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Vancouver Culinary Schools


tasty
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I am in my early 30's and am entertaining serious thoughts of dropping my accounting career of 10 years and going to cooking school to become a chef and pursue my love of all things food.

Can anyone give me some guidance with respect to Vancouver cooking schools? I only know of Dubrulle (AI), PCI, and VCC. Specifically, I'd like to know if the expensive schools are worth it or if VCC is good enough when seeking employment after school.

Any advice or words of wisdom for me? (not just on schools but also on entering the industry at my age and how to best go about it)

Thanks in advance!

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Of all the schools you have named the one with the best track record for turning out "name" chefs is Dubrulle (correct me if i'm wrong) but they have been recently bought out by the Art Institute of Seattle who has moved the campus downtown, so they do not as yet have a track record.

Pacific Culinary seems competent with a nice setup but I have not heard a lot about them.

VCC is the plain jane of the bunch with some excellent instructors and lower tuition but it seems that the level of motivation on the part of the student is going to be the telling factor as a place like VCC gets a higher ratio of students who are destined to be more institutional (hospitals, care homes etc.) level. Thus one would need to focus more on getting help from the instructors and not getting caught up with a lower level of motivation (don't get me wrong VCC has turned out some good culinary people and is always striving to raise the quality bar).

Now as for what to expect in a culinary career....think long and hard about the perks of your present job such as regular hours, weekends off, benefits etc. Because although your present career is artistically lacking you will find that a culinary career is very demanding physically as well as relationship wise.

When I instructed for a brief period at Dubrulle there was a high number of students who were accountants, pharmicists etc. who saw the glory of the food business but when it came to working nights, weekends and holidays for wages far below what they were making before, the glow quickly wore off and the great majority scampered back to their secure jobs.

The thing is though, that if food is a passion, then why not take a sabbatical, take the course, and see how you feel at the end of it and if you can get a job, who knows, maybe you are one of the very few who can make the transition. Nothing worse than living life with regrets over what might have been and at least for your 8 or 9 thousand dollars you'll know your way around a chef's knife and an emulsion.

Good luck

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A new culinary school has just openned up in Vancouver. www.nwcav.com

It is owned and run by the chefs who teach there. Both of them ex Dubrulle chef instructors. I payed them a visit today by chance since it is down the street from where I live. The school seems committed to a high standard and I know the chef instructors as being passionate, good natured and very dedicated to teaching the art of cooking. I studied under one of them and cooked under the other.

Most of the students looked to be in their 30's even high 30's.

The kitchen is clean and brand new and from what I heard both th ISG(International Sommelier Guild) and WSET wine programs will now be taught from there.

Dubrulle, from the feedback I get from current students is in a transition stage at the moment.

Do your homework, check out all the local schools and good luck.

BTW, I was in my late 30's really close to 40 when I went. No regrets.

Cheers

slowfood/slowwine

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If your still in the deciding stage, I would recommend doing a trial in one of the local restaurants first. Cheffing is not all its cracked up to be. Most restaurants will take you in as a volunteer and show you the ropes. It is also great on a resume and you have a better perspective of what you learn in school. This is a good way to get into an exclusive kitchen in the long run. Summer is the best time to do this. You will get a real picture of what a kitchen is like in the busiest time of year, and your presence will be appreciated.

As for choice of schools. I have not been very impressed with students from Dubrulle. They seem to have 5star attitude but basic skills. If you already know everything (or at least think you do) it is hard to learn more. And cheffing is a life long learning process. Lesson 1, leave your ego at the door. I have only worked with a couple of students from PICA. They were both eager to learn and had good skills. I have worked with many chefs trained at VCC. They are hit and miss. It seems to depend more on their motivation, but those who were into it were very well trained and had excellent work ethic. No matter where you end up, you only get out of it what you put into it. I have heard good things also about this new school NWCAV.

In my opinion, it is more important to choose carefully about who you work with after school, because you will only learn the basics in any school. Expensive schools tend to get you into better restaurants for your practicum, but if you have taken my advice, you will already have a foot in the door at a good restaurant.

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hey, thanks to all of you for taking the time to give me some advice. i'd pretty much gotten the same reviews from others i've spoken with about the individual schools as the ones you guys gave and realize that it's more a matter of self-motivation and passion than on any specific school. and also, thanks for the input on nwcav--i'd driven by there a few times and was wondering what they were about...nice to have another option. i'm also very encouraged that there are so many my age just entering school.

drinkingchef, i think i'll try your suggestion of doing a trial. that is a fantastic way to check things out.

Now as for what to expect in a culinary career....think long and hard about the perks of your present job such as regular hours, weekends off, benefits etc. Because although your present career is artistically lacking you will find that a culinary career is very demanding physically as well as relationship wise.
--no pain, no glory!! *lots to think about!*
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Hi tasty,

You sound like me a few years ago. I was bored with my banking job and thought I just needed a creative outlet so I went to PICA to do their 6 month intensive pastry course after quitting my 10-year job.

I'm not pleased with PICA as they had a chauvinistic attitude (particulalry Chef Walter, one of the partners.) I felt they just wanted my money and when I came out I did not feel prepared. Plus the one week practicum they sent me to did not involve pastry and I ended up cutting vegetables. Plus now they are inundated with foreign students where English is a second language and you could be partnered with someone who can slow you down (as I was.) This is just the tip of the iceberg and I won't waste your time.

When I went to the real work world of baking many chefs and owners told me they prefer to hire someone from VCC because the very basic is taught, without any preconceived frou frou and much less 5-star ego attitude. Needless to say, after a year of several different jobs, I was disillusioned. I was itching to "create" and all I did was a lot of production work...which at first was fun but eventually bored me.

I was given jobs where apprenticeship was promised, another job where I was told I could give creative input, and many more promises that never materialized.

If you really must go the private school route I would go Dubrulle. I don't know anything about www.nwcav.com but it's worth checking out.

Don't knock VCC. You are competing with a lot of EI students, some which are not motivated, but don't let that stop you. The programs are much cheaper and you learn so much more (more than I did.) The instructors are good and they have additional courses you can take to further certain skills. I took a sugar art course which I found very valuable. Plus, they get a lot of well-known restaurants looking for the best graduates. Ask the counsellors for a list and you will be impressed. Don't worry about not doing "finer" dining stuff, you'll learn that on the job. In fact, I had more intro into honing my craft in the real world than in PICA.

Or you might consider studying in the states, as a semi-sabbatical/vacaction.

As mentioned by others, it is very hard physical work, not to mention the early hours you may have to work. It is far less glamourous, professional and predictable than an accountant job.

Sorry to sound like a downer, but that is the reality. But I think it's wonderful if you have enough passion to go thru all this as I believe that's what it takes to get you to the first few rough years.

I know the pastry chef for Gary Danko in San Francisco and when I see her, she is absolutely a perfectionist, totally dedicated to her craft, and she sleeps, eats and breathes baking. But that is how she moved her way up to work for a reputable restaurant.

Having your accountant background is a real plus if you want to open up your own business, so that's something to consider as you're shlopping that 215th muffin tin.

Hope this helps and best of luck. :smile:

Edited by maxmillan (log)
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I went to university of the cariboo (fancy name for kamloops)

I remember I was tired of stupid dead end jobs, and wanted something that was more "transportable" (since my husband kept moving around for seniority reasons) so signed up for three things,

accounting

hairdressing

cooks certification

that was in june, they were all booked for september, in fact had a waiting list for the following entry as well, so I figured I go camping with the husband and kids, and maybe by next year I'd figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. Well Low and behold when I got back from the trip middle of july I got a phone call that there was an opening in mid august for cook and I had to decide then and there if I wanted the spot. Apparently I was the last one on the waiting list and no one else answered the phone that day. So I figured this was divine intervention and I said "sure". And the rest is history. Of the six or so instructors, five were either European or European trained. "it seems the ski hill in kamloops is an attraction for them all"

And I don't know about the other schools but kamloops has alot of charters going through at any given time and alot of them seem to find their way to the restaurant that the third level students run.

My husband is still peeved that I didn't wait and become an accountant. That was 12 years ago. I'm sure that the instructors have changed. But I had a great Austrian pasty instructor. In fact all of them were great.

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Chezlamere, I wish I had some divine intervention back when I decided that CGA school was the way to go! Like Maxmillan feels about PCIA is pretty much how I felt about the CGA Association--like they just wanted my money. I didn't know there was a culinary program up there. I'll check it out.

I'm not too surprised by your comments regarding PCIA Maxmillan. Many people I've talked to have had similar sentiments. And, I've also heard very similar comments to yours about VCC. In fact, if I indeed take the plunge, I'm currently leaning towards VCC...it's cheaper by far and I believe much of your assessment to be true. But I'm still in the preliminary stages of my decision, and still have much research to do.

It definitely is up to the individual no matter where you go to school or train.

Thanks for sharing your experiences with me guys!

It is far less glamourous, professional and predictable than an accountant job.

--glamourous?! i wish! :laugh:

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I did a year at VCC in the early eighties. i completed the chef/cook one year program. It was divided into three basic sections, Cold Kitchen, Industrial and A la Carte. It spends the large amount of the course preparing you for basic kitchen jobs. Vegetable preperation, Soup making, Institutional cooking etc. There was a lot of people there just trying to extend their Unemployment or Welfare benifits. People like me were called fee payers and made up about30 % of the classes. Without the training one learns at this type of school one would be lost in the real world of commercial cooking. You learn to make 50 yolk mayo, 10 lb Hollandaises on a gas burner, 50 gallons of chicken stock etc.

I learned more about cooking in the 3 months I spent at the end in the a la carte program then you ever would in a year at Dubrulle. I think thogh that was just because the chef at the time was the real deal. His name was Ryan Mills. He is long gone though. It was the best year of my life because it taught me the basics, although I don't work in the industry any longer I feel like I can make just about any dish I eat or see, and that is because of my basic training at VCC.

BTW nothing can prepare you for what really happens in a restaurant kitchen.

Edited by Coop (log)

David Cooper

"I'm no friggin genius". Rob Dibble

http://www.starlinebyirion.com/

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BTW nothing can prepare you for what really happens in a restaurant kitchen.
--such an intriguing statement...makes me want to do it. :wink:

wow, thanks Coop. point VCC.

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I am not sure about the schools, though i have a had a few friends that have gone to VCC and have learnt a lot and got great chef jobs after. But definitely do a trial period. I wanted to leave my office job, as i abosulately hated it, so I got hired on with a catering company and did their appetizers, I learnt an incredible lot with them. But my the work and hours, i would start at 4:30 and work to 6pm with no breaks, so different than the easy 9-5 office job, i would have stayed with it but the money was a big thing, as it was essentially nothing. So off to the office I went and decided I would just cook as a hobby, as i really do love it

DANIELLE

"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well."

-Virginia Woolf

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I hear you DameD. I'm still trying to decide. And I am really getting a sense now of how demanding the cook's life is. And the low wages to start.

It's a tough one. But I do know that I don't want to be at my desk job for too much longer. It's safe and secure but I've really reached my limit.

Going to do some hard research on all the schools this weekend.

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What about considering becoming a personal chef? The hours might be more normal - ie not into the wee hours of the night and you would be more in control of the work. Now that I have voiced my opinion I need to qualify it with the fact that I don't have any experience with either. But I do know office jobs and yes they have their limitations. But damn if it doesn't feel good to have a pay cheque I can live off of and have my evenings available for what I want to do. There are pressures in office work but I'm not on my feet for the whole day and I don't get yelled at on a regular basis - in fact not at all. If I had to choose chef in a restaurant, personal chef and office job - and I wanted in my heart to cook - personal chef. My two cents worth.

Cheers,

Karole

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Let's not fool ourselves, here.

Even after you attend a professional cooking school, you will need to apprentice in a proper restaurant and spend countless hours being humbled by this craft. There is more to learn than making a perfect terrine or whipping your egg whites to stiff peaks.

FYI, a few weeks in a kitchen will tell you whether you would enjoy this lifestyle. Hit the road and start begging chefs to let you do stages in their kitchens. This will give you the best indication.

If you don't follow your heart, your head will revolt. As much as the two should never meet, they will collaborate at times.

Follow your dreams, chase your goal, and don't be afraid of a little misery. None of us had any idea what a crappy lifestyle this was when we signed on. Optimism breeds cooks and restauranteurs and your next. I whole-heartedly encourage you to chase this fantasy down and make it a reality. The worst that could happen is that you fail miserably and continue on with your life with the knowledge that you tried. Far better than knowing if you could have done it.

With proper discipline, hard work and a good attitude, success crosses all borders into all vocations. If this is what you want to do, settle it quick, be decisive (rash) and start down that path. I've seen too many nights wondering where the passion was for this business, so you've got the main thing there.

Good luck.

:smile:

I'm no expert on the restaurant industry, but I know a thing or two about drug abuse ...

-Daddy-A (Kitchen Troll)

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Tasty,

I was in the same position as you about three years ago. I quit my professional job after 16 years to pursue my culinary passions and go to cooking school. In my search of trying to decide where to go, I checked out (meaning I visited) VCC, PICA and Dubrulle (the Northwest Culinary Academy did not exist at the time). I ended up going to Dubrulle (I have taken both the four month Culinary program as well as the four month Pastry program, but unlike most students I didn't take them back to back).

I didn't go to VCC mainly due to the longer duration (around 8 months) and the fact that it seemed to be more institutional in terms of the curriculum but I was very impressed with the chef instructors that I met. I didn't go to PICA in part due to the fact that they had a longer waiting list (fewer students per session) and they really didn't seem to want me to talk to the students while I was observing - any time I approached them, the chef instructor was immediately by my side. One of the students 'secretly' passed me a piece of paper with her phone number and mouthed "call me". I did speak with her - she didn't seem to have any major concerns with the school, but I didn't have an overall good feeling.

I very much enjoyed the two programs that I took at Dubrulle - mainly due to the quality and enthusiasm of the chef instructors. However, there were certainly some students who were not happy. It will be interesting to see what happens to the Dubrulle reputation with the new ownership and programs. For example the four month Dubrulle Culinary Program was revamped into two three month courses (namely the Culinary Arts and Advanced Culinary Arts). Same thing for the Pastry.

My suggestion would be to try Dubrulle/AI or the Northwest Culinary Academy. The two chef owners of the Academy were my instructors at Dubrulle and while they have very different teaching approaches, I certainly think they have the passion and capability to turn out extremely good students, and provide a positive and fun learning environment.

Unlike most, I've had an easy ride with my transition, but only due to the fact that I have a spouse who can support me (he also greatly benefits from much improved home cuisine!) I also have NEVER regretted my decision and I can proudly say that "I LOVE MY JOB".

On another note, I was wondering if anyone has checked out the new restaurant associated with Dubrulle/AI? I have not yet been. I've been to PICA's restaurant twice. My first visit was good enough, however the last time, a hair in my dessert and tin foil in my dinner roll blemished the experience for me.

Best of Luck to you Tasty! I hope you'll let us know what you have decided.

Edited by lemon curd (log)

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A few years ago I was back in Vancouver checking out culinary schools and I had some observations that I thought I might share.

PICA: I did the tour, was astonished by the prices (It will take way too many years of a line cooks salary to pay that back), and had an quite disappointing lunch in the dining room. I'll just say I hope I never see uncooked spaghetti as a garnish again...

Dubrulle: I spent a day there watching the class in action. I found that the instructors were knowledgable and genuine. The class was interesting but it seemed to me that way too much information was being glossed over (due to I presume the length of the course and the volume of material to be covered). Once again, I found the prices hard to swallow.

VCC: I mostly only read about their program, but I did check out all the various shops in the building that were selling to the public. I definitely got the impression that the basics were important here.

In general I would say that school is a chance to walk before you have to run. The most important thing is that you basic knife skills, cooking skills, etc are DOWN. You don't really need to learn how to make nice plates, and daring combinations. That's what on the job training is for. A beginning line cook needs to get used to repetition and working with their hands again. This I think is probably the biggest change from accounting. Manual work is not as easy as it sounds, and you body needs to get used to it, and have time to internalise the skills that you gain. The first year or so, you will have to watch and think about cutting while you're doing it. After enough practice, it becomes automatic. I think what I'm getting at is don't go into a short program thinking that it will get you on the job faster. You will need the same time to learn regardless. In your shoes I would seriously consider VCC. It is far from glamourous, but neither is being a line cook at the beginning. In addition, the money you save on tuition would be better spent doing a stage somewhere after school and a few years experience. PICA, or France?

Just one man's opinion

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I've pretty much taken PCIA and Dubrulle out of the equation. They are expensive and, from everybody's advice, I think VCC would be a more than adequate (and affordable) choice. I'm still going to look into NWCA.

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I would highly recommend the new culinary school, northwest culinary institute - a few people have already suggested. I went there last week, interviewed the chef/owners (both taught at Dubrulle) and got the feeling that this place has more to offer, smaller classes and they really care about their students, most importantly, they have a tough screening process so you don't waste your $$

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Really I don't think it matters so much where you go to cooking school as it does how much you take with you when you leave. I would suggest that you tour all of the schools that offer programs and decide not based on the cost but based on what you are looking to get out of it and what programs intrest you the most. I have worked with people that have gone to cooking school from all over North America and parts of Europe and none of the school's produce a better consistant product then the next, it all depends on the individual. Some of the worst students I have come across have been trained at the CIA in the U.S., does that mean thats it's not a great school? No. It just means that those people might not have put in as much as the student next to them ther for didn't get as much out of it. Besides it doesn't matter what school you go to if you can't produce in the workplace. I went to Dubrulle and don't always think it was the right place to go but in the end I think that I have done fairly well for myself and don't regret the path I have taken , because without it I wouldn't be as fortunate to work where I do and with the people that I do.

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  • 2 weeks later...
A new culinary school has just openned up in Vancouver. www.nwcav.com

<snip>

Most of the students looked to be in their 30's even high 30's.

<snip>

I'm one of those "even high 30's" :wink: students in the initial class at Northwest Culinary Academy. Actually, the student ages vary from 20 and 21 (one each), a few 30somethings, to a cluster of us "mature" students -- there are a total of 4 of us between 47 (me) and 53.

Its an interesting group of people, and an amazing experience. I'd be happy to tell you about the school -- drop me an email.

Really I don't think it matters so much where you go to cooking school as it does how much you take with you when you leave.

I believe this is true to a point -- the set of things you'll be exposed to is apt to be similiar from place to place, and you will get out what you put in. However, the environment may help or hinder your efforts. You're paying; it should help.

Being in a class largely consisting of "grown-ups" makes a big difference. People are focused, we have relatively few snits; we tend to discuss our differences like adults. It is easier on the Instructors too -- more attention to the topics at hand, less on adolescent foibles.

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

I'm another of those 'mature' students who just graduated from NWCAV. It's a great school and the teachers are very passionate about their job. I think as the first group through we helped work out a few kinks and have set up the next class for success.

I hope this isn't too late a reply, as it's my first.

Good luck with your decision!

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  • 10 months later...

I have had a few students from various culinary schools work at the restaurant over the years and I have formed impressions based on what I have heard from the students and how I think they have been taught.

One of our recent Vancouver visitors was egulleer HKDave, and he was here to attend Northwest Culinary School. My impressions from him about his education and how much he paid for it was that he chose wisely. I was a little less $$ than some of the other schools and prepared him very well for a life in various types of kitchens.

I currently have two students from Pacific Culinary working here. It is very early in the game to compare and contrast my impressions of the school.

I have had two students from the “old” Dubrulle here and both were elitist little snobs. That is no reflection of the school. Their knowledge of classic techniques was good, but in my opinion, these two were not very well prepared for a commercial kitchen.

I have found that VCC has a good program and gives the student a great beginning in all types of kitchens.

Are there any others out there?

Did you attend any of the culinary schools here? What are your impressions of them?

Have you had any graduates from these schools work with you? What was your impression of how well they were prepared for the workplace?

Neil Wyles

Hamilton Street Grill

www.hamiltonstreetgrill.com

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I will officially out myself as a culinary student at Dubrulle. I hope to God I am not an elitist snob, but I can understand why some students turn out like that... Still too early in the game to say if I am getting my($$$) money's worth.

< Linda >

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