I read that a culinary education is not necessary to become a food writer, however we’re in the year 2012, so I’m going to assume that times have changed.
So I asked myself… even though I have the passion and drive to become a food writer, “do I have the knowledge?”
With that question in mind, I decided to check out some of the best culinary schools around the world to see what they have to offer. This post will discuss the PROS, CONS and my personal VERDICT for the following schools:
- University of Scientific Gastronomy in Pollenzo, Italy
- Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France
- California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, California
- International Culinary Center (formerly French Culinary) in SoHo, NYC
- Institute of Culinary Education in Flatiron, NYC
- Integrative Nutrition (Online)
- Natural Gourmet Institute in Flatiron, NYC
1) University of Scientifico Gastronomia: Pollenzo, Italy
Remember when I took the train to visit Eataly Torino?
- Graduate with a Masters Degree
- Complete stages (hands-on field trips) all over Italy
- Lecture based classes
- Network with the founder of Slow Food (Carlos Petrini)
- Live in Italy for an extended amount of time past tourist visa
- I already have a Masters degree
- Bra is in a remote area of the Piemonte region
- Language barrier exists with the bilingual professors
- Program is fairly new
VERDICT: Ideal if I had the finances to spend another year in Italy without working. At 16,000 euro (not including food or accommodation), current students supported my idea of a world food tour.
2) Le Cordon Bleu: Paris, France
Remember Guillemette of La Cuisine Paris?
Guillemette was my Parisian tour guide to local food and culture. When I told her about my interest in culinary education, she told me she looked into UNISG, but ultimately decided to attend Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.
- Graduate from a well-known school that is recognized by all culinarians
- Live in Paris, eat in Paris
- I do not speak French
VERDICT: As much as I wanted an excuse to stay in Paris, I decided that it would be difficult adjusting to a new city, their culture sensitivities, and language barriers (while completing the program).
3) California Culinary Academy: San Francisco, California
Since the Le Cordon Bleu in Paris was an unrealistic choice for me, I decided to visit the California Culinary Academy in San Fran.
- Recognized as a Le Cordon Bleu school
- Located in San Fran where the food scene is thriving
- Walking commute is do-able but not ideal
VERDICT: I thought this San Fran school would’ve been the winner, but I didn’t feel a thing when I went in for a tour- I felt pressured to make a decision, the building felt remote, and there were way too many hills in order for me to make the commute.
4) International Culinary Center (formerly FCI): SoHo, NYC
If you’re in NYC and looking for a culinary school the ICC, formerly known as the French Culinary Institute, is the place to check out. With Deans such as Chef Pepin and Jacques Torres, it’s hard not to be interested in their school…
- Established Alumni & Staff
- Internal Networking System
- Beautiful Classrooms
- Special Lecture Events for Students
- Strict Cooking Methods
- Busy Schedules
- SoHo location has heavy tourist traffic.
5) Institute of Culinary Education (formerly known as Peter Kump’s): Flatiron, NYC
Inspired by Gail Simmon’s book, “Talking with my Mouth Full”, I thought it’d be a good idea to checkout her alma mater.
- Great location
- Well-known in NYC
- Part-time or full-time options along with multiple program
- Small class sizes
- Networking opportunities
- When I audited a class, the students had unenthusiastic feedback
VERDICT: I left ICE with a book called, Culinary Careers; it gave me a good idea of what I was getting myself into and made me question if I should go to culinary school at all. I felt like I was just trying to give myself a purpose while taking time off from my career, so I temporarily gave up on the idea of going to culinary school altogether.
6) Integrative Nutrition (IIN): Online Course
With a growing interest in food-related health, I contacted IIN when I was offered a $1,000 deduction off of the tuition price.
- Online program (which can be completed via iPad wherever I am in the world)
- Pressured to make a decision by a certain date in order to redeem $1,000 credit
- Did not fully understand how this program would benefit to my food career
VERDICT: After inquiring more about the program, I learned that I would not graduate as an actual nutritionist.
7) Natural Gourmet Institute for Health & Culinary Arts: Flatiron, NYC
I found myself staring at a sidewalk sign that said Skinnygirl Margaritas by Bethany (a reality celebrity, who’s known to be a strong, independent, self-made business woman; as well as a smart, fiery, outspoken, hilarious individual). As I stared at that sign I wondered how Bethany began her career and began to wikipedia her. The Natural Gourmet Institute showed up in her educational history; one click lead to the NGI website, which lead to a phone call. I spoke to Meredith, grabbed my bag, and ran over to the school for a last minute appointment.
- Fantastic location
- Reasonable fees compared to ICE & ICC
- Established alumni
- Accredited school
- Health supportive programs with a focus on local, organic, sustainable food
- Price (although reasonable, culinary schools are an investment)
VERDICT: As I opened the door to the 2nd floor at the Natural Gourmet, I had a “perfect wedding dress” moment; it just felt right. I loved their mission, vision, space, and kitchens… but I took a moment to be realistic:
- “Do I want to go to a hands-on culinary school?”
- “Is this a good investment?”
- “Will it be worth my time?”
- “Can I commit to this program?”
ANSWER: I’m ready to learn, so hand me a jacket and get me in a kitchen.