Did you feel Le Cordon Bleu was value for money?
November 29, 2010 9:03 AM   Subscribe

Has anyone has attended Le Cordon Bleu culinary institute?

Having cleared down some intermediate goals (completed a couple of degrees that were in progress, etc) and as a followup to this question, I'd like to pursue cooking school.

Has anyone attended Le Cordon Bleu ? I realise they are active in many cities so it doesn't matter where (bonus points for London though) but I'm curious about the quality of education, time in kitchen vs. classroom, assessment and interaction with faculty. Of course the administrators have been great about answering questions, but I'd like to hear from past students if at all possible.

Also did you feel the equipment provided was adequate or did you bring in your own knives, etc (I'm sorta fussy about cutting implements in the kitchen)?

Finally, what was your overall feeling of value for money? I'm considering taking their Diplôme de Cuisine track, as opposed to the Diplôme de Pâtisserie (which has Mrs Mutant slight disappointed), so any knowledge of or experience with that degree would be of special interest.
posted by Mutant to Education (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'd recommend you read this New York Times article about Le Cordon Bleu (and other for-profit trade schools) before you get too serious about it. The section about Le Cordon Bleu is far down in the article.

tl;dr: not worth the money.
posted by rachelpapers at 10:09 AM on November 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

Every single cook I know that paid the ridiculous tution for Le Cordon Bleu regrets it. It's nothing more than a diploma mill for "chefs" at this point. The people I know who went to smaller trade schools or community college culinary programs are much, much happier with their degrees and what they learned. There are also numerous high quality expensive schools that aren't part of a crappy franchise. Stay far, far away.

This is just my personal experience, but I went to a community college and spend less that $5000 on two years of tuition, books, uniforms, knives, everything, and I have no problem getting jobs supervising Le Cordon Bleu graduates who graduated the same time I did. You would get a way better education even just working in a kitchen. Don't do it.
posted by evilbeck at 10:26 AM on November 29, 2010

I had a friend that went to Le Cordon Bleu. He's a great cook, and said he had an OK time. But now he's a visual artist because the job placement wasn't great and the degree didn't open the doors he wanted to be opened.

My advice: It's either CIA or NECI, nothing else.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:43 AM on November 29, 2010

Oh hell, you're in London? Find a restaurant and start there! ;-)
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:44 AM on November 29, 2010

They make you buy their own knive set for USD1,800 or something like that. They also pass people who don't show up (as long as they pay tuition), and, according to at least one account, people with severe developmental delays who most likely aren't even aware of what's going on around them.
posted by halogen at 11:55 AM on November 29, 2010

Knives, or knife that is.
posted by halogen at 11:56 AM on November 29, 2010

My mom went to the CB back in the days right after Julia Child was there and adored it, but I hear it's much different now.

Here is is Tony Bourdain's classic takedown of cooking school, which is aimed more at aspiring chefs than civilians wanting to hone their skills.
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:04 PM on November 29, 2010

I looked into LCB, and thought that the tuition was exorbitant (especially compared to how much one makes in the culinary world). I have several professional pastry chef friends (one who is classically trained, one who is not) who recommend seeking out an apprenticeship with a pro. They get free labor, and you get invaluable experience. Perhaps you can also interview people who have the jobs you want, and see what they recommend.

You can certainly start out in the profession without a degree from a culinary institute. I would actually recommend doing so, to ensure that it's what you want to do. It's a lot different that what many people expect (if you've read Bourdain's books, then you already know this).

--a former restaurant cook
posted by sugarbomb at 2:32 PM on November 29, 2010

I worked admissions for LCB, and I have to agree it's more or less a diploma mill. It was all about getting people in, getting that loan money, and getting them out - I wasn't very impressed with the job placement, and even less impressed with the high pressure sales tactics/script I was forced to use. Go local, or CIA, or just get a job in the industry. It's not worth the massive debt.
posted by medea42 at 3:56 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

LCB trained in Patisserie and Baking, and loved it. Zero regrets.

To clear up some missinformation in thread:
They make you buy their own knive set for USD1,800 or something like that.

Your kit is part of your tuition, you can get a break down of involved costs. I cross-checked prices and found I ended up paying significantly less for the items then I would've paid had I bought everything at a restaurant supply store (nevermind what I would've had to pay at the high end kitchen stores that usually sell these brands). Years later I still use much of the equipment on a daily basis.

They also pass people who don't show up (as long as they pay tuition)
Um... nope. Daily attendence was a huge part of the grading structure, basically costing you a letter grade per day missed w/o a doctors note. 3 absences in a single class was an automatic fail.

the degree didn't open the doors he wanted to be opened
As was drilled into my head from day one... what you get out of it depends on what you put into it. I had a supervisory position at a well respected french bakery within 2 weeks of graduation. This came from a hell of a lot of networking, putting in the lab time necessary to perfect products and take great pictures for a great portfolio(this is key), and showing up early and working my ass off every day. I came out with great recommendations from chef instructors which also helped land a good job right off the bat.

That said, if you're looking to be a line cook at a great restuarant, just get yourself a line position at the best place you can, learn on the job, and work your ass off while working your way up.
posted by nenequesadilla at 4:53 PM on November 29, 2010

Thanks for all the different perspectives guys but just to clarify: I'm not interested in a restaurant job, rather I'm looking to sharply improve and refine my existing cooking skills (I worked my way through Undergrad in a restaurant, can do fast & filling American diner food, and I'm the primary cook in our home).

I've been looking closely at Le Cordon Bleu for many reasons, not least of which was the opportunity to gain solid exposure to French cooking (I used to live in France, don't know how they do it but, hey, can they do it! And thats why I want to study French cooking).

The first person was solicited and especially appreciated, but thanks to everyone who contributed.

Mrs Mutant is still pushing me towards the Diplôme de Pâtisserie, so I may end up taking both ...

posted by Mutant at 11:45 PM on November 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Another option might be hiring a tutor. There is a chichi fish monger (La Petite Poissonerie) in Primrose hill that's run by a French chef named Nic Rascle. His website says he will come to your kitchen to teach.

We've chatted with him at his store and he's a very passionate and helpful guy.
posted by qwip at 6:28 AM on December 2, 2010

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