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Choosing a Culinary School

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Andrew B - CIA is now offering the whole thing in Greystone now - it just started a few months ago. I class mate of mine siad in California all you had to do was mention CIA and you were the star....he said it added a ton of pressure to produce the standard all of the time - no fowl ups. BUT - as someone said earlier - programs are programs and you can make the most of it --- CIA had more opportunities

I would have never met - Anthony Bourdain - Michale Ruhlman - Kevin Zraley - The EGO or Rocco - who really is a brilliant chef - industry chefs - corporate chef - hell the executive chef for barilla pasta! That was cool. Tom Keller - Mary Donovan - Marcel Desaulniers (who I cooked for in VA) - Patrick O'Connell - the wine and beer folks were real nice! Daniel Boulud, and these are just some off the top of my head...where they either gave formal talks and a light discussion after -

BUT several people are right. The programs at Hotels are great - The Greenbrier - it is INTENSE with CMC Chef Timmins who recruits heavy for CIA students to help his students make up the difference. The US Military - I don't think I was at the campus that I did not see a military group doing cont ed there. They were always nice and the Navy Ship Chefs were always cool to talk about the volume and how they did it....so it is what you make it.

I had to do CIA becasue I needed an advantage because of my age - the cost - they were all about the same CIA was actually 3rd in my list cheap wise...NECI and another were a little more - but big deal.

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  • 1 month later...


I think that you're doing the best course of action by working in the trade to see if you would be willing to spend the time and money on attending a culinary program. If you were a young man, then I would suggest that you possibly consider doing an apprenticeship program.

I do not know where in Canada you live, but here is Shaw Guides-Canada, Canadian Culinary Federation, CCF's Culinary Educational Institutions.

If you would like to go to school in the U.S., come across the border to Michigan. I would recommend that you compare those aforementioned schools on your list vis-a-vis:

Schoolcraft College Culinary Arts Program. Schoolcraft College has 3 CMCs and 1 CMPC on faculty, and

Grand Rapids Community College Culinary Arts Programs, GRCC HED. GRCC has 1 CMC(Scottish), and 1 CMPC(French), who is also the coach of the U.S.A. Pastry Cup Team.

Buttercup: You mock my pain.

Man in Black: Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.

-- The Princess Bride

If the women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy -- Red Green

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I'm a Johnson and Wales grad that has been in the industry for more than 15 years - I've worked with some great CIA grads. If a student is motivated they will get a similiar experience and leave either school with the tools to become really good at what they do. The programs are different and therefore work better for different people. Being a chef is a constant search for knowledge and its an everchanging career. Culinary school alone does not make a chef. It was so many years before I dared to call myself anything more than a cook. Long after I graduated school. THe debate between schools is silly. However, we used to get a lot of interns, they were not from either of the rival schools but well known lesser schools. I was appalled. If your going to take the time and spend the money - get the pedigree ( CIA or J&W)

Industry experience coupled with a degree is great

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One of my big influences was location. I attended Florida Culinary Institute starting in 01 and was quite happy with my education. I toured all the culinary schools in FL (J and W, Art Institute.) I chose my school based on the small classes, personality of chefs and that i could get a Food and Beverage Management degree in another 6 months (after culinary arts) I could have also recieved a pastry arts degree in another 9 months, but I had no interest in being a baker (I now own my own bakery). I recently had an intern from a Le Cordon Blue, she had a pastry arts degree but knew very little science and how to adapt to real life situations. I know she will do great but was very suprised that they didnt make her take even an intro to culinary class, no knife skills, my school made everyone learn intro to culinary and intro to baking whether into pastry, management, or culinary. I will admit that there was at least one teacher who was a bad teacher, I learned alot, but not a teacher personality. I feel that I got the skills to learn, and taken those skills and learned much more from books and even egullet, and several chefs than I ever learned in school. My last boss was a NECI grad ans spoke really highly of it, he has great food science knowledge. The only CIA grad I know has a HUGE head and thinks hes god. My school also had 50% international students which I learned tons from. I know that around 50% are no longer in the industry but I think thats common with all schools. My good friends and fellow graduates are now a private chef for a widow heir to one of the largest corporations in the US and a chef in a south Florida country club. All said im happy with my school and the education I recieved but I do think that NECI would be the chose I would make with the knowledge I have now.

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The problem I have with NECI is that the focus seems to be on real-world cooking situations, which is great, but I don't feel like paying 25,000 a year for that. I might as well just stage and travel (which is still not a bad idea, and would be my choice if younger)

I've pretty much decided to go to the CIA. The connections and facilities seem to be what I need, and it seems like the right choice. I'm still thinking about moving to California for the New program at Greystone, but since the associate degree is so new there, I've been having a hard time finding out information about it. I'm hoping to visit in a month or so, but until then I wish I knew someone who went there. I know Greystone is smaller, but if it's up to the CIA's standard then that's good, if it's CIA in name only, then the money would be better spent in Hyde Park.

Right now I'm in the process of switching restaurants. I got a job at a local French Bistro, that hires CIA and J&W externs, and are giving one of those places to me. It's a small place, and I've been told I'll get to do a bit of everything, so I think it will be a great experience. The chef is tough but nice, and I think that's what I need to learn. It will be like doing my externship before I even get to culinary school. I figure if I can survive this and still love it, then I'm truly ready to commit to culinary school.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Your best bet is to tour the campuses and find out about the entire cirriculum-do you want to go just to be professional cook? Do you want to run a kitchen? Do you want to open your own restaurant? Do you want to work in the industry at all, and what do you want to do?

The first decision you need to make is what you want to do with your career. All of these schools (as well as so many more, Art Institutes, Le Cordon Bleu, etc) have extensive programs, and some (if not most) include ACF credentials as part of the tuition and program. Once you decide what you want to do, start pumping the admissions reps and any acquaintances (as well as us...) for information on how these programs prepare people for what they want.

I'm a grad of Art Institute of Atlanta (2004), and my goal was simple-make myself more valuable with a degree on top of my 10 years of experience I already had. I was able to get a culinary education, a college degree acredited nationally, as well as ACF credentials. It was expensive, but worth it.

The problem was, I was in school with a bunch of "kids" who thought there would be a talent agent from the Food Network waiting outside the graduation auditorium with a contract with their name on it--complete waste for these people. You get out what you put in, and you need to know what you want out of it first.

But for my money, AI was a great experience if you have a campus nearby.

"have a sense of humor about things...you'll need it" A. Bourdain

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Not to steal this thread from you piperdown but, I'm a junior in high school looking to go to culinary school, and would like the input of this community. I spent the last summer working in the kitchen of a catering company and will do again this summer and all through my senior year in high school. What else would you guys suggest I do to prepare myself/help me choose a school.

I've been cooking for almost two years now and I love it. I'm 100% sure this is what I want to do with my life and would greatly appreciate your ideas.


16 years old and in love with cooking, you'll hear about me in the future. ;)

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OK I went to CIA - AND I am a career changer. I have a Bachelors in Bus Adm and 10 yrs experience. Here is what you have to ask yourself if you are an older student and what I thought about - First - what is it that I want to accomplish? That means that I am 39 years old and starting out in a new career of food - at the time I was 35. Second - which place is going to give me the leg up on the young guys - I am very jealous of all of the new grads from wherever they go CIA, FCI, JW Art Ins, because they will get more cooking than I will because I am old! Third - which place is going to have a diverse group for you - I did not want to be the oldest in a class of 18 yr olds fresh out of HS. You can get an education anywhere and CIA is where I chose to go because it met all of my goals and was close to NYC one of the biggest food places in the world!

These guys always fight over CIA and J/W and yes J/W grad always pick on CIA just like the guys said - defending J/W - but being older I wanted the connections. I have had job offers out the ying yang and I have no clue if it is CIA or what - but I can tell you I loved it - The foundations were solid - my extern was with a club in S. Florida and 3 CIA grads and 1 J/W grad - they were all great - I can say that Florida Culinary , I was told - the entire culinary staff is CIA grads - not sure now - More published authors are CIA grads - so look at all of them - I looked at New England too - it was nice as well - I was a Sous in VA and J/W did close that campus - so I am not sure if was temp or what.

I will tell you this - you should go work for a place before you jump careers. It is NOT the food network. Read Michael Ruhlmans book - Making of a Chef - it is the CIA - Reach of a Chef also is a good one - Both stories on CIA!

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