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Culinary Arts @ George Brown College

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I haven't seen any posts here about the Culinary Arts (and Baking Arts) classes at GBC. Has anyone taken any and have any positive/negative feedback?

I took Culinary Arts I a long time ago and I thought that it was pretty basic, and although I did learn a few things, I found that I could make a lot of the basic dishes better than the way they taught. Value was good, I paid $300-something at that time for 10 classes which included a take home meal, but none of the dishes wow'ed me. I expected a little bit more from learning from professional chefs.

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  1. I took the George Brown baking course (it was the only one that fit in my schedule at the time) a few years ago, and for me it was well worth the money. The recipes were simple/standard stuff (e.g. apple pie, eclairs, shortbread cookies, etc) but at the time, I was a pretty tentative home cook, and it gave a but more confidence and skills to use in the kitchen.

    For something a little different and fun, a group of friends and myself signed up with Liason College (Longbranch location on Lakeshore West) for a one night cooking class. Essentially, it was set menu of a specific theme (e.g. thai, italian, etc) and we could either watch the chef prepare it, or we could do the cooking ourselves with him instructing/guiding us. In the end, we cooked ourselves a great meal, and all the drinks (wine, beer, soft drinks) were included in the price. Considering it was a bunch of friends gathered together, it was a lot of fun, a large dinner party we all helped to create.

    1. I took the basic culinary arts course at GBC many years ago. I don't think the dishes in and of themselves are meant to wow, they're not the point. I believe the course is designed to teach the techniques required to make each of those dishes. Once you learn the basic techniques, what you do with them is up to you, you can go on to make "wow" up your own dishes.

      I don't even use recipes anymore, or at least not to the letter, thanks in part to the foundation of understanding the GBC course helped me to establish. I'll scan a recipe to determine the basic cooking tecnique it's based on and the flavourings involved and then decide if I'll follow the plan or play my own riff.

      ltn - It sounds to me that the GBC classes were perhaps too basic for your level of expertise.

      1. Has anyone taken any classes since the renovations were completed? Have the asian kitchens improved significantly (most woks were in disrepair, the venitng system so loud you couldn't hear the instructor, poor sight-lines, etc)? Would love to know which courses you took most recently, name of instructor and your opinions. Thanks.

        1 Reply
        1. re: tuttebene

          I recently finished Culinary Arts I. Not having taken classes at GBC before the reno, I can't really compare - but I felt that the facilities were more than adequate. Good quality cookware, nice gas ranges and convection ovens, everything still quite clean. The dish pit was shared by two classes so it could get a little chaotic.

          Overall I enjoyed the course but felt there was room for improvement in the syllabus. It seemed as if we started off doing a lot of cooking, but that gradually tapered off - the last 3 or 4 classes (out of 12) we mostly stood around watching the chef demo various dishes and barely got to do any cooking ourselves. I don't know why they've designed the course that way - the last class was all demo, which no one was happy about.

          The level of cooking was a little too basic for me, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Haven't seen the asian kitchens so can't comment about those. If I could do it over I would take the Skills course instead - which is not much more expensive, but is graded, and students must make all the dishes demoed, not just one. In Arts you only get feedback from the chef if you ask for it really, whereas in Skills everything you do gets evaluated.

          Oh, and regarding the sight lines - not sure if there was anything similar before the reno, but it looks to me like all the rooms now have cameras over the chef's workspace linked up to screens around the room. So as long as the chef actually uses the camera (ours didn't), then you shouldn't have a problem seeing all the action...

        2. When we first got married, my wife took a few courses there, and I sat in for her on occasion. I thought the courses were first rate, the chefs both knowledgeable and open to questions. Later, after we hired a live-in housekeeper, we sent her for both Chinese and Thai cooking classes; after, we enjoyed fantastic food at home for a fraction of the price of take-out. Sweet and sour chicken where the sauce was really sweet-and-sour and not 50% cornstarch; Thai beef with basil using real Thai basil leaves; coconut shrimp soup - the list goes on. We've always thought the courses were a great investment.

          1. I took a whole battery of courses at George Brown when it was on Nassau-Baldwin. It was 1971/74! At night...There were two cooking courses, two baking courses, two wine courses (all labelled Beginning and Advanced) plus a menu planning course, and -- ta da -- a meat cutting course. In the latter, we had to pay more, but we got to cut up a half a steer and take home all the meat. At that time, the fees for the GBC courses were 100% tax deductible -- they did not break it down into tuition and supplies. It was all tuition. I had a great time, since nobody really knew the mechanics of cooking. The only book around was Saulnier's Repertoire, Joy of Cooking and Good Housekeeping. Plus Julia Child. Precious few other cookbooks.

            At the end, we got a Diploma in Haute Cuisine (DHC). I still have the papers and the recipes.

            We learned the rules so that we could break the rules. Each night was 4 hours long, with a 15-minute break. We cooked and carried home our food. My wife and I took them together, so we ended up with 48 croissants for breakfast the next day, or 36 Danish, or four pies. We fed our co-workers. Jacques Marie taught the wine courses, Willy Brandt taught the cooking, along with Maurice Pryor.

            Good basic stuff...

            1. ltn,

              I just completed Culinary Arts I a couple of weeks ago, and will be starting Baking Arts I next week. As others have said, the sophistication of the recipes is not really the thrust of Culinary I. There was nothing that I could not have already made on my own, but the course did give me lots of tips and techniques to make things simpler, easier, faster or better.

              Since it *is* the introductory course, I did not expect it to be difficult, and it was not. The curriculum was just right, IMHO... good balance between not making it so difficult that less experienced students are discouraged, but not so basic as to bore the more skilled among us.

              I took it on Friday evenings as part of the Continuing Ed program. As such, everyone in the course was doing it "for fun" and not necessarily in pursuit of a certification or accreditation. Also, we only had 12 people in the class, which I imagine makes for a much more conducive learning environment than had we been packed with the normal complement of 24 students to one instructor.

              Our chef was Frank Toneguzzo, who was simply excellent. I plan to take Culinary II in the fall, and I will specifically request a class with him. Although this is my first cooking course, I would rank him at or near the top amongst my entire lifetime of studying under other educators, leaders and mentors.

              Only the first and last classes were demo-only. The ten classes in between had us cooking one or two of the recipes from the curriculum. For the final class, chef Toneguzzo prepared a complete meal for us, and went beyond what was covered in the course book. Nobody complained. ;-)

              The cost is now around $600... $300 would have been a steal! Yet I have no regrets spending the money, and I did not hesitate to signup for Baking I (almost $600 too). For me, it is not a matter of necessity, but personal fulfillment and satisfaction. This course did not expand my culinary horizons, but now I am in a position to take courses that will. I also gained confidence and enthusiasm in my own kitchen, so now I only eat out one-third as often as I used to.

              I've uploaded some photos from the class and of the food we prepared. This took place in the renovated Hospitality building at Adelaide and Frederick:

              http://www.flickr.com/photos/luxograp...

              14 Replies
              1. re: traycer

                Those are some great reviews! Thanks everyone...I'm inspired to give the courses another chance regardless of my iffy experience with the first one.
                I wasn't expecting the recipes to be difficult or sophisticated, but I expected the dishes to taste really good. Perhaps I should have been more specific in my review. I remember making a roasted chicken, lasagna, quiche, sole, minestrone, some meat dishes. I thought that those were all fine choices for an introductory course, but they didn't taste that good. I was expecting a great roasted chicken, tender and flavourful meat dishes, etc...but I found that a lot of the dishes (as prepared by the chef) lacked in flavour and were sometimes overdone or underdone.

                traycer, your photographs are stunning! I recognized the dishes you made, many were the same as mine (but looked a lot better). Like Julia K said, I guess a lot of it really depends on the chef. Having said that, I'm interested in Thai cuisine and sushi, can anyone recommend any good chefs?

                dxs, what are the "skills" courses you speak of? I've never heard of them. Can you provide a link to some info?

                1. re: ltn

                  All the Culinary Arts courses are geared towards home cooks (as mentioned above). The Skills stream leads ultimately to Chef's papers and is referred to online as Culinary Arts for the Professional (it still falls under Con Ed).

                  http://coned.georgebrown.ca/owa_prod/...

                  I should revise my comment about the cost though - the cost of Skills I is similar to Arts I, but does not include the mandatory uniform, which will run you around $175 - $200.

                2. re: traycer

                  Excellent photos! All your food looks like it came out great... I have to say, one of the perks was being able to take food home. I barely bought groceries for the length of the course.

                  You're fortunate that your class had only 12 instead of the usual 24. I imagine it must have been more relaxed and you must have had more opportunities to get feedback from the instructor.

                  1. re: traycer

                    I concur, those are fantastic photos. And now I can confirm the culinary I course has evolved for the better since I took it some 15 years ago or so. We never made anything involving Genoa salami or prosciutto. It was more like a a boot camp and the chefs never cooked anything for us (the dish on your last class looks divine). They did though allow us to sip on wine while cooking in the old kitchen on Adelaide (that may not have been a good thing but it was fun).

                    1. re: traycer

                      Your photos are awesome!

                      I remember making many of those dishes when I took the course about 8 years ago, but i don't recall my food looking that good.

                      1. re: traycer

                        wow!! awesome pics!

                        traycer, I think I'm in your baking class :) You look familiar, I'll introduce myself next week.
                        Are you going to be posting Baking Arts pictures??

                        I took the CA I course about 5 years ago, and recently took Fish Cuisine. I loved CA I, but didn't love fish cuisine. I think the outline for that needs to be re-done, we also had parasites in our Monkfish (go GBC quality control!), although I guess that was a good learning experience picking them out! Some recipes were good, but I was expecting to learn how to make outstanding fish (its a specialized fish course after all), and that course didn't deliver.

                        1. re: Sof

                          those little buggers are quite common w/ monkfish, it's not a big deal. Wash them off and you're good to go.

                          1. re: Sof

                            Hiya, Sof! Yep, I guess we are in the same class. ;-) I posted a few photos on Facebook, and I'll start a new set on Flickr soon too.

                            1. re: Sof

                              I am interested in taking one of the asian cooking classes, noticed that you have to buy the full GBC chefs uniform....did you have to buy this too? Do you know how much you spent if so? Are there any exceptions, I am taking this for my personal enjoyment only...

                              1. re: Foodiegal

                                the jacket is expensive, it was $60 a few yrs ago when I bought it.

                                pants you can buy for far cheaper at other stores like dinetz, nella, etc.....

                                1. re: Foodiegal

                                  to take one of the asian classes you need to take culinary I as a pre-requisite. Culinary I fees include a uniform. If you're able to get around that, then it'll probably depend on the instructor whether or not they enforce the uniform rule, but I think it's "manditory" for all classes. I got away without a uniform for the fish class, but the baking one was pretty strict :)

                              2. re: traycer

                                Another recommendation to take Frank's class. He has a great attitude, is really knowledgeable and really encourages students to cook with their senses rather than strictly following a recipe. He also has great stories and is pretty hilarious.

                                The recipes in Culinary 1 are a bit antiquated but Frank does the best with what's given.

                                WON
                                http://whatsonmyplate.net

                                1. re: wontonfm

                                  I am taking Culinary Arts I right now (started this week) and the instructor (unfortunately not Frank) told us that this is the first semester with a new updated curriculum/recipes.

                                  1. re: wontonfm

                                    Frank is an excellent instructor - I absolutely loved his Culinary 1 and 2 classes when I took them 3 years ago. In fact, I took Culinary 2 because Frank was teaching it. He gives excellent pointers and has a great teaching style.

                                    I was happy to see him still teaching at George Brown when I went for my first con-ed cooking class since then earlier this week

                                2. I took about 10-11 courses for Bakery Art Certificate a couple of years ago (still have to mail the paper to them to get my certificate). I have mixed feelings about it. Some instructors were great, they explained the science behind the baking, ingredients, temperature, etc. They were really open to questions and actually loved and cared about baking. While some other instructors (and unfortunately I had about 3 classes from her) really didn't care about baking at all. In the beginning I had a lot of questions, but she didn't even know the word Genoise cake. Also, some of the instructors (the good ones) always told you what can be changed in the recipe, substituted etc. They also mentioned many times that butter should be used instead of shortening (a fat of choice in GBC). While other instructors wouldn't give you any suggestions and actually insist upon using shortening as it gives you a better flavour (???)

                                  All in all, I am happy I took all of those courses, but I wouldn't go there with high expectations.

                                  1. I've spent my life eating out, taking out or ordering in. I am now having to start preparing meals at home for health reasons. I'm looking for a really basic cooking course and am wondering if the George Brown Culinary 1 will be too challenging for a beginner and what skills they assume students already have. I'll be contacting GB to ask, but would be interested in hearing anyone's take who've taken the course. Also, anyone know of other hands-on beginner courses? Thanks!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: ghoti

                                      I was in exactly your position ten years ago when I started to cook seriously. I took the GB class just for a day (scheduling conflicts). It is a basic course, and you won't find it too difficult, but I thought it wasn't really for the home cook. It was the first step in preparing to be a chef i.e. how to chop properly. You might get frustrated because it won't teach you, say, healthy cooking recipes. Unfortunately I can't recommend any other courses. I eventually became self-taught.

                                    2. A number of years ago I took Culinary Arts program that took 4 semesters at Niagara Collage. There where cooking and baking classes along with math, English etc…
                                      In the beginning the class had almost 30 students ranging in age from 18 up to mid 30’s, and from all different backgrounds. You would assume that all the students like cooking and did so at least at home. Not the case, a few of the younger students had a hard time making toast. Within the first month we had lost about 10-15% of the class, they all left for various reasons, mostly because they bit off more than they could chew.
                                      Having the knowledge to understand what, how, when and why to cook is not a easy task, then add to the mix food cost, labour cost, and timing, chowhound will attest to the difficultly of bringing all this together.
                                      If you are looking to cook/bake like a 4-star Michelin chef right out of school, then you are in for a big disappointment. Also, food cost rules the kitchen and also the teaching kitchen. If you are looking to use high end ingredients at cooking school, then again you are in for a big disappointment. I never saw a vanilla bean in cooking school; I did see cheap vanilla extract that would evaporate when heated. Understanding taste and flavour comes with time and is not something that can easily be taught.
                                      Cooking school will at best teach you the basics of cooking/baking. Just because it is called basic does not mean that it is easy or a waste of time. Like building a house if the foundation is not sound, how can the house be sound?

                                      1. I know it's not in the culinary arts category but I thought I'd offer my opinion on the wine-tasting class at George Brown. I don't recommend it. The instructor - who calls himself the "wine doctor" - constantly talks about his travels all over the world and the amazing food he ate. Pretty pretentious and not very informative. I took it about four or five years ago so I don't know if it's changed.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: leesar

                                          I have taken 4 CA courses one since the renovation. I seen a wide range of 'quality'.

                                          It is VERY dependent on the instructor and his/her level of preparation for EACH class.

                                          I am an intermediate but enthusiastic home cook and I would have to give them a B- overall.

                                          The instructors are missing some of the passion and professionalism I would have expected, given the schools preparation. The aforementioned lack of feedback is a good example.

                                          I could recommend Lola Csullog-Fernandez's Mediterranean courses - she has a 'teaching assistant' of sorts to help prep and supervise.

                                          Do your homework on the instructor is my advice.

                                          1. re: marcharry

                                            Do you have any recommendations about what other culinary courses to take? I just finished Culinary 1 last week and really enjoyed myself. I emailed the continuing ed. info address about course syllabuses/cooking lists, but I have yet to hear back. I wish they had this info posted on the website

                                            I concur w/ all of the above statements that while the food/recipes we learned how to make weren't difficult, the techniques i learned and the whys and hows made it all worth it. i find I'm much more confident in my cooking skills now and enjoy my time in the kitchen a lot more.

                                            I also agree that it seemed like the cooking really tapered off towards the end. That was one criticism that was voiced quite often in my class. I would have liked to do more cooking towards the end instead of watching the Instructor prepare them. The food portions also seemed to get much smaller toward the end

                                            1. re: marcharry

                                              Lola is the proprietor of Pimenton on Mt. Pleasant now. They specialize in Spanish prepared foods for take out, and they do classes on tapas.