Did Anybody Go To Johnson And Wales?

Business By Katied75 Updated 8 May 2008 , 12:58am by kats0916

Katied75 Posted 2 May 2008 , 5:50pm
post #1 of 17

I am currently a Stay at home mom, and my plan has been to start graduate school in about a year, complete a 2 year part time program, and head back to teaching in 3 years, just as my youngest starts kindergarten.

Here's the thing: I live only about 20 minutes away from Johnson and Wales in Providence. I am a complete novice cake decorator, but from what I can tell my state (MA) licenses in home bakeries.

I LOVE baking and decorating. I've been toying with the idea of pursuing baking and pastry art at Johnson and Wales instead of my graduate degree, with the idea that in 2 to 3 years I could open a cake shop from my home.

Here are my questions:

1. Is it worth going to a bakinga and culinary school and pursuing an associates or possibly bachelor's degree to learn how to be good cake decorator? Being a stay at home mom, I can't get much practice time at home. I also tend to learn much more quickly when I have somebody to ask questions of. My thought is that with a professional program, I would have time without the kids around to really practice and learn. I'd have world class teachers to learn from.

I'm just not sure how good I can get at cake baking and decorating after completing a program like this. Since it's a baking and pastry program there are classes on breads and pastries, not just cakes. I don't know if it's a waste of time and money. However, it might be the only way I can really get the time and teaching I need to get good.

The program will cost me $20,000 for one year, and possibly up to $35000 total to take all of the cake classes offered and pursue my undergraduate degree. I'd have to make enough money with a cake shop to make these loans worth it. Could I leave a school like that and have the skills to open a shop and start earning $2000 plus a month?

Thanks everybody. I'm giving this some serious thought. I know teaching is the more secure job and I've already done it... also the pay is guaranteed and I have a family to help support. However, my heart would love to take this adventure....

Katie

16 replies
Petit-four Posted 2 May 2008 , 11:36pm
post #2 of 17

Since your state allows in-home baking, perhaps pursue getting a permit/license (see if your town laws also permit it -- local trumps state in many cases), and then try making some cakes or baked goods for a while. Then see how you do with wedding cakes, if you haven't done them already.

If you really love it, but feel your skills are what is lacking, there are great classes offered by teachers such as Toba Garrett. You might find a very focused, structured class is what you need.

Also, if you enjoy decorating, and have teaching experience, you may want to give classes yourself. You will make many contacts that way, and find clients for more challenging cakes, even if they make the easier ones themselves.

Just a few thoughts, before jumping into a long-term program. If J&W allows you to just take a few classes to see how it goes, that would be a possible way to test your interest.

Good luck with whatever you decide. icon_smile.gif

Mike1394 Posted 3 May 2008 , 12:04am
post #3 of 17

If you just want to decorate cakes then no. Look at how long it will take to pay back the tution. Now if you want to understand how to MAKE a cake, then yes go. The knowledge you'll get will be priceless.

Mike

Katied75 Posted 3 May 2008 , 12:47am
post #4 of 17

Thank you! I want to be able to make a great tasting, beautiful cake that looks like edible art. I want to sell them and be able to make a good living off of that as a career (say 40k per year). I don't have the skills to do that at this point, so I am trying to figure out how to best develop those skills.

Katie

mjarvis78 Posted 3 May 2008 , 5:47am
post #5 of 17

I went to culinary school, and while I learned a lot, they just touched on decorating. It was thorough, but basic.

Do you have an established cake shop or bakery in the area? You would learn a lot more about decorating and cake construction by apprenticing or interning with a business veteran, than you would if you went to school.

A culinary education gives you a solid foundation to build a career on. You still need to go out and refine your skills and pay your dues. Most people do not make the jump from culinary graduate to store owner. There are a lot of steps in between.

HerBoudoir Posted 3 May 2008 , 2:29pm
post #6 of 17

A less expensive option may be to see if there are reasonably local community colleges that offer culinary Associate's degrees. Instead of $30,000 a year, it may only cost $4,000 - $6,000 a year.

You have to look at how much debt you would be in coming out of school, not only for your education, but in borrowing start up money. That's a BIG hole to climb out of.

I went back to college full time in 2005, and specifically went the community college, then state university, route because I just did not want to be graduating at nearly 40, starting over in a new career, and be snowed under in the debt that going to a more expensive college would leave me.

diane Posted 3 May 2008 , 5:00pm
post #7 of 17

i was contemplating this same thing. i am finishing up my b.a. in teaching and want to do that for a while, but cakes are my first love. now that i think it over, pastry school would be too expensive, especially if they only touch on cake decorating. i think the best thing would be to take classes from people who know about the subject...like earlene, collette, jennifer...who's a member here. icon_wink.gif

Katied75 Posted 4 May 2008 , 4:15pm
post #8 of 17

Diane, who is Jennifer that is a member here? I'd like to take a look at her cakes.

Katie

mkolmar Posted 5 May 2008 , 2:21am
post #9 of 17

I'll give it to you straight. You will be disappointed since it deals totally with pastries and not cakes or decorating them. Your total decorating cakes time will be less than one month for a 2 year program. The bulk of the program does not focus on cakes but rather on specialty dessert items, plating and show pieces.
It's also an expensive school and you have a family to think about.
I don't want to sound like a downer but I'm just trying to be honest with you. I just graduated this week from a community college with a culinary arts degree. I'm married with kids and it's tough with a family. VERY TOUGH! It's not a decision to be taken lightly. (even a community college is hard on the budget once you buy books and commute.) You'll see how strong of a wife, mother and person you are if you do. The culinary field is very hard and the schooling is difficult for anyone, especially if you have a family. Be prepared to be in the kitchens for hours and come home to write term papers that are in depth. (I'm not talking wussy term papers of 2 pages but term papers of 60 pages) The past 2 years I've been taking care of my kids and putting them to bed at 9pm. I then stay up till 3am working on my school work and get up at 6:45 to get ready for class, make lunches for the kids and get them ready for school. I had mental breakdowns at least every few months. However, I'm glad I went to school. If I had to do it again I would, just possibly once all my kids were in school instead of in diapers.
Since cake decorating is your passion take classes in that where you can and learn from others. This is what I'll now be doing. I feel as if I'm behind in the cake decorating since I have not had a chance to work on my skills since I've been in school. I look at others who started out at the same skill level and time as I and I've been left in the dust as they have advanced by leaps and bounds.
Once again, sorry if this sounds negative, it's really not meant too be. Just wanted to be honest with you.

diane Posted 5 May 2008 , 4:44am
post #10 of 17

katied75,

jennifer is a traveling teacher. her work is flawless. here is her pictures.

http://www.cakecentral.com/cake-decorating-photos-by-JenniferMI.html icon_wink.gif

kats0916 Posted 7 May 2008 , 3:57pm
post #11 of 17

I went to Johnson & Wales in Miami and did the baking and pastry program. It was the best thing I ever did for myself. It was a career change for me; I was a social worker with a BA in Psych, and I ended up with a lot of loans to pay off, but it was definitely the right decision.

Here is a basic rundown for you. Lab classes are 7 weeks each and 6 hrs each day. They consist of classic french pastries, breads, plated desserts, cake decorating 1 & 2, chocolate and sugar art, baking science and 1 other that I cannot remember. You cannot miss class! That could be a problem with kids. I did this long before I became a mom. However, there were a few mom's in my group who did very well.

You also take a few classroom courses on things like costing, sanitation, etc. And you will have a lot of at home typing up of notes into notebooks and other projects.

You really learn a lot in this program. I too wanted to go just for cakes and was surprised when I liked learning all of the other parts as well. I think it gives you an advantage when it comes to understanding techniques and recipes. You also make a lot of good contacts through the school. I have heard great things about the R.I. campus. Sorry if I sound like an ad for J & W, but I really think the program is worth it. Have you gone there for a tour? That is actually how I made up my mind to go for it.

lomikesa Posted 7 May 2008 , 4:22pm
post #12 of 17

Was this a full time course? I work full time at UM.

Lomikesa

DoniB Posted 7 May 2008 , 4:31pm
post #13 of 17

So, kats0916, would you recommend it if we are thinking of more than just cakes? Like a bakery or a catering sort of situation? Sounds like it, and I think we have a J&W in Charlotte. I've been thinking about the same thing, but recently, my family and I have been talking about an expanded sort of plan for my business, when I can get it going. I'm just wondering... icon_smile.gif

Katied75 Posted 7 May 2008 , 8:55pm
post #14 of 17

Kats I'm gonna pm you because I'm really interested in what you are or will be doing after school is done. I'd like to know what types of jobs you could get, as well as what you feel you're qualified to do now.

Thanks!

Katie

NanaNut Posted 7 May 2008 , 9:16pm
post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Katied75

I am currently a Stay at home mom, and my plan has been to start graduate school in about a year, complete a 2 year part time program, and head back to teaching in 3 years, just as my youngest starts kindergarten.

Here's the thing: I live only about 20 minutes away from Johnson and Wales in Providence. I am a complete novice cake decorator, but from what I can tell my state (MA) licenses in home bakeries.

I LOVE baking and decorating. I've been toying with the idea of pursuing baking and pastry art at Johnson and Wales instead of my graduate degree, with the idea that in 2 to 3 years I could open a cake shop from my home.

Here are my questions:

1. Is it worth going to a bakinga and culinary school and pursuing an associates or possibly bachelor's degree to learn how to be good cake decorator? Being a stay at home mom, I can't get much practice time at home. I also tend to learn much more quickly when I have somebody to ask questions of. My thought is that with a professional program, I would have time without the kids around to really practice and learn. I'd have world class teachers to learn from.

I'm just not sure how good I can get at cake baking and decorating after completing a program like this. Since it's a baking and pastry program there are classes on breads and pastries, not just cakes. I don't know if it's a waste of time and money. However, it might be the only way I can really get the time and teaching I need to get good.

The program will cost me $20,000 for one year, and possibly up to $35000 total to take all of the cake classes offered and pursue my undergraduate degree. I'd have to make enough money with a cake shop to make these loans worth it. Could I leave a school like that and have the skills to open a shop and start earning $2000 plus a month?

Thanks everybody. I'm giving this some serious thought. I know teaching is the more secure job and I've already done it... also the pay is guaranteed and I have a family to help support. However, my heart would love to take this adventure....

Katie




Katie. I myself did not attend, but my cousin did. He graduated in 1999. For him and some of his buddies..... it was a waste of money and time, unless you want to work on a cruise ship in the kitchen, a nice hotel, etc. It sure didn't help him get a job, but I have no idea from first hand experience. I see tons of women on here who are amazing now and did it w/o a degree in it. I bet you could save a ton of money and spend more time with your family if you just pursue this dream w/o school. Spend that money buying industrial kitchen equipment and bakery items!!! But that is just my 2 cents. Good luck with your descision. I will pray for you. thumbs_up.gif

punkinpie Posted 7 May 2008 , 9:59pm
post #16 of 17

When I took Wilton Course 1 there were 2 pastry chefs in my class. They both worked in a hotel and hardly had any decorating experience. They said decorating was a mere blip in the curriculum.

kats0916 Posted 8 May 2008 , 12:58am
post #17 of 17

Well, it is definitely possible to teach yourself cake decorating. I learned a lot through trial and error.

Now, if you do a 2 year culinary program then pastry and cakes are combined into one class and you do not get much experience. If you do the 2 year pastry program then you take 2 classes just on cake decorating.

I worked full time while attending school. I ended up as executive pastry chef for the company I started with. I did not get special treatment or perks for having attended school but I did gain confidence in my skills and knowledge. I know it is not right for everyone, but it is worth checking into and taking a tour if you are interested.

BTW, 2 years after graduating, I was making more than twice what I was making as a social worker with a 4 year degree in Psych.

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