Pastry School, Looking For Any College Advice

Decorating By johannaraeramone Updated 9 Jun 2011 , 6:26pm by pastrygirls

johannaraeramone Posted 19 Jul 2010 , 11:50pm
post #1 of 22

Hi, I've been baking since middle school and have become somewhat profiecient at making cakes. I've known for a long time that cake is what I want to do with my life. Now that I'm a senior in high school I'm at the point where I have to actually make some descisions on how to do this.

So, for anybody that is in the cake buisness professionally, I could really use some input on a few things:

-What is the value of a certificate versus an associate or other degree in the baking world? I understand that experience is the best thing to have, but aside from that...

- I could go to a less expensive, closer junior college with a good reputation in culinary training and get a bunch of certificates/experience, or up to the city, (In my case Chicago), to any one of the more expensive and far away schools, including Kendall College, the French Pastry School, and the Illinois Institute of art. Anyone know anything about these options?

-Any of you that went to schooling for pastry, did you do gen ed with your baking classes and if so was it worth it?

Thanks!

21 replies
lulus Posted 20 Jul 2010 , 2:42am
post #2 of 22

Here are two perspectives for you:

I own a bakery and hired someone with an Associate's Degree from the CIA. Resume looked good, she presented herself really well. But, the proof is in the pudding, in this case cake, and although she was trained in the techniques of baking at school, her skill level was really lacking. Even given numerous chances, the product was inconsistent, couldn't even base ice a cake properly, etc.

On the other hand, I hired a dishwasher with some kitchen experience who could also occasionally help out with pastry and cake prep. He has turned out near-flawless cakes, and bakes more by instinct than anything else.

The bottom line financially is that although you will spend a great deal on your education, it will be at least three years after graduation before you even hit the $15.00 an hour payscale. It's just the nature of the business, because of what the market will bear.

I'm not trying to discourage you, but hopefully this gives you food for thought.

bakingpw Posted 22 Jul 2010 , 2:51pm
post #3 of 22

I've posted this before, but to answer your question: I went to CIA and got the Baking & Pastry degree. But I did that 15 years after I had been in business (self-taught). I thought the degree would give me more crediability - which it did, because here in NY there is MUCH competition. I will say what I learned at CIA is invaluable. However, I've learned more practical/applicable tips and lessons here on CC. If you want to be a pastry chef maybe culinary is the way to go, if you want to decorate cakes, you'll get 3 weeks of that in culinary school.

gilby78 Posted 23 Jul 2010 , 2:04am
post #4 of 22

Don't discount your existing experience. You can do an online recognition of prior learning to get an approved certificate of hospitality.

Basically this means that if you can prove your skills you can skip a lot of the subjects required to fast-forward your way to get a certificate and thus a higher paying job in the culinary industry

There's more info here: http://www.hostec.com/short-courses/rpl-online/

Pastry-Panda Posted 23 Jul 2010 , 2:30am
post #5 of 22

I went to The Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena , and for some reason I actually thought I would learn about cake decorating. They didn't even show us how to stack a cake , they only "talked" about it for 5 min.

I loved school don't get me wrong , it was awesome but I didn't get to focus in cakes like I was hoping. Everything I learned about cakes and cake decorating I learned from the internet and especially here , I never have to ask questions I can just watch other peoples posts and learn infinate amouts of cake info , tip , and tricks.

So in the end , you already know about cake decorating to a point as you said , and there is nothing about cake decorating that they can teach you that you don't already know. All they do is cover the basics. Take the wilton courses and just keep decorating , you learn as you go.

For the $30,000 + intrest I am paying on a student loan for 15 years , It's not worth it. If you really want to learn all of the other stuff with it , like plated dessert, chocolate work, and sugar then it's worth it.

sjc0858 Posted 24 Aug 2010 , 1:22pm
post #6 of 22

I just wanted to point out that many of these high end cake shops/decorators are looking for artists before pastry chefs. Chris Russem(Christopher Garren's) said something recently that really stuck with me. He said he would rather hire an artist because he can teach anyone how to bake but art comes from the soul and you either have it or you don't.icon_razz.gif

I agree with the pp that school is an awesome idea if you want to branch off and learn other things but if you JUST want to learn more about cakes and keep up with the techniques, maybe you should try to get in somehwere to learn more on job OR maybe take some art classes? Just a thought I wanted to throw out there.

johannaraeramone Posted 13 Jan 2011 , 3:51am
post #7 of 22

A belated thanks for all the feedback!

sccandwbfan Posted 13 Jan 2011 , 4:07pm
post #8 of 22

When I lost my job in August I looked in to going to school too. It was going to cost $20k just for a diploma, no type of degree. Given that I already owe a boat load of money for my accounting degree that is worth nothing right now, I couldn't see adding that amount on to my loans. I wanted to go, but alas it wasn't in the cards. icon_smile.gif That's okay though because they gave me a course list with descriptions and I've done some research myself and learned more about the stuff that they would have taught me. icon_smile.gif

christy

Cookie4 Posted 13 Jan 2011 , 4:35pm
post #9 of 22

johannaraeramone: Looks like you've heard a lot for us at CC. Here's yet another bit of info.

I teach Cake Decorating and over the year have had students from all walks of life; Doctors, Engineers, Nurses, Chemists, Mom's/Dads, Grandparents/Grandkids, Unemployed Persons, 7-year olds to 86 year olds, graduates of the Culinary Institute and of the Art Institute. What I have noticed the most is if a person, regardless of their education, wants to succeed will succeed. Graduates of the Culinary Inst & Art Institute only get approx 1 week on a pastry bag and end up with $2,500-$30,000+ in debt depending on the school. Many of these graduates come to my classes for more training and are currently working at a $8.00-$10.00 job, some even in a bakery which is pretty sad for the time/money they have spent.

My recommendation is - pursue your dreams but if you can afford to go to college (either a junior college or 4-year school) do so and get a degree in something that you are interested in which will sustain you in the future. Perhaps a Home Economist degree so you could work in the food arena, Business, Art etc. Work on your cake skills as you can and let income from the cakes pay for your education and who knows - you may be the next Food Network Star! Best Wishes.

ChefAngie Posted 13 Jan 2011 , 4:39pm
post #10 of 22

Having a degree and certifications help your career even when you are self employed.
Become a member of ICES, ACF, join a cake decorating club because you can never learn too much.
"Once you think you know everything- stupid (practicing unintelligent behavior) takes over." This is what I tell my students. Always be willing to learn.
I went to a community college and got my culinary arts degree to go along with the 30 years of cakes and catering experience and finished up with a four year degree in business administration. I teach food occupations and run my own cake business, too. " FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS AND DO NOT LET ANYONE THROW YOU OFF TRACK. PRAY! PRAY! PRAY!"
HAPPY BAKING AND DECORATING,
CHEF ANGIE

scp1127 Posted 14 Jan 2011 , 4:45am
post #11 of 22

Get a business degree with a concentration in finance so that you can run your own business. Then choose to be self taught or go to school. Our local college has a professor who teaches pastry who has been on Food Network several times. His classes can be taken by anyone. Just another option.

Neelas_wife Posted 14 Jan 2011 , 5:19am
post #12 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by scp1127

Get a business degree with a concentration in finance so that you can run your own business. Then choose to be self taught or go to school. Our local college has a professor who teaches pastry who has been on Food Network several times. His classes can be taken by anyone. Just another option.




Perfect! I second this ideaicon_smile.gif

icon_biggrin.gif

Lizzard1 Posted 14 Jan 2011 , 5:49am
post #13 of 22

I totally understand the decision you are dealing with. I went through the same thing a couple years ago when I finished up high school. I decided to go to a local community college and I got my A.S. in Culinary Arts. It helped me learn my way around a professional kitchen which I think is important. I live about an hour and a half outside of Chicago. I attended Kendall College after I graduated. Now, from my perspective it isn't about where you go to school. It is all to do with passion, motivation, talent, and networking. After my experiences nobody cares about degrees really...Its all about who you know and talent. Kendall is a beautiful school and i thought it was going to be different. I hope it all works out for you and good luck!!

johannaraeramone Posted 14 Jan 2011 , 12:22pm
post #14 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lizzard1

I totally understand the decision you are dealing with. I went through the same thing a couple years ago when I finished up high school. I decided to go to a local community college and I got my A.S. in Culinary Arts. It helped me learn my way around a professional kitchen which I think is important. I live about an hour and a half outside of Chicago. I attended Kendall College after I graduated. Now, from my perspective it isn't about where you go to school. It is all to do with passion, motivation, talent, and networking. After my experiences nobody cares about degrees really...Its all about who you know and talent. Kendall is a beautiful school and i thought it was going to be different. I hope it all works out for you and good luck!!




Well actually right now I'm deciding between Kendall and JJC, (If you don't know of it, a junior college with a very good culinary reputation but no formal "degree" in pastry) What made you feel that way about Kendall, if I may ask? And thanks for the well wishes! : )

Lizzard1 Posted 15 Jan 2011 , 12:48am
post #15 of 22

Well, for me in my situation Kendall was a great facility but it was not worth what I paid. If money is no object it is a different story. The honest truth is when school is over you have loans (if you need them which in my case I did) you have to start re-payment. Finding a job in this industry is not an easy task especially one that pays well.

I can promise it takes years to actually establish yourself. I suggest considering JJC (i have heard great things about Joliet) as a starting point. You get great culinary experience and sometime to discover exactly the path you want to go down. Are you interested in only cake or bakery or even being a pastry chef. Understanding the difference between these three key components is very important.

I hope this helps you icon_smile.gif

johannaraeramone Posted 15 Jan 2011 , 2:49am
post #16 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lizzard1

Well, for me in my situation Kendall was a great facility but it was not worth what I paid. If money is no object it is a different story. The honest truth is when school is over you have loans (if you need them which in my case I did) you have to start re-payment. Finding a job in this industry is not an easy task especially one that pays well.

I can promise it takes years to actually establish yourself. I suggest considering JJC (i have heard great things about Joliet) as a starting point. You get great culinary experience and sometime to discover exactly the path you want to go down. Are you interested in only cake or bakery or even being a pastry chef. Understanding the difference between these three key components is very important.

I hope this helps you icon_smile.gif




Well, money is defanitly a factor, so would you say that the instruction was not impressive compared to the price tag? I haven't actually visted Kendall yet, (I've been courting the Art Institutes but recently given up on them), but haven't heard much either way. My ultimate goal is cake-centered but I love all aspects of baking/pastry and would be content for the present with a job in any specialty. I just want to get the most out of school now.

Lizzard1 Posted 15 Jan 2011 , 3:11am
post #17 of 22

Well, to me (and this is just my opinion) it was alot of "smoke and mirrors" I felt like I paid for the name. Keep in mind that it is a private school so it costs alot more. The school is not focused on cakes. If you are looking specifically for that I would check into the ICES and start looking for internships. However, one of my instructors was amazing. He inspired me alot. I have been through two culinary schools and at the end of the day I feel they were similar. If I could do it over again I would definitely check into the French Pastry. I know some fantastic pastry chefs that went there.

I hope I am not giving you a bad impression and at the end of the day it is your choice and you will choose whats best for you. Are you working in the industry yet or do you have any experience? icon_biggrin.gif

johannaraeramone Posted 15 Jan 2011 , 10:13pm
post #18 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lizzard1

Well, to me (and this is just my opinion) it was alot of "smoke and mirrors" I felt like I paid for the name. Keep in mind that it is a private school so it costs alot more. The school is not focused on cakes. If you are looking specifically for that I would check into the ICES and start looking for internships. However, one of my instructors was amazing. He inspired me alot. I have been through two culinary schools and at the end of the day I feel they were similar. If I could do it over again I would definitely check into the French Pastry. I know some fantastic pastry chefs that went there.

I hope I am not giving you a bad impression and at the end of the day it is your choice and you will choose whats best for you. Are you working in the industry yet or do you have any experience? icon_biggrin.gif




Thank you for all of your input, I appriciate it! icon_smile.gif

I have heard great things about French Pastry School via Michelle Garcia, (Bleeding Heart Bakery), actually I just filled out a scholarship in hopes of getting there. For now I'm trying for a job in the industry but my at home buisnes is my only real claim to experience.

tiawanna02 Posted 15 Jan 2011 , 11:14pm
post #19 of 22

I think most people problem with pastry or culinary school is that they assume upon graduation they will have jobs that pays 100,000 a yr, be the next celebrity chef or even the top cake decorator. Culinary school gives a foundation in order to work in the food industry. I'm currently in culinary school and I'm really satisfied with what I've learned. In the beginning, I was all about cake decoration. Now after taking a class about breads, I have a whole other view. My advise to you is to really evaluate what it is would like to get out of the the program.

johannaraeramone Posted 15 Jan 2011 , 11:29pm
post #20 of 22

Unable to find even a basic baking job I'm on terms with whats waiting for me out there, with or without school. I love all types of baking and pastry and would be thrilled to be payed to do any of them (I've done many marathon baking stints and although it does get exausting I'm not burnt out yet). I'm very artisticly and creatively involved though, so that's where my love for cake spurs from. My question is whether I should invest now in one of the "fancier" private unis's and study buisness/pastry, or take advantage of the local community college and settle for their certificates of compleation.

Adyll Posted 9 Jun 2011 , 6:06pm
post #21 of 22

I believe each of you have reason.

It's true that you need a professional school to pursue it as a career. It is also true that you need money to pay the school.

But there's something in between, that someone (sorry, I didn't write the name) pointed: passion.

And I add another thing: you HAVE to know about Economics to run a business. Passion and know how isn't enough (have you ever watched any Nightmare's kitchen with Gordon Ramsay? Did you notice most of the times the problem concerns administration?)

There isn't a unique formula that works for everybody - you just have to find yours. But...you will probably have to support sacrifices too. Today I read on an Italian newspaper about a girl who studied Social Communication until Ph.D.
At that point, while visiting a friend in UK, she saw an English Cake site (the pastry shop that serves the Real House) and the pastry chef inside her came out.
She used to cook pastries while stressed with study and decided to go deep into this passion. She then decided to follow this important English Pastry School lessons. She worked in a Pastry Shop for 8 months, in a small non-conditioned room with other 7 people - and a lot of enthusiasm.
Well, after this practice she tried to be admitted by that school - that only accepts 3 students each 3 months. She was refused.
But she wanted it so hard that insisted, got a meeting with the person there and, to make ends meet, did that course.
Now she is back in Italy beginning her Cake business.

Adyll
http://www.pastry-schools-tips.com/pastry-classes/[/url]

pastrygirls Posted 9 Jun 2011 , 6:26pm
post #22 of 22

i went to a local community college for culinary arts and did the the general cooking stuff. i didn't learn tons of cake stuff. but.....the college i went to offers other baking and decorating classes for a great price. see if the local culinary school offers classes on the side. the ones i took were a non credit class that was open to the public. it was a 4-6 hr class and all we did was practice and talk about different decorating techniques. it was pretty cool.

Quote by @%username% on %date%

%body%