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Outlook for schooling grim


Wesley1
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I recently started my culinary arts degree at a local community college. I was excited upon entry into the course, but recently received information from a student due to finish up his degree. He told me that the course was essentially "useless" and that the "chefs" knew nothing. He told me that anything i expected to learn i would have to learn on my own.

I know that the "chefs" are both certified. somewhere. But from what ive learned neither has had any real experience in a kitchen. They have only been in management positions not a "chef" or even a cook for that matter. This, to me, is shameful. The "chef" merely talks about Hells Kitchen being a poor outline for management and gives us information about working in the kitchen like "its ok to take a sick day" or "everybody wants the job with the least work and the most pay, right?" Right.

And in all this, im beginning to wonder, what am i here for? Cant I learn on the job? Read a book to learn these things? or should i stick it out for the highly coveted "degree"?

My point is, and i know this has arisen countless time on this site, i dont know which would be the best way to spend my time, in the kitchen or at a desk. If all im expecting out of school is paper saying ive been in school, then what is the purpose?

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Dear Wesley: Breathe in, breathe out, and I'm not making fun.

Have you learned things from your classwork that you didn't know before? Does your schooling make you feel a bit more confident before your plunge into the Real World? (Better a Community College class than a fancy degree from you-know where- that's gonna pile up years of student loans.)

Keep reading books, keep the faith, and be a cook.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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You just stepped into a big pile of life, I guess.

Look, this is N. America, O.K.? Cooking is not a recognised trade, there are no national standards, every school does what it wants, and answers to nobody. And the word "Chef", it's a free-for-all title, you just need a poofy white hat and memorize what ever was on the FoodChannel last night.

Stick it out in school for a while. "Challange" the "Chefs/instructors" by asking them questions, get them to demostrate techniques. Throw away the TV and read, read alot: James Peterson's "sauces", The C.I.A.S's The New professional Chef", Pauli's "Classical Cooking the modern way", Escoffier--for background, Larousse Gastronomique, and on and on. I'm sure other posters will submit many other instrumental books.

If you find you don't like cooking and want management , you can still do it in the hospitality industry. I've worked for many excellent Chefs who were only decent cooks.(A chef is the guy who hires, fires, designs menus, and keeps his eye on the gas guage and speedometer--the food and the labour costs. A cook, cooks) But in order for a good Chef to instruct and supervise s/he MUST know how it's done properly.

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I am actually nearing the end of my culinary school program. I'm working on a professional cooking certificate (not a degree) because I already have bachelors and masters degrees in another field.

Due to disappointment with the average quality of the education at my school, I would have quit some time ago but recently I have found 1 or 2 great chefs that have taught me a TON during my last two semesters. I think its more about their passion for food and cooking than about their experience in the kitchen. However they both have alot of experience in the kitchen. They are all CEC's at my school but the difference in their dedication to the profession and quality of our education is staggering.

Do you have a job? If I were you, I would go out and do everything that you can to get a job (now) at a place that most closely matches your ambitions for the future. Even when I got a degree in business, I never learned more than on the job. The classroom is only a classroom.

If you don't have a degree yet, and are working toward an associate's, I would not encourage you to quit. Yes, its a piece of paper, but it can open doors that would otherwise stay closed. Instead I would question what the other student's qualifications/motivations were for providing the critique that he/she did. Yet he/she stuck with it and finished???

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I don't care what your major is or what school you go to ... if you want to get the biggest bang for your buck, you have to supplement your schoolwork with either additional study or even better, get a job in your field to garner more experience.

I can't tell you how many graduate students (non-culinary fields obviously) who were about to obtain their Master's degree but had not had an actual industry job who had a very hard time answering some very basic questions. Schooling only gets you so far.

As for the schooling itself, you have to decide if the value of the classes is worth the money you are paying.

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I'm starting the community college culinary degree program as well this fall (hopefully). I know what I want out of it. I expect to hone some skills I've let dull and immerse myself in more classical french training that I feel I've sorely missed. I also have figured out that the first two years of college to get the associate's degree can happen anywhere, so why not make it culinary. I plan on applying to a better known college to get a bachelor's in business to top it off. All the while working on progressing a part time catering gig if I can get that ball rolling. I've done a couple already. I learned alot just from planning and executing.

I do think these days you need a diploma to be considered no matter what you do. It will cut years off of working up the chain in the food biz as long as you go get work experience at the same time.

Veni Vidi Vino - I came, I saw, I drank.
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I recently started my culinary arts degree at a local community college. I was excited upon entry into the course, but recently received information from a student due to finish up his degree. He told me that the course was essentially "useless" and that the "chefs" knew nothing. He told me that anything i expected to learn i would have to learn on my own.

I wouldn't let the opinion of one, possibly dissatisfied, individual devalue my entire educational experience. Cooking school is sort of like an outline for the first chapter of a novel that you alone have to write the entire body of. Some outlines are more developed or more informed than others, but it is ultimately up to you to fill in the gaps and expand the concept, working, reading, eating and thinking along the way so that your version of the novel is the version that satisfies you the most.

If the chef-instructors aren't adding up to your expectations, have fun with it, learn more and challenge the hell out of them. You'll probably get more out of trying to be a smart aleck with these guys than abosrbing and regurgitating what a seemingly more qualified instructor might gently spoon into your mouth, agape with awe, no questions asked on your part.

Keep the faith!

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Dear Wesley: Breathe in, breathe out, and I'm not making fun.

Have you learned things from your classwork that you didn't know before? Does your schooling make you feel a bit more confident before your plunge into the Real World? (Better a Community College class than a fancy degree  from you-know where- that's gonna pile up years of student loans.)

Keep reading books, keep the faith, and be a cook.

Ive been working in the business for a couple years now. This class has done nothing for my confidence except in relation to job security.

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I recently started my culinary arts degree at a local community college. I was excited upon entry into the course, but recently received information from a student due to finish up his degree. He told me that the course was essentially "useless" and that the "chefs" knew nothing. He told me that anything i expected to learn i would have to learn on my own.

I wouldn't let the opinion of one, possibly dissatisfied, individual devalue my entire educational experience. Cooking school is sort of like an outline for the first chapter of a novel that you alone have to write the entire body of. Some outlines are more developed or more informed than others, but it is ultimately up to you to fill in the gaps and expand the concept, working, reading, eating and thinking along the way so that your version of the novel is the version that satisfies you the most.

If the chef-instructors aren't adding up to your expectations, have fun with it, learn more and challenge the hell out of them. You'll probably get more out of trying to be a smart aleck with these guys than abosrbing and regurgitating what a seemingly more qualified instructor might gently spoon into your mouth, agape with awe, no questions asked on your part.

Keep the faith!

Challenging them seems to me like the best option. Perhaps ill learn that they are as under qualified as had originally thought. Or perhaps they are simplifying for the class.

Thanks, Wes

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While I'm by no means the standard by which you should set your compass, I am completely self-taught, and much of it here in eG. I now run my own restaurant and and push out the sandwiches, but I can also put out the 12-course tasting menus (see the topic on this past weekend's Silver City event). I believe that you can do it all without a degree or certificate, BUT, schooling, even by inexperienced instructors can't help but be useful. And the degree/certificate will never close a door to you, but in many cases will be the ticket in.

Stick it out. Learn from outside sources. Bring those sources to your classes to supplement (I don't think challenge in the appropriate tone) the info. What you put in is what you'll get out.

Good luck

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I recently started my culinary arts degree at a local community college.

Uh...what did you expect? :unsure:

I know, I know. But I don't expect a poor math teacher or English teacher. I expected some level of expertise beyond the Food Handlers Safety Guide and The basic overviews of the "On Cooking" text.

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I recently started my culinary arts degree at a local community college.

Uh...what did you expect? :unsure:

That is a pretty negative response considering some really great culinary programs are at community colleges: Orange Coast College in Southern California and Kapiolani Community College in Hawaii to name only two. Both of these schools could put many overpriced culinary schools to shame.

School, in general, is only as good as what you put into it. I mean, we don't shun Yale because of a certain someone who "graduated" from there.

Edited by alanamoana (log)
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I recently started my culinary arts degree at a local community college.

Uh...what did you expect? :unsure:

That is a pretty negative response considering some really great culinary programs are at community colleges: Orange Coast College in Southern California and Kapiolani Community College in Hawaii to name only two. Both of these schools could put many overpriced culinary schools to shame.

School, in general, is only as good as what you put into it. I mean, we don't shun Yale because of a certain someone who "graduated" from there.

This also a little insulting considering that not everyone has access (geographical or monetary) to the more "worthy" institutions. As a community school grad, I have worked alongside CIA, LCB, AI and J&W grads and they are no better or worse than my former classmates.

I agree, you get out what you put in, and I'm not just talking about the money.

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I agree. This has been mentioned to death through out the school threads. For some, the "name" schools were the highlight of their career, for others they were just a stepping stone. Its up to you which camp you choose to fall into.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I went into class, for the "stocks and sauces" portion. We were told that "stock" in their kitchen meant, " 1 T. base to 1 Qt. water" and that we should know how to make stock because "it's important" but that we wouldnt be making any in class. We were told that we have to make the personal decision to make our own stock, it is apparently a moral issue.

My biggest problem is that they dont show us the best way to do something, the right way, then tell us that if we wanted to use a base we could learn that on our own time.

So... I dropped the degree.

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Wes - in anything you have to do your homework. You should have and it is all hind site now - but looking in to a program before you start should have been a top priority especially since it is by far an expensive thing to take on in any type of degree.

The questions you have now are where or what to do from here. Some comm colleges have some real good programs and you chose unwisely - so do you stop and do the "school of hard knocks" where you can expect to start washing dishes and doing prep which nothing wrong with that - or do you pick yourself up and go to another program.

I think you posted on this "what to do" and I think and I could be wrong that lots of opinions hit you from CIA grads to self taughts - so now you know - if it makes any difference - I am a CIA grad and I am proud of that - but I have worked for some poor places where people have told me that they are real good and well - I was like you are now - they were blowing sunshine up my a--.

So take a day - get your head back on and then come up with a battle plan - giving up on your passion will hurt you no mater what - so get moving man - quit telling this group - get your head back on and follow your passion!

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You know what? I spent my formative years doing political campaigns. Campaign work is a profession a lot like cooking. It attracts freaks, weirdos, malcontents and idealists. Entry level positions pay little or or nothing and the hours are grotesque. There's a huge premium for competence, as opposed to credentials. And the people who do it well, do it because they believe in something, not just because it pays the rent.

Now, my own particular alma mater offers a degree these days in political campaign management, which we didn't have back in myday. But when my kid got the bug, God help him, I told to screw that: if he wanted to do politics, he should do politics. And so at 17 he went off to Maryland and then Pennsylvania and slept on the floor and smoked too much and didn't have a date and worked seven days a week and lost two campaigns.

But now, he's back at it. He's making a little scratch, not much, but he's still too young to drink and still works 15-hour days, so it's plenty. He has responsibilities. He might win. And he got there because some guy he worked with in Pennsylvania two years ago liked his work, and remembered his name.

So, I guess what I'm saying is that if you're not satisfied with your community college course -- and, from what I have read on this board, a lot of culinary programs are pretty poor -- why not move to a town where there is a critical mass of decent restaurants and do whatever it takes to get into a decent kitchen. If nothing else, at least you won't have to pay them to work.

I know it isn't necessarily easy. But I had a buddy who started out doing scut work in a good restaurant here in town for free, without losing his day job. He's at the CIA now -- if he's not coming up through the ranks a la Jacques Pepin, he's at least at a place whose degree will open doors. Thomas Keller's culinary path was determined by a mother who needed a cook when the cook at the restaurant she was managing quit -- he used to call his big brother up to talk him through the Hollandaise sauce for the brunch Eggs Benedict -- and, later, an old school chef who put him to work making shift meals for the staff. The two best restaurants I ever waited tables for (back in the 80s, in DC) had chefs who never went to cooking school.

I have drinking buddies who went to the CIA, they are excellent -- one is brilliant -- chefs. But if the money and the hassle makes attending a name school unlikely, why not take the route Thomas Keller did, and learn to cook in a kitchen, not a classroom?

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Wes - in anything you have to do your homework.  You should have and it is all hind site now - but looking in to a program before you start should have been a top priority especially since it is by far an expensive thing to take on in any type of degree.

The questions you have now are where or what to do from here.  Some comm colleges have some real good programs and you chose unwisely - so do you stop and do the "school of hard knocks" where you can expect to start washing dishes and doing prep which nothing wrong with that - or do you pick yourself up and go to another program.

I think you posted on this "what to do" and I think and I could be wrong that lots of opinions hit you from CIA grads to self taughts - so now you know - if it makes any difference - I am a CIA grad and I am proud of that - but I have worked for some poor places where people have told me that they are real good and well - I was like you are now - they were blowing sunshine up my a--.

So take a day - get your head back on and then come up with a battle plan - giving up on your passion will hurt you no mater what - so get moving man - quit telling this group - get your head back on and follow your passion!

I have two good kitchen positions, one that i worked out of the dishroom for; so its never going to be a matter og being out of the game, i only need to decide whether school is a better option then good old-fashioned hard work.

Thanks.

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I have two good kitchen positions, one that i worked out of the dishroom for; so its never going to be a matter og being out of the game, i only need to decide whether school is a better option then good old-fashioned hard work.

In some industries, having a degree, any degree, will help you to get a visa for working abroad, if that is something you'd like to do. One of my (few) educational regrets is not getting my BA or BSc. earlier on in life.

FWIW, I now run my own busines, cooking and teach cooking. No degree, no "professional culinary" training, just lots of practice, lots of questions, and a lot of scientific process.. Few, if any, clients or students ask for my credentials. No, I've never cooked in a restaurant. But then, I never wanted to, either.

Reaching the 1/2 century mark in a couple of weeks. Any very happy w/ life.

Karen Dar Woon

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You sound like you are getting closer to figuring it out - take time to figure out a plan and then follow it -

Are you serious?

serious about what?

Not sure what the question was either - Wes - you know what you want - you just have to figure out HOW to get to where you want to be - and do it --- it is passion that drives chefs not money (even though it is very nice) I love what I do not becasue of the Exec being jealous of my work, or the yelling at why I orederd what I did or the notes I leave for the staff to remind them - I do it becasue I want to look good and I want my crew to feel good about what they do...

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