Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
Jan 11, 2008 08:27 AM

Best Culinary school for change of career

I've had it! I need a new career . Been toying with the idea of cooking school for 15 years or more and finally after been fired from just about every job I have ever had. It's time. I have a appointment next Tuesday at The Art Institute, The French Culinary, and The Institute of culinary Education. Any thoughts? Please , I know It's long,hard and frequently underpaid work but it's the only thing I any good at and my best times are spent in the kitchen.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. The original comment has been removed
    1. You should check out Johnston and Wales, they have a very good reputation and their Charlotte campus is great. Since J & W came to Charlotte our food scene has definitely improved.

      1 Reply
      1. re: hipquest

        Thanks. I have checked them out on the web, but I still need to be in the NYC or New Jersey region in order to attend night classes. J&W has an excellent rep as well as lifetime placement, locally and internationally.Thanks again for the advice.

      2. The best culinary school is life. Barring that, go to someplace affordable and work at the same time. It just sucks to see people flush money down the drain when they realize they have to pay their dues. Of course, there's more to the food service industry than restaurants, so find a niche you're comfortable with.

        However, I am curious: why were you fired from just about every job you've had? Those reasons may impede you in the food service industry as well.

        10 Replies
        1. re: Blueicus

          I was in retail. General as well as regional managment for several large firms but I seem to always sabotage my own career by pissing off my bosses. Either because I cant stand the politics or perhaps I knew I was not meant for Retail managment.

          1. re: currymouth

            I don't know if you have any restaurant experience. If you don't, I would seriously suggest working in a restaurant for a while in whatever capacity to see if it's for you before spending thousands of dollars in culinary school. I know people who went to culinary school on a whim and not doing anything with their degree as they found out it wasn't for them.

            Just want to add that politics are everywhere, not just in retail.

            1. re: Miss Needle

              culinary school is a waste. you pay somone $35k so that you can get an entry level job making $8 or $10 per hour. a lot of places will hire you without experience as long as your are willing to work hard and work your way up. you might be stuck peeling vegetables for a few months, but it is much better to do that earning the $8 or so per hour.

            2. re: currymouth

              i don't mean to be a jerk, but if you have a tendency to piss off your bosses in retail, do you think you'll do better taking orders from the exec chef? there are some real megalomaniac "yes, Chef," "no Chef" type of bosses in restaurants, and insubordination is absolutely not tolerated. there are also some brilliant chefs who would gladly teach you the secrets of the culinary universe, but if you don't follow orders, *they don't have time for you.* i would rec you get a kitchen job, preferably as a cook in some capacity but barring that as a server, or even as a dishwasher, to see if you truly can hack it & like the pace, the grind, the hours, and the schlepping. if you do like the work you can supplement with courses at your local community or technical school. you will then have both working experience and technical chops that will help you to follow your dream.

              to be blunt: if i was looking at a job app saying: "i worked in retail 15 years and got fired from everything, decided to go to culinary school because i like to cook dinner and cooking seems like a nice "fall-back;" now, here i am, i'm 45 and i want a line cook position and i have absolutely no practical, working restaurant experience, and i don't work well with others or in a team, and i don't follow directions. . ." uh, i'd probably laugh and take it straight to the shredder. i can only hope i've misinterpreted.

              1. re: soupkitten

                Thank you all for your input. Soupkitten, you were not a jerk , one of the reasons I posted the question is that I needed the honest advice of total strangers. My family and friends are sooooo supportive and filled with encouragement.But I guess I already knew what path I was going to take.I will persue cooking as a hobby and try to take hotel/ restaurant managment courses at night. As for retail, It all came to a head last black friday when I had to open one of our locations at 4am so that 300 people standing in the cold, pitch black parkinglot can save $50.00 on a GPS unit they did not need, It just seemed somehow perverse and futile. I will keep you posted and thanks again.

                1. re: currymouth

                  gosh i can see why perverse and futile would be the words for black friday at 4 am. Currymouth-- i do hope you don't read my first response to your query as discouraging. your mature reply gives me hope that you do have a good attitude and can persevere in your career change. the "celeb chef" phenomenon is having an effect on the restaurant business, in that a lot of current job applicants either have no technical chops, or they have no clue about what the real job is about, they're shocked when they realize they're expected to scrub hood vents & haul potatoes. lots of chefs & restaurant managers/owners are frustrated with new hires who all want to be stars and not team players. i do think that getting some restaurant experience in addition to your mgmt classes will help with these grouchy & jaded folks' taking your resume seriously, & best of all, practical experience in restaurants can be as valuable as schooling. best of luck.

                  1. re: soupkitten

                    I have no asperations of being a celeb chef, a fine cook would have been quite good enought. I had 2 family members who are CIA graduates and have worked internationally. and I have seen what it takes to make it as a chef. I admire the drive and conviction it takes.My wife just gave me a book by Kathleen Flinn, called "The sharper your knife, The less you cry" about a young lady who took a leap of faith and went to Le Cordon Bleu in paris knowing only highschool french, should be an intresting read. Ever read it?

                    1. re: currymouth

                      i think i've heard about that book, but no, haven't read it. K. Flinn-- i'll put it on the list. i do like the ruhlman books, "the making of a chef"-- haven't read "the reach of a chef" yet-- waiting to run across it in the used book store :)

            3. re: Blueicus

              Barring that, go to someplace affordable and work at the same time.

              I definitely second this. A lot of people spend a LOT of money on culinary school, and are left with loans they can't repay with an entry level cooking salary.

              I attended Newbury College's culinary program on weekends, while I worked in hotels during the week. The tuition was a lot more reasonable than the same classes taught to full-time day students. And working in the hotel taught at least as much, if not more, than I learned in school.

              1. re: manraysky

                if you can find a community college, that is the only way i would suggest culinary school. i cannot say it enough, you can work your way up. there are so many line cook jobs and the turn over is amazing. restuarants like the culinary school thing on the resume, but they will take a chance.

            4. I concur - retail stinks.

              What about it don't you like exactly?

              Aside from that, I agree with the community college part. Then, go somewhere great to start your apprenticeship. You don't want to have to pay off a huge student loan when you're schlepping in the kitchen for a Gordon Ramsay type.

              1 Reply
              1. re: stellamystar

                The advice from above is regarding Community College is a very good option.

                As your comments for your concerns to be in New Jersey or NYC, I will assume you are in Northern New Jersey.....

                Bergen Community and Hudson Community have two well regarded programs.

              2. Please, please, please think about what Miss Needle & Soupkitten have said! Loving to cook is an important think to bring to the BOH, but it is only a part of it. No amount of advise can prepare you for the day to day rigors. Yes, there is an amazing camaraderie - it is formed by working shoulder to shoulder, sweating and busting your a@# in often hellish conditions. In that situation, tempers can fly & if you ain't the chef, there is no room for excess ego or differing opinions. And many of them have more ego than you would think was possible to be contained in just one person. Having diplomatic skills, a thick skin & selective hearing will be major assets in dealing with this, especially when you are the newbie.
                The hours required for most food gigs make it extremely hard to participate in the real world - not just family/friends, but Dr.appts, repair services, government offices...a lot of "everyday" things become more difficult. I see too many people get trained & realize it is not going to allow the quality of life they want. Then they have to start over with career choices & are saddled with a lot of debt. I have begun to feel that culinary schools should require a minimum of 6 months BOH (any capacity) before an applicant is accepted - but that would reduce their $$$ big time.