So Whose Gone To Culinary School?

Decorating By rookiecookie09 Updated 18 Feb 2009 , 11:30am by rookiecookie09

rookiecookie09 Posted 17 Feb 2009 , 3:21am
post #1 of 13

As high school is coming to a close, I must think what I want to do as a career. I enjoy baking and cooking, and have considered culinary school as an option. However, is it really needed? Can't you be just as successful by experimenting in your own kitchen? Just interested to see everyone's thoughts. I think baking will end up as a hobby, and not a profession, but everything is up in the air and the possibilities are endless!

12 replies
antonia74 Posted 17 Feb 2009 , 4:01am
post #2 of 13

Have you thought of apprenticing with Pastry Chefs in your area? It's a great alternative to paying money for school, to go out and actually make a salary while you learn. There are a lot of government-subsidized apprentice programs around that are just as appealing and enticing for employers of restaurants/bakeries too. thumbs_up.gif

PinkZiab Posted 17 Feb 2009 , 4:06am
post #3 of 13

It really depend on your goals. If all you ever want to be is a cake designer, then I think culinary school it isn't necessary, and would actually be a waste of time and money. If you want to be a pastry chef (in a restaurant, etc) it's still not necessary, but it'll get you there faster. You can work your way up the ranks in a restaurant without schooling, but you'll start a little higher up the food chain with a culinary/pastry degree. And certain types of restaurants will having you slaving away for years without ever touching food unless you have the degree.

I went to the French Culinary Institute in NYC, by the way.

mkolmar Posted 17 Feb 2009 , 4:23am
post #4 of 13

I graduated from culinary school with a culinary skills and management degree. I'm trained in more how to run a kitchen from the inside out as far as doing every job in the kitchen (from cleaning to cooking to serving the patrons and catering). I'm glad I went to school but some of the best chefs I know never did go to school but learned from hard work. A degree helps get you in the door a little easier, but you still start as low man on the ladder when you are fresh out of school. The hard worker is the one who succeeds if they went to school or not.
The culinary field is a hard field, however if you love it - it makes it a lot easier.

Take the above advice. They know what they are talking about.

dhccster Posted 17 Feb 2009 , 11:13am
post #5 of 13

I went to school and majored in education. I have my Master's and really haven't used my degree. I always wanted to be a "career woman"....... until I had my children. I never, never pictured myself in the kitchen (which I totally LOVE now). If I could do it all over again--I would want to go to culinary school or pursue something that involved cooking/baking. I think being an apprentice with a skilled chef would give you a good idea if this is really something you want to pursue. Good luck!

KitchenKat Posted 17 Feb 2009 , 11:56am
post #6 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by PinkZiab

It really depend on your goals. If all you ever want to be is a cake designer, then I think culinary school it isn't necessary, and would actually be a waste of time and money. If you want to be a pastry chef (in a restaurant, etc) it's still not necessary, but it'll get you there faster. You can work your way up the ranks in a restaurant without schooling, but you'll start a little higher up the food chain with a culinary/pastry degree. And certain types of restaurants will having you slaving away for years without ever touching food unless you have the degree.




Completely agree! If your goal is to work for yourself then you don't really need a degree in culinary arts. You need lots of experience. If you want to work in the industry, a degree sets you apart.

In either case I think it's worth investing in business & marketing education because in my experience running a successful business, whether as an owner or manager, is much, much, much tougher than making cakes! The discipline of keeping records, inventories, contracts, paperwork, etc etc, is what gets to me everytime!

stephaniescakenj Posted 17 Feb 2009 , 2:17pm
post #7 of 13

I wish I had the chance to go to culinary school. I didn't realize I liked to cook and bake until my kids were born and now I'm finding it too difficult to spend the money and be away from my family. My sister on the other hand is in your exact position. She's a senior and working at a high end bakery/cafe learning how to develop recipes, plating and all that fun stuff. She's actually in a work study program so she goes to school til 10:45am and then works the rest of the day as part of her studies. In her search to figure out what to do next, the thing she's finding most lacking by strictly working vs. culinary school is that it's hard to learn the management side of things. I'm trying to convince her to go to school in NYC but she's nervous to spend that much money so she's thinking of starting out at community college where they have a restaurant management program, no cooking, just strictly the management side of it and continuing to work at the cafe. If you're unsure of what to do, maybe it might make sense to work at a restaurant for a bit and see if you really like it.
good luck, you're at a such fantastic stage in your life!

ncdessertdiva Posted 18 Feb 2009 , 1:22am
post #8 of 13

Check out your local community college. Here in NC we have some of the best culinary programs around. My state is also home to Johnson & Wales campus as well The Art Institute. Although baking and pastry are my first loves, I am learning so much from the culinary program. I eventually want to own my own business but until then I will be working and learning from others. I would like to be a manager but as a manager, I may have to fill in for my line cook when the restaurant is shorthanded. In my opinion, you get the best of both worlds with culinary school - you will get the hands-on experience necessary to succeed in the business as well as an excellent managerial background. Yes, you will have to start at the bottom but you can go farther, faster with a degree even an associate's degree. Both of my instructors at school went to school - one to a local community college (he is the department head) and the other to the CIA.

Ultimately, it will be your decision but an education is never wasted.

Leslie

sweetkisscakes Posted 18 Feb 2009 , 6:02am
post #9 of 13

I am somewhat in the same boat. Last year i was a high school senior signed up to go to pastry school then i chickend out because of the large scary loans that i would have to take out. Now after taking a year off I know i deff wanna do cake and that i deff can't do it on my own in my small town. I am once again signed up to go to jwu in nc this fall. but i would love to be an apprentice in a cake shop instead if i could only figure out how to make that happen.

tjrobin31 Posted 18 Feb 2009 , 6:23am
post #10 of 13

i went to culinary school, but quit before we ever got to pastry, i didn't have the patience to sit through all the other classes (soups stocks and sauces) that i really had no interest in, so all things pastry i am learning or have learned on my own mostly from ideas on the web and of course lots of help from cc.. however looking back fifteen yrs later, not staying in school may not have been the best idea. if i could do it over agian i would definantely have finished.
good luck with whatever path you choose..

RobzC8kz Posted 18 Feb 2009 , 7:07am
post #11 of 13

I enrolled at LCB in Pasadena, Ca for the baking and pastry school, but once I saw the syllabus and saw that they only taught the basic basics of cake decorating, no sugar or chocolate work, and that only 3 weeks of the 15 months was actually devoted to cakes, I withdrew my enrollment. I could not justify spending $30,000 on a program that I felt did not teach enough of the skills I was seeking to learn.

As for what I do now, I'm self taught. Plus, I learned from my mother and both Grandmothers. My Father's mother was a professional chef and baker/pastry chef, and my Mother's mother decorated wedding cakes, etc. So between the three of them, I learned the basics and let my natural artistic ability figure out the rest!!

I'm not saying that to go to a culinary school is good or bad, it just depends on what you want to get out of it. Make sure that it's worth the time and money before you do it.

sampuu Posted 18 Feb 2009 , 7:10am
post #12 of 13

I went to a culinary school, specifically one aimed for baking and pastries. If you just do cakes for your relatives' birthdays and friends' friends' parties, then the degree is merely for sating your own curiosity. You can get a lot of well-tested recipes and learn the basic techniques in a more efficient way if you take those years to go through culinary school.

If you want to work in the field -- Well, working on the line is a different universe compared to the home kitchen. I've seen many creative home cooks who seem physically unable to work in a professional environment. Main difference is that you don't have any of the time you had while at home. That beautiful fantasy cake - which took several days to decorate at home - would have to be decorated in 1-2 hours in a pro kitchen. (That's why you don't get to decorate much anything when beginning) Also you have something in the oven and are actively planning how to proceed with a third and a fourth product at the same time (and you get to wash a massive amount of dishes inbetween juggling these). The quality control for products is a lot harsher, too.

Any good kitchen will demand this much and regularly more from their workers. Expect long days with little pay, sore feet (they'll get used to it in about 2-3 years) and back pains. Regular long massages can make it tolerable. The constant stress combined with odd working hours makes sleep a rare commodity. You'll probably get a chronic wrist condition and your fingers permanently frostbitten. Multiply this with 42 if you plan to run your own kitchen. It's definitely not for everyone.

Edit: Forgot to add that schools don't have much to teach for those who make pastries for a living. If you want to get something out of it, then use those years to sense instantly when you've whipped your cream or eggs enough for whatever product you're doing. The very basics are the most important. You don't get to bring any of your own recipes or creativity to any place worth learning from, either way. Creativity is something that happens only after years of fast, fast, lightning fast work. icon_wink.gif

rookiecookie09 Posted 18 Feb 2009 , 11:30am
post #13 of 13

thanks for all the insightful replies!

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