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The French Pastry School/Ewald Notter School


tan319
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School has been on my mind lately.

When nightscotsman, a fellow host of the P&B forum here on the 'gullet graduated from the FPS (http://home.earthlink.net/~neilr/pastryschool/), I was very impressed with the quality of his work and then when he landed a job at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, specifically the pastry department, under Executive Pastry Chef Jean Philippe Maury it impressed me even more.

So it was with great interest I read the article in the new issue of PA&D magazine.

At the moment I find myself caught between the proverbial 'Rock & a Hard Place'.

When I got into cooking, attending a nine month course right outside of D.C. at 'L'Academie de Cuisine', I did a basic cooking course, two actually.

'Theory and Technique', which is exactly that, and 'Practique', the practical useage of what you learned in the T & T class, hands on cooking.

I was pretty sure I wanted to work in pastry but thought being grounded in everything would be helpful ( it has been, immensely) and also, there was no "short" course in pastry (2 year minimum) and the cost was prohibitive, no time for that kind of commitment, etc.

I graduated, got an apprenticeship at a highly rated yet "homey" French Place outside of D.C., and began working in food on and off for the next few years, including a stint in a Manhattan restaurant where I learned a huge amount and fell in love with actually making plated desserts like I was eating in some of the nations best restaurants.

Cut to the present.

I've been a pastry chef pretty much exclusively for the last 4 or 5 years now, garnered a bit of a reputation for my work here in my neck of the S.W. but have hit a wall in what I can achieve monetarily, benefits (LOL!) and feel like the 6 month course that FPS offers could "complete" me.

I'm self taught, for the most part, I can temper chocolate, do some sugar work but not in the classical sense.

Everything I've seen about FPS seems like that would be the place to go, unless I would choose to take shorter courses at Ewald Notters school.

I feel like Notter would be good if I was already making the kind of money I want to be making, I know the instruction there is top notch.

Notters seems like where you want to go to brush up or learn new techniques.

17.5k isn't cheap but if I could couple a diploma from the FPS with already having had previous experience in running my own pastry programs, it would seem like perhaps I could get into a place at a bit of a higher rate, not feel as inexperienced in the kind of garnishes I would probably be expected to produce in a place like Las Vegas, for instance, and maybe even be able to find backers easier if I choose to do my own thing and open a dessert place of my own.

My main qualm is, is the state of pastry at the moment really as "hot" as that article states?

Are pastry chefs really "more in demand then ever before", like Norman Love states in the article?

My own experience's, by that I mean what I've personally observed, participated in, and even read here, don't totally back that up.

But I'm willing to be proved wrong.

What do you folks think?

Have you gone to either one of these fine places or to other 'pastry-centric" schools, especially if you're already a working chef, and felt like you had an advantage in the kind of salary you were able to get offered or ask for?

If you went to school, did you take advantage of any scholarships that are out there?

I'm all ears ( eyes, actually).

Talk to me...

2317/5000

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First off, as someone with 4-5 years experience you should be a pretty good judge of the market in general and in your area specifically.

are you thinking of relocating?

Is anyone else with superior skills and technique in your area outpacing you economically?

where is your economic wall in relation to other people in your area? are you comparable? or behind? and where are your skillsets in relation to theirs?

How do you forsee the $17.5K investment enhancing your ability to command more money?

Would investing $17.5K in your career in any other way actually give you a better payback?

How old are you? how much career time do you have ahead of you to recoup your costs - will it really give you the ROI you are hoping for? in that question- what ROI do you think is realistic?? what would you need?

Or is this just something that you want to do?

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First off, what is an ROI?

Secondly, yes, I am thinking of relocating.

If I continue to work for someone else, it will be in another area, probably Las Vegas, since it's a union town and pay & benefits are much better as a rule.

I would say theres no one in my area doing what I do except for maybe one person whos in a hotel somewhere, doing ice sculptures and showpiece chocolate work.

Economic wall... meaning what do employers pay?

If so, employers get away with as little as they can.

I want to make 35k a year minimum. To start. With benefits preferably but that's unrealistic working for most indies.

Basically I see the investment as enhancing my ability to walk in someplace that's doing more involved work, say, the Bellagio, for instance, and not feel out of place, to merely to feel in the ballpark.

That's not to say anybody walks out of any school ready to gun down the French guy who's 28 and already been doing it for 12 or 13 years, that's pretty ridiculous.

If I went into someplace and started out making 35K it would take about 5 years to pay back the investment, at the most, it would seem.

I don't think I'll be pushing up the daisies by then.

I would be interested in hearing about better ways to invest 17.5k.

I would also be interested in cutting to the chase...

There are many, I'm sometimes one of them, who think that school is overrated, you learn more on the job, etc.

This is such a specialized course, and so short, that maybe those rules don't apply as much here.

And of course, the Notter courses are up to two weeks at length?

So, if I've answered those questions better, maybe we could get to the pros & cons?

2317/5000

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ROI=Return on Investment

My former pastry instructor goes down every summer to take a master class from Notter. My impression is that this primarily what his classes are aimed at, established pros looking to push back the corners of their own personal "envelope."

I guess that would get you to the same place eventually. Just a question of whether you want to get your upgrade all in one go, or on the "installment plan." And of course, you'd be wanting to answer the sort of questions chefette's been asking, just for your own satisfaction.

“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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I know of a pc position that would start you at 35k maybe more and pay benefits (pay you to take classes too). Still be a one man department, plus have the time to experiment, etc...

I know of other pc jobs starting at 30K in the same area.....

But it involves changes and maybe doing things your not so interested in doing.

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I think that you need to consider the personal pros and cons specific to yourself starting with a very honest self assessment and I don't think that comparing yourself to the PA&D 10 best issue is the best way to start. It sounds like you are giving yourself a sort of inferiority complex. If only one other person in your area is doing anything better than you then you and that involves doing showpieces and ice sculptures then you are doing pretty well - maybe you need to spend some effort making some changes in the 'wall' that you have hit economically. How much is the ice sculpture guy getting? Have you ever gone by and chatted him up?

How good is his work? what is his resume like?

Don't forget to add in opportunity costs when considering the school investment - it isn't just the tuition. There is at least temporary relocation and living costs, plus not working during that time. Plus interest if you have to take out a loan for the tuition. I expect it is more like $25K plus at minimum after that - how does that affect your payback and recovery timeline?

What are the salaries for people with your resume in Las Vegas? If you walked in to the Bellagio would you really be at a disadvantage just as you are? Do you feel that asking for $35K would be unrealistic as you are today?

If you have the $17.5 - $25K latitude to spend or borrow I would think that you could put it to work for you more strategically by taking some time off from work and setting up a stage or 10 with or through contacts on this board. Spend a week or two in Las Vegas trailing or staging with some people - talking to them - make those connections, go to NYC (I KNOW) they take stages most everywhere there. Go see if the new French Laundry guy in Napa will let you stage or trail with him.

Then reevaluate yourself and your directions and your path. Take the classes with Ewald that you really think will fill the gaps to give you the confidence to achieve those goals.

Or you could do up a business plan, get an investor or two and think about starting up something of your own.

Maybe you are just undervaluing yourself.

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In my opinion, the best thing for you to do is take muliple professional short courses (3-5 days) at each school that are specializing in the areas you're looking to develop yourself in. I've seen some of the pix you've posted and you obviously have a clue, I wouldn't think you'd be happy spending 17.5k and then finding yourself taking several weeks going over things you already know. Focus on the skills you think you need help with, and find a professional class on that subject(s).

Always speak your mind. Those who mind don't matter and those who matter won't mind.

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WAIT!!!

Hang on a minute!

Whos's comparing themselves to the PA&D 10 best issue???

I've been thinking on & off about going back to school for over a year and especially since I got back from Miami.

I have to go to work now, I'll pick this up later, but please, no more of that stuff.

I feel great about my abilities as they stand, never hurts to try to get better.

Probably the biggest thing bothering me at the moment is not being in a place where I can work on my skills like the gig I had that got closed on me at the end of last year.

That was my "personal" school, and it was working great for me.

Great enough for me to work another job to make a better salary overall, just because of that advantage it offered me.

Now I'm not in that type of place. Miami wasn't going to provide that either, just to answer that question in advance.

Undervaluing myself?

No.

I could just have said "NO" to my most recent employment situation but that WOULD have been unrealistic.

One has to work somewhere.

2317/5000

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Ted--here's my current thinking on going to school. I'm essentially with chefette and Drewman--established pros taking shorter but more focused classes geared toward what they're planning to pursue--are most feasible. A series of $900 hits is a little easier to recover from than a $17,500-$35,000 hit. I think you'd get more than your money's worth at either Ewald or FPS, but I wouldn't advise writing the big check. (I rarely advise writing the big check even for career-changers looking to enter the field without serious informed consent on their part.)

I took a multi-day class on plated desserts and ice cream/sorbets with Sebastian when he was "on tour" at Albert Uster years ago, when they just started FPS--he was great, their methods are great, he gets my highest recommendation. I took, I think, two week-long Ewald classes while he was based in Gaithersburg, he gets my highest marks, too. They were great, he was great, the experience was very empowering. I don't use anything I learned from him in a restaurant context, they haven't helped me command any greater salary because they were showpiece based and I don't work in a hotel. Since I think, in general, showpieces and competitions which feature them will only keep declining in importance, the direct value of those kinds of classes now are less likely to yield as much of a ROI as practical classes--though there is a spiritual yield to be had knowing you can step up to the plate with a killer chocolate or sugar showpiece, most restaurant pastry chefs cannot. I think it would be better to buy and cook your way through the Adria and Balaguer books than take a showpiece class--but then you already have those books!

However, taking even showpiece classes helps you network, helps you build confidence and get into other networking opportunities like the Carymax events which can allow you to leverage other opportunities and relationships with their sponsors, which just might come back to put some more money in your pocket. If you don't already know Michael Schneider or Norman Love or Drew Shotts or Donald Wressell--and you want to meet them--that's how you do, you start positioning yourself to meet them, to let them get to know you. Or, if you have more of a Food Arts/high end restaurant/celebrity chef bent, you could find out where the nearest James Beard fundraising dinners will be and call up the organizing chef and offer to come volunteer--even if it means you drive 200 miles. The best chefs and pastry chefs in this country travel a lot, track them down and offer to volunteer when any come to your neck of the woods. When they ask you who you are, say you were Douglas Rodriguez's pastry chef in Miami and recently moved back to wherever you are now. There are always 5 other chefs and pastry chefs behind every single featured chef in these things--be one of those volunteers climbing the ladder. Eventually you'll be asked for more. Bust your butt volunteering for a chef or pastry chef who interests you, say a Rick Tramonto, at a Beard dinner somewhere--and when you want to spend a week staging in his kitchen at Tru he'll likely remember you and say sure. When I went with Jose Andres to cook at a big charity dinner in Cleveland two years ago--there was this really young guy who had heard of Jose and talked his way into helping with prep for the event. I think he lived and cooked in Cincinnati at the time, at a conservative French restaurant. He didn't have too much experience, but he knew that a chef who could conceive of grating cauliflower with a microplane zester and then turn it into a delicious "cous cous" was the kind of chef he wanted to learn from. A month later he had moved to DC and began working at minibar, where he still is.

What you'd take now instead of showpieces, be it confectionery, bon bon, bread, viennoiserie, whether you'd sign up for Albert Adria, Wybauw, Jacquy & Sebastian, etc, depends on whether you see your future in restaurants, hotels, catering, banquets, a little bakery of your own so it can run you into the ground, a wedding cake business, an artisinal chocolate business so you can go into hock for an enrober, etc. Spending, say $2000 on tuition, which you can deduct, would be a wise move even if you were incredibly happy with your present situation.

Scholarships, I'm afraid I have no clue.

When PA&D "10 Best" Richard Ruskell left the Phoenician and opened his own patisserie in town, he first went to France to take a few week long classes, I believe at LeNotre, one of them was on viennoisserie. I forget what the other one was, but I think what's clearly changed since then is that these better programs and instructors are now coming here because the money and perceived market is here. You don't have to go as far to prepare or pad the resume. Richard's pastry shop, unfortunately, has since closed but he's back in the high end resort game, running the Montage in Laguna Beach, CA. I don't think it failed because of any shortage of skill on his part, or because he didn't take the right classes, he's incredibly talented. It's just very tough to sustain a living as a pastry chef in our current market--and every market is different, local and peculiar.

I think my general recommendations would be different for someone with 5 years experience who was 25, someone with no experience at 35 and someone with 10 years experience, no formal training and 40+ and the thing career-changers really have to focus in on is that being a chef and working on your feet is a young man's game--it usually takes a younger energy to compete--not in a competition per se but compete in this field and attract attention to yourself. Why do you think all the middle-aged pastry chefs like us are trying to teach or start their own businesses or consult or write books? This is the life otherwise:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/conte...5052800490.html

A thought--for pastry, you have to be an owner or in control your own destiny or be positioning yourself to control your own destiny right now. That's the lesson we should have been heeding of Payard, Torres, Norman Love, Patrice Demers, Drew Shotts, Jacquy and Ewald, Gale Gand, Sherry Yard, the Vosges chocolate person, etc. That's why you also see more pastry chefs than ever considering the chocolate or wedding cake route: those are self-contained independent ownership situations. We've been saying this on eGullet since day one.

Norman Love is 100% correct that pastry chefs are more in demand than ever: I just don't think he finishes the statement with what all of us--working pros and prospective students--really need to hear: that compensation has not followed increases in 1) demand, 2) skills and 3) pastry school enrollments. Not enough chefs understand that in hiring pastry chefs, they get what they pay for: average quality at average wages.

I'd like someone, anyone, to demonstrate that pastry chefs have more security now, not less--there's still no shortage of crappy work out there nor enough consumers able to appreciate the difference to put pressure on chefs to change their hiring practices. And I see more elite chefs hiring younger pastry students right out of school, for very little, and "grooming" them rather than hiring someone already skilled, already known, and already talented, and compensating them accordingly. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing--industries will always be in transition, there's close-minded older blood refusing to adapt and innovate that needs to be weeded out and it's really much better to be talented and hard-working than "secure" anyway, because if you are talented and open-minded you can move around, your talent opens doors, and your talent can always set up its own shop!

The real question is--are pastry classes the answer to help you leverage your talents and skills and outlook? Or would you be better off, at this point in your career arc, putting the same amount of money into media training, into hiring a cool web designer to project what you have to offer and what you have accomplished, or into hiring a part-time publicist to do the same?

But since you mentioned DC, let's briefly talk DC, it's star is on the rise nationally, most objective folks place DC in the nation's top 10 if not top 5 right now, and let me draw a Chicago comparison. I can tell you Gale co-owns Tru, Della is at Trotter, and Michel Briand is at Ambria (I believe he may be a partner in that Ambria/Mon Ami Gabi/Cafe Ba Bareeba group, maybe not, but he's been doing excellent work there for a long time and is very happy there.) Every serious foodie in Chicago, probably, could tell you this as well. Granted Chicago has much more high-end depth than DC, but let's take our three best high-end restaurants right now: Citronelle, Restaurant Eve and Maestro and look at their pastry chefs: Citronelle, with the pre-eminent Michel Richard, I can't tell you who the pastry chef is at the moment, I'm not sure anyone who doesn't work there ever can; Restaurant Eve has someone young and inexperienced right out of L'Academie, probably their first pastry job, the chef is "grooming" her; Maestro, in the Ritz, has another young right-out-of-L'Academie pastry grad and Fabio is grooming her. This is DC--you think it's better around the country the further you get from the top 10 markets? This seems more the rule to me, not the exception, around the country I'm afraid. Taking any more classes won't help you attain these positions, or command a better salary. And these are at the better places.

Otherwise, you're still going to make $10 net or so an hour, maybe a few dollars more in hotels but lose a little more of your soul in banquets and midnight bakeoffs while you "pay your dues." You'll have to make due with less equipment over time, not more, if you stay in restaurants. For pastry grads young and not so young this is the life which awaits:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/conte...5052800490.html

except coming fresh out of school you'll be behind the dishwasher who has just been shown how to clean squid, who'll already be faster at it than you.

Read this article from a few years ago and pay particular attention to Jacques Torres's comments:

http://newyorkmetro.com/nymetro/food/features/n_8710/

Interesting assessment, huh? Too bad THAT's not required reading and that's not discussed more openly.

I think you may be taking the 10 Best comment the wrong way--the right way to take it is don't devalue yourself: that the desserts you just created for Douglas Rodriguez down in Miami just might be better and more interesting--right now--than what several of the recent PA&D 10 Best have done for their more conservative chefs, clientele or restaurants. You're open-minded and you've successfully used a PacoJet and studied and cooked your way through both Ducasse Spoon AND Adria and Balaguer--have they? Has the 28 year old French whiz kid who has already been in the kitchen for 15 years doing things the "French" way? I doubt it. The only difference is, you haven't found the right environment to be appreciated in yet, and to mention a few names from last year's 10 Best like Randy Sebastian, John Miele or Mark Chapman, they were recognized by PA&D for whatever accumulation of reasons, while you're still waiting for your big media break. That's the only difference. That might come from Food Arts, from a NY Times writer visiting your city, a well-networked chef who you impress at a charity gig, a local tv station, someone you meet at a charity event, you just never know. If you are in a restaurant context, it helps to align yourself with and develop a synergistic relationship with, an amazing chef, even if it means you take a bit of a cut in salary. The chef will always drive this business and if he or she has confidence in you that will help you position yourself, and propel you forward, more than most classes.

Remember Patrice Demers in Montreal? Before he opened his restaurant, he didn't take many classes, he travelled around Europe and the States instead, eating at all the most interesting places and absorbing what he could. He was teaching himself. Then, as a pastry chef-partner he set about creating, doing his own thing. He's still in business.

We can always get better at the process, the techniques, and as Drewman said that's always going to be the value of those short focused classes. On one hand, I'd love to go to Chicago to see Albert Adria in action and just groove off his vibe, because you know lots of other talented p-chefs will be there on that scene--can't you just taste the energy? On the other hand, sometimes it isn't really about classes at all--look what happened to Pat Coston: another PA&D 10 Best, medal winner in the Carymax competitions, 3-star NY Times restaurant review while he was at Ilo, starts making chocolates, praise follows in multiple national print magazines including Gourmet for his chocolates, and now that's no more. I haven't talked to Pat since he closed up his chocolate business--but I guarantee you it wasn't because he needed to improve his palate, his sense of flavor, his media savvy, his network or his technical pastry or chocolate skills. He had the full package. Maybe looking back he would say even he needed to spend some time with a Wybauw or stage in a production facility, I don't know but that's the kind of research you should do going in--and then budget your time and dollars accordingly. I don't know that any of us can predict what may turn out to be more important: to attend class, to use our tuition money instead to fund our projects, to travel, to stage or to eat our way around Barcelona.

No matter what you decide, no matter how well you prepare, it's still going to be a gamble, a very personal roll of the dice. There are too many skills you're not going to be taught at any pastry school which just may be the most important skills you need to acquire.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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Your post surprised me. Clearly you are feeling unsure of your future, and your past 2 gigs (miami and the nowclosed place) have left you questioning how best and where to go. You most definitely are selling yourself short! You have already accomplished more than the average grad does within at least 2 yrs after.

I just can't see you going back to school for an overall pastry program like the one at FPS. Chefette hit the nail on the head: you have to look at the ROI. For you to take that money, and time (not making money) (NOT to mention-- sitting through probably 3/4 of things you already know)... that doesn't make sense in your case.

Yes, Ewald's classes are advanced, but not all of them. Start with a less advanced course, and then move along up. The thing with much of the stuff you learn with him, is that you idealy need to go use it, have a way to practice and do what you've been taught. Absolutely tho, his classes are, without a doubt, superlative.

I don't know what hotel payscales are, but you need to figure that out in your considerations. Hotels are great places for learning, and moviing around. I think using/contacting/researching someone like Nightscotsman would be a good gauge to start with. Where does he fall on the scale? how pigeon-holed or not is he in what he gets to produce? Certainly he came well-educated, and landed in a great spot to learn and advance. But at the same time, I don't believe he's doing (just yet! :wink: ) the chocolate centerpieces. Yes, with your experience, coupled with a FPS degree, you ostensibly would hope to land a bit higher up the scale, but is that increment worth 6-9 months and $20L less in your pocket?

Say even, if you were to take a job (not in your town, you would relocate) for less pay, but great experience and definite chance of moving up, without even spending for classes, then you are looking at only a "cost" of say, half the FPS tuition, right? I have seen cases where a good pc will move up(and out) higher, leaving the ass't pc in the best postion to take over. (that is, of course, if the ass't has the ability). In your case, you no doubt would, because of your past experience. I almost took an ass't job at a very prestigious place for that exact reasoning. i figured when and if the pc left, I would be in good stead. Now, only months later, I have heard back that the pc is taking a leave, and considering other options. Another person working there told me this PC had actually remarked that she wished I had taken the ass't job afterall, because she knew she could have easily looked to me to take over in her absence, and maybe even leave the job altogether, in good hands.

Gosh, Ted, if I had 6 or 9 months, the ability to go someplace else (short term or just travel), I would definitely stage (in NY or even Europe) a few places. and then I would complement with a few of Ewald's or FPS's short specialized classes. I think those stages can help open doors for you, not to mention getting more "individualized" OTJ training.

since you are eventually willing to relocate, those things (experience of stages and classes) would make you more attractive, imo, coupled with your existing experience, than you(right now) but with just a pastry degree added. I think you have already gotten yourself to a spot that most grads won't be at for another 2-3 yrs.

I like to cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.

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That's what lead me to the Carymax forum in the first place. I was looking at schools but can't take that $20,000 hit right now. $1500, I could figure out how to live with. And it was a wide range of classes. In past years they have had an amazing lineup with people like Ewold Notter, Albert Adria, and there's always one interesting class that tweaks my interest like mold making or asian desserts. And it's a one week commitment. That's the other thing that made it so feasible for me. I didn't have to move away to another city for months. It gave me something that I didn't think was within my reach. It's not the same as going to the FPS which I would still love to do someday, but this was something I could do right now while I'm trying to figure out how to do more.It's been a huge issue for me wondering if the investment of all that money really does come back to you. I've had a local pastry chef discourage me from spending money on a local school. She said she'd rather train me up right herself. And would I have to move to someplace like Vegas for a return on my investment? I'm not seeing the work or stability in the industry where I'm at.

Edited by duckduck (log)

Pamela Wilkinson

www.portlandfood.org

Life is a rush into the unknown. You can duck down and hope nothing hits you, or you can stand tall, show it your teeth and say "Dish it up, Baby, and don't skimp on the jalapeños."

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I was working on some long, multi faceted, metaphysical post but decided to can it, as I don't have much to say that I would want to read, let alone the internet.

Great points from everyone, I appreciate the input more then you can know, sorry to be so morose, it's been an incredibly shitty, poor year so far.

Heres to hoping it improves.

I do have to add though, I really REALLY hope that most grads will find themselves in a better spot then I'm in at the moment.

2317/5000

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Ive done a lot of school searching since I started to pursue CIA around 4 years ago and have gotten numerous advisories and letters from other schools + done a good amount of research into it. Personally i wouldnt go anywhere else but CIA, but its 2-4 years and could cost you well over 30grand. So for a tighter schedule FPS chicago is great choice, but also FCI on Broadway NYC is excellent I feel. There is also a New Le Cordon Bleu in Atlanta that may have a 6 or 9 month baking course. Also if you want an even shorter term the CIA in greystone california has, I beleive a 2 month course in which you receive a certificate rather than a degree.

If i were you in your situation, I would probably do FCI or FPS

Also, dont go to the Baltimore school, I hear bad things even though they try to make it seem like they're "advanced".

P.S. I beleive my father went to the same school as you Ted, but he attended it when it first opened, some 20 years ago.

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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OK, I wanted to post as soon as I saw this thread, but it's taken be a while to read through the posts up til now. Here are my two cents:

I agree with those advising to not do the full school program thing, either at Notter or FPS. While I had a great experience at the FPS and learned a lot, I was heading into a big career change as an "older" person with no experience, and went there specifically to get a jump start so I wouldn't have to spend 5 years doing shit jobs working my way up. I didn't expect to be a pastry chef when I graduated, but I wanted to make sure I was positioned to enter a top kitchen and have some knowledge and skills. While I think that you might learn some things, Ted, I feel that their 6 month program is actually much too basic for where you're at right now. Much better to either stage with some great people, or take shorter advanced classes, or both.

I know that you are looking into job possibilities here in Vegas now. I also know that you're more interested/comfortable in doing restaurant dessert work. However, if your goal is to learn and have a broader base of skills, then you might consider going the hotel route for awhile. I can't speak from experience about other hotels in the area, but I can tell you that I've learned a huge amount since coming to work at Bellagio. I believe that a hotel pastry program of this size and quality is very rare in this country, and I'm very happy to be able to take advantage of the diversity of work and personalities here. As you know, I work on the restaurant dessert team, which produces plated dessert components for five restaurants and room service, as well as finished desserts for Jean Philippe Patisserie and several other retail outlets. Just working on our stuff, rotating through the different stations, keeps me interested and learning, but we also occasionally get "loaned out" to the banquet team or the chocolate room where we get exposed to new and different processes. No, I'm not doing chocolate showpieces or developing new dishes for the restaurants (the chefs and assistant chefs handle those), but I'm where I need to be right now in my career and building a good foundation and work habits.

With your experience and training, Ted, if you came to work here it would most likely be as a pastry cook (the union calls us "bakers"). Or you might be able to start as an assistant pastry chef, though those positions are fewer and not as available, often being filled from in-house. This may sound like a huge step down, but you could consider it as a temporary paid learning experience, just to get in and find out where you want to go. One of our people - who is at the same level as me - has much more experience and was formerly the pastry chef at Nobu here in Vegas. She came here for the better hours, better pay (about $15 an hour), better benefits, and to be exposed to a wider variety of work. Another person on our team used to teach at the CIA Graystone.

I'm really not trying to talk you into anything, or say that Bellagio is the best and only place to work. I just wanted to offer another option that might help to round out your skill, expose you to new ways of working, and possibly become a stepping stone to other opportunities.

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17.5k is alot. if you were here in NJ, a degree at rutgers university would cost around 20k bucks, get you job, benefits, and a salary well over 30k(depending on the degree of course).

anyways, have you ever thought of investing your money on equipment to help start of a business?

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A lot of great things have been written and I have to agree with Steve. Maybe it's different in the States but here, in Montreal, it's quite impossible for someone with experience to find a good job as a pastry chef in a restaurant. Most restaurants aren't able to give them more than 12$/hour (canadian...). Most restaurant hire someone who has just finish pastry school or they don't even have someone doing pastry and the garde-manger is doing them.

I had tha chance of ''creating'' my job and having my own restaurant even if I'm only a pastry chef...

For my take on pastry school, I really think the master classes at the FPS are good. The only one I went I few months ago ( with Albert Adria) was very well organize and worth the trip.

Patrice Demers

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Options:

1- Status quo.

Pros: You know the area and like where you live, you are getting by

Cons: You feel undervalued and are not getting ahead. Do not forsee any changes in the economy

2- Sign up for FPS 6 month program

Pros: It would be fun. Give you the satisfaction that you have a top notch school credential in your pocket.

Cons: Need to borrow $17.5K for tuition. Living expenses and relocation would be certain to drive additional debt. Would entail going over a lot of basics and putting up with a bunch of beginners.

3- Sign up for Notter Master Classes/Master Classes at FPS

Pros: Get to identify and target specific areas that need work. Can elect to take classes with world renowned experts. May allow opportunity for developing personal relationships with instructors/chefs.

Cons: Still expensive and requires travel expenses.

4- Decide to take a self development research/stage/educational tour including visits to locations/markets of interest that have more robust and better paid pastry industry, master classes at Notters and FPS, stages in top pastry kitchens around the country

Pros: Identify potential opportunities and develop useful working relationships. Learn some new techniques and see some new desserts (hopefully). Line up a new life with confidence.

Cons: Still expensive, time consuming

5- Take a pastry job in Vegas

Pros: It’s a job. It is union. Better payscale and benefits.

Cons: It’s a step backward. You would be working in huge volume. You might find out you have an addictive personality and become a compulsive gambler. As we see on TV each week two people in Vegas are victims of really horrible murder crimes.

6- Start your own business

Pros: Gives you independence and ability to go more in the directions that you want. Allows you to be the boss.

Cons: Need to fit into the market. Expensive and would require loans. Could be risky.

7- Change careers

Pros: Most other (non food) careers have starting salaries up around $40K and the sky is the limit.

Cons: Might require retraining and relocation therefore incursion of debt. You might be unhappy.

8- Take a job with a big corporation doing food research

Pros: Lots of PCs are taking jobs with companies like Au Bon Pain and Mars etc to help them improve their product or develop higher end specialty products. Good salary. Nice jackets. Travel. Benefits. Still pastry. Access to large clean kitchens and lots of equipment and assistants.

Cons: Well, it is industrial – but it’s the future – right?

9- Get on the Cast of a Reality TV Cooking show

10- Become a food writer. Write a book.

11- Wiggle your way into the Food TV thing and get a TV show.

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5- Take a pastry job in Vegas

Pros: It’s a job.  It is union.  Better payscale and benefits.

Cons:  It’s a step backward.  You would be working in huge volume.  You might find out you have an addictive personality and become a compulsive gambler.  As we see on TV each week two people in Vegas are victims of really horrible murder crimes.

This is not necessarily true. While the banquet and danish groups do work in large volumes, in the restaurant team we usually finish quantities of 8-20 daily of most items.

And while of course it's true that Vegas isn't crime free, can you name a US city that is? Though I'm not a big fan of the lifestyle here, I've never felt unsafe.

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Las Vegas compares fairly well to other cities in terms of the rate of violent crimes. In 1999, Vegas had 665 violent crimes per 100,000 population, 554 for the suburbs. By comparison, Atlanta had 2729, Orlando had 2137, Nashville had 1607, Los Angeles had 1238, Houston had 1187, New York had 1063, and Indianapolis had 1016. Hell, Salt Lake City had 710. Those numbers are all based on the DOJ's Uniform Crime Report 1999.

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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Ted - have you considered the professional courses offered by Pierre Herme at Ferrandi and/or ADF/Le centre de formation d'Alain Ducasse? Also, elBulli offers a roughly month-long intensive pro course somewhere in the world every year after the end of the season - last year it was in Italy.

See you soon I hope.

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Ted - have you considered the professional courses offered by Pierre Herme at Ferrandi and/or ADF/Le centre de formation d'Alain Ducasse? Also, elBulli offers a roughly month-long intensive pro course somewhere in the world every year after the end of the season - last year it was in Italy.

See you soon I hope.

OOOOOHHHHH La LAAAA!

Sign me up!

Ted, let's say we ditch our families for a month and go?!? LOL :laugh::laugh::laugh:

I like to cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.

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