soobsessedwithcake Posted 7 Jun 2011 , 9:47pm
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Hey all! I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts on this. I have been debating on going back to school to get an associates degree. I thought I would get it in something I enjoy and have some knowledge of, so I think I have decided on a Culinary Arts Degree. However I am curious if you really think when people are hiring that it will make difference to them or not if I have this degree? I don't want to be working at a Walmart bakery but a higher end bakery that does fondant work or a nicer restaurant dessert area. I hope to some day way down the road end up opening a bakery of my own. Will this degree help give me an edge over others applying for the same job? Do you think a degree in some other area would be more beneficial? Any thoughts or comments would be greatly appreciated!!

17 replies
Uniqueask Posted 7 Jun 2011 , 9:54pm
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You need a degree in Baking and Pastry Arts, Culinary Arts is for reataurants, like cooking and dealing with meats etc, and yes I do think you will have an edge in getting a job, with a degree, I think if you have your own business you can also ask for more in your pricing, that's my oponion though, even though there are a lot of self thought decorators with some exceptional skills, and I also think experience plays a big roll in getting a job, in the baking industry.

JanH Posted 7 Jun 2011 , 9:56pm
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Why Small Businesses Fail:

http://www.businessknowhow.com/startup/business-failure.htm

HTH

macie2011 Posted 8 Jun 2011 , 2:33am
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I am getting my degree in Baking and Pastry starting this fall. I think it will help, but also a lot of people I have talked to say that also like workers with an art degree.

hrnewbie Posted 8 Jun 2011 , 3:01am
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I'm a huge believer in higher education and would really love to go back to school so I can learn about the science behind baking, more advanced techniques, etc. I really wish that I'd know about culinary schools and baking programs 20+ years ago when I was in high-school. I would have fought tooth and nail to go. But at this point in my life it doesn't make sense. Let me explain...

I just met with a big-time culinary school that I happen to be fortunate enough to live close to. I was interested in going back to school for a baking & pastry degree. I was really surprised to see their baking program in detail. I'm sure every university is different but this one focuses primarily on plated desserts, pastries, and breads. In terms of cake it doesn't cover anything beyond basic baking science unless you're enrolled in a full-time, day-time Bachelor's degree program and even then you have to wait until the final semester of your 4th year to take the 3 courses they offer on sugar art, wedding cakes, and chocolate. They were kind enough to pull a course description for me and the wedding cake course was all about stacking, different types of icings, how to make roses, and using fondant/gumpaste. My jaw dropped.

I was very appreciative for their time but told the admissions' counselor that I didn't want to wait 4 years to learn how to make roses and stack a cake. For pete's sake...I can already do that!

I've been passively searching for employment over the past 6 months and virtually all of the bakeries that I've talked to have been looking for portfolios of work and haven't focused on a degree at all. The only one who asked for professional training is a very large & ritzy catering business that's looking for a cake/pastry chef. Not coincidentally, all of their current 15+ executive chefs come from this particular university icon_razz.gif But I know they also do a lot of plated desserts, pastries, etc. so I'm sure the classes that are offered there are much more relevant for them than they would be for me, who wants to focus on cakes.

So I have decided to take advantage of the next few years to learn on my own, do a lot of practicing to build my portfolio, and take courses through cake shows, ICES events, etc. whenever I can. I figure that will be a lot more useful (and WAY WAY less expensive) than a degree that won't really align with my long term goals.

tryingcake Posted 8 Jun 2011 , 4:25am
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I've interviewed with bakeries and not once was asked about a degree, they only wanted to see me work. In fact, I was told by someone with a degree - unless you want to teach, it's a waste of time and money. This is true for most "art-based" occupations.

jason_kraft Posted 8 Jun 2011 , 5:33am
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A degree in baking & pastry is probably most useful if you want to get into specialty baking or be a true pastry chef for a very high-end business. If you just want to focus on cake decorating, some Wilton courses and practicing on your own will be good enough for the majority of decorating jobs out there - your portfolio and your communication skills are what will give you the edge.

Have you considered getting a degree in business? This will give you a huge advantage when it comes to starting your own bakery.

Corrie76 Posted 8 Jun 2011 , 5:54am
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could not agree more with jason on this one....especially since you've expressed an interest in one day opening your own bakery. The best training you can do to prepare for owning your own business is to take some business/accounting type courses and to work in an existing bakery to get a feel for what it takes day-to-day to keep a shop up and running. I know many bakery and restaurant owners- and can't honestly think of a single one who's even inquired (or cared) if their bakers were formally trained or had a degree. This is one industry that relies on what the worker can actually produce and not where or how they've been trained.

tbkimber Posted 8 Jun 2011 , 5:59am
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I decided I wanted to pursue my dream of being in the pastry field so I went back to school at 36. I graduated from Scottsdale Culinary Institute with an Associates Degree in Patisserie and Baking; and I loved every second of it.

This is a LeCordon Bleu school so the program is similar to other LCB schools. My degree took 13 months of school and 2 months of an externship which was required to graduate. The school wanted us to get actual experience in the industry and they have a placement office to help us find the job.

The program covers everything from business and purchasing to chocolate and sugar sculpting and of course cakes. I absolutely got a well rounded education but they couldn't teach us everything. We got the basic techniques necessary to build knowledge on.

While there are many amazing self-taught cake artists, I personally feel going to school was the best choice for me. It takes a lot of time, trial and error to learn anything on your own. I believe having amazing chefs teach me their secrets from the start has shortened my learning curve and increased my confidence.

tbkimber Posted 8 Jun 2011 , 6:04am

I also wanted to mention that everyone I have interview with has requested a degree and had me tort, fill, frost and decorate a cake at my interview. They all told me that they pay higher wages if you have a degree.

Candice56 Posted 8 Jun 2011 , 6:09am

hrnewbie you can have all the degrees in the world but it does not mean your work is what they are looking for.
Start by getting together what you have pictures of your work, letters from satisfied customers if you have worked at other bakeries letters from past employers stating what quality your work is as you said they were not looking for degrees if you do not have the finances or time for school put your plans in action learn all you can there are a lot of self taught bakers / cake artists that are excellent at their craft and do quite well with out a degree. Good luck you can do it thumbs_up.gif

Corrie76 Posted 8 Jun 2011 , 6:15am
Quote:
Originally Posted by tbkimber

I decided I wanted to pursue my dream of being in the pastry field so I went back to school at 36. I graduated from Scottsdale Culinary Institute with an Associates Degree in Patisserie and Baking; and I loved every second of it.

This is a LeCordon Bleu school so the program is similar to other LCB schools. My degree took 13 months of school and 2 months of an externship which was required to graduate. The school wanted us to get actual experience in the industry and they have a placement office to help us find the job.

The program covers everything from business and purchasing to chocolate and sugar sculpting and of course cakes. I absolutely got a well rounded education but they couldn't teach us everything. We got the basic techniques necessary to build knowledge on.

While there are many amazing self-taught cake artists, I personally feel going to school was the best choice for me. It takes a lot of time, trial and error to learn anything on your own. I believe having amazing chefs teach me their secrets from the start has shortened my learning curve and increased my confidence.




I think that is awesome for you that you were able to pursue this and actually enjoy your education to boot! I wonder though, how much was your tuition?

I only know people who've attended the CIA Culinary School in Denver and the tuition was out of this world (most attended in the 90's and the yearly tuition was about 35,000 back then)! That school also had job placement services and some of my buddies got jobs at the high-end restaurants and also as personal chefs, but they also had 70,000 dollars in loans to pay off as well, and even with a respectable career in the bakery business, it's still no easy feat to start off your career with a 70,000 debt hanging over your head!

Of course that being said....seems like today most college grads start their careers with horrible debt, just seems a shame to be financially stressed to get a dgree in an industry that doesn't really require one in order to be quite successful.

Candice56 Posted 8 Jun 2011 , 6:16am

soobsessedwithcake good luck with your plans for school do it if you have the chance now what ever you choose to do make sure it's something you love doing don't make it a job make it a joy. Good luck in your ventures. thumbs_up.gif

tbkimber Posted 8 Jun 2011 , 6:48am

My tuition and equipment was $42,000, but like any other colleges there are grants (especially now), scholarships and student loans. The equipment we received was a complete kit of everything you need to work, from knives to measuring spoons. It is a lot of money and school is not the answer for everyone. I have the firm belief that you need to have all the information you can get before you make a decision so, if you are interested, just do some research into other schools and look at all your options.

soobsessedwithcake Posted 8 Jun 2011 , 7:04pm

Thank you all so much for your helpful insight and kind words. I still am not sure of what path I will take but I hope that soon I can figure it all out and get a start on it. Thanks again!

amygortoncakes Posted 8 Jun 2011 , 7:54pm

Depending on where you live check out your community collegese. I am in the Baking and Pastry program at one of the local colleges here in San Diego and have learned a ton. Also the networking you get is incredible. All the professors that teach are well known chefs in San Diego and towards then end of the program they assist with placement. I originally only wanted to decorated cakes but have nejoyed the savory side of cooking as well as the specialty deserts.

Oh and my education is free thanks to a board of govenors fee waiver. You never know until you try, I say totally go for it.

scp1127 Posted 9 Jun 2011 , 7:43am

hrnewbie, if you have the self-discipline, you can learn the science of baking. I'm pretty sure all of us are self-taught. I know Alton Brown is... and he is the poster child.

Now people like Shirley Corriher have degrees, but we just study their fantastic books.

nanefy Posted 9 Jun 2011 , 3:25pm

I live in the UK and was super interested in doing the Classic Pastry Arts course at the FCI - Not only would I learn loads but I'd get the chance to work with my hero Ron Ben Israel. Anyway, I live in the UK so I knew it was going to be expensive as I'd obviously have to live over there for 6 months at least, but I nearly had a heart attack and died when I found out the course cost $43,550!!!!! Pardon??? What is that all about!! and what exactly does that pay for? lol - Anyway that was that idea well and truly out of the window! ha!

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