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Anyone study at Cambridge School of Culinary Arts?

I am exploring taking the culinary certificate course at CSCA and look for opinions from graduates who have taken the program. I'm not looking for an opinion of the culinary school vs. practical experience in the restaurant industry debate -- since my goals are different. I'm also exploring Cordon Bleu and Newbury but the cost difference is significant. Thanks

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  1. I didn't go, but I know a number of people who did. CSCA is quite popular among career changers, and their program seems adequate for what it is. Saving money is a good thing; the Cordon Bleu doesn't have a reputation yet; and Newbury doesn't stand out as a superstar.

    1. I attended the first Certificate Program in 1998. I am sure a lot has changed. The program was designed to prepare you to enter food service without taking the full fledg Professional Chefs Program. I took the course to improve my cooking skills so a lot of the material did not apply for me. Roberta is very talented and I think it would be a good choice

      6 Replies
      1. re: PAUL

        BU has a really strong certificate program as well...lots of top name chefs work with students as well as a really strong group of chefs who are part of the everyday program

        1. re: jvish

          I've worked with people from the CSCA and Newbury programs. The Newbury folks had good skills..... If I were thinking of school, I'd check out BU, too. What are your goals, if I could ask, if not a food production job? That could make a definite difference in recomendations.

          1. re: pastrytroll

            I agree, it would be a lot more helpful to know what you're trying to do with it...

            I think a highly underutilized method to learn more about the industry (and how I actually got my start as a chef) is taking advantage of the process of being a stage.

            Most places will take your free labor in exchange for what I like to call "the freest culinary education on the planet" and you'll have a relaxed environment to learn in, because most places wont expect too much of you in terms of a skill set (you need to be able to hold you own, but nobody's expecting a superstar). In addition to helping you keep down costs, you can usually be very flexible with it and also work in a number of different kitchens. I've staged at Rialto, No. 9 Park, Olives, an internship at Hungry Mother, and hopefully soon somewhere that does upscale asian. You get a really good sense of how each kitchen operates and can learn a massive amount in a short period of time.

            Hungry Mother
            Cambridge, MA, Cambridge, MA

            1. re: SonOfAllston

              WOW that is so cool, how did you talk yourself into these kitchens? I know some of these chefs but I wouldn't even think to broach asking them. How many nights/days a week did you do?

              1. re: tatsu

                Yeah, it's just about having a good attitude, a passion for food, a rabid curiosity and a basic set of skills and you're all set. Most restaurants are pretty cool with taking on stages because again, they get free labor, but No. 9 Park has a pretty busy schedule because everyone wants to get in there and it can be harder to schedule.

                At a lot of places you can really do as much or as little as you want at the discretion of the chef, but be prepared to put in at least a full shift if not longer. No. 9 was one day/night (at the end of which they hooked me up with a mini-tasting menu as a reward!) but Hungry mother was a couple straight weeks over winter vacation and then Sundays for a couple months following.

                Most chefs are really excited to show off their kitchens, love to teach and have been in your position before so they can totally relate. Bottom line tatsu, dont be intimidated and remember that it can't hurt to ask ;-)

        2. re: PAUL

          I graduated from the Professional Chef's Program in 1999. The school has changed a lot since then, both in curriculum and the physical plant (I believe they've redone the kitchens and added another one). I was already in the food production business when I attended -- a lot that was taught I already knew, but there were significant areas taught which were very new to me.

          My only regret is that I worked FT while taking the course, so I didn't get as much out of it as I'd wanted to. Nevertheless, it was money well spent.

        3. It's worth noting that CSCA is one of only a few culinary schools that doesn't offer an AA or BA, so tends to attract a somewhat different population. They're also a clock-hour accredited school rather than a credit-hour accredited school, so transferring in/out would be unusually difficult - not a huge problem for the 16-week certificate, but worth noting.

          Mankie1970, it's possible that adding contact information to your info might get you more personalized responses.

          1. While eating at Technique in the spring, I met the college president who explained that Le Cordon Bleu's advantage over other culinary schools were the techniques they teach (450 specifically required by the famed French school, some of which have been taught since 1895) and the Applied Science degree, which is the only such degree available in Boston.

            As I recall, they had about 700 students so it should be interesting to watch over the next few years as some of their grads develop a career on the Boston scene.

            1. I attended Newbury's day 4-year culinary program for 2 years before I switched to hospitality administration. I also took some weekend classes. It was my experience that the professors were knowledgable and very willing to help, however the equipment was older than should be allowed. Now this was about 3 years ago, I am not sure if they found the funding to upgrade or not.

              I have a coworker currently attending le cordon bleu, and she is disappointed with how unmotivated the student body seems to be.

              3 Replies
              1. re: NoAddedSweetener

                I simply don't think young folks are motivated, in general. Anyway, it's their(or parents) money.

                1. re: trufflehound

                  This is true. No young folks are motivated. Except the ones that are. Kind of like old folks.

              2. I am a 2003 graduate of the CSCA's professional chef's program, and currently on one of the school's advisory committees. After completing the program I did an apprenticeship in pastry, launched a personal chef and catering business, and am now employed at a food company doing sales and business development. I got a lot out of the CSCA's program, and would be happy to talk with you about my experience there.

                4 Replies
                1. re: jeant


                  Thanks for the info about CSCA. I would love to talk to you further. My email is mankie1970@hotmail.com --

                  1. re: jeant

                    I realize this is a very old thread but just found it while doing some research on the CSCA. Although I am an experienced home cook and have taken many recreational cooking class and have worked in a cooking school, I would like to beef up my resume and credentials by enrolling in some kind of professional culinary program.Specifically I am thinking of the Culinary Certificate program. I could do the community college route but was looking for something with a little more prestige. My ultimate goal is to open a small cooking school from my home and do some catering on the side. I am wondering if I will get enough out of the program to make it worth my time and money.I am eager to hear your opinion. I am on the North Shore and the commute into Cambridge 2 days and 1 night will be a challenge but I am committed to this so would do it if it's right for me. I would love to hear back from you. Thanks!

                    1. re: jeant

                      I am planning attending CSCA would like to know about your experience there.

                      1. re: subag212

                        I decided against enrolling in the Professional Chef's program or the certificate program. I did take their Techniques of Cooking 1 and 2 and the Regions of Italy and a Techniques of Baking 1 recreational classes. The cost of the two former programs and the time needed was just too great for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the rec classes and got a lot out of them.

                    2. I attended CSCA and graduated in 1992. I began my career in the hotels and had a chance to see many other people who had been to most of the schools in the country. In my experience CSCA stood up pretty well as far food knowledge goes at an entry level, on par with other culinary schools. Your real education will start when you work professionally, schools will only give you the basics. A key thing to remember is cost. Money in the food service is low for entry level positions which is where you'll start., Going into debt on the education part should be a significant consideration.

                      1. At one point I too was looking at going to culinary school but the cost did not make it feasible at that time and now I don't have time to pursue it.

                        I think the most important thing is how the feel of the campus and student body is for you. You should visit CSCA, Newbury, Le Cordon Bleu and BU and see which one you are most comfortable with.

                        I'd visited CSCA about 10 yrs ago and felt that it wasn't the right fit for me. I'd also visited CIA in NY and really liked the campus but alas it was too rich for my blood.

                        I was also told by a Newbury graduate that certain restaurant group likes to recruit there and he was offered a few jobs, took one and decided that cooking wasn't for him.

                          1. re: enhF94

                            read anthony bourdain's articles about being a cook; there was a good one in his new collection of essays which is called Medium Raw.