ICE ICE ...Culinary
August 7, 2011 1:45 PM   Subscribe

Has anyone taken the ICE Culinary career training program in NYC?

I live and work in New York and am considering signing up (and signing my financial life away!) to take the part-time evening career training course at the Institute of Culinary Education. I am wondering if anyone has any personal experience with the program and whether or not they think it's 'worth it'. (I have taken recreational classes there before as well as at the French Culinary Institute- would love to take FCI's program but can't do 5:45 to 10:45 (vs the 6-10 at ICE, I get up very early for work and sadly the extra 45 min matters...) nor pay the extra 10k for it). I am not able to quit my day job (yet) and I mainly want the professional training because a) I am seriously interested/obsessed and b) because I would like to change careers as soon as I am able to. Thank you!
posted by bquarters to Food & Drink (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You might want to read "So You Wanna Be a Chef" by Anthony Bourdain before "signing my financial life away."
posted by Marky at 2:06 PM on August 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

I am not a chef, but as the sister of a chef I know that everyone she knows succeeded in their career through practical training and hard graft, working their way up, rather than by completing a course and then trying to make it in a kitchen. That's not to poo-poo your idea, but if I were you (and this goes for any career) ask people actually working in the field first.
posted by ozgirlabroad at 2:21 PM on August 7, 2011

I didn't go there, but I strongly considered it (for pastry, not savory). They kind of screwed me over, though, so I would vote against them. I had an extremely bad experience with them when I went for my tour - long story short, I traveled about 3 hours (there and back) to visit and spent some decent money on trains and whatnot, and then when I got there, they told me that no one there could help me, despite my appointment that was made a few weeks prior. The receptionist literally told me that I would have to come back another day if I wanted to take a tour, and told me that no one in the building could help me.

I did call later to bring it up to management, but they hardly apologized, let alone tried to do anything to make it right. I was deeply disappointed in them, because I REALLY wanted to go and I had always heard good things about the school. They gave me a lot of "You shouldn't let this be the reason you don't follow your dreams!" - I had to explain several times that I'd still be following my dreams, just not with them, thank you very much!

Ugh. Ultimately, I chose to move and now have two months left in a similar program in a school in Orlando. I've been comparing mine & my classmates' production photos with those of a loose acquaintance who did the pastry program at ICE, and honestly (not just because I'm bitter at ICE), there is no comparison - the ICE photos look extremely amateurish. My program plus my rent was equal in cost to the ICE program, and I'm not honestly convinced it was "worth it" - have you thought about staging at all?

Sorry if that got a little ranty, but good luck - whatever you choose to do!
posted by firei at 2:22 PM on August 7, 2011

Response by poster: Hi, okay to clarify a few things- I have read tonnes of those books- Bourdain, Ruhlman, et al. Also, I am not looking to become a 'top chef' but would like to acquire the knowledge to either work in catering in my hometown or food and media (magazines?) If I stay in NY (excuse capital I). Also, cannot quit job and study in another state...anyway, just asking if anyone had personal experience attending the evening program. Thanks!
posted by bquarters at 2:35 PM on August 7, 2011

Absolutely not worth it. All of these programs are a scam to get your money, put you in debt. Culinary school kids get no additional respect or job boosting from their degrees. If you want restaurant credentials, you've got to start by spending a year or two peeling potatoes and cleaning chicken thighs. You can take free culinary career classes at the Restaurant Opportunities Center to build skills and learn about the way the ride goes, but it's not gonna break your bank (you'll also learn about workers' rights and which restaurants don't treat their workers like absolute shit). But then get a job.

Now, it's possible that in media or in your hometown catering biz, a flashy degree may mean more to folks who don't know, but there's no substitute for the skills and work ethic gained from actually working in a New York restaurant.
posted by Jon_Evil at 4:23 PM on August 7, 2011

Response by poster: Hmm, this is like a 'should break up with him/her consensus! What about the Rouxbe online school- anyone have experience with that? I am going to look at it more in depth now- less overhead cost.
posted by bquarters at 5:14 PM on August 7, 2011

Best answer: I don't know the course in particular, but I have 3 chefs in my family (father, SIL & brother) my father and SIL both graduated from top catering institutes, my SIL from Cordon Bleu while she was in Europe. My brother simply did a 2 year apprenticeship (through the local TAFE/Vocational College) simply to be a cook as he had no great ambitions to be a Chef and wanted to work in Old Folks homes etc so he could have weekends off.

Guess which one went on to become a high paid Head Chef, that is continually poached from where ever he is working with higher and higher offers to help turn restaurants around. People will follow him from restaurant to restaurant because they love his cooking and he places in state and national cooking competitions whenever he enters. He is in other words great at what he does, but on paper he would be lucky to be prepping veggies in his own kitchens.

Now this is in Australia, not NYC, but the restaurant scene in Australia is still pretty intense and produces some cutting edge food (well we like it). Honestly your best bet is to learn is to get a job at the bottom of the heap in a restaurant you respect and to work your butt off while trying to absorb all the knowledge you can. If you want to learn techniques, the most expensive schools are not always the best, you can find places to teach you the skills you want without getting yourself in a huge hole financially, the rest is practice, practice, practice and a bit of natural talent.

Of course if you really want to go to the school for the experience and the piece of paper like my SIL did, she doesn't regret doing the course and she is a very good chef too, so if it's something you really want to do I am a great believer in following your dreams and doing it. But if you are doing it to learn enough to run your own catering business I think there are a lot cheaper ways to do it.
posted by wwax at 5:50 PM on August 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

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