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Paying for school...


KevinS
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Hey everyone, first time poster,

Long story short, I am applying to culinary school at the Texas Culinary Academy in Austin (an affiliate of Cordon Bleu) and am having a hard time figuring out how I am going to pay for all of this. I know I am more than qualified for scholarship opportunities, but every one I manage to find requires I be of some other race, from a different state, or something along those lines, OR ... be applying to CIA. All my financial aid contact does is ramble about how hard it is to find scholarships, without really helping, and then trying to force me into loans that won't even cover my entire cost of schooling, and would leave me and my family trying to figure out how to pay the remainder.

So, can anyone out there give me some tips for scholarships/grant websites? I've checked most of the basic, and waited a month for the new James Beard one to be posted on their website only to find out I wasn't eligible for any part of it...

Also, when it is time to repay any loans I do have, can anyone give me an estimate of how much I may have to pay back a month (from personal experience). The lady at TCA just says "it varies" and refuses to give me a ballpark low and high figure, which leaves me a bit worried.

P.S. Before anyone mentions it, because I've seen it here before, I know what I am getting into with the cooking world. I have read nearly everything I can on the subject by Bourdain, Ruhlman, Dornenburg/Page, and am attempting to tackle McGee now, but that would could take a while. I also have been on the line at the busiest restaurant in the city for 4 months now, so I do at least have some experience in the field and know what I am getting into.

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You know, you don't have to go to an expensive school to get a culinary education!

Do you realize that you're getting one right now, as you work, and you're getting paid for it?

Don't overlook that, because future employers are much more influenced by a history of actual

kitchen experience over a culinary school certificate, believe me.

Also, "counselors" who work for Cordon Bleu, and other culinary academies are "recruiters" or "salespeople". They want the sale! They want to enroll you because it's money to them!

All my financial aid contact does is ramble about how hard it is to find scholarships, without really helping, and then trying to force me into loans that won't even cover my entire cost of schooling, and would leave me and my family trying to figure out how to pay the remainder.

Also, when it is time to repay any loans I do have, can anyone give me an estimate of how much I may have to pay back a month (from personal experience). The lady at TCA just says "it varies" and refuses to give me a ballpark low and high figure, which leaves me a bit worried.

Don't these two paragraphs you wrote just make you a BIT wary of this whole undertaking? They are sidestepping you and not answering important valid questions you have.

If you really want to go to school, there are culinary programs at community colleges and technical colleges that are WAY more in line with our profession, the wages we make, and the ability to pay for school. Don't think these programs aren't "as good" as Cordon Bleu, because in most cases they ARE as good. Check out other school opportunities!!!! I can't stress this enough!!!! For the love of G*d, don't let a counselor fool you into thinking that their school is the "only way".....it's not! You don't have to pay that much money (or ANY money at all) for a sound education in the culinary arts!!!!! :wink::wink:

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I don't know about other loans, but we have $25k left to pay on DH's loans (for a rather expensive non-culinary school, though), and we're paying $240/mth. That's just one of two loans; the other is comparable. I'm not positive what the initial amounts were, and these were initially signed over 15 years ago. We're still paying them, and they can definitely hurt your bottom line.

Joanna G. Hurley

"Civilization means food and literature all round." -Aldous Huxley

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please be careful.

career education corporation tactics

60 minutes did a story on this company a few years back. they own lots of vocational schools all over the country, and there have been numerous complaints and lawsuits over their practices. the fact that your contact is apparently pooh-poohing scholarships with one hand, and sliding loan papers into your hand is very worrisome.

le cordon bleu used to have a sterling rep, but in years past, they have sold their name, to their detriment (in my opinion, and i attended a culinary school that is now lcb). the things you describe with your contact at the school are classic. don't sign anything you have not read over three or four times, had a trusted friend or legal advisor look over. and please don't buy the stories of job placement and starting salaries, either. i believe the school i attend now costs around 50k for 14 months. that's a lot of cash to qualify you for little more than an entry level position. i'm not saying don't go to culinary school---i'm really glad i did--but don't think for a minute that the experience or expense will qualify you as a chef when you graduate. they really push this, especially on kids just out of high school (and their parents), and nothing could be further from the truth.

good luck!

"Laughter is brightest where food is best."

www.chezcherie.com

Author of The I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook ,The I Love Trader Joe's Party Cookbook and The I Love Trader Joe's Around the World Cookbook

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Thanks a lot for the replies. I was thinking what you guys said all along, but I guess I needed other opinions to finally help me realize it.

My admissions contact with the school is doing what I consider a very good job, she even made sure I read and re-read the papers and stuff (and I made sure I read their cancellation policy, which I'm glad I did), but the lady that handles all the money is just ugh...

I'm really glad I'm about to be done with my first degree in college now, had I not been through stuff like this and grown as a person I'm sure I'd be signing loan papers already.

I am thinking I should just bite the bullet and move to a place where I know no one and go to CIA. At least I know I can trust them and get a quality education...

Edited by KevinS (log)
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My kid, Chef-boy, formerly known as Chef-Wanna-Be, graduated from TCA there in Austin. The loan repayment thing depends on the interest rates you or your folks can qualify for and obviously the amount of money you borrow. Chef-boy got two cost of living loanettes too in addition to tuition/book loans. He worked while in school but it's pretty difficult.

My recommendation is to find a nice community college for culinary school. Because his first Chef that he worked for right outa school had attended a cheap (in comparison to TCA, CIA etc.) community college in Florida and finessed his way to chef in like nano-seconds being in the right place at the right time. Find something with the right price for you. Having a degree is really good but it's only a degree no matter where you get it. Once you get your foot in any door after that, the sky's the limit---work your way up. I mean you still start out at under ten bucks an hour in the lowest positions on the totem pole. The networking you get with CIA and etc is nice but dude, is it worth that kind of financial commitment? No it is not.

And it's true your work experience, aka passion, speaks much louder than any degree. But the degree is important. Just not monkey on your back for the next few decades important. kwim?

I think the quality part of the education comes in working for the finest chefs you encounter after school. School is school, man. Then those chefs will help launch you further.

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...I am thinking I should just bite the bullet and move to a place where I know no one and go to CIA. At least I know I can trust them and get a quality education...

You can trust them to take your money and run you through their program. The$e $chool$ are busine$$e$ fir$t. And nothing wrong with that. But wipe the stars out of your eyes now because the school bills certainly will later.

:biggrin:

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...I am thinking I should just bite the bullet and move to a place where I know no one and go to CIA. At least I know I can trust them and get a quality education...

You can trust them to take your money and run you through their program. The$e $chool$ are busine$$e$ fir$t. And nothing wrong with that. But wipe the stars out of your eyes now because the school bills certainly will later.

:biggrin:

I would say that about most schools, but I thought a lot of the more established schools such as CIA and Johnson & Wales were more work it because of their non-profit status, and the fact I can't read any book anywhere without the CIA being mentioned.

Edit: Also CIA has a huge amount of scholarships available, which means if I could get them the total cost wouldn't be that bad. Especially in comparison to other places. If I had to only take out loans to go there, and could not cut down the cost a lot, then I simply wouldn't attend.

Edited by KevinS (log)
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the CIA has a great financial aid dept (at least in my experience, some of my classmates do have a less that happy relationship with them though) and there are tons of scholarships available to come here. That being said, you might want to think long and hard about it first. The CIA is going through a transitional phase right now, it seems to me that they are trying to move away from being a cooking school and turn into a corporate restaurant/hotel management school. (which might not be a bad thing if you know that up front) Classes are being rearanged and they are moving to a trimester system that focuses on the bachelors program instead of the associates. I personally think it is not good, but it doesn't affect me since I am already here and the changes will affect the new incoming students starting next year I believe. I think the CIA has the reputation of being one of the premier cooking schools in the country and if they get away from that the value they put on their degree will shrink....but thats my opinion.

That all being said, I do love it up here and am glad I made the decision to come here.

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Because his first Chef that he worked for right outa school had attended a cheap (in comparison to TCA, CIA etc.) community college in Florida and finessed his way to chef in like nano-seconds being in the right place at the right time. Find something with the right price for you. Having a degree is really good but it's only a degree no matter where you get it. Once you get your foot in any door after that, the sky's the limit---work your way up. I mean you still start out at under ten bucks an hour in the lowest positions on the totem pole. The networking you get with CIA and etc is nice but dude, is it worth that kind of financial commitment? No it is not.

To reiterate K8's point!

It's NOT the school you go to, or how much money you spent on said school, but WHAT YOU DO with the education you've received that will determine your success!

To me, it makes no sense to spend that much money on culinary school, when the wages you make when you get out all that much more difficult to pay off in the future. Even though college tuition in general is way too high, at least it makes more sense to pay the higher tuitions when you major in something that is going to have a higher payoff, like a law degree, engineer, medical degree, etc.

I've worked with people that went to CIA and couldn't cook their way out of a box. I've worked with people that had no school at all, just plain old experience, and they could kick my butt. I've worked with a guy that went to a small culinary school and midway through his program the school went bankrupt. Now he's one of the best pastry chefs in the country. I've worked with chefs that went through a 2 year technical college program like I did and they were awesome...had a great work ethic and no prima-donna attitude.

Speaking as a person that does the hiring and firing, when I look at a resume, and see "Le Cordon Bleu" or "CIA" or "Tinytown Culinary Academy", it gets my hopes up and it's a plus, but I look at work history more closely, and more seriously. If there is very little to no work history, then it goes in the "maybe" pile. As a working chef, I think talk is cheap. You gotta walk the walk, which is why I audition ALL potential employees. A few hours in the kitchen with me, tells me a heck of a lot more than a resume or a culinary degree EVER will.

Perhaps my experiences with culinary school grads has given me this outlook. I would say that in my 18 years in this industry, most of the grads I have worked with, or hired, have turned out to be less than impressive. I don't know if it's my experience personally or if it's the general trend.

One thing that I'm aware that culinary school doesn't teach you, is pure WORK ETHIC. CIA or no, you gotta get out there and kick some serious butt. You gotta do the time in the trenches, sweat like a pig, chop til you can't chop anymore, scrape the grill, do dishes, pick up the slack of your whiny co-workers, and see what needs to be done and do it before your chef tells you to (that'll get you everywhere).

The attitude I get from culinary grads is that they've gone to school and paid a lot of money, and somehow, that in itself should exempt them from "trenchwork". Sort of like going to ROTC in high school or college will make you an officer in the military. Doesn't work that way in the culinary world.

As time goes on, people form their biases based on experience. I suppose I have mine. But I do give everyone an equal chance, which is why the resume is something I glance at to determine who will get the opportunity to audition. Everyone is on the same playing field that way.

Don't get me wrong.....I don't think culinary school is a bad idea! I went myself. I needed it because I didn't know a damn thing. I'd never even had a restaurant job before. It gave me a knowledge of the basics.....like I didn't get a stupid look on my face when I was told to "brunoise" something, or "put this bread in the proofer". I do, however, consider myself extremely fortunate that I had two chef-instructors that were VERY adamant that we have no attitude. They repeated over and over, "once you graduate, you are NOT chefs! Some of you will never be chefs! You have to work your way up just like everyone else and it's hard work! Just because you graduate from here does NOT mean your education ends! It's only beginning!" They pounded this mantra into our heads over and over, and I am very grateful for that. If anything, that was the most valuable advice I ever got in school. I can't say I was disillusioned when I got into the work world. I fully expected to lick dishes when I got my first job.

School is good......VERY good. But when you are talking about tuitions that are not in line with the average wage of the graduate, it really makes no sense to me. At all.

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Thanks for all the honest opinions guys. You have all helped me make the decision to put culinary school on hold for now, because there is no way I can imagine affording it, and I do not want to try to sucker my parents into anything. Also, thanks to that link that was posted, I really think my school would have been pretty crappy and fraudulent because it ends up being owned by the same people that own CCA, something I did not know previously.

Also, thanks a lot to Chefpeon, and anyone else who said this, you guys are absolutely right about the work ethic thing, and I see how it could make you weary. Though honestly my plan for a while for a while was to graduate from culinary school, whereever it may have been, and then beg and plead with Keller for a job, any job, dish washer for a few years before moving to prep before moving to the line, for him, sounds fantastic! So, hopefully my work ethic is up there. I have no problem doing whatever needs to be done, not complaining, and trying to do whatever is asked as if if I do a bad job, the place will close. I can't remember which chef said it, but "Work like you own the place." is generally a motto I try to go by.

Edited by KevinS (log)
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It makes all the difference of where you go to school - I have had doors open to me as a CIA grad ONLY because of the calibur of the program - Yes some people get out of there not very "good" cooks - but the foundation is better than anyone - Yes an education IS what you make of it anywhere you go - business school, law school etc - but as a career changer myself coming from medical line - Harvard Med school grads got much more attention than other schools- so these people that slam the CIA and JW or some art intitute or FCI they are all f---ed in the head. Grads from the better schools will get in the door to places. Ask any law firm if they interview people from HArvard law school or a night class grad and see what they say - I learned from 6 CMCs - does the community college have that kind of pull - hell no.

As far as the CIA - they have lots of endowed scholarships. Call them and ask. I was lucky enough that I made good money in my other job before I left that field that I did not have to take any loans. Also - ACF local chapters. Country clubs may have some help for you - don't give up - I am 38 yrs old - do not qualify for many things because I already have a bachelors degree - but they found a few things to help - they all do = call the places you want to go and ask...

Edited by Jakea222 (log)
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To be clear, I fully believe a CIA degree is worth the money. I did my externship at Jean Georges and I'd estimate that 75% of the cooks working there were CIA grads and yes, the could definately cook their way out of a box. All but maybe 2 or 3 of the other cooks were trained at various other schools. I'm planning on returning there after I graduate in October, not sure if that would be possible without a major cooking school degree...chances are that my application would get a once over at best if I were fresh out of a community college culinary program.

Yes it all boils down to motivation and drive and hard work, but if you have that work ethic and a CIA degree, you will start off with the odds stacked in your favor, the rest is up to you.

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To be clear, I fully believe a CIA degree is worth the money. I did my externship at Jean Georges and I'd estimate that 75% of the cooks working there were CIA grads and yes, the could definately cook their way out of a box. All but maybe 2 or 3 of the other cooks were trained at various other schools. I'm planning on returning there after I graduate in October, not sure if that would be possible without a major cooking school degree...chances are that my application would get a once over at best if I were fresh out of a community college culinary program.

Out there in NewYorkLand it probably is different from where I'm coming from as a Pacific Northwesterner. I don't doubt that having a CIA degree is almost essential over there, since there are SO many restaurants, not to mention cutting edge, trendsetting, famous restaurants. New York is to the culinary world what Paris is to the fashion world. You also have more opportunities to make more money doing what you do in New York (as well as other big trend-setting metropolis' too). It probably makes more sense to go to CIA if you want to experience and be successful in the culinary competition there.

The bigger the town, the tougher the competition, and in a place where you need every single thing on a resume to edge out other job applicants, a CIA degree will probably get you a second look.

My years in the industry have made me quite cynical. When I see "CIA" or any other culinary school on a resume, like I said, it gives me hope, but it's no guarantee as far as I'm concerned.

You can talk the talk all you want, but once you show me what you've got in the kitchen, then I'm convinced. Put everyone on the same playing field and you can pick the winners from the losers pretty quick as opposed to what you see on their resumes. You can tell who really has the drive and who doesn't.

No question, a CIA degree will open doors. But I'm more concerned with what you do once you get in the door.

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It makes all the difference of where you go to school - I have had doors open to me as a CIA grad ONLY because of the calibur of the program - Yes some people get out of there not very "good" cooks - but the foundation is better than anyone - Yes an education IS what you make of it anywhere you go - business school, law school etc - but as a career changer myself coming from medical line - Harvard Med school grads got much more attention than other schools- so these people that slam the CIA and JW or some art intitute or FCI they are all f---ed in the head.  Grads from the better schools will get in the door to places.  Ask any law firm if they interview people from HArvard law school or a night class grad and see what they say - I learned from 6 CMCs - does the community college have that kind of pull - hell no.

As far as the CIA - they have lots of endowed scholarships.  Call them and ask.  I was lucky enough that I made good money in my other job before I left that field that I did not have to take any loans.  Also - ACF local chapters.  Country clubs may have some help for you - don't give up - I am 38 yrs old - do not qualify for many things because I already have a bachelors degree - but they found a few things to help - they all do = call the places you want to go and ask...

i know this topic has been covered an infinite number of times. it really brings out the emotion in everyone...especially if you've spent the money to go to one of the 'big name' schools. but i have to respectfully disagree. there's absolutely nothing wrong with a community college program. however, even the community colleges have better and worse culinary programs. out here in the west, orange coast college in southern california produces some stellar grads and the program is pretty well known. also, in hawaii, kapiolani community college is spending some serious money to upgrade its already great program.

unfortunately, i think that the popularization of culinary school due to television 'star' chefs and reality shows has made any culinary school grad a little questionable. the only way to prove that you're truly passionate about what you're doing and what you've learned (regardless of where it happened) is to show it on the job. trust me when i say that top notch chefs look more at how you work in a kitchen than where you went to school. and yes, top notch chefs do sometimes make a judgment about you based on your resume with the big name school on it...and the judgment is usually negative. that is just how it is.

put your nose to the grindstone and don't walk into a place with a sense of entitlement regardless of where you decide to spend your money (or even better, if you don't spend any money) and you'll learn tons and probably be better off for it. especially considering how much (or how LITTLE) money you'll be making in the industry.

edited to add: regarding chefpeon and Tiny's posts above...having worked in nyc and having many contacts in the city...it is no different than anywhere else. the name doesn't get you in the door. it is how you work. if there was a way to really find out how these people got hired, i'd be willing to bet that the reason so many cia grads are represented is due to the sheer number of grads they're spitting out relative to other people who find their way into cooking via different avenues. it really doesn't have much to do with sifting through resumes and saying "wow, here's another cia grad, let's call them and ignore everyone else".

Edited by alanamoana (log)
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I guess all of you are right I am wrong. A harvard grad over a Jo Bob Tech means nothing. A culinary school with great chefs as oppoesed to the homes ec teacher that dopubles as the coach - you are all right - I find people that don;t have degrees from these name brand schools so defensive. Yeah I think a guy that has been cooking for 20 years in his family place knows how to do a lot more that say a 20 yr old kid out of a culinary school.

I really could care less about you NOT thinking that it does not open doors,,it did open doors for me. I am living freakin proof that 90% of my interviews were for a couple of CIA reasons - first the Exec Chef themsleves were a grad - second - because they had some sort of affiliation with one of the very well known chefs - of the largest concentration of the best chefs in the world not to mention the CMCs, CMPC and CMBs or the author chefs that write most of the books outling the basic fundamentals...

I believe that the CIA gives everyone that graduates somewhat of a heightened sense of pride. This can be bad to the people that are going to culinary schools for the worng reasons, but I didn't. The campus alone gives first time visitors a strange and overwhelming feeling. The people that work at the CIA and especially graduates call the best culinary school in the world, out of respect for the other schools it is probably a debatable topic. I can say that graduates have a huge step up on other chef training programs for one of the following reasons. Being a graduate myself I was instructed by some of the best chefs in the world in the short, 2 year program, time frame I was there. I was lucky enough to have 3 Certified Master Chefs and a Certified Master Baker in my rotation at the school. That is not to mention the European chef instructors that had certifications from the country they were once from. No other school can say that they have that kind of arsenal. While on extern I had the opportunity to work for a CIA Alum who had externs from all over the U.S. and the world. And while my 2 years flew by, I graduated before I knew what had happened. But the core values of a CIA graduate, sticks with you as soon as you start looking for a job. The first is the sense of perfection in everything that you do in a kitchen, which in turn affects all other parts of your life. The instructors at the CIA are perfectionists. The class recipes that are performed while a student are done perfectly, or not at all, or until you do it right. This mindset sticks with you every time you do anything. Second is the pride you have as a graduate. This sometimes can be seen in the world as ego, but I think it is taken the wrong way in some respects. Do I know I am a CIA graduate? Yes. Do I know that I got the best training that I myself paid for? Yes. Do I know that my education is as good as the other guy that graduated from some other program? Yes and I am making the most of it. Your education is what you make it over the long run. But I am humble and look to learn something everyday. The CIA made me think. Makes me question why that happened or how I can make it better, or answer questions and pass on the “by the book” education I received, so I can make where ever I am a better place. Last, the alumni. I join the ranks of many great chef, good chefs and graduates not even cooking anymore that have been a part of a great education at the CIA.

SO you guys that run into CIA grads - sure some people get through by the skin of thei a-- -- I didn't. I push the boundary of food everyday. I throw new stuff to my crew daily to see reactions and criticisms. Constantly reading to see new techniques and so on. So it pisses me off to have you people that literally trash the CIA, J/W and FCI becasue you elected to go another route. IT is what you make it after you get out but if you think that those schols don't open doors, then the place you work is too closed minded for me, warn me if I ever do. I want to learn and I want to pass on things to the people I work with. Great Chefs have to start somewhere and the negativity towards culinary schools to potential great chefs is very alarming to me.

Oh an by the way you bakers and non food people that are slamming culinary programs should be ashamed of yourselves. We need good people and to trash talk when you have no clue what it is all about - shame

Edited by Jakea222 (log)
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Jake......

you are overreacting big time. I think you sort of need to calm down and really read what we are saying. We aren't trashing the CIA! The basic point being made is that chefs such as myself are trusted with the task of getting the food out. We need to make smart decisions about our crews because our heads are on the block so to speak. I've been in this business long enough to know that words on paper.....whether they say CIA or Anytown Community College are just words....valuable words to be sure, but they offer no guarantees about the person applying for the job!

I'm sure you're one of the stellar grads from the CIA....that's great.....you are the example I was talking about earlier; taking your education and running with it. Awesome. The world is your oyster.

But not everyone is you. I have to deal with what comes my way too, and I've learned from my experience that hiring someone based on what a resume says can be a big mistake. Which is why I audition all my candidates. Tells me all I really need and want to know. I need to depend on my crew so I have to choose them carefully.

I know you are sort of upset and probably might have said things off the cuff, but I really take exception to this statement:

Oh an by the way you bakers and non food people that are slamming culinary programs should be ashamed of yourselves. We need good people and to trash talk when you have no clue what it is all about.

One, we aren't slamming culinary programs;

and two, why are you categorizing bakers with non-food people?

The only person doing any trash talking on this thread is you, my friend.

I have a solid culinary background, both from school AND 18 years of work experience. I think I *do* have a clue. :wink:

Pastry chefs work just as hard as you on the hot side....never forget that!

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I guess all of you are right I am wrong.  A harvard grad over a Jo Bob Tech means nothing.  A culinary school with great chefs as oppoesed to the homes ec teacher that dopubles as the coach - you are all right - I find people that don;t have degrees from these name brand schools so defensive.  Yeah I think a guy that has been cooking for 20 years in his family place knows how to do a lot more that say a 20 yr old kid out of a culinary school.

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

"I... like... FOOD!" -Red Valkyrie, Gauntlet Legends-

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So, as a follow up.

I just got off the phone with some other admissions councilor about my decision to not enroll. She said she is required to call to make sure I want to do this (i.e. convince me to stay), and her methods seemed quite ruthless.

She actually guaranteed me that 5 years from now with no culinary diploma I will be stuck making the same hourly wage I am making now with no big name places giving my application a second look. I find this odd considering the chef at my current restaurant looks to me, on salads/deserts (Hey, don't laugh, I'm just starting out!) for ideas for specials and ideas using not so common ingredients for the area. Hell, he even asks my opinion personally on anything new he cooks because he knows I care about what we do and will give him an honest opinion.

I flat out told her what you guys said about ambition and hard work over a diploma, and she assumed I was speaking with other cooks from Alabama, and when I mentioned it wasn't she was quite taken back.

I think I've made the right choice for now. Of course a CIA diploma would help me if I decide to go there, but I just can't afford it right now unless I got close to a free ride, but I'll totally look into it. But I also think you can build up your own resume and connections over time. When it comes down to it, CIA/JW/etc are great schools, but they are really just jump starts.

I do find it funny that the admissions lady said I'll never get a good job with no diploma, and mentioned big hotels specifically, when I already have a cook job and possibly a supervisor position lined up for June (when I graduate from college + move) thanks to my own connections.

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So, as a follow up.

I just got off the phone with some other admissions councilor about my decision to not enroll. She said she is required to call to make sure I want to do this (i.e. convince me to  stay), and her methods seemed quite ruthless.

She actually guaranteed me that 5 years from now with no culinary diploma I will be stuck making the same hourly wage I am making now with no big name places giving my application a second look.

yeah, when someone is trying that hard to sell you a used car....

"Laughter is brightest where food is best."

www.chezcherie.com

Author of The I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook ,The I Love Trader Joe's Party Cookbook and The I Love Trader Joe's Around the World Cookbook

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Good cooks will make more money as opposed to poor cooks. Even after going to one of the big ones, and then doing apprenticeships in Japan(2 yrs), France(2 yrs), I came back and started back as a lead line cook. But my experience and skill advanced me, all thru hard work, professionalism, and overall focusing on my craft at the expense of all else.

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KevinS, what you're doing now is fine. Better than fine, actually.

Another thing I'd like to point out...and this is regardless of school/no school...is to have some dedication. What I mean by that is, get a job and stick with it (as long as it is a decent job) for as long as you can. At least a year if possible. Nothing like seeing a resume with 2months here, 3 months there, etc. Do what you can to learn everything you can from each place you work, even if it means learning what NOT to do. This will serve you better than a diploma in the long run. I've seen too many resumes where people have tried to work in every big name place they can think of...but they've only worked at each place for a very short period of time, always looking for the next place. They never give themselves a chance to advance and end up being a crappy line cook with a crappy attitude.

Of course, you can always stage at a bunch of places. When you're not working for any money, it doesn't matter how long you work!

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KevinS, what you're doing now is fine.  Better than fine, actually.

Another thing I'd like to point out...and this is regardless of school/no school...is to have some dedication.  What I mean by that is, get a job and stick with it (as long as it is a decent job) for as long as you can.  At least a year if possible.  Nothing like seeing a resume with 2months here, 3 months there, etc.  Do what you can to learn everything you can from each place you work, even if it means learning what NOT to do.  This will serve you better than a diploma in the long run.  I've seen too many resumes where people have tried to work in every big name place they can think of...but they've only worked at each place for a very short period of time, always looking for the next place.  They never give themselves a chance to advance and end up being a crappy line cook with a crappy attitude.

Of course, you can always stage at a bunch of places.  When you're not working for any money, it doesn't matter how long you work!

That's pretty much what I've been thinking. I am going to leave my first job after 6 months (June), but I told the boss long in advance and it's really only because I want to get the hell out of Alabama (also this will open up the CIA req if I decide on that). We're dead as far as food is concerned. So, instead I try to advance myself by reading as much as I possibly can and cooking as much at home as I possibly can to try to perfect my skills.

I've been trying to find new basic skills and perfect them as much as possible during my off time. I once made hollandaise every day for a week, and asparagus every meal to go with it. Got kinda old, but now I know how to make a great hollandaise and am much better at blanching that I once was. Practice, practice, practice.

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