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School or not to school


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I will probably never be a chef in a restaurant or anywhere as a full time endeavor, but I seriously love cooking. Seriously. I call in sick to work to make veal stock. I have wasted an entire day making something that turned out inedible, with no regrets. That said, I'm pretty accomplished in the kitchen. Have most of the basics under my belt. While I get all hot and sweaty thinking about hydrocolloids, basically i have a love and respect the art and science of feeding people well.

I have the opportunity to take a fairly involved cooking program (110 hours) at a well known school. My question.... is it worth it?

It's not cheap. It isn't a program you can fluff through. It will be a pain in the as* to get to.

So, is cooking school worth the investment for the serious amateur?

Can you eat that?

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Hm. I've asked myself this question as well, and for me, it's always come down to time and money. Time, in that I have a full-time day job that I can't ditch in order to accomodate the class schedule and money in that I don't really have any! So I've always had to default into "no, it's not feasible".

Depends on what your opportunity is specifically, I think. Are you getting a free ride or break in tuition somehow? Or is the money part not a concern in your situation?

Do you have a day/full time job that you'd need to work around?

If you can make it work within your life's structure/constraints (how ever you want to phrase it) then I think personal enrichment is always worth it, especially for something you enjoy. That being said, have you taken recreational cooking classes to see if you enjoy being in that teaching/learning environment when it comes to food and cooking?

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I have the opportunity to take a fairly involved cooking program (110 hours) at a well known school. My question.... is it worth it?

Of COURSE it's worth it. Keep going to school and formally learning for your entire life. I hope to still take a course or two when I'm 80, and 90, and 100.

That being said, how many ducats are we talking? What is the opportunity cost of taking the course?

I'm running through culinary courses at my local community college because 1) It isn't a financial strain and isn't particularly time consuming (I can take one weekday off without upsetting my employer); 2) It is a very well-regarded culinary program.

I would talk to people who have gone through or are going through the same program. Ask them what they're getting out of the program. (And what they're putting in.)

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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There are a lot of great community college programs out there that won't cost you much and give you a great base of education. But if you are blessed to have 80k to spend on a hobby, The big schools are nice.

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I have the opportunity to take a fairly involved cooking program (110 hours) at a well known school. My question.... is it worth it?

I'm running through culinary courses at my local community college because 1) It isn't a financial strain and isn't particularly time consuming (I can take one weekday off without upsetting my employer); 2) It is a very well-regarded culinary program.

CSN? That is a good school, one of my mentor's was big in growing that program.

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This is a great question you bring up. Your situation may be like mine....the current job pays more than being a chef or restaurant owner with more flexibility/ability to balance with regular life. The job supports the hobby and going to school is for raising your culinary IQ. Seems there is that chance some day you for what ever reason leave your current profession and pursue your passion, that education may come in handy to get into certain places.

I am not that accomplished a cook but its by far my favorite thing to do. Recently purchased a copy of Modernist Cuisine and have been studying that in great detail (taking topics and further researching outside the book). This is really putting a solid foundation under me and I assume are the same topics a school would be teaching (food safety, thermal dynamics, history of agriculture, etc...). Guess what I am saying is there is a huge knowledge base out there, including people in this forum, that perhaps you could learn as much there as in school (minus the instructors personal experiences). So if you have the same level of knowledge as a culinary school and decide to take up the profession, are you disadvantaged? I don't know....seems like many chefs and restaurant owners are not formally educated. If its anything like the corporate world, most jobs come from someone you know. Maybe spending time with local chefs would get you in just easier than a green chef out of school. While I am studying I also know a great sushi chef and looking to get a job doing food preparation to master knife skills and put what I am learning to work (free intern basically).

Curious to hear from those who did school thing.....maybe they see a lot of ignorance in my response.

Edited by kryptos1 (log)
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Kinda depends on your learning style, I think. Some folks, given a pile of (great) books and hours in the kitchen, will arrive at a far deeper level of understanding than others who complete a structured course. Personally, I wouldn't bother with a formal course--I'd spend the equivalent $$ on books, ingredients, travel/eating, equipment. You don't need the credential generated by a formal course, so why go through the hassle? Spend the dough eating your way through a new city (or small country, depending on the cost of the course!)....

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It certainly was worth it for me. I entered the "breads and desserts" program at the local community college, even though it was for would-be professionals and I just wanted to learn for myself. It was a five-quarter program and I finished three (the last two were mainly about the nuts and bolts of running a business and I wasn't interested in that). Those three quarters were wonderful, life-changing! Not only did I learn a lot about bread and desserts, but I thoroughly enjoyed the short rotation in general culinary, too.

The best part, however, was something totally unexpected. You see, the rest of the people in my class were about 30 years younger than me, and the experience of working and spending time with them was just wonderful - really, really good for me. I hadn't given much thought to the fact that I'd be older than the rest - if anything I thought there'd probably be a lot of second-career types, but nope, I was the only (ahem) "older adult" there - and I wasn't treated any differently than anyone else.

I came out of this experience seriously wanting a tattoo ...

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It really is a great conversation! Thanks for contributing. All the comments made me really think about what was driving my desire to go. Bottom line: I've decided to do it. French Culinary Institute in NYC: Culinary Techniques. Not sure if I can enroll for the July session, but I am pretty excited.

HungryC: I totally get where you are coming from! I could eat my way through Italy for this $$, but i think i want to be in a kitchen. A big kitchen.

Kryptos1: we do have similar situations and I am patiently waiting for my copy of MC to arrive (6/2 according to amazon)

SpecialK: LOL! I will be the oldest, but I already have a tattoo

And for everyone else who spoke about lifelong learning - I totally get it.

I'll let you know how it goes....

BTW any FCI grads here?

jen

Can you eat that?

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A little late to chime in but I say go for it.

I was thinking formal classes might actually be of more benefit to us poor amateurs, since pros will actually get the chance to acquire and develop their skills in a workplace setting.

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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CONGRATS! Great to hear you are getting to do this and even better you current job is flexible! Checked out the website, that looks to be a great class....wish I lived close to a place that did this level of instruction and that schedule. Meh on the costs, break it down into an hourly rate and heck yea I would pay that for high quality instruction. I am having a Sushi Chef over for a Sunday afternoon teaching session and its only costing me a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue. Keep us up to speed on how you like it!

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  • 1 month later...

Most of the students entering into culinary arts programs have the similar dilemma. I also had it. When I started my career I was in a small neighborhood burger joint type places. I felt extremely trapped in a specific niche. I wanted to work in big restaurants, but nowhere I was getting any opportunity.

Then I thought of enrolling culinary program. I was very much concerned about the financials, thinking it's worthy or not. Then finally I opted online culinary art program. When once I enrolled in school, I got a much better job at a much better restaurant, simply through virtue of being a culinary student. And once I finished, I was able to get a stage and eventually a job best restaurant of our place. If you want some more information on online culinary arts program, just go through the following site. http://www.culinaryartscollege.org/

Hope now you would be able to come out of the dilemma, you are in.

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I am doing an adult college course for professional culinary school (3 years, one evening a week and 2 full Saturdays a month) with a licence to work/open an establishment (compulsory in Belgium).

I think it’s very personal, but for me this has really changed the way I cook and look at gastronomy as my hobby. Although I don't think I'll ever work as a chef, I feel more “legitimate” and “knowledgeable” when I speak about food. It also has encouraged me to research and read a lot more than before (I already was a devourer of books :-D). Above all, the satisfaction I get from this course is really immense.

So personally, I’ll say, if time and money allows it (even if it changes your routine) – yes, for it!

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