The case for, and against, culinary school
Ever consider going to culinary school?
It's worth considering, especially in these lean times, whether it's worth spending tens of thousands of dollars on culinary school. Unlike lawyers or doctors, chefs require no accreditation. And while an ace law, business, or medical school grad can quickly earn six-figure salaries, a culinary school graduate is lucky to make 15 bucks an hour working the line.
"Every time I write that $400 check to pay back my loans, I kick myself," says Marco Saurez, executive chef at Bon Savor in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston. As a teenager he worked at a deli, and later at a catering company. One day, his boss took him for a visit to the CIA's idyllic campus in Hyde Park, which overlooks the Hudson River. "I fell in love," Suarez says. He enrolled in the 38-month Bachelor of Professional Studies Program, which includes long externships in outside restaurants. "It was really at the externships that I learned the most, and now I wonder why I didn't just take a $25,000 loan and use that to survive while working my way up in a kitchen." Today, tuition, room, and board for the full bachelor's program cost more than $100,000.
In November, Ben Miller looked into the data on culinary school and came away fairly impressed: Culinary students pay back their loans at unusually high rates, which suggests that they're getting decent jobs and finding themselves able to make ends meet. Whether the culinary degree is necessary, however, is harder to say. Maybe aspiring chefs could do just as well begging their way into the kitchen and racking up two years of workplace training. Any readers have experience with this?
Photo credit: By Mark Gail/The Washington Post
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