a cia grad - yeah they think they know it all, a--holes, or whatever - me I am humble - had 2 jobs in3 years. Just about have the Exec Chef convinced I am doing right especailly since the members love me food. I am in it for the food, not to whine about he came up through the ranks - he went to JW or FCI - give me a break we all are passionate about food, low paid for the most part - long hot hours with people ordering stuff like a hot dog caesar salad - so anyway you lok at it schools are ver good - look into ways of getting ENDOWED scholarships - these monies are specifically for a group of people - specific meaning a female from Osh Kosh with blue eyes that wants to make wedding cakes....yep that stuff is there you just have to look for it --good luck

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yep i agree this is one of those topics that keeps getting all stirred up, and really, what it boils down to is YOU. do YOU think you would benefit from cooking school, or do you think you can learn on your own? in either case, as everybody has noted, some serious professional experience will put you on the right path.

I think it was telling that you are oscillating between pastry and cooking for which one might be easier. again, which is your passion? for me it was a no brainer...pastry all the way. I didn't choose it because it was easier, actually it's more difficult on some level by the very nature that less people eat dessert. i'm just saying, and don't worry about the "rules" of whether an education will get you ahead or not, don't worry about the fact you are a woman, just find the path that fits your passion, and start believing in yourself. know who you are and who you want to be.

best of luck.

Stephanie Crocker

Sugar Bakery + Cafe

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yep i agree this is one of those topics that keeps getting all stirred up, and really, what it boils down to is YOU. do YOU think you would benefit from cooking school, or do you think you can learn on your own? in either case, as everybody has noted, some serious professional experience will put you on the right path.

I think it was telling that you are oscillating between pastry and cooking for which one might be easier. again, which is your passion? for me it was a no brainer...pastry all the way. I didn't choose it because it was easier, actually it's more difficult on some level by the very nature that less people eat dessert. i'm just saying, and don't worry about the "rules" of whether an education will get you ahead or not, don't worry about the fact you are a woman, just find the path that fits your passion, and start believing in yourself. know who you are and who you want to be.

best of luck.

To add to this - passion, willingness to learn are key. If you want it enough, are willing to put time in, you'll make it. I used to come in to work on my days off to do pastries (I started off on the line doing savoury foods), and would always watch what the other cooks were doing. If you do decide to go to school, pay attention, ask plenty of questions, and practice at home.

And when you finally do get into the workplace, don't assume you know anything. There are many different ways to cook, and learning all of them is valuable experience. Whether you think that restaurant is using good technique or not learn it, if only to learn that it doesn't work...

And finally, what my old chef told me on my first day on the job in a fine dining restaurant: Everyone makes mistakes, the key is to learn from them, and never repeat the same mistake twice.

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I have a question, as a parent of a child who is taking some culinary arts classes in HS. I know the work is hard, low pay, yada yada, get experience before deciding. All skills, drive, talent, being equal; do you think that going to a place like the CIA would help you start off at a better restaurant than coming in off the steet? Also do you think that the contacts made at such a school help you advance your career (all things being equal)?

I have noticed in the corporate world that (all things being equal) - yes a person can become the VP of a corp working their way up from the mail room, but it's easier to become a VP with an MBA under your belt (especially if you went to school with some of the management).

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I have a question, as a parent of a child who is taking some culinary arts classes in HS. I know the work is hard, low pay, yada yada, get experience before deciding. All skills, drive, talent, being equal; do you think that going to a place like the CIA would help you start off at a better restaurant than coming in off the steet? Also do you think that the contacts made at such a school help you advance your career (all things being equal)?

I have noticed in the corporate world that (all things being equal) - yes a person can become the VP of a corp working their way up from the mail room, but it's easier to become a VP with an MBA under your belt (especially if you went to school with some of the management).

First, good Luck, its a long hard road but do-able. No question, talk your way into the best restuarant that there is and work. Do not take no for an answer. Shortly you will learn if it is for you. Then forget it, at the beginning, about being a chef. Your goal is to be a cook. Learn to cook. It takes years.

Then school. If you are considering school in France I would recommend you look at the Institute Paul Bocuse in Lyon. My late son went there and the training was outstanding. Additionally there program has two five month internships in two and three star restaurants. They are connected. You will work with the best and train with the best. The school has many students from Asia. My son said that they were great classmates. So if you don't speak French - Learn and go to France. If its for you - you will know.

Once again, good luck, go out and get burned == get cut and fall in love.

Jmahl

The Philip Mahl Community teaching kitchen is now open. Check it out. "Philip Mahl Memorial Kitchen" on Facebook. Website coming soon.

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Both approaches to the field are valid, from what I've seen. I have talked to other chefs about this, and they've all had good and bad experiences with both field-trained and formally-trained cooks.

Those who've learned hands-on will often (not all the time, and not as a broad generalization) have cooler heads when things are going to hell all around them. Within their limitations, they will have tremendous ability to execute under pressure.

Those who've gone the culinary route will, in general, have a broader base to build on: they've been shown the basics (and perhaps some advanced skills) in a well-planned and well-rounded curriculum. When they do come to the kitchen, of course, there's always that period of sheer panic while adjusting to doing everything at full speed, under extreme pressure, and not always by the book.

In short, not every field-taught cook is a lusus naturae, and not every culinary grad is a self-absorbed prima donna with a sense of entitlement. Both routes have strengths and weaknesses. Your own personal attitude, and your own personal work ethic, are what will make the difference for you.

Here in Canada, cooking is a regulated trade, just like pipefitting or welding. It takes three years to become a certified journeyman, whether that be three years in the field or two years of school followed by a year in the field. These standards were developed by the industry in partnership with the government, so a year in the field and a year in school are de facto equivalents here.

“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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Here in Canada, cooking is a regulated trade, just like pipefitting or welding.  It takes three years to become a certified journeyman, whether that be three years in the field or two years of school followed by a year in the field.  These standards were developed by  the industry in partnership with the government, so a year in the field and a year in school are  de facto equivalents here.

Don't get me started on Canada's trade system, especially when it comes to cooking. All I'll say is that it's a complete @#$%ing joke, and not worth a second of anyone's time...

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