Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Unrest at the CIA & the Import of Culinary Degrees


Tiny
 Share

Recommended Posts

I guess this would disqualify Heston Blumenthal from the Fat Duck in Bray, England (The 2nd best restaurant in the world) as he is SELF-TAUGHT:-)

If he came looking for a job (which he never would) I seriously doubt they would say "NO" to him:-)

It's actually quite surprising how many of the top chefs are self-taught. And very few top chefs have any schooling, most just came up through the trade. Guys like Alain Ducasse, Pierre Gagnaire, Michel Bras, Marc Veyrat, Ferran Adria, Heston Blumenthal, etc... - none of them have culinary 'degrees'.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think I've always considered a chef to be the guy creating all the great dishes and the cooks simply replicate the dishes following the chef's guidelines. Which is why when I managed a Waffle House, I was a manager who cooked and not a chef, even though I had all the responsibilities that a chef has plus some others as well.

I would never call myself a chef. I'm a cook who considers his food to be gourmet. I am however signed up to go a local community college culinary degree program (associate's) on the Hope grant here in Georgia. I then plan to find work in local kitchens in which I can stage and work on getting a ACF certification. The culinary program only excepts 5 candidates and I still need to take the compass to finish admissions.

I don't intend to grind out 20 years starting at the age of 44, in other kitchens. My intent is to make myself more attractive to banks and investors and start my own business (catering) and grind out 20 years of working hard to make mine a success. I'll do this on the side of my good paying job like Gfron did and when it gets to the point I can do it full time, you'll see much less postings from me as well.

Veni Vidi Vino - I came, I saw, I drank.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Although I am very new to this forum and to eGullet, the topic of culinary degrees is nothing new to me.

Here are my observations on the subject, based on my experience in the hopitatlity industry for last little while:

Cooking is a trade, period.

There is no national standard for cooking.  There is national criteria for other trades such as plumbers, electricians, gas fitters, etc, but not for cooks.

There are many schools that provide the training for cooks  Each school has it's own curriculum, text books, and methods.  Some schools pump out graduates in as little as 4 mths, some as long as 2 or even 3 years.  There is no standard to adhere to or to follow.  I take issue with the schools who claim that their graduates are "Chefs".  They are not.  They are graduates of cooking schools.

A "Chef", imho, is a manager, one that hires, fires, trains, sources, book-keeps, and genuflects before the Boss, F&B , GM, Resident Mngr, or whomever.  A "Chef" MUST be a competant cook in order to supervise, train, and demand from his/her staff.

There are no national standards for what a Chef must be responsible for.  Cooking is only one aspect--a given, just like it's a given that we can all read and write. The Chef must be able to book keep, have the basics of H.R., know the local labour codes, the local Worker's comp. codes, the health codes, the building codes, and above all,  be resourcefull.

There is no standards for a "Cook".  It seems to me that "Cook" in N. America is a dirty word, something to be ashamed of.  "Chef" sounds better and has been substituted for cook, ( and even turned into a verb too...)  and this causes a lot of confusion.

Thus,

The employer has no tools to guage an applicant on his/her resume.  A "degreee" can only suggest that the applicant is serious about his/her career, but that is all.

Never the less, it is a criteria that does seperate the wheat from the chaff.  Not a very good tool, but a tool none the less.

Unions.. Let's not go there... 

s

You must be American, for there surely is a national standard for a cook in Canada, it's called the Red Seal, and it's the same piece of paper you earn as a journeyman carpenter, tool and die maker, line man, plumber, or any other trade.

In a kitchen there can be only one 'chef', but there can be many professional (papered) cooks. They are not the same thing, and are not mutually inclusive.

All culinary programs across the nation lead to an apprenticeship, which leads to journeyman (Red Seal) certification. Google it, or go to www.red-seal.ca for more info.

I am very surprised that there is not a formal trade system in the US like this one.

-- Matt.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You must be American, for there surely is a national standard for a cook in Canada, it's called the Red Seal, and it's the same piece of paper you earn as a journeyman carpenter, tool and die maker, line man, plumber, or any other trade.

In a kitchen there can be only one 'chef', but there can be many professional (papered) cooks.  They are not the same thing, and are not mutually inclusive.

All culinary programs across the nation lead to an apprenticeship, which leads to journeyman (Red Seal) certification.  Google it, or go to www.red-seal.ca for more info.

I am very surprised that there is not a formal trade system in the US like this one.

-- Matt.

I don't mean to pick to many nits, but there often is several layers of "chefs" in a convential brigade - Executive Chef, Head Chef, Sous-Chef, Executive Sous-Chef at the level of management. In canada this labels get bastardized a lot - in a small restaurant with 75 seats the owner labeled his kitchen staff Executive Chef, Sous-Chef, then line cook (there were only 3 people in the kitchen). Then there is the new "Chef-de-Cuisine" that overseas all food production.

You are right there is only one person in charge the kitchen, but that could be the sous-chef (2nd in command), the head-chef or even the executive chef. It all depends on the operation.

The Red-Seal in Canada (imho) really only denotes a journeyman level cook - someone who hae completed apprenticeship. When I finished my apprenticeship in 1989 I was awarded the red-seal right away. When I interview prospective cooks I want them to have their journeymans papers as to me (again imho) it really only denotes their commitment to the industry and doesn't really state their cooking abilities.

Cheers

GB

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No, I'm a Canuck. Born in Sarnia, Ont., raised in S'toon, Sask., and apprenticed as a a cook in Luzern, Switzerland.

As a Chef and Employer, I don't hold much in stock for the "Red seal". The only thing it tells me is that the applicant has spent 3 or 4 years in the trade, it doesn't tell me that those years were without interuptions or that the applicant is in anyway serious about his trade.

Google "Wendys" (the burger chain...) in connection with "Red seal cooks" and see what you come up with....

True, the Red Seal is a piece of paper, a qualification of sorts, but it isn't a national standard, and it isn't very standard to begin with.

There are two ways to qualify to write the "Red Seal". The first is the "front door" method where you've completed a 3 year apprenticeship. The second way, the "back door" method, which is by far the more popular way is to "challange", in that you must prove that you've worked (currently in B.C. that is..) 8,100 hrs in the industry. The test costs $100.oo and (well, two years ago when I last checked) if you failed the first time you could write the test a second time for free.

The test itself is nothing more than a few hundred T/F or multiple choice questions. That's it. No actual cooking involved. For the Province of B.C. that is, as I have been corrected in other forums that the Province of Alberta requires an actual cooking element as part of the exam. This is a fair, intelligent, and neccesary part of an exam, to see how cooks cook, yet only one province out of 10 does it.

"Red seal" has always been used in sentences with "Chef". As a matter of fact "White Spot" ( a local pasta/burger chain) had an aggresive and TV ad series proudly proclaiming "We only hire "Red Seal Chefs".. They are not. They are "Red Seal" cooks.

So, for me, "Red Seal" is NOT a national standard, as Alberta has better qualifications, and other Provinces have different working hour requirments.

For me, the only test to guage applicants is to have them work 3 or 4 hours in the kitchen and watch how they move and what kind of questions they ask.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You must be American, for there surely is a national standard for a cook in Canada, it's called the Red Seal, and it's the same piece of paper you earn as a journeyman carpenter, tool and die maker, line man, plumber, or any other trade.

In a kitchen there can be only one 'chef', but there can be many professional (papered) cooks.  They are not the same thing, and are not mutually inclusive.

All culinary programs across the nation lead to an apprenticeship, which leads to journeyman (Red Seal) certification.  Google it, or go to www.red-seal.ca for more info.

I am very surprised that there is not a formal trade system in the US like this one.

-- Matt.

What's the point of the Red Seal? Every chef I know in Canada claims it's kind of useless. Why do some cooks get it?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No, I'm a Canuck.  Born in Sarnia, Ont., raised in S'toon, Sask., and apprenticed as a a cook in Luzern, Switzerland.

As a Chef and Employer, I don't hold much in stock for the "Red seal".  The only thing it tells me is that the applicant has spent 3 or 4 years in the trade, it doesn't tell me that those years were without interuptions or that the applicant is in anyway serious about his trade.

Google "Wendys" (the burger chain...) in connection with "Red seal cooks" and see what you come up with....

True, the Red Seal is a piece of paper, a qualification of sorts, but it isn't a national standard, and it isn't very standard to begin with.

There are two ways to qualify to write the "Red Seal".  The first is the "front door" method where you've completed a 3 year apprenticeship.  The second way, the "back door" method, which is by far the more popular way is to "challange", in that you must prove that you've worked (currently in B.C. that is..) 8,100 hrs in the industry. The test costs $100.oo and (well, two years ago when I last checked) if you failed the first time you could write the test a second time for free.

The test itself is nothing more than a few hundred T/F or multiple choice questions.  That's it.  No actual cooking involved.  For the Province of B.C. that is, as I have been corrected in other forums that the Province of Alberta requires an actual cooking element  as part of the exam.  This is a fair, intelligent, and neccesary part of an exam, to see how cooks cook,  yet only one province out of 10 does it.

"Red seal" has always been used in sentences with "Chef".  As a matter of fact "White Spot" ( a local pasta/burger chain) had an aggresive and TV ad series proudly proclaiming "We only hire "Red Seal Chefs".. They are not.  They are "Red Seal" cooks.

So, for me, "Red Seal" is NOT a national standard, as Alberta has better qualifications, and other Provinces have different working hour requirments. 

For me, the only test to guage applicants is to have them work 3 or 4 hours in the kitchen and watch how they move and what kind of questions they ask.

Totally. My first restaurant job was at a Joey Tomato's, and they told me that they were preening me to take the Red Seal test. Knowing what I know now in kitchens, and being as far as I am now, I see the Red Seal in a more realistic light (realistic as to how it reflects in REAL kitchens), and I've just got to say that the Red Seal is utter crap. And this is from someone from Alberta. If you've taken the SAT or the Stat 9s, then you'll be alright for a T/F Red Seal test.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What's the point of the Red Seal? Every chef I know in Canada claims it's kind of useless. Why do some cooks get it?

Why? Because it is SOME form of a qualification, not a very good one, but still a qualification.

Because of this, many HR dept.'s and hiring mangers insist on the applicant having this paper. In many cases it's the deciding factor between $8 per hr and $14 per hr. Most HR people don't know it's just a bunch of multiple choice questions. The Chefs, on the other hand just roll their eyes at the mention of "Red Seal".

Like I said in the previous post, it's wild west out there as far as some form of acknowledgement/certification goes for cooks. Every cooking school does thier own thing.,

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This may be a side issue relative to most of the above discussions, but I'm wondering if it is similarly related to some of the schools other apparent direction and problems, and that is regarding the Enthusiast's continuing education program. I am a long-time serious amateur who had enjoyed taking classes over the years. It appears that most of the classes have disappeared in favor of different forms of their Boot Camp experience, which I have avoided, as my perception is that they either too elementary or focused on giving the participants a wannabe chef experience. I always did feel, however, that the classes did focus on many of the school's professional goals that they transmitted to the enthusiasts-e.g. mise en place, sanitation, organization, timeliness of service, presentation, techniques, etc. which to me were more important than any recipe learned that day. The single day Boot Camp courses are longer, but way more expensive and less interesting than before. There seems to be less and less of interest for the serious amateur. So again, not to divert the tone of the above discussion, focused on the professional graduates and the current pro student's situation, I still can't help wonder if the situation regarding the Enthusiast's program doesn't reflect the same inner turmoil and problems facing the school today. Hope everything works out for the best.

Mark A. Bauman

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

(raise your hand if you believe that no one is "self-taught")

Said it before and I'll say it again. CIA is a great school but let's not get carried away. It is neither critical nor necessary to get a an education from the CIA to succeed in the culinary profession.

Either you can do it or you can't.

CIA is a not just a school but a BRAND. People champion the BRAND, but the above subject matter brings the quality foundation of the brand into question.

The only thing a formal culinary education insures is a proven commitment to industry and a sometimes a good bit of debt on the side.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...