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Mar 29, 2007 03:08 PM

Pastry arts program

Hi everyone,

I'm interested in doing a pastry arts course in the Bay Area and am now torn between the programs offered at Tante Marie's and the California Culinary Academy. Tante Marie's is a smaller school but seems to have a fairly good reputation. The CCA program is a Le Cordon Bleu program (the name!) and is more pricey, but I've also heard comments about how it's not worth the $$$. (Personally I feel that I'm grilled by the staff at CCA ... they call me incessantly.)

I am more for the experience (acquiring skills in baking and pastry arts) than seeing it as a career. Has anyone had experience with the two programs or heard any comments about them? Recommendations/opinions much appreciated.

Oh, and by the way, I'm an international student studying in the Bay Area right now, but will be graduating this summer. Thanks.

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  1. If you feel like you need to go to school for this kind of experience, go to Tante Marie. I've heard nothing but grief about the debt one gets saddled with at CCA.

    1. i went to tante marie for the culinary arts program. i also considered the cca and had a similar experience to you, and with the advice of friends' who went there, decided not to. so glad!

      Tante marie is a wonderful school. The pastry program has always been strong, had great instructors, and you get so much one on one attention it's silly.

      you won't regret it

      1. Have you ever looked to see it San Francisco City College does a Pastry program? I went throught the 18 month Culinary Arts program and graduated in 1998. I am still paying for it. The cost has sky rocketed since! If I knew then, what I know now, I would have gone to City and saved myself the money. Just so you know, you are lucky if you make $10 directly out of school, which is really dissapointing after forking out that kind of dough. But if you are not planning a career in it and you have some money, maybe Tante Marie?

        1 Reply
        1. re: Cups

          If a school keeps calling you...that's a bad sign. Indeed, you can save yourself a good deal of money by going to CCSF at any level and then taking speciality classes from a focused school or particular instructor.

        2. I would avoid the big, for-profoit schools like CCA. Dealing with them reminded me of buying a car. Tante Marie is by far a better school in terms of what you get for your money. The "Cordon Bleu" stamp is pure marketing b.s. that is used to justify higher tuition. Especially if you are in it for the experience as opposed to the career, Tante Marie is a wonderful experience. I've taken other classes their and have friends who have done through the program. All thumbs up.

          2 Replies
          1. re: sgwood415

            The pastry arts program at the CIA Greystone in Napa Valley is outstanding.

            In contrast, the whole philosophy of the CCA now is to promise the moon and charge a lot for it. (The ads actually talk about how exciting and "glamorous" the culinary profession is!)The school has gone alarmingly downhill in the last 12 years, especially when they
            were acquired by Cordon Bleu. Now it's just a factory.

            How I can say this: I'm a graduate of the '92 class, when the school was still quite classical, European and strict in its instruction. Since about '94, the school has slid, well, not into
            mediocrity, but I can't recommend it. I'm glad I went when it was still wonderful.

            1. re: maria lorraine

              I agree that the CIA Greystone in Napa Valley has excellent programs in Baking and Pastry arts. Instructors include Robert Jorin--a 3rd generation baker from Switzerland and Certified Master Baker, and Stephen Durfee--former Pastry Chef at The French Laundry and a James Beard Award Winner.

              The CIA Greystone does offer a 5 day hands on "career discovery" course in the Baking and Pastry teaching kitchen. In the past, if you opted to enroll in one of their programs, the cost of the 5 day course was deducted from tuition. Here is a link:


          2. hi there, I am currently enrolled in the baking and pastry program at CCSF, and loving every moment of it. We are currently in spring break, which gives me a chance to really try out the recipes and perfect my techniques on my own. My sister in law attended tante marie a few years back, and she really enjoyed it at that time, although she only intended to learn pastry and baking for her own enrichment and did not pursue the pastry career.
            I would suggest you plan a visit to the campus, and talk to the students and the chef instructors after 4/9/2007, and good luck!

            ps, i happen to make the strawberry shortcake on the bottom left handside. (1st time)

            3 Replies
            1. re: Rina

              Hi, I saw your post of CCSF's program and am really interested in enrolling. From your experience, do you feel like this program is widely recognized and respected when looking for work? I want to pursue a career in cake decorating, but think I would need to take a course before getting an apprenticeship-i'd love to hear more about your experience! thanks

              1. re: cynthiach

                Rina hasn't posted since 2008. Maybe you could start a new topic. "Interested pastry skills, anyone with experience?" with CCSF program? or some such title.

                1. re: cynthiach

                  I completed the CCSF culinary arts program at the Ocean Campus. To answer your question about whether or not the program is respected, I'll tell you my experiences with employment. During the program, I worked as a baker and all my coworkers were from the program. My boss asked us to find others from the program because she liked our work. At the end of the program, we do a 240-hour internship. It seemed like most of the students in my class were offered jobs at the end of their internships. In my current line of work, I meet a lot of restaurant owners and GMs and they all tell me I went through a good program. Overall, I really feel like I got a lot of bang for my buck.

                  The photo in Rina's post looks like it's from CCSF's downtown campus which has a pastry-specific program. And it's a free program. The Ocean campus program is very affordable, as well. Unless you have a lot of money to burn, it's much better IMO to do a low cost program. Many people find out after cooking school that the work is not for them. I'd hate to be 40 grand in debt only to find out that I really didn't love making food enough to put up with the low starting wages, the uncomfortable working conditions, the demanding customers, and the terrible hours.

                  But even a low cost program can take up a lot of time, which can feel like a waste if you end up doing something else. So when people tell me that they want to go to cooking school but they have never worked in a restaurant — not even fast food as a teenager — I tell them to try working in a restaurant for a while first.

                  Hope that helps.