Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Manhattan >
Oct 26, 2010 01:24 PM

Culinary Arts Degree in NYC

I was laid off from my job and am considering a career change. I was thinking of going back to school to be a chef. Have checked out several schools in Manhattan and am interested in
either the Chef's Program at the Natural Gourmet Institute (I like that it emphasizes health
supportive cooking and is mostly plant based. I am not into meat cuisine.)
or the Pastry Arts and Baking Program at the ICE (my friends tell me there are better income opportunities for pastry chefs) . The tuitions costs are steep so I want to make sure I make the right decision.

1) Which program do you think is better? 2) Is it too old to be a chef in your mid 40's?

Thanks for your feedback.

Natural Gourmet Institute
48 W 21st St, New York, NY 10010

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I don't think you're too old, but according to my chef friend, ICE just isn't up to snuff. I trust his opinions and would therefore take a closer look at the alternatives. It's true that pastry chefs can make top dollar, but it's a specific enough talent that you should make sure that it's something you love - a love and sympatico for chemistry will also help there. Whether or not you want to be a meat specialist, a thorough education in all aspects of cuisine is important. That leads me to suggest that you find out how successful the graduates of the Natural Gourmet Institute are in obtaining employment at a sustainable wage. I'm sure some get work, but you want to be sure that most graduates get decent work.

    Have you looked into the French Culinary Institute? It should give a good classical grounding and leave you well prepared, employable, and ready to specialize in vegetarian cuisine.

    Natural Gourmet Institute
    48 W 21st St, New York, NY 10010

    1. From the "if it were me" department: Before I invested in something quite as expensive as a culinary arts education, I'd be sure to find chefs who've been in the business for a while to get the existential "lay of the land" before plunking down the huge chunk-o-change for school. You'll want to know what is the experience and demands of being a chef, the career ladder, what is valued in kitchens and what is not, blah, blah, blah. Be certain that your energy level and passion for the work is there because the grunt work involved will surely test your enjoyment, not to mention the attitudes of certain chefs who are far more fond of themselves then those who work for them. This is all part of doing homework for the test you're giving all means, if you love doing the work and think you have the energy and humility to take on a mid-life career change, by all means, go for it!