Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Back to Chocolate & Culinary School Choice

Well, I have started back in chocolate world. Yay! We have started making the Easter chocolates: dark chocolate bunnies with a milk chocolate carmel center, peanut butter eggs, and hollow milk chocolate bunnies. The other new products are toffee and a strawberry chocolate. Work is going well.

I had someone ask me this on my blog: "Do you think you'll continue on for the diploma? Or do you not think it is worth it? I'm considering to do the same thing -pastry school with Le Cordon Bleu. I wanted a diploma, but I'm wondering if I should bother, considering the price, I might settle for a certificate. What's your opinion?"

After completing my Associates Degree in Business and then attending another semester at GA. State, I decided to change career direction. I wanted to pursue a Culinary Arts degree and a Patisserie and Baking certificate. I quickly looked at what was available in Atlanta. I quickly realized that I wouldn't be able to start the culinary program at the local vocational-technical school until the next fall. Also, they didn't really offer a good Patisserie and Baking program. Sitting out of school till the next fall did not appeal to me. So, I bit the bullet and took the certificate course in Patisserie and Baking at Le Cordon Bleu (LCB) in Atlanta, as I could start that in January. At the time, LCB only offered the certificate (a 9 month program). After I graduated they started offering an Associates degree as well. I completed the program, served my externship and have been working ever since.

This coming fall, I will pursue an Associates degree in culinary arts at a Gwinnett Technical College in Lawrenceville, GA. It is much, much cheaper than somewhere like Le Cordon Bleu. It doesn't have the big name, but from talking with several chefs that I know, it has a very good reputation.

What would I recommend? Everybody learns differently. Some people can learn from books. Some learn by doing. Some learn best by being shown. For me, being shown how to do things helped build the confidence I needed to move on. A culinary school can not make a person a chef. The role of a culinary school is to teach the fundamentals so that a person can be somewhat knowledgeable in a cooking role in the industry. In other words, hopefully, someone graduating from culinary school won't walk in the professional kitchen on the first day and totally make a fool of themselves. I believe that after graduating from a culinary school you face far more learning after landing your first job. Based on my experience at LCB, I would search for the best culinary program available at a local state vo-tech school. Spending the big bucks will not necessarily get you a better education.

As to deciding between a certificate and a diploma program, I think it depends on your goals. A diploma program generally has more business type classes which may help if a management or business is the goal. Since I had planned on getting an Associates degree in Culinary Arts, it wasn't necessary for me to also get a diploma in Patisserie and Baking. Both diploma programs would have the same business classes. Personally if I was going for only one of them, I would go for the diploma program as I would one day like to own a bakery/restaurant.

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