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I have graduated from high school, attended college for two semesters and am now contemplating going to Culinary School so that I can own my own restaurant. Do you have any suggestions on the best school to enroll in? What level of salary will I get when I get out of school? Also, I really enjoy fishing and think I want to open a fish restaurant, is one culinary school better than another if I want to learn how to prepare fish?
Fred in Wisconsin.
Hope certainly does spring eternal. If your goal is to own a restaurant culinary school may not be the most proficient path to take to accomplish your goal. Business school or a hospitality management program at a junior college may be the answer. Cornell culinary school has a vast number of programs that can fine tune your skills and increase your chances of success in the business.
That being said culinary schools are not the answer to a potential chef’s desires. I don´t know of anyone who ever graduated from a culinary school and became a chef without furthering their education in kitchens across the country and often, the world. The actual work in a busy restaurant can seldom be equaled in any educational environment. Culinary schools teach the fundamentals of the trade- some doing much, much, much better than others- however, none can instill the passion and instinct that is required in order to orchestrate a kitchen team with the precision, speed and detail of a maestro.
The Culinary Institute of America is the top culinary facility in the country. With two campuses-, one in Hyde Park, New York and the other in St. Helena, California – this bastion of edible education is considered the Harvard of higher learning when it comes to food. One of my dearest friends, Scott Maanum graduated from the CIA and today he ranks as one of the top operators in his field. The tuition resembles that in Cambridge.
The California Culinary Academy is another institute I am familiar with, as I have hired graduates from both institutions. Dan Watts is a friend and associate, he speaks very highly of the CCA, and as the person in charge of purchasing, he has complete control of what comes in and goes out. His recommendation is worthwhile.
As far as the other "academies", they are popping up all over the country. It´s hard to comment on their reputations, as few are around long enough to establish one. They are growing faster than fiddle ferns in a Vermont forest. I am always skeptical of any advertising in secondary markets on secondary stations in the middle of the afternoon. In the past year or so it seems culinary schools have replaced truck driving schools for that ever so precious time slot.
Business Week published a very informative article in December about the increase in culinary schools. Their research found that the increased popularity of the celebrity chef has prompted many to enroll in school thinking stardom is around the corner.
That is a fallacy.
At a recent brunch at Bistro Jeanty in Yountville, California, the bartender was explaining to another customer that he loved to cook. His passion, he explained, was for the kitchen, but he couldn´t make enough money to live the lifestyle he chose if he worked behind the line.
Before you enroll is a local cooking academy define your goals and aspirations. If it´s to own a restaurant someday, begin working in one and let the owner know what your interests are. Many owners are looking for that assistant that can help them with every aspect of the business- someone they can mentor. You may want to pursue that path and see how it fits.
Culinary school is a great way to learn technique for the right person, however, much of what you hear about enrolling in local cooking academies is true. What the "Dean of Admissions" is claiming could be nothing more than a fish story.