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Need some help finding a culinary school near Easton, PA

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by wgilles, Sep 17, 2008.

  1. wgilles


    Apr 25, 2008
    Hello there. Well, my girlfriend, an aspiring chef, wanted to go to the culinary school at the nearby Community College. She was very excited about meeting with the Dean of the Culinary section today, but she found out there is a 2 year waiting list! Needless to say, it broke her heart! She thought she was going to be able to start next semester.

    So, I am doing my own research for her because I know she is frustrated right now and won't do any for a little while. I was wondering if anyone here knew of any good culinary schools near Easton, PA or the Lehigh Valley. She has already looked at the La Cordon Blu or whatever, as well as Art Institute of America. They are way to expensive for her to afford. She would probably get some financial aid, but she is looking for a school that doesn't charge 80 grand a year. Any help would be greatly appreciated! Her cooking appeal is like out interest in Photography!
  2. wbeem


    Feb 11, 2007
    Sanford, FL
    William Beem
    I used to be a director at the Le Cordon Bleu school here in Orlando, FL. From my perspective, there are both good and bad aspects of the school.

    The good: We had an excellent staff of chef and academic instructors. We brought in a VP of Education from Art Institute of Chicago who also was outstanding. He revamped a lot of the program and made for an outstanding learning environment. Too much of courses before he arrived were lecture oriented and he really turned that around to provide more cooking stations.

    Other Le Cordon Bleu schools follow the same licensed structure provided by the original school in Paris, but they may not implement it the same way. I can't speak for Art Institute, but my recommendation is to definitely tour the school and ask questions about the teaching methods. What is the ratio of hands-on vs. lecture? Ultimately, you are only as good as your experience, so the student needs to be cooking as much as possible. Lectures give ideas, but hands-on experience is what makes the student excel.

    For demonstrations, I installed a lot of cameras and plasma screens in the classrooms, plus an audio system for the chef instructors. That's because there's only so much room around a cooking station. Some student won't get a good view or hear what's being taught unless the place is wired for sight and sound. Our cameras could cover four different views at the flip of a switch by the chef, and the wireless mics ensured we could have two instructors talking and heard by everyone. Ask about the class size and how your girlfriend is going to be able to see and hear.

    The Bad: It's extremely overpriced. When I left there three years ago, the cost was $40K for one year of instruction and three months of "externship" before graduation. The whole school system is there only to support financing of those overpriced educations. So if you don't have a good person in charge of education, you may get royally hosed.

    There is severe pressure on students and their relatives to get financing and a co-signer. They know most of these students don't have enough money to pay the bills, so they use their passion (note that word a lot in the sales pitch) to convince Mom & Dad to co-sign. Students have to show up every day for class and that's another source of pressure. If you skip class, you miss crucial lessons and/or experience, which may cause a drop-out. This whole system is a machine. They will find you roommates, carpool buddies, whatever it takes to keep students showing up every day.

    Another school definitely worth a look is Culinary Institute of America (CIA), which is among the best in the states. You can get a good education at LCB or AI, but some of those chain schools are better than others.

    Career Education is the parent company of LCB. While I was there, they were under investigation by the DOJ, SEC, and featured on 60 Minutes. It is a highly unethical corporation, in my opinion. Most of that doesn't flow down to the students directly, but they make life miserable for the staff.

    If you have other specific questions, let me know and I'll answer as best I can.
  3. wgilles


    Apr 25, 2008
    Thanks, that helped out as far as those type of schools are concerned. I think she wants to find something smaller to save on that "wallet rape" that the bigger schools give. Thanks though
  4. wbeem


    Feb 11, 2007
    Sanford, FL
    William Beem
    Good luck with the search. Just have her go in with eyes wide open that the schools I mentioned are after the money. No question about it.

    There is a thought among some working chefs that you really don't need to go to school, that you can get the same experience working your way up from the bottom. As I said, it's the hands-on experience that really matters. Find a chef who's willing to mentor someone and you've got a good education and get paid at the same time.

    When you go looking for better jobs in this field, the thing that matters is not so much a "degree" from these schools. It's the American Culinary Federation (ACF) certification that ultimately gets recognized. When students graduate from Orlando LCB, they are also certified by the ACF as a Certified Culinarian - essentially a line cook.

    If she wants to get into business as a pastry chef, executive chef, etc...it's that ACF certification that she needs, and it takes time and experience.

    Just thought I'd add that alternative take on a career path.
  5. DanWhite


    Jul 10, 2005
    Lansdale PA
    Will What community college are you speaking of, I think bucks county cc has a program, as does montgomery county CC
  6. wgilles


    Apr 25, 2008
    North Hampton. Thanks, we will check it out
  7. Hotplate


    Oct 23, 2007
    Austin, TX
    I have a couple of friends who work as professional chefs that told me the same thing when I was curious about that career path. They hire cooks with experience over all else.
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