TCA / Le Cordon Bleu vs Austin Community College
Hi all, I'm having a dilemma that maybe you can advise on. I have been accepted into the Associates Degree program at the Texas Culinary Academy (TCA) in Austin, TX, which includes the Le Cordon Bleu certification.
I've already had all my federal funding approved, but I'm having real difficulty in getting the private loan approved. I am now looking at the Culinary Arts Associates program at Austin Community College (ACC), which has been in place for thirteen years and seems to have a solid reputation. They are also accredited with the American Culinary Federation, and the tuition is about 3-4 times less expensive than TCA/Le Cordon Bleu.
My plan is to become expert in American barbecue (Texas, Kansas City and Carolinas techniques) and traditional American Southern cuisine (i.e. soul food, "home cooking", Low Country cuisine, etc.), then open a restaurant in Germany, Romania or elsewhere in Central or Eastern Europe, specializing in this cuisine. I want the quality and authenticity of the food to be the focus, so this will not be a "theme" restaurant where kitschiness is the main attraction.
Aside from the desire to get the formal chef's training - I've been cooking this kind of food for most of my life, but I am basically self-taught - my reasoning has been that the Le Cordon Bleu certification will help me be taken seriously in Europe. But is it really worth the price, and will anyone outside of France even care? The TCA program is top-notch, but the ACC program also seems to be pretty good.
I guess my question is this: For what I want to accomplish - to become expert in fine-dining quality American Southern cuisine and barbecue, then open a restaurant in Central or Eastern Europe - is the Le Cordon Bleu certification really worth the additional expense? Maybe I could use the money saved, by instead attending ACC, to take some specialty courses and/or apprenticeships in the cuisine I want to become expert in?
Any help or advice would be very appreciated, especially from any European chefs or graduates of either TCA or ACC.
Based on my recent experience, I would advise you to take a good hard look at ALL the schools. I almost put myself into a LOT of debt because I was prejudiced against community colleges in general. If I hadn't run into problems with funding TCA's enormous tuition, I would never have discovered that ACC actually has a very well respected culinary program. Good luck!
Do these schools have a list of graduates whom you can talk to about their experiences after graduation? Perhaps you can find someone who is following a similar culinary path to yours? Also consider visiting the restaurants you admire in Central Texas and ask their opinion about trained chefs: Lamberts, Hoovers, Moonshine, etc. Also ask top Chefs from Europe like Elmer Pramb of Trio. Good luck.
Thanks for the replies. :) I've decided to go with Austin Community College. They have a very good program at about 1/4 the cost of TCA. Also, since I want to cook fine-dining quality American Southern food and barbecue, a couple of people have suggested that the American Culinary Federation certificate will make more sense than the Le Cordon Bleu.