Culinary School: What To Look For In Pastry/baking Programs?

Decorating By metria Updated 31 May 2010 , 3:30am by mkolmar

metria Posted 28 May 2010 , 5:12pm
post #1 of 13

Last night I researched some culinary programs available in my area. One in particular made me clutch my heart when I saw the tuition cost. I've already been to a 4-yr college and I just can't imagine having to pay that kind of money all over again without being confident that I'd get my money's worth. I briefly looked for reviews on culinary academies vs. the local community college program, but I could only find one post that said the academy wasn't worth all the extra $$$ and the community college was perfectly adequate.

Before I embark on a potentially expensive adventure, could you give suggestions on what to look for in a culinary baking/pastries program? Or maybe share your experiences with culinary school? I'm only interested in programs for baking/pastries ... full-blown culinary programs are way out of my time/money budget.

I understand that many of you have not attended culinary school and that I wouldn't necessarily need to if I wanted to pursue a career in cake decorating. At this point I'm just collecting information on what going to culinary school could do for me.

12 replies
PDulce Posted 28 May 2010 , 7:30pm
post #2 of 13

Hi metria,
I did go to culinary school. My suggestion would be to find out what you would like to do after you are finished with the school, like I want to do cakes or I like to do breads or maybe you would like to do chocolates. Most of these programs will touch on all these subjects but will not go into alot of detail, but it does help you to do things the right way. Hope this helps.
Sincerely
PDulce icon_biggrin.gif

Navyempress Posted 28 May 2010 , 7:58pm
post #3 of 13

I was able to find a local community college that offered a Baking & Pastry program. Granted, it was California, so there may not be one in your area. We also have an Art Institute here but even after their military discounts, I still couldn't help but balk at the tuition and fees. I had a wonderful pastry chef, the classes were very informative and I would definitely recommend it to anyone. Baking is a science, whereas decorating is an art and it's good to understand the baking process, i.e. leaveners, stabilizing, etc. Usually when someone says that something went wrong with their cake, I can tell them how to fix it or after a quick look at the recipe, tell them why it happened. You would be surprised at how much you can learn in such a short time! If you only want decorating type classes, I would probably recommend looking somewhere else because you may only find one or two classes that deal only with cakes.

Also, I had intended to only do cakes and cookies before starting school, but after finishing, I have decided to offer all kinds of pastries as well because I really enjoy making them and now I know the "tricks" of the trade so I feel comfortable making them.

metria Posted 28 May 2010 , 8:08pm
post #4 of 13

I'm pretty open to learning all about pastries, not just cake. I'd love to learn more about the science of baking breads too .. that'll appease both brain hemispheres icon_biggrin.gif

LisaMarie86 Posted 28 May 2010 , 8:10pm
post #5 of 13

I attend a local community college and am doing both my culinary and pastry arts degrees. I looked into the Art Instutute but at that time I was only interested in the baking program and they only offered a certificate. I wanted a degree so I decided on my school and love it. It is a lot of hard work but it makes you feel good. I would do a tour and make sure the place is clean and has adequate equipment. Make sure the ratio of students to chefs is low. In a pastry program you want lots of one on one attention and if there are a lot of students in the program that can be hard to get. If you can afford it, it really does help you understand and have a stronger background. Feel free to ask me any more questions if you have any.

artscallion Posted 28 May 2010 , 8:13pm
post #6 of 13

Look at their alumni page to see the kinds of jobs their graduates are getting. No matter how fabulous they tell you their program is, some are intense and extensive, others, in any concentration, are geared towards training kitchen staff. Do their graduates end up working as chefs, sugar artist, bakery help, hotel and resort kitchen staff?

Navyempress Posted 28 May 2010 , 8:20pm
post #7 of 13

Anyone coming out of school and into the industry will become a pastry "cook", not chef. The Chef title is earned after putting in your time. If your program has an internship, that would be the best way to get out into the workplace and get started. If only it was so simple to finish school and start out as chef or head decorator somewhere, but you really have to pay your dues. If your school has a career placement office, you could use that as well.

LisaMarie86 Posted 28 May 2010 , 8:38pm
post #8 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Navyempress

Anyone coming out of school and into the industry will become a pastry "cook", not chef. The Chef title is earned after putting in your time. If your program has an internship, that would be the best way to get out into the workplace and get started. If only it was so simple to finish school and start out as chef or head decorator somewhere, but you really have to pay your dues. If your school has a career placement office, you could use that as well.




Very true you will not be a chef more than likely right out of school. it is a position that you must earn and it is not just given to you.

CWIL Posted 28 May 2010 , 8:43pm
post #9 of 13

My friend's daughter graduated from Johnson & Wales (sp?) last year. She has since been working in the Wal-Mart bakery (not making very much $$). She graduated with honors from her baking/pastries course. She has, however, recently been offered a position at a new bakery opening up in town to be "the baker." She's getting a raise from what she was making at WM, but no benefits, so .... it just seems to me that you may not get your $$ out of it for quite a while. Good luck with whatever you decide to do!

Katiebelle74 Posted 28 May 2010 , 9:09pm
post #10 of 13

go on tours of the colleges and make sure to see what the students are producing, that tells you a LOT about the quality of the instruction and the program. I went on tours of Johnson and Whales as well as Baltimore International College which were the two choices available to me (CIA was totally out of my budget). After touring the colleges I was way WAY more impressed with the projects I had seen the students making at Baltimore International College. Now before anyone replies - I do not mean every student - some people apply themsleves more than others.... generally the colleges will show off the top students projects.

jayshunnie22 Posted 28 May 2010 , 9:21pm
post #11 of 13

I went to school for baking an pastry and i regret not asking more questions about what i would be taught,so my advice is ask every question you can think of and maybe even talk to a current student at the school you tour and see what they say about it. and dont,i repeat dont go to the art institue!! icon_smile.gif

artscallion Posted 29 May 2010 , 1:03am
post #12 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by LisaMarie86

Quote:
Originally Posted by Navyempress

Anyone coming out of school and into the industry will become a pastry "cook", not chef. The Chef title is earned after putting in your time. If your program has an internship, that would be the best way to get out into the workplace and get started. If only it was so simple to finish school and start out as chef or head decorator somewhere, but you really have to pay your dues. If your school has a career placement office, you could use that as well.



Very true you will not be a chef more than likely right out of school. it is a position that you must earn and it is not just given to you.




Right. I know, as I'm a culinary arts graduate myself. What I was saying was that the alumni page, which will list successful graduates of the past, tells you if "...graduates end up working as chefs or sugar artists..." of course not right out of school, but eventually. Whereas some schools with a less strenuous program will list former successful graduates that are banquet hall managers or head baker in a wholesale bread factory.

mkolmar Posted 31 May 2010 , 3:30am
post #13 of 13

One thing to look for is if the program is ACF (american culinary federation) certified. A lot of wonderful programs are not, but you can do the testing afterward on your own. Which is a royal pain.
If it's ACF certified you generally will make more money a year.
Not necessary to have, but it sometimes helps to have it in the work force.
It's about 50/50 if an employer will want you to have your certification or not.

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