Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
Feb 8, 2010 03:16 AM

I have several questions about culinary school....

Hi everyone!

1. I'am 24 years old and Im dying to be a pastry chef and I now that for some years I will have crappy pay (and thats a little scary to me), but I dont care. Im 24 and I want to go to culinary school for baking/pastry arts. I was thinking I would go for a four year degree(I do have general education credits and would not like for them to go to waste), but Im not sure if that is necessary or not. I would like to be an executive pastry chef eventually though. I was talking to this chef that I work with he isnt a pastry chef, but he said that I should also do an apprenticeship. So I thought it would be a good idea that while in school I could do an informal apprenticeship so that way I can get a solid foundation in culinary education and have experience as well for when I go out into the workforce. Is it possible to do both school and an apprenticeship at the same time?

2. Also I dont want to go to a fancy culinary school or one of those for profit schools (Le Cordon Bleu/ Art institutes) and pay thousands upon thousands of dollars. Are there any public colleges/universities that offer four year degree baking pastry arts degrees besides CIA and Johnson and Wales? I have been looking, but I cant find anything.

3. Also is it important that I go to a school accredited by the American Culinary Federation?

4. Can someone give me the 100% truth about how much a pastry chef really makes if they are not an executive pastry chef? I

5. Is being a pastry chef as stressful as being a regular chef?

6. Will I have a life outside the kitchen? Thanks for reading all my questions! Sorry I have so many.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I would suggest looking in to the archive at

    There are some good posts about pros and cons of culinary school, and some hard cold truths about the industry. Shuna will likely respond with well thought out answers if you pose questions to her. She believes in the art, but is well aware of the pitfalls.

    1. I live in Asheville, NC and the local community college, A-B Tech (Asheville-Buncombe) has a culinary arts program with a two-year associates degree that has a good reputation. They have a baking and pastry arts program. Link below.

      Forest Davenport

      1. 4) between $12 an hour and $45 k. If you're a big star in NY, Chicago, LA, etc or run the pastry department for a group of several restaurants you'll make more, but for a single outlet in a city of a few million, you'd be lucky to get much more. A lot of people in the kitchen will make more than you, I think I usually make about 75% of what the sous chefs make.

        5) Yes.

        6) Maybe. A lot of pastry chefs work mornings, but early hours can be as much of a drag as late ones. Expect to work 50 to 60 hours a week, and cancel all future plans for Christmas, NYE, and Valentines day.

        1. i'd rec working/apprenticeship rather than going to culinary school. lots of folks who go to culinary school end up not being able to work in restaurants because of the combo of their burden of culinary school debt and the reality of low wages in restaurant jobs--ironic, huh?

          depending on what you specifically want to do/execute, the repetition of formulas and techniques you'll get in a job, rather than from the small-scale stuff you do in a culinary class, will probably serve you better in the long run. you will have to push yourself toward more refined and challenging positions at other jobs as you grow your expertise. try to work with pastry chefs you respect in your own area-- you can learn lots of little tricks and recipes from them. you could also check out the offerings of your local community or technical colleges for classes. since we don't know where you live it's kind of impossible to make specific recommendations.

          the thing about doing pastry is that if you are good, you are a little less tied down than a chef who has to put in 60+ at one restaurant. a pastry chef can do the desserts for more than one establishment and have something independent on the side, like wedding cakes or cupcakes or packaged bacon brownies or something. some jobs will pay you by the hour, and you can expect to be doing scones and muffins and such as well as desserts, and some others will pay you by the piece/item-- so if you can only make 5 pies an hour or something you simply won't be able to pay the rent at that rate, but it might be a nice hobby.

          1. If you live in a big city on the east or west coast, I would knock on doors and present yourself as ready and willing to learn the biz. You are going to work 10 years before you see any real money. Culinary shools are great but don't really prepare you for the real world. As I said, start someplace at the bottom and closely observe and see if this is what you really want. I'm not trying to be discouraging but the food business is rough.

            2 Replies
            1. re: mrbigshotno.1

              Well I live in Columbia, SC. I think it will be hard to find a pastry chef here though a lot of restaurants and even hotels use store bought desserts. Then whats the point of culinary schools if they dont prepare you for the real world? Yeah Im going to try and find an internship this summer so I can see what it is like.

              1. re: Want2bPastryChef

                "Then whats the point of culinary schools if they dont prepare you for the real world?" I believe that you answered your own question in your initial post " Also I dont want to go to a fancy culinary school or one of those for profit schools (Le Cordon Bleu/ Art institutes)"
                **For Profit** are the key words; these schools are in the business of making money. I taught at a private culinary school before it was sold to LCB and wouldn't teach there now. The cost/benefit ratio for students is embarrassing and I could not participate in the charade.

                Do as soupkitten recommends, find someone to take you on as an apprentice. Talk your way into a kitchen and learn everything you can.