View Full Version : School Advice

07-25-2012, 04:07 PM
Hello all,

You guys have been instrumental in providing me with knowledge and tips on my knife obsession and I feel like I've learned quite a bit in this section. Well, I've recently left my job as a line cook in order to further my education at the CIA. In fact, I'm packing as we speak and I leave for NY at the end of this week. Which brings me to my question.

Does anyone have any tips on school and life that would be of particular importance at this moment? Any sage advice or useful wisdom would be appreciated, even if its not directly school related. I love learning from the masters and you guys have already taught me so much. Thank you.

07-25-2012, 05:06 PM
One of the biggest things that helped me was keeping an open mind in regards to how things where tought. Each one of my instructors had a different way of doing any one task. By keeping open to each task I was able to follow the words of my first instructor, "Learn everything you can, take parts of each style and make it your own". I must have learned a dozen ways to scramble an egg. Each kitchen I was in after school did things different from the first one but because I learned so many ways I was able to adapt to that Chef's views and do a workable job very quickly.

Try everything without hessitation, rarely will it bite you in the rear.

07-25-2012, 05:21 PM
Great advice Dc,

Don't party to much. There is enough time for that later. Learn as much as you can. Work harder on stuff you don't understand, you will become a master of it when you do.

Good luck. You are going to a great school.

07-25-2012, 05:38 PM
You can come and see you Masamoto HC up here! The area is a great place to hang out in for a couple of years, a lot to see and do.

07-25-2012, 06:59 PM
Appreciate the tips guys. Pit, how's that knife treating you? I hope you received it in excellent condition.

07-25-2012, 11:23 PM
I've had a few externs from the C.I.A. work for me at the club. When you get to that point, let me know if there is any interest.

07-26-2012, 03:52 AM
DC has given some very sound advice. Remember you're paying for the knowledge they're offering. Embrace the opportunity. Take everything they're giving you, digest it, and make it part of your own knowledge. Maybe every detail that's offered won't be perfectly suited for your every situation, but somewhere down the line, you will be faced with an opportunity and you will draw upon something you never thought you would.

Keith Neal
07-26-2012, 08:11 AM
You will probably know a whole lot more about good knives than the instructors. Keep quiet about it. Let them do the teaching. And it would probably be best to leave your good knives at home, at least for a while.

07-26-2012, 11:42 AM
Don't be afraid to ask questions. It's not looking dumb, and it's not nerdy. Education is expensive--get your money's worth. During lectures go ahead and take that seat in the front row that everyone is avoiding--you'll be able to see and hear better. And the instructor will be able to judge if he's making sense to your or not. Make use of the library and the internet. If one author doesn't explain something in a way you can understand, a second author may make things perfectly clear. If the instructor asks for volunteers, stick that hand up! It's one-on-one training.

07-26-2012, 12:06 PM
You'll get out what you put in. Make the most of it Learn everything you can, don't be afraid to try anything and everything, its all about the learning don't be afraid to fail(not a class) but by trying and having something come out not great you'll learn alot in the process. Be humble and teachable even if you feel you know a better way, listen and follow what you are told you can do it your way on your time.(I wish one of my cooks would remember that for more than a 1/2hr) You've already gotten some really good advice so I'll shut up now. Good luck. I'm glad I went to school and for what I learn and the opportunites I had that I wouldn't have gotten had I just worked two full time jobs or one full and two part time. My road was tough I had a wife and two young boys when I started school plus working the line full time at night. I am very glad I worked my tail off to make it work though good luck to you.

07-26-2012, 01:18 PM
Theory thanks for the opportunity, when the time comes I will remember your offer. To everyone else thank you so much for the advice. Its a big change for me (going from ATL to NY, professional setting to school, etc). Its great to hear from you guys who have experience in this industry--either school, industry, or combination--and I really appreciate your wisdom. I welcome any more knowledge bombs that can be offered and thank you again for the great tips you have already provided.

07-26-2012, 01:37 PM
Remember that you're paying to make mistakes, and that's a good thing. You're in a controlled environment that doesn't come with the pressures of a real kitchen, or the consequences. You screw up on something? That's fine, don't beat yourself up about it. Use the opportunity to see where you went wrong and how to fix it in the future. Take advantage of having an instructor and your fellow students there to offer advice on how to be better.

Also, own up to the fact that you've screwed up. I've seen many a culinary student act like everything they make is the pinnacle of modern gastronomy just because they made it. It's a dangerous attitude to have, and one that don't serve you well in the real world.

Just my two cents.

07-28-2012, 06:23 PM
I agree with the "you get out of it what you put into it" comment. I'm just graduating from a much smaller school, nothing like the CIA environment. There were plenty of people who went to classes skated by doing just enough to pass and I'm not sure what if anything they really learned. Me and a couple other guys didn't think we were getting enough, so we started a culinary club at the school. We ended up doing a couple of big catering things, some club dinners, bake sale fundraisers... and the ACF Knowledge Bowl competition. It didn't cost anything but time, and I learned more from that stuff and a couple of the ACF competitions as I did in a lot of my classes.

08-09-2012, 10:41 AM
Challenge yourself more when your there. I work with a graduate from the CIA and he does not seem like he was disciplined in knife skills or Speed. My school seems more strict than the CIA.

Post some pics on the CMC test I believe is going on there.

Good Luck to your future. !!

08-11-2012, 08:39 AM
I would love to take some pics on the CMC test but its impossible to work your way through the crowd to get an even remotely decent picture. This school has a jillion tourists every day coming to gawk so there are always too many mouth breathers in the way of students wanting to learn from watching these guys. Not my intention to sound too harsh towards these guys because they do provide extra income to cover food costs and it is great to see such interest from the community at large, but they do create complications.

What school did you attend out of curiosity?

I'm fortunate in that I spent a while in the industry before coming to school so I've developed a sense of urgency. Now, when it comes to building speed over the course of the next two years I am admittedly stumped as to how to do that here. Thinking I need a job.

09-01-2012, 05:28 PM
Take notes and review them afterwards. Ask the teacher about the things you are not sure about-it doesnt necessarily have to be what you were taught that day.As a teacher I am always happy to talk to students who show an interest.Turn off your cell phone or leave it at home.Talk to the other students and help each other.

02-25-2013, 10:52 PM
Work in as many big houses in NY that you can

02-26-2013, 10:23 AM
I work with a graduate from the CIA and he does not seem like he was disciplined in knife skills or Speed.

You can not tell much, if anything about any school from an individual. I've hired severa CIA grads that were not worth the powder to blow them up. No doubt Mom and Dad wrote the check and they spent their entire time at school partying like a rock star. The flip side is that I've known numerous CIA grads that started their careers off at a much higher than average salaries. A degree is nice but it's the individual that gets hired. Your degree is a tool just like a knife in your kit. Sharpen it, use it and it will serve you well. It's already been said and I've posted it enough on Chef Talk to make my head spin but you really do get out of school what you put into it. That sounds cliche but never forget it. Have fun and go have a few cold ones on Friday night. Just don't let Friday night turn into Saturday etc. Get involved in competition if you can. Once you leave school and start working there will be little time for that. Speed is not something that you learn in school. It comes from experience. Train your self to THINK instead of just being there. If that sounds harsh I think you will find that over 50% of just about any class are droids just along for the ride. Choose your friends and more importantly your future jobs carefully. Think about your externships well in advance. Don't get sucked into just looking for big names but remember to consider how much experience and hands on time you can gain. If possible make sure you are working for Chef's that are ACF certified at the level for which they are working.
Most importantly have fun. Many of the connections you make in this phase of your career will last a life time.
Leave the high end knives at home to start and remember to enjoy the ride!

02-26-2013, 04:15 PM
I went to the CIA and you really get out what you put in. I was there inthe docks signing in orders in the morning. After class I was in the butcher shop breaking down chickens and ducks. And I worke full time and paid it off while I was in school

03-01-2013, 04:17 AM
The CIA is a great school, congratulations and I hope everything is going very well for you there!

In addition to what other members have already told you, I'd like to just remind you about keeping your mouth firmly closed. I've seen enough guys come in and start talking about their school, how they were taught to do this in such and such a way, etc---no one wants to hear you. We had a guy like that start recently, everyone started calling him Hermione(the girl in Harry Potter), once the dishwashers caught on he didn't last the full week.

03-01-2013, 08:48 AM
The CIA is a great school, congratulations and I hope everything is going very well for you there!

In addition to what other members have already told you, I'd like to just remind you about keeping your mouth firmly closed. I've seen enough guys come in and start talking about their school, how they were taught to do this in such and such a way, etc---no one wants to hear you. We had a guy like that start recently, everyone started calling him Hermione(the girl in Harry Potter), once the dishwashers caught on he didn't last the full week.

just like when i started out training at a prominent hotel here in my country, I kept my mouth shut acted I knew nothing and kept what I knew to myself. I just listened to them and asked them what they wanted. each place has their way of doing things. each recipe is different, even their process on doing certain things will vary quite vastly. just say to yourself that you are starting fresh and you are a blank canvass. only when the chef says he trusts you enough with some responsibility and gives you the freedom to do what you wanna do with said responsibility is then you can do what you want with what was given to you. like in culinary school, only thing you need to say for the most part while being in the kitchen is, "yes chef!".

03-01-2013, 12:32 PM
Pay on those loans early and often. Half of my line went to CIA, and they all have big nasty student loan payments every month, on a line cook's salary. If you are going to go into that kind of debt make it worth your while. I've worked with a variety of CIA grads with varying degrees of competence and varying degrees of good attitude, make it worth the time and money spent.

03-02-2013, 06:57 PM
Hermione? That sucks. I'll be sure to keep that lesson in mind. I just finished this weekend with the first half of the AOS degree. I'm about to head off to externship, so some of what you guys are mentioning about keeping my mouth shut will be most apt. I particularly like the idea of thinking about it as a fresh start--ultimately it is. A new kitchen means a new set of ideals, standards, and methods that seem to be working for these guys pretty dang well--who would I be to question them?

Thanks for the tips, y'all! I really do appreciate these little kernels of wisdom from those who started the path before me.

03-03-2013, 04:25 PM
Where are you heading for externship? And just curious, did you work anywhere in New Orleans? We may have run into one another at some point.

03-04-2013, 10:49 AM
I'm heading to Blue Hill at Stone Barns for externship. Afraid I haven't worked in New Orleans, my mom lives down there and I spent some summers working in Mellow Mushroom during college. All of my work experience took place in Atlanta.

Where have you worked in New Orleans? I've looked into a few spots down there, I'd be interested in working there one of these years. Any recommendations?

03-04-2013, 03:57 PM
Blue Hill at Stone Farms looks beautiful. The food looks nice too, but get outside and farm. That is a huge opportunity. I've been working at Cochon since I moved here to New Orleans. There are a lot of really interesting places to work here, doing fairly diverse types of food. Since you have a place to stay here you should take a stagecation and take some of it in.

03-04-2013, 06:14 PM
Ah I ate at Cochon back in December when visiting my mom. I freaking love those roasted oysters with the spicy anchovy sauce y'all made. Holy jesus those are good. I definitely intend to head back down sometime soon and do some staging around.

03-04-2013, 06:16 PM
See if you can find the one or two teachers who can truly inspire you. It's often not the words but the attitude toward life and the love of what they are doing - then follow them around, sort of like a golden retriever puppy.

03-04-2013, 08:41 PM
Seth, just channel your profile pic?

03-05-2013, 02:24 AM
just be prepared to work your ass off, good attitude and willingness to do more than the next line cook will get you entrance through the doors and up the ladder. had an intern tell me 'i did my 8 hours i'm going home', you can guess that persons career is not even going to have a beginning...
as far as training, you're going to learn the most from the chef that you find most irritating which are detail oriented and fusses over EVERYTHING, even down to stuff you would never imagine anyone could give two shits about. some of it might not even make any sense, but it's that mindset and discipline that will help you develop technique and knowledge.
throughout your schooling, experiment when ever you can. i'll tell you this, it's going to be a disaster more often than not, but that's the best way to learn, through trial & error on your own.