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Are professional schools for amateurs as well


Lesley C
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Now are you telling me that if you filled the High School of Performing Arts with a bunch of kids who can sing but don't have any real desire to become singers, that won't change things?

Steve, why?

Why and how would that change a school for performing arts? Or the culinary school for that matter?

www.nutropical.com

~Borojo~

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As I have stated before, IMO, anyone who plans to be a chef should attend professional cooking school because the curriculum is designed for that person. If you have different goals in mind you should find the school best suited to your needs.

What if one has different goals but sill finds that a professional course of study is the best alternative?

Can you really say what is good for each person?

What if one can cook better than most entry-level students who plan to be be chefs and one may or may not one day decide to be a chef oneself?? Should one still not be allowed to take these courses?

The reason people choose these schools is b/c many of the free vocational schools you talk about are crap - as I said before, a well know catering college here teaches lobster days with a plastic lobster in the demo, and you never even get the practical, so you never even get to touch the plastic lobster - that's not very good is it?? And that is just one example, there are so many more....

Oh and by the way, we get bandaged for free here too, the fabulous NHS will be more than happy to complete the job you started with your knife, if youlike, even if you come from a private school...

www.nutropical.com

~Borojo~

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Well if your local vocational schools are crap, then you obviously have to look for alternatives. A plastic lobster doesn't sound too good, but I wouldn't like to see a bunch of beginners ripping those babies apart without a proper demo on that plastic lobster first.

You can't say what's good for each person but you can help people guide their energies into a program where their time is well spent. For people changing careers, time is crucial because they want to get back on the work force ASAP.

I don't think it matters much how well you can cook before you go to cooking school. Even those with extensive professional cooking experience who enter cooking school (usually for professional certification) must attend class, go through the motions and pass all the exams. I've noticed classes where the experienced students are quickly surpassed by the people who have natural dexterity. The field evens out after about a month. The best thing you can bring to cooking school is knowledge about food. I was shocked at cooking school to be surrounded by kids he didn't know the difference between Brie and Stilton. But they probably still don't.

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I was shocked at cooking school to be surrounded by kids he didn't know the difference between Brie and Stilton. But they probably still don't.

SO you see, weren't these kids more out of their element and "wasting precious time" more than a housewife or an amateur with more food experience?

I would say they were the amateurs... :hmmm:

www.nutropical.com

~Borojo~

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My understanding of schools such as le Cordon Bleu, is that they offer a range of programs from some pretty basic stuff aimed at the home cook, or "housewife" if that term is permitted, to the Grand Diplome designed to get a cook started on a professional career. As I further understand it, there is no fork in the road to culinary enlightenment -- there's no point at which someone can say I want more knowledge, but I want it suited to an amateur. If you want more knowledge you prodeed on the professional path.

If so, I see no reason why anyone should be denied the right to continue as long as they can keep up and not hold the class back. I think it's artificial to make too many distinctions too early in anyone's life. It's all well and good that la Varenne has courses for recipe writing, but if it's cooking one wants to learn, recipe writing is not the issue. My general philosophy is that great innovators in any profession often come from either outside the profession or from those in the profession who have followed a rather atypical path. For that reason, I am rarely in favor of pigeonholing anyone too quickly.

I have no studies to back this up, but my intuition suggests that someone who can really cook well at a professional level may develop a knack for writing recipes clearly and accurately, assuming that person has an intellect that lends itself to this talent. I doubt that someone trained in writing recipes will develop cooking skills as quickly or as well from the writing lessons, no matter their talents.

I don't disagree that an amateur is taking up the space a professional may want or need, but who is to say where either of these people will be in ten years.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I have PADI Divemaster certification which is a professional-level SCUBA certification. I never had any problem keeping up with the coursework. I'm a far better swimmer and as good a diver as many working professional Divemasters. Still I feel I spent a lot of money on that Divemaster certification based on a mistaken belief that there was something "better" about the professional certification as opposed to the top recreational certification of Master Scuba Diver. Since I've never led or taught dive groups much of what I learned in Divemaster certification was not relevant to me and I probably would have been better served by building the Master Scuba Diver certification out of five specialties. I don't exactly have any regrets, and it's always fun to pull out a Divemaster C-card at a dive shop when they ask for proof of certification, but it would have been nice for an experienced professional instructor to sit down with me and help me see the reality of my needs. Who knows if I would have listened, though!

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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"I've seen many lost to a structure which destroys their sense of worth."

Paul, you've inadvertantly just described what I feel happens to too many graduates of the CIA/Johnson & Wales-type schools and also to career-changers once they get out into their real world cooking jobs, especially those who didn't do their homework before choosing and enrolling in a cooking school--who didn't work in restaurants beforehand and knew what would befall them, didn't start off with part-time classes, didn't investigate the job scene after graduation, etc.

Now, I'm a little ahead of you in your career-changing arc. 10 years ahead. But we took the same plunge, albeit me at 32 and I was single at the time. I've been very lucky in how it has worked out for me and I'd do exactly the same thing again--except my part-time professional $3,400 program, which allowed me to work all the way through is now more compressed and much more expensive. The only thing I'd do differently is I would have gone into debt to travel to France and Spain right away, that first year, instead of waiting to do so. Like someone afraid to spend their junior-year abroad in college. But that's neither here nor there in the general sense and perspective of this thread.

"In short, I find your arguments about the worthlessness and disingenuousness of schools, peopled in the main by deluded wannabes, misguided, to put it mildly." Why? Have you had a lot of experience teaching cooking school students like Lesley or I have, talking to cooking school students in class, after class, at demos, after they've experienced cooking in a restaurant for the first time, interviewing recent graduates or agreeing to take on an intern, or reading e-mails from them after they've moved to their third consecutive job paying 8 dollars an hour with that $25,000 debt still hanging over their head? Plus, I've never said something foolish like schools are worthless--I feel cooking schools of all shapes and varieties can be a great match for the right student and well worth it for many different reasons. I've only called for a re-examnation of what it is various cooking schools offer and how it could and should be more realistically evaluated. A passionate pro instructor is worth his or her weight in gold; too bad they're paid their weight in pennies.

"Steve KLC, sorry, I find in particular your "harsh chic" crap simply boring. Anthony Bourdain's got talent, and the compassionate spark to lead his razor. I go to him for "dose of reality" shots, thanks." Tony is an amazing unique talent no doubt and I have my own set of talents and experiences, whatever they may be. The passion and compassion, the perspective and experience you choose to place value in is also your call, of course. But mine comes from an insider's experienced perspective--just last month I was asked by FCI to judge the final exam and practical of their graduating professional pastry student class and had many rewarding and revealing conversations with them. I don't wish them harshness, just realism and honesty. Anything I write here or counseled them on is in service of that based on my experiences.

Again--those of you on this thread who are taking this the most personally have the least distance and the least experience to draw on--many of you are in a cooking school at the moment or are about to enter one like Paul, have had little interaction with instructors at other schools and are hardly in the position to evaluate the ability or value of those instructors in some greater context. You will be, however, soon enough. I wish eGullet is around in a few years and I wish you all could weigh back in and talk about what you're doing, whether you are fulfilled, what you are making per hour, whether you would take the same school approach and incur the same debt if you could do it all over again.

You're certainly right, Paul, when you say "we all make our fate, and we all live with it" and "School provides one avenue, not the only one; an avenue, however, which I for one find useful at this stage of life, as I've said. I intend to make the experience my own, knowing it's only the beginning. Late in the game? Expensive? Yes. But better than dying saying "what happened?" I'm certainly not advocating denying you the right to choose that destiny. I said much those same words. That also doesn't mean the job performance, philosophy and realism of cooking schools cannot also be examined.

"Oh, and long ago, in anticipation of this admittedly somber decision, I read voraciously, and did call a few chefs, older guys like me, graduates all of one of several of the "expensive/intensive career-changer" schools you spoke about, and all with brains and drive (again, being all "smart college educated amateur cooks with the bug"). They unequivocally said, yeah, it was worth it. They haven't given permission to use their names, so I won't; but two of them are doing very well, having won national recognition in Food & Wine, or by the James Beard Foundation. Many more who I haven't talked to are in similar company of career changers who attended these "elitist, amateur-diluted schools," as any look at chef bios will tell you (Blue Hill, anyone)?"

What did the Blue Hill bios tell you Paul? What it tells me is Dan didn't go to a cooking school and changed careers by gaining work experience. He got a real college education first then worked his way into the field because he had to--because he had that undeniable spark within--and that is definitely changing the face of cooking here in the states. It seems you too have that spark as did other Chicago chefs, Paul Kahan didn't go to a career-changing cooking school and Rick Tramonto as a teenager took a votech program and then flipped burgers at a Wendys in his first food job.

But your paragraph is great--you see, you went into this with your eyes wide open, you did your own research because the schools were not going to do this for you. I presume you worked in a few kitchens as we all have advocated here regardless of our assessment of cooking schools. The question in hindsight isn't necessarily whether school was worth it, it is knowing what these chefs know now, would they do it again or take a different approach? Note also that Mike Anthony went to a school that's an example of the old-school French vocational certificate type Lesley finds value in for chef wannabes. Also, the still open question is how many of the classmates of a Rick Tramonto, a Grant Achatz, a Mike Anthony and those chef friends of yours who were mentioned in Food & Wine and won a Beard award--went on to find some measure of success, personal fulfillment, achievement, satisfaction--and are still doing so? The classmates--not the cover-boys. As you've intimated earlier in this thread--and as I agree with--talent and drive and luck will ultimately win out regardless of where or if you went to school. These we've mentioned are the rare exceptions, though.

And that's where your own comments will have even greater value a few years down the road, when you speak from direct personal experience after school, when you can begin to answer those questions about yourself and your classmates and refute whatever harshness you sense on this thread. When those abroad come back to the US to work, when a Nightscotsman returns from his course of study at the French Pastry School in Chicago and can evaluate where he is a few years down the road. As I've said all along, what we need are a few comments from the NeroW, Louisa, Sandra, Paul, beans, Anna W's of the 1998 or 99 class of an FCI or Le Cordon Bleu--and it is those graduates I wish incoming/prospective students of those very same programs could seek out for a greater dose of reality, if the reality I'm presenting seems too harsh.

Then even more students would likely be in a position to make a more informed choice, just like you apparently did Paul.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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SO you see, weren't these kids more out of their element and "wasting precious time" more than a housewife or an amateur with more food experience?

I would say they were the amateurs... 

Actually most of those kids are pros today. And they were quite good and serious in class. They didn't know much about the finer points of gourmet food, but that isn't crucial for beginners. That comes up in more advanced classes. Beginners are busy chopping, making stocks, learning meat cuts and the like. Unless that education was started at home, how could you expect them at the age of 17 to know about cheeses other than mozzarella and Cheddar?

And don't forget the majority of chefs aren't working in four-star restaurants and hotels.

I have no studies to back this up, but my intuition suggests that someone who can really cook well at a professional level may develop a knack for writing recipes clearly and accurately, assuming that person has an intellect that lends itself to this talent. I doubt that someone trained in writing recipes will develop cooking skills as quickly or as well from the writing lessons, no matter their talents.

Not so in my experience. Chef recipes are a bit of an inside joke for food writers. There's an art to writing a proper recipe and I have never encountered a chef who knows how to do it (unless he or she is a cookbook author and was forced to learn). It's all a bunch of this and a bunch of that, quantities are sketchy and the recipe usually makes enough to feed 20. Chefs' recipes are also usually very time consuming and use ingredients or equipment home cooks may not have access to.

Have a look at a pastry chef's recipe. It's just a list of ingredients, not necessarily in the right order, with weights next to each. The recipe usually makes huge batches and there is hardly ever a word of instruction underneath. I have hundreds of recipes from Fauchon and there isn't a single method in the bunch. There's a reason Pierre Herme works with your friend Dorrie Greenspan, and my guess is that it isn't all about translation (though I'd hope by now, as a prolific cookbook author, Herme can write a recipe designed for an amateur chef).

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Now are you telling me that if you filled the High School of Performing Arts with a bunch of kids who can sing but don't have any real desire to become singers, that won't change things?

Steve, why?

Why and how would that change a school for performing arts? Or the culinary school for that matter?

It wouldn't change a public high school for the performing arts much, because they are not necessarily designed for students who are going to pursue a career in the performing arts so much as they are there to help the students develop their performing abilities as much as possible no matter to what end.

Think of it this way... what if Julliard filled up with a bunch of amateur violinists who could play OK but didn't want to become professional musicians? What if one of those elite tennis programs filled up with players who were good but didn't plan on turning pro? You can't tell me that those schools wouldn't fundamentally change. I can't believe that an adult who does not aspire to be a professional violinist is going to spend 5 hours a day in a practice room hammering out his chops. No serious amateur tennis player is going to spend 5 hours a day on the courtsand sacrifice social and home life to train. Likewise, I can't see a non-career-track culinary student spending hour after blistering hour turning potatoes until it is just right.

The point is that there are sacrifices an aspiring professional is willing to make, and there are lengths to which an aspiring professional is willing to go that 99% of "civilians" won't. To make a hypothetical example, I could see an aspiring professional cook at cooking school staying up at school until the wee hours of the morning turning potatoes and practicing because he has been told that he won't pass on to the next level unless he makes a certain grade turning potatoes. I could also see an amateur chef in the same class saying, "fuck this, I don't care if they give me the diploma or not... what use is turning potatoes to me?" Putting these two students together in a classsoom is going to make a difference.

One thing my father, a life-long academic, told me once about college admissions standards is this: the reason Harvard and MIT (et al.) set their admissions standards so high is that a big part of the reason an elite student would want to go to these schools is to have the privilege of working alongside other students at a high level. It is not the case that an intro level English class at Yale is somehow "better" at teaching English than an intro level English class at Brooklyn College. It may be more rigorous and challenging at Yale, but that is completely determined by the composition of the student body.

--

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Lesley,

This post of yours:

"I was shocked at cooking school to be surrounded by kids he didn't know the difference between Brie and Stilton. But they probably still don't."

Was followed by this post of yours:

"Actually most of those kids are pros today. And they were quite good and serious in class. They didn't know much about the finer points of gourmet food, but that isn't crucial for beginners. That comes up in more advanced classes"

So which one is it? are they pros today or still don't know what the cheeses are? It sounds almost as if you are starting to argue both sides now....

www.nutropical.com

~Borojo~

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I was going to add a new post to this thread, but until it gets a bit less personal and testy, I'll be signing off. I would encourage everyone else to do the same.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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When I went to cooking school I thought I'd be surrounded by privileged kids like me who had already traveled quite a bit and had grown up reading Gourmet magazine. I was shocked to see my class was full of kids who knew nothing about white truffles and extra-virgin olive oil but who decided they wanted to cook for a living because hospital cooks make a starting salary of $15/hour. I was soon to learn that kids like me were in the minority and the reality of the profession was people who saw cooking as a job, not a calling or a passion.

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It may be more rigorous and challenging at Yale, but that is completely determined by the composition of the student body.

YES, that is the case at a university where you would want to be with your intellectual equals or superiors, but cooking school is skill and labour, brains and intellect have nothing to do with it -

As for the practical skills, you could also find a class full of ambitious young chefs to be who just don't care about turning or fluting just as much as you could have a mix...

I still say it's not right to put people in boxes...

www.nutropical.com

~Borojo~

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I don't disagree that an amateur is taking up the space a professional may want or need, but who is to say where either of these people will be in ten years.

Something just popped into my amateur mind -- are there applicants to a culinary school that are being turned away? Is the amateur in receipt of that coveted spot that an otherwise deserving professional wannabe should rightly have?

Hmmmmm. If one makes the commitment to spend that much money on pursuing culinary knowledge, why on earth is there this rationalized justification of casting that judgmental deliberation of who's the real deal and who isn't? Now that's arrogance.

But true, in ten years who knows where they would end up? Does it discount the school's reputation that someone graduates and then does not cook in order to make a living paying their bills? As far as vocational educational institutions go, I've always felt that placement statistic is a marketing tool of placing the carrot in front of the cart sort of baiting motivation.

When I have a sparked interest I've always pursued the best possible education money could buy. I've had a boat to tinker around ol Lake Erie, but I have been pursuing my USCG 100 ton Master certification. Do I need it? No, but I'm glad to have studied piloting and the hours of logged experience. Kind of cool that I can do it for a living should I wish to do so.

But tooling around in my floating bathtub pales to my supposed passion for food. I intend to pursue it and see where it may lead, and that may not be slaving in someone else's kitchen in hell. Then again, it just might be the salvation to both personal and professional satisfaction.

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YES, that is the case at a university where you would want to be with your intellectual equals or superiors, but cooking school is skill and labour, brains and intellect have nothing to do with it -

:huh: ??

Marsha Lynch aka "zilla369"

Has anyone ever actually seen a bandit making out?

Uh-huh: just as I thought. Stereotyping.

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It may be more rigorous and challenging at Yale, but that is completely determined by the composition of the student body.

YES, that is the case at a university where you would want to be with your intellectual equals or superiors, but cooking school is skill and labour, brains and intellect have nothing to do with it.

Huh? You sure you don't want to rethink that?

Also, it's not necessarily only a question of "brains and intellect." There are also the elements of dedication, motivation, talent, experience, hard work, etc. Wouldn't you also want to be in a class where your colleagues were as dedicated, motivated, talented and hard working as you... if not moreso?

Do you think it would be better to be in a class of cooking students who were all busting their asses 24/7, competing with and helping each other to attain higher and higher levels of proficiency and excellence... or in a class where 50% of the people weren't putting it all on the line? Which one do you think would be more condusive to acquiring the skills and expertise necessary for professional cooking?

Do you think it would be better to attend a cooking school that was extremely rigorous and where students had to earn their diplomas by passing difficult examinations relevant to professional cooking, and which not all students are able to pass... or to attend a school where most any student who ponys up the money and slogs through class can say they are a "graduate?" Which diploma do you think is likely to be taken more seriously by the profession?

I know which one I'd choose.

--

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I find it hard to believe that any apprenticeship -- white or blue collar -- would not be affected by the quality, energy and motivation of the other apprentices you are learning with. I work in a profession not unlike corporate law: high pressure, long hours, a lot at stake. Every now and then we admit someone who is independently wealthy (really wealthy, e.g. a scion of a billionaire family). They are always problematic on teams, because their motivation is fundamentally different: they are with us "for the ride" and won't make the extra effort. It's not an impossible situation, but it is challenging for those managing the team and those on it.

One thing that has surprised me about many cookery schools is that they don't seem to offer serious programmes for those who are committed to another profession but have reached a level of skill and experience at which the usual amateur's programme would be boring.

By "serious" I mean training that isn't primarily about recipes but goes deep on, e.g., knife skills, sauce making, producing at speed -- the practical stuff that Jinmyo mentioned right at the start of this thread. You may not want to work in a restaurant, but you may want to be able to crank out a meal for 20 people, three of them vegetarians, and to do it fast and well. The Leith's School in London used to have an "intermediate" evening course that covered things like boning fowl, topics usually omitted from amateur courses. You trained for something like 4 hours, one evening a week. It was invariably oversubscribed, months in advance. For some reason it is no longer offered. The CIA used to offer an "amateur's boot camp" version of their Skills course; I don't know whether they still do.

The advantage of a course like this is that it separates the amateurs, no matter how enthusiastic and energetic, from the pro courses, yet offers them some exposure to more professional technique and ethos. Given the number of Viking ranges going into houses nowadays, I remain surprised that more culinary schools haven't caught up with this trend. Or perhaps they have and I've missed it.

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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Think of it this way... what if Julliard filled up with a bunch of amateur violinists who could play OK but didn't want to become professional musicians?  What if one of those elite tennis programs filled up with players who were good but didn't plan on turning pro?  You can't tell me that those schools wouldn't fundamentally change.  I can't believe that an adult who does not aspire to be a professional violinist is going to spend 5 hours a day in a practice room hammering out his chops.  No serious amateur tennis player is going to spend 5 hours a day on the courtsand sacrifice social and home life to train.  Likewise, I can't see a non-career-track culinary student spending hour after blistering hour turning potatoes until it is just right.

... To make a hypothetical example, I could see an aspiring professional cook at cooking school staying up at school until the wee hours of the morning turning potatoes and practicing because he has been told that he won't pass on to the next level unless he makes a certain grade turning potatoes.  I could also see an amateur chef in the same class saying, "fuck this, I don't care if they give me the diploma or not... what use is turning potatoes to me?"  Putting these two students together in a classsoom is going to make a difference.

So, forgive my unfamiliarity with cooking schools, but in any of the cases metioned here, won't the student unwilling to put in the time and effort get thrown out? If I don't practice my violin, won't Juilliard bounce me? If I am unwilling to turn my potatoes, won't the CIA demand that I turn in my houndstoothe pants? And if I can't stand the heat, won't I take myself out of the kitchen? And If I'm holding back a class -- be it Yale or wherever, won't someone take me aside and let me know, nicely or not? As someone pointed out earlier, chefs are not well know for holding back.

In any education longer than a 6-week adult ed course, it strikes me that there are any number of means and methods by which both the unmotivated diletants and the unsuited would-be pros will be weeded out.

Or does cooking school not work like this?

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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So, forgive my unfamiliarity with cooking schools, but in any of the cases metioned here, won't the student unwilling to put in the time and effort get thrown out?

Yes, exactly... in my program one kid got thrown out for constantly turning up late, missing classes and failing assessments and practicals..

slkinsey: do you actually think the Cordon Bleu is going to give me my Grande Diplome if my abilities, grades and attendance are not up to expectation? Just because I gave them some money?? Sorry, this degree cannot be bought, trust me, some have tried...

Jonathan, the classes at Leiths were just that, classes, evening classes for perfecting skills etc... like you say. LCB has those also, I just chose to take the full degree aimed at training chefs - and I still do not see a problem with it...

www.nutropical.com

~Borojo~

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slkinsey:  do you actually think the Cordon Bleu is going to give me my Grande Diplome if my abilities, grades and attendance are not up to expectation? Just because I gave them some money?? Sorry, this degree cannot be bought, trust me, some have tried...

If the Cordon Bleu regularly trains amateurs alongside aspiring professionals in the curriculum leading to the Grand Diplome, the question it to what degree the standards you mention are affected by the participation of the amateurs and what they might be if the school exercised different admissions criteria for the curriculum leading to the Grande Diplome.

I'd like to reiterate that I don't think there is anything fundamentally wrong with a cooking school accepting amateurs if they elect to do so. A provate school may accept whatever students it chooses. I also don't think there is anything wrong with such a school insisting that all students, whether amateur or aspiring professional, exhibit performance and dedication up to the level they have determined is appropriate for aspiring professionals. I do have a hard time believing that any such school would be able to retain a significant number of amateurs in such a curriculum. But, if they can make the grade, keep up with and otherwise behave like the aspiring professionals in a rigorous curriculum geared 100% to professional cooking, I don't see a reason why any school would not allow such amateurs to attend.

--

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When I went to cooking school I thought I'd be surrounded by privileged kids like me who had already traveled quite a bit and had grown up reading Gourmet magazine. I was shocked to see my class was full of kids who knew nothing about white truffles and extra-virgin olive oil but who decided they wanted to cook for a living because hospital cooks make a starting salary of $15/hour. I was soon to learn that kids like me were in the minority and the reality of the profession was people who saw cooking as a job, not a calling or a passion.

welcome to real life?

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Steve KLC, thanks for the reasoned thoughts, and Fat Guy, agree, it got out of hand; I regret my part in the vitriol.

You have given much to think more deeply on, I honor your vast experience and for that I am grateful.

Steve, I was a little unclear on your Dan Barber paragraph. I mentioned him as an FCI grad, '93, who is obviously doing well. And, unless I am mistaken, the school Michael Antony attended was the Ecole Superieure de Cuisine Francaise, which offers their bilingual program at 16,700 euros, or about $20,000, for the 9-month training program, offering the Ferrandi curriculum, the same one which FCI used when the Founding Chefs established the curriculum there, again, if I am not mistaken. As you have taught at FCI (and, your partner Colleen is an FCI graduate), the both of you would obviously know. Bruce Sherman, of North Pond, Chicago, also attended this program.

I would agree that to draw from those we see on covers is not indicative of the many unknowns (or as yet unknowns); but I think this applies everywhere, in every industry (actors from the actor's studio who are headling movies, much less making a living, anyone?) and, in this world, whether one started out in the kitchen or paid for an education.

Everything else aside, I think all that matters is sincerity of heart. Everything else is revealed for what it is, as the grind is too damned hard.

-Paul

 

Remplis ton verre vuide; Vuide ton verre plein. Je ne puis suffrir dans ta main...un verre ni vuide ni plein. ~ Rabelais

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I don't think there is anything fundamentally wrong with a cooking school accepting amateurs if they elect to do so.  A private school may accept whatever students it chooses.  I also don't think there is anything wrong with such a school insisting that all students, whether amateur or aspiring professional, exhibit performance and dedication up to the level they have determined is appropriate for aspiring professionals.  I do have a hard time believing that any such school would be able to retain a significant number of amateurs in such a curriculum.  But, if they can make the grade, keep up with and otherwise behave like the aspiring professionals in a rigorous curriculum geared 100% to professional cooking, I don't see a reason why any school would not allow such amateurs to attend.

If it can do all these things, and if it can do it without changing the professional ethos, then that's great. I agree with you that it would be hard to retain amateurs in such a demanding environment, and that's perhaps for the best, since the "easy riders" would quickly be screened out.

The other elements of the professional ethos would be the teamwork and mutual commitment that I and other posters mentioned, and also the school's ability to demonstrate that the majority of its graduates went into promising professional jobs. Admit too many amateurs and both of these are at risk; allow this to go on for too long, and the school's reputation amongst prospective students begins to suffer.

Incidentally, culinary and law schools aren't the only ones having to screen out the amateurs. In many of the PhD programmes at the University of Chicago, initial admissions standards are relatively low given the university's towering reputation, and a good number of students are admitted to the early stages of the programme. But only a tiny number of new students are given tuition grants; the rest have to pay, and they have about a year to pass a tough set of exams and gain admission to doctoral candidacy. At this point, a large number of people voluntarily screen themselves out and leave (or are asked to); most of the remaining students, who have demonstrated their real commitment and ability, are given tuition grants.

Other top universities screen much more rigorously at the beginning, admit very few to their PhD programme, but give all of those admitted tuition and living grants.

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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If the Cordon Bleu regularly trains amateurs alongside aspiring professionals in the curriculum leading to the Grand Diplome, the question it to what degree the standards you mention are affected by the participation of the amateurs and what they might be if the school exercised different admissions criteria for the curriculum leading to the Grande Diplome.

I don't understand why the assumption is made that LCB "dumbs down" it's coursework - at any given time they may have a class of all aspiring pros or a class that has a few amateurs - the coursework is still the same, it has been for years -

If the work or standards were compromised, they would change it, and certainly, judging from Steve & Lesley's responses, all the chef instructors would walk out in a fury...

You all are giving a lot of power to a few amateurs, dilettantes, housewives, whatever you want to call them for spoiling or downgrading professional programs... again, I still disagree...and I will 'til the cows come home.... :wink:

www.nutropical.com

~Borojo~

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Another question for the teachers, dilettants, housewives and chefs here, (asked as one who has often fantasized about chucking it all for a year and running off to the CIA):

What percentage of the non-career-track cooking course students are actually crashing the professional classes? Is there a self-selection process that weeds out most of the people who wouldn't wilt in an intensive course long before they set foot in class?

I may be crazy enough to put up with brutal chefs and competitive students (though, looking at my mangled thumb, I won't be doing so until my knife skills improve), but my wife, a very good cook, would never consider dealing with that kind of stress.

In other words, what's the actual magnitude of this phenomena?

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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