So, I'm thinking about going to Culinary school, or...

my progress report on getting out of Virginia.

So I found a school I’m interested in (not out of Virginia, but it’s far away from home so it’s progress). It’s the Art Institute of Washington and it has a Culinary Arts department. A 21 month program that’ll cost over 36,000 dollars. It’s in Arlington, VA and like 3 blocks outside of Washington D.C.

I’m seriously considering going, but I need a good push in the right direction. It’s far enough away from home so I’ll independent and close enough that if I get to home sick I can make the drive back home. Housing doesn’t seem dreadful. They provide aparments with like 4 roommates (2 bedrooms) to an apartment. I can deal with that if I have to. Better than dorm life at least. I’ll have my escape from country life that I so desire and have a chance to experience some culture (or something of the sort).

I’m planning on a trip up that way to check the school out in person in September or thereabouts. I’ll even have my own personal tour guide for the area. (punha!:)) So anyways it seems to be a good possibility for now. Anybody ever go to AIW? Anybody got any thoughts? Someone willing to push me in the right direction?

What do you say Dopers?

I think that with punha as your tour guide, you’d better watch out for more than whether you’d want to go to the arts school / culinary department. :wink:

Seriously though: $36,000 sounds like a lot of money. (never mind the abysmal exchange rate, either) But as we were discussing earlier, if you don’t go, you’ll probably be wondering what had happened if you had. You know, missed opportunities and regrets and all of that stuff. At least make sure you’re not going just so you can get out of your town and/or meet punha. Both are good things to do (well, meeting punha might be a bit… dubious ;)), but make sure those aren’t your only reasons.

I think if this is what you really want to do, then you should go for it. If it’s not too far away from home that you can go home if you want, and far enough away from home that you can feel truly independent, then that’s a good thing. (now I’m regretting only living 10 minutes’ drive from my parents… sigh) Of course, the decision is entirely up to you, and I’m sure my post hasn’t helped much, if at all. :stuck_out_tongue: But I support you in whichever decision you wish to make. :slight_smile:

No, I do not have anything against iampunha at all. In fact, I think he’s a nice enough guy to talk to and have fun with, but you never know.


Fizzy, if you can cook me a decent steak, it’s the right decision. :smiley:

We need a new Julia Child, so best of luck! :cool:

knowing nothing about culinary institutes and their costs, all I can say is:

if it makes you free to travel without worrying about finding work, and it is something you like (or at least won’t come to hate) doing:

go for it!

best wishes

the culinary world is tough – check out AIW’s placements – what are their graduates doing – are they all in the fast food business? hehehe

The top-shelf culinary school in America is the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) – it’s in the NY…

if you go there, I know you’ll be able to pay back those loans no problem!
I think AIW may be in the similar mold.

see what their graduates are doing, and decide on whether that’s what you want to do

I have not gone to AIW, but I am a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu at the California School of Culinary Arts (and another member of this board, Heloise, is currently a student there).

I won’t tell you ‘go or don’t go’ since that’s not my style. But, there are things to consider. Culinary school is tough. I don’t know how academic things are at AIW, but I had plenty of homework along with my regular classwork. Going to culinary school is like having a full-time job, and you’ll be pretty busy–do you plan on working part time to cover expenses, or are your parents willing to help, or do you have some money saved up?

Another thing I noticed about your OP is you didn’t mention once a love for cooking, but you did mention your desire to leave where you’re living now. TalkingHead is right–the culinary world is tough. You have to LOVE to cook to be able to stand some of the crap you’re going to have to wade through in this business. The jobs usually don’t pay well and you’ll be working sucky hours (chances are you won’t have a Saturday night off in years). Job security is often low and being laid off/let go will be something you’ll have to deal with several times in your career (I’ve been laid off twice in the span of 4 months). Seriously consider going to school only if you really have the drive and the love for it, else it will be a waste. Don’t sign up for something like this if all you’re looking at is to get away–there are other ways to get out, if that’s what you’re looking for.

I’m not trying to discourage you from going, but I’d like you to look at your situation and make sure it’s the right choice for you.

Javamaven My love for cooking lies in baking. I love to bake. Cookies, cakes, sweet treats galore. Give me a recipie and I’ll try it out no matter how hard it looks. I’d like to become a Pastry Chef.

There is no money for me to go on. That’s the biggest problem. It’s very expensive and we don’t have any money. Grants and loans is all I say. I’m willing to spend the rest of my life paying it back. I think it’s worth getting out there and doing something I love. If getting out of here were my only goal then I wouldn’t go to Culinary School, I’d go to a regular college that’s way cheaper. My desire to fly the coop has been bubbling over lately so I suppose I forgot to mention that I do indeed love to bake.

The college lady is supposed to call me Thursday at 5 so we’ll see how things go. I’ll just keep my fingers crossed.

Lemme throw in an age-related notion. You’re young. If you go assuming that this will be your only chance at it, you’ll probably end up making yourself miserable.

If you go willing to work hard at the school, but if it doesn’t work out, you’ll find something else, then I think you’ll be on the path to wisdom. At least you’ll be a better home cook for it.

Java’s comments are well-worth considering. If you’ve got some reading time, check out “Kitchen Confidential,” Anthony Bourdain’s memoir about his time as a cook. He went to CIA, so you’ll get some idea of what it’s like there. He may be overly dramatic about what it’s like in the kitchen (I don’t know), but it’s one viewpoint to consider. And it’s a fast, funny book.

Good luck.

If your love lies in baking, do you really want to go the full-spectrum training route?

the California Culinary Academy, in addition to the Culinary Arts Program (60 weeks), also offers a shorter baking speciality course (30 weeks):


warning: SF cost-of-living is outrageous - see if the school you’re looking at offers such training, and would this be a better fit for you?

my concern is: would you get in a position where you would need a 4-5 star restaurant as an employer? Nothing wrong with that - unless you want to live somewhere other than major cities.

Although I wanted to be a pastry chef, I went the full route of education. First of all, it has been an excellent back-up knowledge for me–I’ve worked in some smaller restaurants where I was not only the pastry chef, but I helped out on the line when I was slow but the line was busy. Also, you never know by the time you finish school, you may be interested in other things–it’s like going to college. Sure, you take the classes in your major, but you also get a rounded education in taking other subjects. In my experience, I found that having the whole education has helped me in the long run, as I’m comfortable with doing all sorts of work in the business, and I know what’s going on on the line.

I’ll second the idea of reading Kitchen Confidential, because even though it may seem overblown to some–I couldn’t help but agree and laugh with what he’s written, because so much of it is true or I’ve personally experienced.

I’ve been interested in culinary school for a long time, and my interest has been here in Colorado at the Art Institute of Denver. Could work…
But my focus is definitely not pastry. I’m going for international foods more, but listen to Java, he’s got a lot of good information to share, most of which he’s already shared with me.

A friend of ours went to the Culinary Institute of America. Opened his own restaurant here for a bit but it went under. Since then he’s worked a series of jobs at country clubs, etc.

He’s had a good bit of regrets going to the CIA because of the cost involved and because his dream of becoming a chef were soon tempered by the reality of long hours and no social life. See, chefs work when people eat. So that meant he was gone from 2pm til around 3am 5-6 days a week. He burned out very quickly.

That being said, my advice is to talk to people who are in the job you want. Find out the positives and negatives before committing to anything. And if it’s still something you want to pursue, then do what you need to do to make it happen.

This is a very important thing to consider. I’ve been lucky to finally land a job with a caterer where I’m working Mon-Fri, 7 am -3 pm (doing lunches for uppity Hollywood types). But, before then, I was working nights and hadn’t had a Saturday night off in a very long time. I basically had no social life.

Quick burn-outs are a casualty of the business.
Oh, by the way, ladyfoxfyre, I’m a girl. :smiley: