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Apr 16, 2007 12:56 PM

Culinary School

After 7 years of doing stuff I don't really find all that enjoying I have decided to pursue my true passion and go to Culinary School. I have always dreamed of eventually running my own inn or restaurant and don't know why I didn't pursue a career in food earlier in my education. I am now in a little bit of academic debt, but just don't think that continuing my current education would be worth it.

Anyways I was accepted at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City and have looked into the Culinary Institute of America, and Johnson and Wales. I would rather do a one year program but was wondering if there are any chowhounds out there with advice on culinary schools. Also does anyone know where I could find some scholarships?

Thanks so much.

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  1. If you are a woman, I suggest joining the WCR. They have several scholarships open to members, so you would have to join. Membership is only $45 for students. It is a fantastic organization.

    Good luck with you career change!

    1. I have a great friend at CIA right now and he loves it. That said, I know he did his research and didn't like Johnson and Wales and ICE because they were more heavily focused towards the hospitality industry versus super high end dining which is what he wanted to do. Let me suggest before you do this you find some place that will let you work on the line for little to no money (which is what you'd make anyways working on the line) and decide from that if you want to go.

      8 Replies
      1. re: jpschust

        Working first is a great piece of advice. I have a few friends who were career switchers, went to culinary school, paid a ton of money, and then quit within a year of working. They ended up cracking 1,000 eggs at 4 AM, etc. School will teach you great skills, but it's very different than working it as a career. Nothing beats some real world perspective before you plunk down the money.

        1. re: sgwood415

          Yes, work first. You'll know shortly whether its something you love and want to spend inordinate amounts of time doing.

          1. re: ccbweb

            yes yes 1000 times yes. work first.

            1. re: soupkitten

              Read Kitchen Confidential too, if you haven't already. Not only is it well-written, but he paints a fair picture of what it's like. The cut hands, the people, the manic lifestyle. He also has a short commentary later in the book about the career switchers he's seen come into (and quickly go out of) his kitchens.

              1. re: sgwood415

                True. A great read and perspective, though Bourdain might scare some from actually working a kitchen ;-)

                1. re: sgwood415

                  I also suggest reading "Heat" by Bill Buford, it's a little whimsical and self-indulgent, but it's well written and engaging. With an entre into the world of high end kitchens as a casual friend of Mario Batali, and a writer with the New Yorker, he pursues the ultimate foodie dream. He starts as a novice prep cook at Babbo, allowed in the kitchen for no pay because he's writing a profile on Batali for the New Yorker, and gradually over the course of more than a year works his way up through all the stations. Then he immerses himself in culinary missions in Italy, pasta, butchery, making salumi. It's a great read! He spends a lot of time describing the kitchen dynamics and ambitions of his co-workers, and often follows them to life after Babbo.

                  1. re: ballulah

                    I'm reading it right now and love it.

                    1. re: nycmegs

                      Sorry to be make a repetitive suggestion, I didn't get all the way to the bottom of the thread. It's a good read, isn't it? Made me want to offer myself to a kitchen as a sacrificial goat or something.

        2. Do yourself a favor and checkout New England Culinary Institute as well. My second would be CIA.

          1. Here are some helpful links:


            Good luck to you. I graduated from California Culinary Academy, back in the Stone Age
            when it was a really good school, and before going to culinary school became hip. The teachers then were strict, European and insisted on a classical education with some Californian topspin. Today, it's a sad shell of its former self, owned by Cordon Bleu and interested only in taking your money.

            Look around for scholarships. The money is available. Non Cognomina's rec of the WCF is good. Also try Les Dames d'Escoffier, AIWF, other food organizations, and the schools themselves. School loans can add up, and can take out a pretty big chunk out of your (not so big) paycheck. Most programs are 2 years, I believe.

            1. First off, congrats on the desicion. Second, I agree with those recommending that you work in a kitchen first. I'm going that route myself. I took a kitchen job having never done it before and somewhere along the lines decided that I really wanted to do it for a living. At least now I know what I'm getting into. Good luck in NY, I'm an NYer too but I'm headed down to Philly for my education. Keep us updated.