Is culinary school worth it? On this episode, we’re joined by Ray Delucci. Ray’s the founder of the Line Cook Thoughts community, and host of the podcast of the same name. Having recently left the restaurant industy, Ray now works in culinary research and development, and food manufacturing. You might have heard my full discussion with him last week. During our time talking, I asked him about culinary school. Ray’s a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, so I wanted to know if he’d do it all over again if he had the choice. I cut that part from last week's episode because it’s an important discussion that warranted its own mini-episode.
I went to Johnson & Wales for 4 years. This is something I get asked all the time. Obviously, this is a very personal decision, and everyone has different circumstances. This is just two peoples’ opinions on a complex topic. If you know someone who’s thinking of going to culinary school, please share this with them. And if you want to add to the conversation, you can DM me on Instagram at @chefswithoutrestaurants, or comment on this episode’s post when it’s up.
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Ray Delucci and Line Cook Thoughts
"How Line Cooks and Chefs Can Work Together to Better Kitchen Culture" - Washington DC City Paper
CHEFS WITHOUT RESTAURANTS
Founder Chris Spear’s personal chef business Perfect Little Bites
Welcome to Chefs Without Restaurants. I'm your host Chris spear. On the show. I have conversations with culinary entrepreneurs and people in the food and beverage industry who took a different route. There caterers research chefs, personal chefs cookbook authors, food truckers, farmers, cottage bakers and all sorts of culinary renegades. I myself fall into the personal chef category as I started my own personal chef business perfect little bites 11 years ago. And while I started working in kitchens in the early 90s, I've literally never worked in a restaurant unless you count Burger King or Boston Market. On this episode, we're joined by Ray Delucci. Ray's, the founder of the line cook thoughts community and host of the podcast of the same name. Ray recently left the restaurant industry and now works in culinary r&d and food manufacturing. You might have heard my full discussion with him last week. During our time talking, I asked him about culinary school. Ray's a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. So I wanted to know if he do it all over again, if he had the choice. I decided to cut that part out of the episode because I thought it would be really great as a standalone mini episode. I went to Johnson Wales for culinary arts. And this is something I get asked about all the time. I've had this discussion a lot with our guests. And I'm still not sure if I do it over again if I had the choice. Obviously, this is just two people's opinions on a complex topic. But if you know someone who's thinking about going to culinary school, I'd love it if you shared this episode with them. And if you have something you want to add to the conversation, DM me on Instagram at Chefs Without Restaurants or you can comment on this episode's post when it goes up. But before we get into it, let's hear from this week's sponsor savory jobs. Did you know restaurants turnover employees four times faster than most businesses? What if somebody created an affordable and effective hiring solution for the restaurant industry? What if there were a job site that only focused on people looking for food service jobs? What if that site only cost $50 A year to advertise for every job your restaurant needed? Forget the big corporate sites like indeed and Monster, our sponsor saving jobs has a job site exclusively for restaurants. The best part is savory jobs only charges $50 for an entire year. And you can post all the jobs you want. And for our loyal listeners use the code savory 10 and get 10% off. That's S A Vory. One zero. So you go to savory jobs, calm and discover the job site shaking up the industry. And remember to use savory 10 for 10% off. And now on with the show. Thanks so much and have a great week. You mentioned culinary school, is that something you would do? Again? You know, I talked to a lot of people who say should I go to culinary school? And this could be like a really long thing. But do you think in this day and age, it's worth it? Or? I mean, some of that depends on the type of person you are how motivated you are for self learning. But would you personally do it again?Ray Delucci:
If I would do it again. Meaning that if I would do it back in 2015 Yes. I was lucky enough to be able to like I you know, I came from a lower income family. So like I didn't like I basically had like, I like have student loans as do a lot of people but I was able to get a good amount of scholarships in high school and then continuing through college and working in college. So for me, my loans aren't like crazy. I hope to be like out of debt by 2030. That's the goal. But yeah, I mean for for me doing it again, I definitely would I think it had given me a really solid foundation. The biggest thing that culinary school gave me was the ability to leave my my hometown and go meet other people. I think I became a very open minded person when I went to college and when I went met new people from all around the world, and I met you know, now I went to California and I got to go to live elsewhere like in the in the country and just be able to cook with all these different people and it opened up so many doors and like so many, like all my best friends are from school, or like my working like relationships or from going to culinary school, so I would do it again. Yes, I do. I think it's worth It depends, you know, it really, I don't think there's enough conversation upfront with people in the industry on what they actually want to, like, get out of the industry. You know, for me, I always wanted to cook, I always had this idea that I want to own a restaurant. But I would do it all again, instead of taking a business administration course at the CIA, I would do culinary science, I would have went straight into r&d, I would have done that differently. And I don't think there's a lot of conversation upfront with people in the food industry and the answers to all the opportunities. And I think a lot of people like for me, I was talking to my parents, so I owned a restaurant, they had no idea what else the food industry had to offer. And they really had no idea that like a restaurant is probably one of the most demanding things you can do. And so I would say that like right now, with COVID, if you want to go in a restaurant, like, I feel like there's better ways than to go to a four year degree at culinary school, like I think you I do, definitely you need obviously, like business management experience or learning. But I think it's very like, person by person. If you're going from a culinary science, I definitely think you need a degree. But I don't think it's like a mandatory thing for everyone. I think if you're in a situation where it's gonna put you in debt for like, the rest of your life, and obviously, no, I think if you're just looking at cooking restaurants, and move off and become a chef, I don't necessarily think it's needed. But I don't see it as all is like, for me, it's not like a yes or no, like, I think it depends on the person.Chris Spear:
Yeah, I mean, like, for me, I came out with $404 a month for 10 years as my student loan repayment. And, you know, I moved across the country from where I went to school. And when I got to where I moved from, like the Boston area to Seattle, and I got out there and literally, no one had heard of Johnson and Wales, like, I was told that it was like one of the two best schools in the country that in the CIA and would buy you all this cred. And I come out with like, this crippling debt, and I get out there and like, Oh, is that a vo tech school? Like, I had? Like, should I should I've just started like working in kitchens and restaurant, like maybe I should have gotten to vote Tech High School, and at 18, I would have already been two steps ahead and just start cooking in restaurants at like, 19. And I would have been ahead and wouldn't have had, you know, like, $75,000 that I had to pay back or something. Yeah,Ray Delucci:
I mean, I definitely get that. But that's the thing. We don't know how to explain this properly. So like, a college degree is good. Obviously, like, I'm glad I have a bachelor's degree. When I go to apply for a company that like looks really good. If I'm going to like your kitchen. No one cares. Like if you have a bachelor's degree. But yes, people care that you like, have experience but like, it's not. I feel like it's not the same sometimes for restaurants, because restaurants need you to work they need you to like, they'll teach you along the way. So that's why I say like, if you just want to be strictly in restaurants, I don't know that like, yes, you can do a two year degree, get your fundamentals if you really want to go to college, like I think that's important, but to get a bachelor's degree in food, business management, and then wanting to just go back to cook that was like, that's, that was the biggest struggle for me leave it like you said, I was leaving college, I was like, Wait, I didn't dawned on me. And so I was leaving college, I had to pay this everyone, these student loans. And I had a food business administrator, you know, management degree. And so like, my agreement that I was going to be managing and like, but what I thought I was going to be doing was lying cooking. And so it's just like, your expectation needs to match what you're putting your money into, or what you're putting your time into educate yourself. So I think that's like the biggest thing.Chris Spear:
And unfortunately, I don't think at 18 you necessarily even know or have those laid out, you know, like, I worked for companies like Sodexo, right. And you cannot be an executive chef without a degree. Like they're a company that still holds that as part of their thing. Like I had a lot of people who came through the door with resumes, like when I was looking to hire people at the, you know, Chef de Cuisine executive chef level. And if they didn't have a degree, we just couldn't push them through the system. Like every once in a while, we could vouch for them and would have to talk to corporate HR and say, Yeah, but you know, he's like, 45 years old, and he's been cooking for 30 years, you know, but for the most part, that was like a no go if you didn't have a degree because, you know, companies are still holding on to that. Like,Ray Delucci:
for me, I think I don't like an interesting experience to where I went from like being a line coach to managing a restaurant within an eight month period. And, you know, I definitely had a good support system. And I'm not saying like I was, you know, it was a struggle of learning how to manage obviously, but I think there's over like valued sense that you need to cook for like 20 or 20 years before you can ever meet like, as an any other industry. People progress a different race and they can go and I'm saying I'm not saying like, I'm like the best cook ever. I'm definitely not. But I was able to manage them effectively. Only having done it like seven months and like there's definitely opportunities for people there. It's just being willing to like know where to look. And, you know, I think the whole culinary school question is to simplify. I think it really depends on what your goal is. Like looking back now, I'm glad I got the degree because it's the pandemic hit, and I didn't have a degree. I feel like it would have been very difficult to find work outside of restaurants for myself.Chris Spear:
I know it's a very tough question. And there's like it's very personalized, but I We'd like to at least get the conversation going, because I get that question so many times from people and it's like, well, kind of what are your goals and start from there, or parents, like parents will reach out to me like customers, I'll go cook for them, like, Oh, my son wants to be a chef, should they go to culinary school? It's like, I don't know anything about you or your kids. That's like a very personal thing.Ray Delucci:
I think another big thing, which I actually want to do a podcast episode about is when you started in cooking, like, like you said, you're 18, you're 19 years old. That's how I was. And no, I have never lived on my own. I never like had to pay bills. I never had to, like, you know, I had to I pay my car bill and like, a cell phone bill, but I never really had to pay rent. So when you like, start out on food, you're like, I love cooking, and I'll deal with whatever, you know, you have the attitude. I think that can be very dangerous for a lot of people in food, because we automatically like just like, and I don't know, like, I don't know how to break through to my 18 year old head like, oh, do they actually do like, No, you're gonna want to like do things a little differently, because this is actually gonna be very hard later on. But this attitude when you get into the restaurant industry, that's like, well, we'll just do whatever, because we just won't learn how to cook. And I think that is like the biggest conversation for me is, as people who've been in food, having a very honest conversation, and maybe being like brutally honest, me like, hey, like, no, like, you're not going to be able to make rent, you're not going to be able to pay your student loans. If you go down this path. It's not all just about your passionate, there's going to be actual, like real world consequences to you. Just like following your passion without putting any thought it's like your financial future. So yeah, I think that would be like a big conversation, even besides culinary school, just anyone going into food.Chris Spear:
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