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Is Culinary School Worth It?

Meet Anastasia Cassidy, recent graduate of Le Cordon Bleu of Boston. She has kindly agreed to answer some questions for PayScale in the hopes of giving students considering culinary education information to make a wise decision.

(Photo Credit: Tomas Sobek/Flickr)

Watching late-night television, viewers are inundated with commercials to call a culinary academy now, and start their careers in the restaurant industry. Primetime television is full of "reality" shows with competitions to become the next master chef, or survive Hell's Kitchen. Thanks to the interest in what goes on backstage in restaurants, there has been much debate over the value of a culinary school education.

Anastasia, thank you so much for speaking with us today. How many years does a culinary degree take?

I graduated from the 9-month Chef Certificate program. Some students choose to enroll in the 2-year Associate program.

Do you mind telling us what was your total tuition?

$18,000. Three chef's coats with plaid kitchen pants and three cravats and caps were included with tuition. I purchased some of my kitchen equipment in addition to tuition.

According to a source in the article linked to above, graduates of culinary school get jobs at $10 per hour. Do you agree or disagree?

Agree. I am getting paid better than that, but I work 10- to11-hour days.

What do you believe restaurant kitchen employees who do not go to culinary school make?

Probably minimum wage to $10 per hour.

What are your career goals?

I would like to have my own small business of some sort.

Do you have a job lined up? Tell us about it.

I have the same job I got for my externship here in Boston. It is part high-end deli, with a hot food section. I am in charge of the hot food section Monday through Friday.

I make three hot meals a day and cook the proteins for the deli case and salads. We also have a small, upscale market in the other part of our store.

Do you want to own your own restaurant someday?

I don't want to own a restaurant; it is too much work and such long hours. I like having a personal life.

Is culinary school essential to opening a chef-owned restaurant?

No, a culinary degree is not essential, but a passion for good food is.

The big question is, of course, was the education worth it?

Yes and no. I feel it has become so much about meeting “quotas” to get students enrolled and make money for the school, a bit of a “puppy chef mill.” Unfortunately, it's not so much about the education.

I was lucky to have been in the food industry all my life. I have been cooking for over 30 years. I acquired more good skills and habits from my classes. Also, my chef instructors were wonderful!

Would you do it again?

Not sure, maybe in Napa at CIA Greystone. 

What advice would you have for people considering enrolling in culinary school?

Be sure cooking is what you really love to do. It can be a love/hate relationship.

Thank you so much, Anastasia! You have given readers much to think about.

Tell Us What You Think

Would you consider or do you know anyone who went to culinary school? Leave us a comment or join the conversation on Twitter.

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