Culinary/ Pastry School---Yes Or No?

Business By johnson6ofus Updated 24 Mar 2016 , 1:29pm by -K8memphis

johnson6ofus Posted 15 Mar 2016 , 1:04pm
post #1 of 15

A previous poster asked about colleges/ school for "cake people". It got me thinking about the merits of "baking" formal education programs. It think most here on CC universally agree, business courses and education are very helpful. I am asking only about the culinary programs. If you attended a formal program, could you answer:

1. Where did you go?

2. Year/ dates attended (cost reference)?

3. What did the tuition cost (ballpark)?

4. Was it worth it? If you knew then what you know now, would you have enrolled?

The only reference point I have is a friend who attended Le Cordon Bleu in Austin, TX, in 2010, 1 year program for $60,000.00 who would never do that again (still in much debt so no benefit). Anyone else?

14 replies
leah_s Posted 15 Mar 2016 , 1:11pm
post #2 of 15

1.  Sullivan (well known in the industry, not as much in consumer world)

2.  1999-2001 

3.  About $24K  (I paid less because I a) transferred in nearly all the general ed courses and b) found a loophole)  I think I paid $16K

4.  Yes, for me.  I made great contacts in the industry, I have access to life-time job placement.  I already knew how to bake.  I did learn some of the chemistry, but most of all I wanted the paper (diploma) and I had the time and money to go to culinary school.  If I had to go into debt, maybe I wouldn't have gone.

johnson6ofus Posted 15 Mar 2016 , 1:31pm
post #3 of 15

Awesome Leah... I was actually hoping you would be one of the answers when I posted. smiley.png

leah_s Posted 15 Mar 2016 , 1:36pm
post #4 of 15

By loophole, I found that you could challenge a course and test out.  You got credit and only had to pay $25 for the challenge test.  I challenged four courses, some general ed, some baking.  Saves money and time.

-K8memphis Posted 15 Mar 2016 , 2:54pm
post #5 of 15

my son went to the same school lcb in austin as your friend in post #1 but maybe 'bout 9 years earlier whenever bronwen webber taught her last class there before she opened up her bakery -- it was a 15 month course if memory serves -- cost/financed about the same amount --

no it wasn't worth it in the sense of comparable tuition for other fields/degrees and return on investment -- there's no salary bump with a culinary degree -- but my son continued in food service working long nights/holidays/weekends for several years then got into another field entirely --

and in fact le cordon bleu is  now handing out settlements for this very reason -- basically no return on investment therefore the lawsuit claims the school attracted students fraudulently -- 

there's thousands of lcb and other pastry culinary program grads like your friend in post #1

here's an article

costumeczar Posted 15 Mar 2016 , 4:14pm
post #6 of 15

I went to Newbury College in Boston and did a pastry arts certificate. I have no idea how much it cost, that was in 1998...It was worth it because they gave you the food sanitation course included in the program, and I learned a lot about the chemistry of baking and the basics of gumpaste and cake decorating. For running a business, I had already been a department manager at a large store in Boston, so I knew about that end of it. I'd say that to run a cake decorating business, and if you only had a chance to take baking classes or business classes, take the business classes. That's where most people have the most trouble. Regardless, wherever you go you need to network the heck out of everyone while you're there. Meeting people for future references and career assistance is just as important as the classes that you take these days.

TSweetTreats Posted 15 Mar 2016 , 4:21pm
post #7 of 15

Just wanted to thank you for posting this! :)

johnson6ofus Posted 15 Mar 2016 , 4:29pm
post #8 of 15

TsweetTreats... it was you that inspired this post! At 15, the world is yours.... maybe this will help you make good choices. 

craftybanana2 Posted 15 Mar 2016 , 7:10pm
post #9 of 15

I want to comment on Leah's loop hole, they call it "testing out" these days and there are quite a few schools that do this for a lot of basic classes. I never went to a pastry school and hemmed and hawed at what I should study until years later. I did love my business class though, had an awesome teacher who was currently in the thick of things during the Enron days. Accounting I didn't love so much, didn't make it as the teacher said there was a class you take before the intro class....? I learned money stuff on the job.

@TSweetTreats: take your math and science courses in order so the info doesn't slip by and you end up having to relearn the basics just to get through Stats or Pre-calculus. Some high school courses say they give college credit, but most aren't accepted by colleges, double check with your school of choice to see if they would accept it. And take general ed courses at a local, cheaper college to start with. All of my general ed courses transferred over with me since I was staying in the state. I don't know if it works the same for out of state schools though. Just some food for thought from someone who is trying to go back and finish her degree. :)

BakerBlackCat Posted 15 Mar 2016 , 7:28pm
post #10 of 15

I went to Le Cordon Bleu in Sacramento, CA, and have *very* mixed feelings.  The rundown:

1. Le Cordon Bleu - I did a certificate-only in P&B, no culinary.  That location only offered the degree stuff online, and I wasn't paying for that, since I already had an undergrad and a graduate degree.  

2. It was a 9-month program, 2011-2012, ending with an externship.  It also included food safety (ServSafe) certification.  (Hmmmmm.  I need to renew that this year...)

3. Tuition was somewhere around $18K.  Could have been more, but I was also paying off grad school at the time.  It's fuzzy.

4. Worth it? Well, yes & no. You get out of it what you put into it.  In spades.

Culinary school was a controlled environment - make one thing at a time, one step at a time.  Actually working in production was an eye opener!  Culinary school did open some doors - I externed at Disney World, which was a great experience, and one I wouldn't have had without going through LCB.  I also can present what I call "culinary school bonafides" to clients - some people like to hear that I am formally trained; others are cramming cake into their mouths so fast that no one is listening to that part.

But the best has been on-the-job experience, working in production, learning how to streamline the process.  That is worth its weight in gold.  Like @costumeczar ‍ said, knowing how to run a business is critical too.  I have business & taxation degrees, and I use them more now than ever before!

I wouldn't be doing what I am doing if I hadn't been to culinary school, but I can't honestly say that I learned everything in school.  More like: on the job, P&B textbooks (I read mine like they were novels...), YouTube videos, cake blogs, cookbooks, Cake Central, @costumeczar ‍...

DogLoverWK Posted 17 Mar 2016 , 12:38pm
post #11 of 15

I just saw on Facebook that Webstaurant Store now has a culinary scholarship: 

beardedbaker Posted 23 Mar 2016 , 8:50pm
post #12 of 15

So, going to culinary school can be a mixed bag as BakerBlackCat mentioned.  

I had almost 25 years experience in baking and pastries when I went through the B&P program at a local community college (Schoolcraft College) so for me, there wasn't a lot new I learned.  I did learn a few pro tips and tricks.  What mattered for me was the certificate and formal education I needed to then get certified through the American Culinary Federation.  I'm working my way up to a CEPC (Certified Executive Pastry Chef) level.  You don't have to go to culinary school to become certified but it makes things go quicker.  Some culinary schools have programs that qualify for the ACF certification requirements (written and practical exams) when you graduate, but you have to be a member of the ACF to get this.  

To the best of my knowledge, there are only 3 people from my class of 16 who are still in the food service industry and again as BakerBlackCat noted, there is usually NO emphasis on production.  I now manage a coop bakery and have hired from another local culinary school.  None of them have production experience either.  As a hiring manger, I will look twice at someone who graduated culinary school over someone who didn't, unless they worked for a superstar pastry chef for years.

It's important to determine WHY you want to go to culinary school and see if its worth the $10-$20 K to do it.  I happen to think it is well worth it and am glad I did it.

johnson6ofus Posted 24 Mar 2016 , 4:36am
post #13 of 15

Quote by @TSweetTreats on 15 Mar 2016 , 9:21am

Just wanted to thank you for posting this! :)

My motivation in the original post was to have a "public record" for those who may search this info out. As a Mom, I am really frustrated by the tuition charged by the fake schools. Yes, there is a BIG cosmic difference between a Computer Science degree from MIT and DeVry... but, believe it or not, the yearly tuition is similar.!!!!!!

A $60,000 degree from "Le Cordon Bleu" sounds good to "lay" people, but anyone who really knows, and may hire you, really know it is not worth much. And the student gets a set of knives and a pile of student debt.... and a "degree" with not much credibility.

The $10K-$20K "real" schools, that only the "trade" may know, should be posted here so a kid like Tsweetreats can get better info then the salespeople/ "admissions" people at those ridiculous, over priced and useless diploma mill schools. 

Let's direct them to the programs/ schools that are worth while. 

johnson6ofus Posted 24 Mar 2016 , 4:38am
post #14 of 15

PS. I am the #1 fan of education. I support it 100%. But I also want value for the dollar and the unfair bombarding of kids toward the fake diploma mill schools is just heartless and wrong. 

-K8memphis Posted 24 Mar 2016 , 1:29pm
post #15 of 15

^^^ yup ^^^

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