The Cons of Culinary School

From my previous blog entry, culinary school definitely can be a beneficial experience. Sadly, with the pros come the cons. Although some of these cons may not apply to each person, I feel that these are a few issues people in school have dealt with.

Financial Burden:

Le Cordon Bleu was not cheap whatsoever. However, there are community colleges that offer less expensive classes. I was thankful to have a wonderful mother who helped support me through school. If a person considers going into the culinary industry, I would suggest researching the different schools out there, and compare them financially as well. Keep in mind though, cheaper is not always better! If you want the full experience, shoot for it! I know that I was able to eat, study, and cook many foods that some schools would not be able to offer due to funding. On the other hand, the extra money spent on tuition could be used to further enhance your career, like traveling to culinary hotspots such as Chicago or New York.

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Information Overload!!:

You’d be amazed how much information you can learn within a year’s time. I feel that this can be a huge downfall. Rather than gaining confidence by practicing a Mother sauce on a frequent basis, it was very unlikely you’d make one of the Mother sauces more than twice in that entire year. You are given so many terms, recipes, and methods that it’s hard to remember and keep track of them all at once. Each semester (every six weeks) we had a new topic to discuss, and each semester I had studied diligently (usually). Within a few months after that semester I could not remember half of the information I had learned. Places like Le Cordon Bleu focus on cramming as much knowledge as they can within that small period of time. Working in a kitchen for a few years I feel could help someone gradually learn all of the knowledge that we crammed within that year. When you think about it, one year isn’t long at all!

Low Expectations:

Before I dive into this con, let me first explain one thing. When I was a student, I worked hard, and wanted nothing but to consistently exceed the goals given. Each semester the Chef would have high expectations of me because of this mentality. If I made a mistake, I was scolded more severely than the person next to me who could seem to care less. I appreciated the challenge, and always wanted to find ways to improve. On the other hand, there were many students who considered culinary school as some sort of joke. They did not care about their career, and did not care about the class as a whole. Most would drop out within a few semesters due to lack of attendance or carelessness. My first semester we started out with almost thirty students. By my final semester, we were down to six. It was frustrating to watch these students who didn’t care. They would bring our team down and would be able to advance onto the next class when they typically failed most of the exams. There were a few students in the final semester that still had that careless attitude, and it amazed me that they were able to graduate as well. Part of me felt that the Chef’s gave up on those sorts of students and just let them slide through the classes at the bare minimum.

Self-Taught Vs. School:

The more I worked in a real kitchen, the more I realized that if I had started working in a restaurant at a younger age where I knew exactly where I wanted to be, that I wouldn’t need to go to culinary school. I know a number of amazing, creative and inspiring chefs that never attended school. I have just as much, if not more, respect for them. I have learned all sorts of tricks and knowledge from Chefs who have never stepped foot in culinary school. I believe that passion, creativity and the drive to be the best you can be, is what makes a great Chef. No matter how much knowledge someone gains from school, the love for your career is one of the most important things!photo 3 (1)

Real World Experience:

The last three months of my school, I was required to be an intern at a restaurant of my choice. I knew within the first week of the restaurant I worked at, that I lacked experience, knowledge, and confidence. Although I appreciated my classes, I felt as though they sugar-coated the real world experience. I was a very confident, talkative student during class while we cooked, and during my internship I was timid, quiet and nervous. I was given the reigns and sometimes I felt it was too much to handle.

After my internship, the real world felt extremely overwhelming. I worked in a seasonal job where negativity and tension consumed the atmosphere. Rather than enjoying my career like I had hoped, I grew fearful that every kitchen I worked in would have this unwelcoming cloud looming over the work place. I had accepted the stress that I knew would come with being a cook, but I did not anticipate the emotional stress I experienced at that job. For the first time, I had questioned my career along with who I was as a person. No career advisor or instructor could have prepared me for that unfortunate experience.

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So was culinary school worth it? For me, definitely. If it weren’t for that first step to make that phone call to Le Cordon Bleu, I would not be where I am today. Through all of the ups and downs, I can say that I am very grateful for each experience. If it weren’t for the negatives, I wouldn’t appreciate all of the positives! I would advise to anyone interested in culinary school that they should work in a kitchen for a few months just to gain a little experience. Cooking at home is extremely different than cooking in a professional kitchen.

Joining Webster’s family was like a breath of fresh air. Before I realized it, I was part of the team. For the first time since graduation, I finally felt as though I belonged in a kitchen. The talkative and confident person I once was during school has returned. There hasn’t been a day that has gone by where I haven’t felt appreciated. Each day I want to exceed my expectations and find every way to become a better cook.

Webster’s isn’t just a destination for great food. It’s the place where we invite you to our home. From the friendly front of house service, to the hard working back of house, I can truly tell that my co-workers enjoy their job just as much as I do. We put love and care in our service towards each person that walks through that door to make their experience unforgettable. Although there are moments where I feel challenged and stressed, at the end of the day I know that I am part of a great team.

Amy Spalsbury
Line Cook
Beer VS Wine Dinner 037

The Pros of Culinary School

photo 1Having just graduating from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts back in March, I often replay in my head the time I spent there and whether or not I feel it was truly beneficial. Without a doubt, I feel culinary school is not for everyone. Personally for me, I am very thankful for my time in Minneapolis and the experience I gained. It helped me get that jump start into my career path. Are you, or someone you know interested in joining the culinary profession? It’s a very difficult and life changing decision to make.  This week I’ll list some of the pros I believe culinary school has to offer. photo 4

Lack of Knowledge:

When I finally made the decision to attend culinary school, I had very little knowledge about the restaurant industry, let alone what it was like to work in a kitchen. I had worked in retail, and my only experience handling food was minimal prepping at a deli. From football shaped potatoes AKA Tourne’s (I made so many Tourne’s that I dreamt about them!), to converting 25 teaspoons into cups, culinary school taught me various basics. A lot of the knowledge I gained I still use on a daily basis. For someone who was inexperienced like myself, I found school to be extremely useful. Probably the most beneficial skill I took with me was how to handle a knife. I had an entire six week class that was primarily based on how to cut with a knife properly.

Reputation:

Granted, culinary schools sometimes are considered a con, but I believe that most employers would view culinary school as a positive. When I briefly searched for jobs in Minneapolis after I graduated, I know that most of the people I had interviews with or talked to, positively acknowledged that I attended Le Cordon Bleu. School taught me the importance of an organized and clean kitchen. This is a trait that some people who never attended school may lack. Going to school also gave me a better understanding of respect as well. Although I still love to have fun while in the kitchen, school helped me become more disciplined.

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Friendships:

In a trade school like Le Cordon Bleu, you are most likely with the same students for the entire year. This could be a good or bad thing. If you get in a large class, it’s more likely you’ll form friendships. Unfortunately for me, I had a very small class and none of us grew very close. Part of it may have been due to us not being too talkative at 6am! However, I still keep in touch with a couple of the students. Forming friendships during school I know has really helped out a lot of people in their career. If you impressed one of your peers in school, the more likely they’ll want you to work in the kitchen with them in the future. Connections are a very beneficial thing!

Resources:

The Chefs at my school were wonderful teachers and the majority of them were willing to write letters of recommendations or be used as references. Having solid references is a great thing to have when being considered for a job. In addition, the representatives at Le Cordon Bleu were great. During school they helped each student edit their resumes, and discussed the key components in what an employer looked for. They also checked up on me after graduation to see if there was anything they could do to help further advance my career. I had actually contacted one of them for advice about a seasonal job I had been hired at and she was very helpful. Throughout school they told us that even many years from now, if we were struggling to find a job,they would assist us. It was a comfort to know that I had that resource.

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Rabbit with Tournes

Recipes:

I was excited at how many recipes I was given throughout the year. I have an entire binder full of recipes just from culinary school, not to mention the two books I was given that discussed the basics of French Cuisine. I was also given numerous packets that had information about things like different meat cuts, the science behind baking, and spices. I felt all of the recipes will be very useful throughout my career.

Testing Your Future:

My dreams and goals have been one big rollercoaster ride ever since I was a child. At one point I wanted to work at Sea World and ride Shamu! However, one day I wanted a drastic change. I always enjoyed cooking for friends and family, and it was the one skill I felt I could rely on. To be honest though, it wasn’t until after the second semester of school that I realized this was my dream career. I wanted to be a Chef! I remember calling home one afternoon, ecstatic that I made gnocchi with tomato sauce and brown butter. School was the reason why I pushed forward to become a chef. That alone, is the biggest reason why I’m so thankful I attended school.

These are the key pros that I experienced myself through school. With the pros, also comes the cons. Please check back next week to see what I feel some of the cons about culinary school are! Have a wonderful week!

Amy Spalsbury
Line Cook
Beer VS Wine Dinner 037

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