Saturday, November 7, 2009

Culinary School

Most of you know that I've been throwing around the idea of going to culinary school since high school and that the main reason I moved up here a year ago was to do just that, but things didn't really work out. Anyway, I've been wondering lately if I should go through with it and decided to tour the culinary school in Sandy that I intended to attend (ha!). It was an informational and sort of fun tour and got me pumped (but also nervous) about going.

At the end of the tour, we were standing in the foyer recapping and getting handouts on scholarship information when the chef giving the tour pointed over our shoulders and said "Oh look, there's Chef Brad practicing for a competition coming up! Let's see if he'll let us in so we can watch." So we went to the door and unlocked it (the tourees were a little concerned that he didn't want to be disturbed, but our guide was insistent) and walked in. Chef Bob was apparently making his famous vinaigrette and so our guide talked to us briefly about how the competitions worked. One prepares four plates-- three for the judges to taste and one for a picture. Then Chef Billy pulled out some forks and gave them to us, saying, "Here, try it." We quickly indulged as he went back to his sauce-making and our guide told us about the food. There was a salad made with butter lettuce and curly endive (yes, that took a bit of research since not even the chefs could remember what it was called) with poached pears on the side and Chef Benny's famous vinaigrette over it all. Delicious. There was also a little seafood thing that I didn't try that consisted of a small bit of salmon topped with lobster and a mushroom cap on the side with diced celery root cascading from it, all with a seafood sauce. My favorite dish, however, was the roast chicken stuffed with a goat cheese and sun-dried tomato...stuffing...with some blackened potato slices and an artichoke heart stuffed with a spinach and bacon thing. Oh boy. I'll have to make that stuffed chicken some time. Anyway, I wanted to eat the whole plate, but I managed to maintain my composure when our tour guide said it was time to leave Chef Bruce to his practicing and get back to our wrapping-up.

I learned from this tour that:
-culinary school is very difficult and time-consuming
-it costs a lot of money but there are lots of scholarships available, especially to women
-this particular program is an unspecialized one, meaning you have to do all the areas (management, pastry, chef, etc), which is fine I suppose, except that you can't go directly into being a pastry chef after graduation if that's what you want to do (I haven't decided yet, but I was sort of leaning toward that)
-chef hats are unflattering on everyone, but there's nothing you can do about that
The program calls for 67 classroom hours and at least 2,000 paid internship hours in a kitchen where at least 51% of the food is made from scratch (and apparently there's no concern over being able to find a job like this since restaurants and such love to employ culinary students). Also, there are mandatory competitions every semester since it is an ACF school/program (in fact the only American Culinary Federation-accredited program in the entire state). There are also optional, more specialized competitions periodically. Even the chefs participate in the competitions, like Chef Ben.

Anyway, it seems like a pretty good program, I just think it'll have to wait until next fall (instead of this coming January) since it is so time intensive, and I have SCUBA courses and trips to England and things like that planned in the next few months.


LP said...

Do you know if there's some school or someplace you could go to learn just the pastry part, if that's mostly what you're interested in? Perhaps you could ask Chef Bernard.

Shannon said...

the art institute has a more specialized baking & pastry program, but it's also WAY more expensive. also, it doesn't give you the opportunity to try your hand in the other areas (I don't care about the business/management part...although it might be useful someday...but the culinary arts part would definitely be interesting) and I'm not even entirely confident I want to do solely the baking and pastry. And it's only about 5 or 10 minutes closer (it's in Draper) so it wouldn't make that much of a difference in travel time.