Recommend a school

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stevefinn
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2006/08/25 14:06:14 (permalink)

Recommend a school

My son (15 years old) has long wanted to be a chef. He wants to go to Johnson & Wales (originally he wanted to go to the Rhode Island one, but is now interested in the North Carolina site.) Here's the thing: I work at a very upscale resort, with one of the best chef staffs in the country. Two of the chefs have adamantly warned me not to send him to J&W, since they find their graduates to be less than adept in the kitchen. The CIA was recommended. His grades will get him into any school he wants, so does anyone have any thoughts on the subject?
#1

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    Rusty246
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    RE: Recommend a school 2006/08/25 14:11:51 (permalink)
    I am by all means no expert on this subject but I can tell you this, we air the J & W program, I just watched it today as a matter of fact, one other time before. It's a total bore, not impressive to say the least IMO. It may be a good school but I don't see where it should warrant show. Best wishes to your son!
    #2
    -Tricky-
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    RE: Recommend a school 2006/08/25 16:20:09 (permalink)
    School doesn't prepare you for the kitchen anyway. It teaches you basic techniques, but the practical work experience is where you really learn how to be a chef. (Chefdom isn't just about food knowledge.) The CIA might be better on reputation alone, but it's going to cost you a lot more money.

    My experience has been that J&W grads are far less cocky, and generally more successful than the CIA grads we know. (The J&W grads are more likely to take instruction than the CIA grads.) My husband went to Pennsylvania Culinary, but their program has changed hands mutltiple times since he was in school in the late 90s. PICA was on its way up when he was in school, but with recent changes I can't vouch for it.

    More than school, he needs to be in a real kitchen (where things are made from scratch) now. Chefdom is still a field where the degree is far less important than the ability to actually work in the kitchen environment. That could certainly change, and I certainly think that anyone interested should go to school. But believing too much in the degree and not enough in the usefulness of actual experience is a trap a lot of people, (employers included) are falling into.

    Good luck on whatever he decides.

    (One advantage to J&W is that if while he is in school he changes his mind, a lot more of their academic program will transfer over to another university for a more traditional major than the CIA.)
    #3
    lleechef
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    RE: Recommend a school 2006/08/25 20:52:04 (permalink)
    I was lucky enough to go to LaVarenne in Paris. It was that or Cordon Bleu. I came back and had a chef's job and was MORTIFIED at this sous chef that didn't know how to filet a salmon and BUTCHERED it. She said she went to J&W. I said, "For heaven's sakes, didn't they teach you how to filet a darned fish??" She replied, "We were allowed to watch." I asked, "Can you cut an 8 oz. fillet mignon straight on?" "No, I don't think so." "Can you at least make a hollandaise, a bearnaise, a beurre blanc??" "No, I don't think so." Get outta here. You wasted a lot of time and a lot of money!
    #4
    Michael Hoffman
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    RE: Recommend a school 2006/08/25 20:52:42 (permalink)
    LaVarenne? Isn't that Ann Willan?
    #5
    lleechef
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    RE: Recommend a school 2006/08/25 20:54:58 (permalink)
    Yes, it's Anne Willan. She moved the school to a chateau in Bourgogne, also has one at the Greenbriar and probably several other locations I don't even know about. We were located on Rue St. Dominique in Paris.
    #6
    Jimeats
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    RE: Recommend a school 2006/08/25 21:01:32 (permalink)
    Yale! Chow Jim
    #7
    pigface
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    RE: Recommend a school 2006/08/25 21:30:18 (permalink)
    Schoolcraft
    #8
    Michael Hoffman
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    RE: Recommend a school 2006/08/25 21:42:18 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Jimeats

    Yale! Chow Jim

    Hey, I remember when the CIA was right next to the Yale campus. It's where I learned to tourne. Take that!
    #9
    baconman
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    RE: Recommend a school 2006/08/26 17:12:36 (permalink)
    You should start him at the "school of hard knocks", working washing dishes at the Resort. Let him see what really goes on in a successful kitchen
    #10
    Jimeats
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    RE: Recommend a school 2006/08/27 07:30:58 (permalink)
    I was being factious on the Yale comment, but on a serious side Cornell has one of the finest programs in the country. You might want to google Johnston and Wales though, there is an active blog that has some real horror stories from the parents about their dealings with them. Chow Jim
    #11
    Tedbear
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    RE: Recommend a school 2006/08/27 08:04:11 (permalink)
    I can't tell from the OP's posting whether the young man in question has ever worked in a restaurant. Besides the fact that this type of employment would give him some reality about that type of work environment, most chef's training programs (at least the more reputable ones) require that their prospective students have some work experience in a restaurant setting, even if it was in a very subserviant role. If he isn't currently working in a restaurant, now is the time to get him a job of that type.
    #12
    stevefinn
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    RE: Recommend a school 2006/08/27 09:15:49 (permalink)
    Yes, he has already worked in a professional kitchen (on a volunteer basis at an assisted living facility where my wife was dining room manager) and has a standing offer from the resort owner to work in the kitchen (transportation issues prevented that this year, since I'm the night manager). The resort chefs have told him--and he understands--that he should already be back in a kitchen. He's looking.











    #13
    doggydaddy
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    RE: Recommend a school 2006/08/27 09:45:43 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by -Tricky-

    School doesn't prepare you for the kitchen anyway. It teaches you basic techniques, but the practical work experience is where you really learn how to be a chef. (Chefdom isn't just about food knowledge.) The CIA might be better on reputation alone, but it's going to cost you a lot more money... ...More than school, he needs to be in a real kitchen (where things are made from scratch) now. Chefdom is still a field where the degree is far less important than the ability to actually work in the kitchen environment. That could certainly change, and I certainly think that anyone interested should go to school. But believing too much in the degree and not enough in the usefulness of actual experience is a trap a lot of people, (employers included) are falling into.

    Good luck on whatever he decides.


    Tricky,

    I like your response. I am not from any culinary school, but have been fortunate enough to have worked with instructive chefs in good kitchens. I have the ability to make the same sauces and dishes in a variety of ways. "How do -YOU- want your sauce made?"
    To paraphrase the Magliozzi Brothers from Cartalk "I am unencumbered by the thought(or educational) process."

    That said, I have worked with culinary students from the California Culinary Institute for their apprentice program prior to graduating. My opinion was that they still had a lot to learn.
    At the bookstore, I just read a chapter of Anthony Bourdain's , Nasty Bits and liked his comments regarding culinary school grads and their attitudes as compared to cooks (mostly Latino) who work their way up from the bottom.
    I'll just say that I had on very good friend who after graduating, his father bought him a restaurant. He was totally unprepared for what was required and the business folded.

    stevefin writes===I work at a very upscale resort, with one of the best chef staffs in the country. ===

    I agree with the posts that say have your son work there for one summer before making any commitment. Have him learn some of the basics of prep work before making a decision. He might decide to become a Lawyer instead, as there isn't as much sweat and burnt or cut fingers in that profession....
    I have a nephew who has come up from the lower ranks and now finds himself running a kitchen at a resort in Wisconsin. I talked to him on the phone recently and I am proud of his accomplishments.

    But let's say that he does like the work. Where should he go? I would suggest he attend the California Culinary Institute. They have a fine reputation and popular fixed price meals. But most important, he could find a part time job working in any of San Francisco's fine restaurants and hone his skills.

    mark

    #14
    doggydaddy
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    RE: Recommend a school 2006/08/27 09:51:03 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by stevefinn

    Yes, he has already worked in a professional kitchen (on a volunteer basis at an assisted living facility where my wife was dining room manager) and has a standing offer from the resort owner to work in the kitchen (transportation issues prevented that this year, since I'm the night manager). The resort chefs have told him--and he understands--that he should already be back in a kitchen. He's looking.


    It takes me a lot of time to write among the distractions while doing it. I saw this reponse and will say that your son appears to be on the right path. Good luck to him.

    mark
    #15
    Sonny Funzio
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    RE: Recommend a school 2006/08/27 14:54:41 (permalink)
    stevefinn,

    I highly recommend you absolutely do *not* send your son to culinary school before he gets some exposure to a real kitchen ... the assisted living facility is NOT representative of how a real restaurant kitchen operates ... restaurant kitchens are a "different beast" and are a cross between a high level hospitality business and a war zone. It is not the same thing.

    While the skills and certifications obtained in culinary school are invaluable, without your son being able to put what he learns into the proper context, his experience at a school will not provide the benefit it otherwise would. It is putting the cart before the horse ... and you will not get the biggest bang for your education buck.

    I would suggest he gets a job in the kitchen of ONLY a top restaurant ... ideally as a food prep, assistant to the Garde-manger/pantry cook, etc.
    Even if a food handling position is not possible, then as a dishwasher. There is lots of time ahead for a 15yr old to get into food preparation and behind the cooking line. If he is reliable and lets his intentions be known to management, he won’t likely have to suffer behind the “Hobart” for too long. Any food-handling experience (if he had any) at the assisted living facility won’t be hurt by a stint as a dishwasher ... He needs real restaurant experience.

    To get his foot in the “right” door , accept whatever pay or hours they have, however limited or not “ideal’ as they happen to be. Importantly, do *not* go to a lesser or short order restaurant ... hold out for the best that is available. And be willing to transport him a little further away to obtain the right position if there is nothing local.

    Because you won't be able to critique local restaurants' "back of the house" to know which of them are well run and have staff and culture that your son will get the most from; here are a few ideas to help make a choice ...

    1) Determine who are the most famous chefs in the area and do EVERYTHING you can to get your son into that kitchen ... as I said, even as a dishwasher.
    While going to the kitchen of a famous chef does not assure you of finding the perfect environment (particularly as many top chefs are *very* tough to work for) it is *much* more likely that those kitchens will be the most robust and professional. Additionally, having been in the kitchen of a renown chef makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE as an employment reference.

    To find out who these chefs are, review local newspapers... ask other people in the restaurant business ... also, call the director of the best culinary program of your local community colleges and ask that person both who the best local chefs are (in their opinion) and which restaurants might have the best kitchens. Often, those community college culinary programs are directly recruited from by better restaurants.

    2) other than selecting a restaurant based on its (or its Chef’s) reputation ... a back-up plan might be to get your son into a major national franchise restaurant that is at the higher end of the dining spectrum such as Steak-and-Ale etc ... These operations by necessity, have very well thought-out procedures and controls. Such a restaurant will instill good habits ... and also be a good reference for future jobs ... such as one in the kitchen of a top chef as mentioned above.

    Finally ... when it comes to what culinary programs are out there ... you might take a look at this website:
    www.cookingschools.com

    Good Luck,
    Sonny
    #16
    prisonchef
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    RE: Recommend a school 2006/08/27 19:29:12 (permalink)
    steve,
    here is a thought.
    have your son attend a local community school while he is working in a kitchen.
    after he graduates have him bust his rump to get into the apprecticeship program at the greenbriar. i helped a kid do this years ago on my own time. rich is now a very successful executive chef in maryland and told me a while back when i was too old to handle things anymore he needed a good sous chef. all kidding aside the greenbriar program is the same as marine bootcamp,tough,hard,unforgiving, and turns out great chefs
    jack
    #17
    Scorereader
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    RE: Recommend a school 2006/08/28 12:30:19 (permalink)
    I've always been under the impression that Paul Smith's College had an excellent culinary arts program. I've eaten the food on campus prepared by the CA students and was impressed. I have also stayed at the Hotel Saranac and it was awesome. From the hotel service to the food - top to bottom an excellent experience.

    #18
    stevefinn
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    RE: Recommend a school 2006/09/01 09:38:36 (permalink)
    Hi all

    Thanks for your responses. I think I may have him off of J&W and headed towards CIA. Of course, money is an issue, but between scholarships and financial aid, perhaps we can get it done. If I may say so, he's really smart ((high honor roll every quarter since elementary school) and
    really creative in the kitchen (although I haven't dared to try his cinnamon chicken yet). Thanks again,
    Steve
    #19
    Mark in VT
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    RE: Recommend a school 2006/09/01 10:46:18 (permalink)
    Definately New England Culinary Institute.
    #20
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