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Four-year college or culinary school?


Harry91
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The alumni department doesnt do as good of a job as they say they do. They have records for everyone but unless someone updates their information it never gets changed. There were no listed CIA grads in my county growing up, but somehow I was able to work with eight, strange right.

Since I lived in Palm Beach around two years ago I can honestly say there are far more than one in that county. The executive chef of The Breakers is an alumni plus five leading chefs and pastry chefs, not to mention dozens of alumni cooks.

I am sure Cafe Boulud has a couple CIA Alumni as well. I just met Wes Holton who was an alumni and he just came from the cafe in palm beach, he is the chef at the brasserie here in Vegas so I woudn't doubt whoever took his place is an alumni, or someone under that person. You can also check out L'Europe. Hell if your birthday is right around the corner you might as well just say you are 18, for a staige you don't have to file any paper work.

If I had to do it all over again without the edge I had, I would probably take a dishwasher job. Get the cleaning work done quickly and ask to cut some vegetables or something. Next thing you know you are putting together a lot of recipes and base work for sauces, soon enough someone will quit and they will show you how to execute the remaining portion of the pantry position. Next thing you know there is a new dishwasher and you and making salads and tuna tartare.

I know there are a lot of little simple places in florida. apply to duffy's sports bar and cooks some quesadillas and hamburgers. You have to try and make friends with people already working somewhere. People who know you are more likely to try you out. There is a level of psychology that if you are close to someone, they don't mind helping you because by helping you they feel they are helping themself. Ask your parents, family, neighbors or anyone you are connected with if they can get you a lead into a kitchen. Your first job doesn't have to be glamorous, but if you could steer away from the fast food, I would.

Dean Anthony Anderson

"If all you have to eat is an egg, you had better know how to cook it properly" ~ Herve This

Pastry Chef: One If By Land Two If By Sea

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....  but if you could steer away from the fast food, I would.

As stated earlier, I believe fast food is a great environment for a seventeen year old who wants to get a start in the restaurant business.

Resume wise, it shows a drive to learn the business and a work ethic.

Experience wise, expanding on what I said above, he will get a feel for the pressure of food turnout, he will do some prep, he will wash pots and equipment and push a mop, he will gain respect for mise en place, prep, food storage and handling, and he will understand the importance of customer service.

Speaking from personal experience (Wetson's Drive-In between my junior and senior year in high school) a fast food restaurant is not a bad first job for someone interested in the restaurant business.

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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If you really want ANYTHING, you'll do whatever you can for it. I don't think that this kid should think of himself as having to jump into it so quickly. There's a bad habit in the US to think that right out of high school you must know everything about yourself and everything that you want to be/do in life. The sad fact is, though, that the majority of people don't learn who they are and what they want to do until they're 23-27years old. That's the period where we go through the most change.

Yeah, it helps that you have an idea that you want to get into the food industry now, but it is hard, and it is for a select group of people to excel (just like accounting is for a select group to excel, or carpentry, or any career out there). If you want to be better than simply good at something, then pursue what you like. If you don't know what you like, then try something (say cooking) and if that doesn't work out, then try something else.

I'd suggest the time off in between high school and Uni for that fact. It'll give you that extra year to figure out what you like and if cooking is REALLY what you want to get into. You don't have to enter this business at such a young age because regardless of how old/young you are, there will ALWAYS be someone younger and better than you. . . that's just a fact of life. That being said, it helps to have the speed and wits of youth about you to get yourself moving up the ladder quickly.

I guess what I'm trying to say is relax, enjoy your last few years as a kid, and don't let people who don't even know you tell you where your passions lie. Let yourself figure that out. I sound like a hippy, don't I? In truth, I'm just some young kid who dropped out of University after two years and ended up in kitchens because it was what I wanted to do, and I haven't looked back since.

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having now read the entire thread...

I don't understand why there should be a conflict between Orchestra and Work. Engaging in creative, committed work outside of one's vocation demonstrates supreme work ethic and dedication. Besides, practicing music as an art form can inform one's other work. Or, one could zone out into Beethoven's 9th while working on the Canape 500 during cocktail party season :raz:

The major fast food chains have fine-tuned training programs, and employee mentoring for management positions. There is much to be learned here.

FWIW, I didn't start cooking professionally until I was 45, after training and working in GeoChem (good experiences for bakers and confectioners), Graphic Arts (artistic influence) and direct Sales (helps to sell your business). I'm happy, and don't think that any of it was a waste of time.

Karen Dar Woon

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I mean college is fun.. You certainly will drink a lot of beer and meet lots of pretty girls.. Thats reason enough.. Work in a kitchen as you go to school.. Then when you get out of college maybe you find that you would rather be a DR.. Or maybe you can take business courses so you can learn how to open a chain of restaurants, or a restaurant supply company, or learn how to do the books for one small restaurant..

Take accounting and business classes.. Then go to cooking school and learn how to cook.. You have a long life ahead of you and you can never go wrong learning things.

Edited by Daniel (log)
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Your best bet is going to be getting as much experience as possible. In the end sure El Bulli does hire a couple food scientists, but getting that job is like winning the lottery. Majority of people that work there worked their butts off for the last 5-10 years and met the right people. For the restaurants you are looking at, elbulli and alinea, they are going to take either a person with tons of experience in the best restaurants in the world or someone who knows somebody. So start working at the best possible place you can, whether thats the best restaurant in your small town or w/e, and work your butt off, make connections and maybe someday you can work in one of those kitchens.

Places like Alinea have waiting lists for people that want to work there, and every person on that list has already worked at a couple michelin starred places. El bulli brings in only like 40-60 cooks a season with them getting about 1000 resumes for each one of those spots.

As far as schooling goes, go to a place that offers degree programs in culinary and and get an AS in Culinary and a BS in nutrition, management, etc.

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I saw a post on this site a while ago talking about "Unrest at the CIA". Apparently the school has been going downhill lately (in terms of education going down, cost still going up).

As a senior in high school who is applying to colleges, I was wondering if there have been any more developments at the CIA.

My original "education plan", was to go to Cornell University for 4 years and major in Food Science, and then go to CIA for an AOS degree in Culinary Arts.

If I don't get into Cornell, I do have backups (UF--cause I live in Florida, Purdue, Penn State), but wasn't sure whether it would be worth it to apply/attend the CIA.

So from what you guys have heard recently, is it still worth the money? If I do go, is the 2 year degree a smarter choice than the 4 year?

To put this into perspective:

El Bulli, Alinea, restaurants that use a lot of molecular gastronomy and crazy ass science techniques, hire one or two "food science chefs", who develop new techniques for their restaurants. My goal is to work for one of those restaurants as one of those chefs. I figure the best way to get there is a college education in food science, and a hell of a lot of cooking experience.

First of all nowhere did i see you mention the two years of work experience that is needed to get into the Culinary. Secondly, the best suggestion that i can give you is to go to the CIA and do the 4 year program. that way you get not only the cooking aspect of the culinary, but the business aspect of the education. there are many different programs that the CIA offers in there 4 year degree program that will be beneficial to you in the course of your career. (cause god knows not everyone wants to be a commis for the rest of your life)

Let me know if you have anymore questions

chefjgates@yahoo.com

Not to single you out Gates, but i don't necessarily agree with your comment... yes the AoS degree is great from the CiA as i am a graduate. I did want to do the 4 year program but the prices there are Ivy League prices!! at community college education!! Remember the CiA has only been having a bachelors program for way less then 8 years, where in other schools like Cornell (which you can transfer your CiA credits) have been having a pride and proven bachelors program for many many years.

i agree with Holly's comment of Where do you want to end up? Which in retrospect is the most important question to ask yourself.

The AoS program at the CIA will prepare you for the restaurant with everything you need, but it is very expensive.

I went in with illusions of grandeur, no one ever told me cooking is never going to make you rich, unless your the 1% that got lucky. And cooked my ass off i did, i worked in NYC, ive cooked in California. And i hardly made enough money to do anything other then pay bills.

However i did use my culinary degree to go into food sales, that actually made me more money 1 year out of school then the 4 year program kids will make in the next 3 years out of school.

There are many other aspects of the culinary industry other then cooking, and serving. Be sure its what you want, be sure your just not some stoner looking for better munchies in the future.

**********************************************

I may be in the gutter, but I am still staring at the stars.

**********************************************

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having now read the entire thread...

I don't understand why there should be a conflict between Orchestra and Work. Engaging in creative, committed work outside of one's vocation demonstrates supreme work ethic and dedication. Besides, practicing music as an art form can inform one's other work. Or, one could zone out into Beethoven's 9th while working on the Canape 500 during cocktail party season :raz:

The major fast food chains have fine-tuned training programs, and employee mentoring for management positions. There is much to be learned here.

FWIW, I didn't start cooking professionally until I was 45, after training and working in GeoChem (good experiences for bakers and confectioners), Graphic Arts (artistic influence) and direct Sales (helps to sell your business). I'm happy, and don't think that any of it was a waste of time.

I don't understand this post. You are replying to us as if we have a problem with music or something. That has absolutely nothing, and I mean nothing, to do with what we are talking about.

He can play any instrument he wants, listen to whatever music he wants, practice whenever he wants, that doesn't matter. But if he wants to take a career seriously he needs to drop the certain hobbies that get in his way of succeeding. I am debating if I even want to post this reply because I am very confused with your reply, I don't understand what listening to Beethoven's 9nth has anything to do with him dropping his after school hobby to take on a career path, we never told him to never pick up the instrument again, but he needs to clear his schedule.

Edited by chiantiglace (log)

Dean Anthony Anderson

"If all you have to eat is an egg, you had better know how to cook it properly" ~ Herve This

Pastry Chef: One If By Land Two If By Sea

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I went to NECI for their two year program back in the early eighties and have been in the business mostly as a cook/owner ever since.

If I could do it all over again I would have gone to a good Hotel/Restaurant Management school for 4 years while taking as many classes in finance and accounting as possible. Working every shift I could at a good local kitchen. Nothing beats on the job training.

If you followed that course you would be more ready to move into restaurant management than 90% of the people who are there now. All the bad habits you would learn in real world kitchens would be forgiven because you will know how to make money for ownership.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Go to a four-year school; pursue as diverse a course of study as possible. Meanwhile, you can get a job in campus foodservice, work at a restaurant at night and on weekends, and cook yourself silly with a hotplate in your dorm room. Network like mad in your region; find the chefs & tastemakers who matter. A purely culinary education won't provide the breadth of knowledge necessary for someone interested in the avant-garde of the food world.

Too many aspiring chefs receive a rather narrow technical education...keep studying music, add some art history or studio art courses when you hit college. Haven't we all suffered through ridiculous meals where it was clear that the chef had cooking skills, but no diversity of taste, no knowledge of the cultures referenced on the plate, no true refinement of palate? Becoming a well-educated, well-rounded person will lift you above your peers, no matter your field of endeavor.

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I don't understand this post.  You are replying to us as if we have a problem with music or something.  That has absolutely nothing, and I mean nothing, to do with what we are talking about.

I think the point was that even performing in an orchestra can teach you some of the same things you'll need to work in a kitchen--how to work in a team, etc. etc. So yes, it does have something to do with what we're talking about.

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Met with a chef yesterday and a chef this morning (two different restaurants, both newly opened in my area). Both said no, same answer "You have no experience, I don't want to take the time to train you".

Have now been turned away from 8 restaurants for the same reason, no experience.

At some point, are any of these places going to realize that one of them will be the place where i get that experience?

It's all about turning a profit.

Getting pretty annoyed with the whole thing. Will keep trying though. Plan to go speak to a chef at another new restaurant tomorrow.

Hell, might just work at McDonald's.

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http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/200...-the-pushcarts/

When you think of how many grads all of the culinary programs across the country are pumping out each year, and the economy the way it is, the foreseeable future seems bleak. On one interesting note, talking to some of my chef friends, there seems to be a small but growing trend of reverse migration of many of our Brazilian kitchen workers due to the tough economy here and the improved economic situation there.

Go to school to learn, don't limit yourself. You can work in restaurants all you want WHILE your in school learning something useful and meaningful. A smart cook is better than a eager cook.

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It's all about turning a profit.

Getting pretty annoyed with the whole thing. Will keep trying though. Plan to go speak to a chef at another new restaurant tomorrow.

Hell, might just work at McDonald's.

OF COURSE it's about turning a profit. That's the whole point of a restaurant. If you're not interested in turning a profit, perhaps a volunteer position at your local soup kitchen or meals-for-seniors operation might fit your needs, yet still allow you to practice your knife skills, learn basic food safety, and understand the environment of a commercial kitchen.

Why would you think that a commercial kitchen would be interested in teaching you? In a down economy, the chef or manager can pick any of the dozens of trained people who apply every day--he/she has limited space and limited time in that kitchen.

Go learn some real skills before you enter the kitchen....many community colleges offer basic cooking courses. At the very least, sign up for the equivalent of ServSafe training (http://www.servsafe.com) in your area. Or sign up for a ServSafe online class. You'll at least have a food-world credential to your name.

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Or, just keep trying. Ask enough chefs, and one of them is likely to take you on, as long as you show the drive they're looking for. I walked into one of the top kitchens in New Orleans with zero experience by showing the chef I had the will to learn and succeed.

Edited by MikeHartnett (log)
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  • 1 month later...

This is a low brow suggestion. Forgive me. Most good 4 year colleges offer work study jobs to students in the food services at the college. It's not Lutece, but you do get some work experience that might convince an employer that you aren't just some college kid who has no idea what he's getting into, will fool around and then quit in a couple months.

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I am a CIA graduate and I can vouch for the school...I was there when the whole "Fire Tim Ryan" thing went down and while there are issues with the administration and some of the food network star wannabe students, as a whole the chef's there rock and if you go there with a passion and desire to learn, you will get great things out of your time there. I finished my 2 year degree, did my externship at Jean Georges (pastry) and now I am a full time employee at JG's. The school will teach you the basics, if you are interested in the tech food science stuff, take an externship at a food sciencey place. I learned everything I know about hydrocolloids and modified food starches while on my externship at JG. CIA got my foot in the door and gave me the basic know how so I didn't totally eff up everything in the kitchen when I got there.

But most importantly, work at a restaurant (preferably a busy one) as soon as you can (once you turn 18, work somewhere for free since you have no experience...very few chef's will turn down free labor) The restaurant industry is not for everyone, you will never be rich, never be famous and you will work long hard hours, work holidays, not see your friends and family, not have time outside of work to do much of anything else...you might hate it....but on the other hand, you might love it, I do and I couldn't be happier with my path.

P.S. I would steer clear of the CIA bachelors program...have friends that did it...said it was good for the paper, but not good for the actual learning process....do the cornell thing they have a collaborative degree program with the CIA now and will give you a much better education in the mgmt aspects of the business.

Edited by Tiny (log)
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You've gotten some good advice. Here's some more.

There is no substitute for a good solid undergraduate education. Going to CIA, or any culinary school, may teach you the skills to work in the food industry -- it's vocational training. But you have to know that's exactly what you want before you make that big investment of time, money, and energy.

Listening to you talk about the other things in your life, like orchestra, it sounds like you may not be 100% sure you want to be a chef, and that's fine. You're only 17.

Go to college: Cornell, UF, wherever. Take some food science classes, and take other classes as well. Study art history, philosophy, music, math, etc. Put off declaring a major until you have to. Learn how to think, to write, to argue.

While you're in college, get some restaurant experience. Working in your college's dining service is a great opportunity to get your feet wet and see what life in a kitchen can be like. Get a job in the real world in a restaurant, whether fast food or fine dining, maybe some of each. Be humble, take it a step at a time.

If after that you are still are interested in being a chef, you can apply to a culinary school program after you have a college degree. Your college degree will not just be "something to fall back on." It will be the foundation of making you an educated human being.

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Go to college and learn while your still young and your mind is set on learning (in high school mode). Then go to cooking college. Some days you will just want to leave the industry or will be out of a job and at least then you will have dual qualifications and more options when looking for work... I'm not saying your a quitter or will get the sack btw! These days the more options you have the better.

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