Patty Canedo is a chef in Palm Beach. She writes frequently about her kitchen exploits in this column, Half-Baked.
This week a former sous of mine posted an article about a group of students suing their former culinary school. The students sited recruiters misled the value of a culinary education and their job prospects after graduation. Stories of countless students feeling cheated and misled but mainly regretting the tens of thousands of dollars they borrowed--aka buyer's remorse.
I watched this sous go through the two year struggle of school. He finally graduated so he could drown in huge loan payments after only six months in the job market. Chef laughed as I thanked God for dashing my plans to go through with culinary school. Then we debated.
In one corner the protege-- a lifer of HKU (Hard Knocks University). In the other-- a graduate from one of the best culinary schools in New York.
Argument 1: Misled By Recruiters
Chef: "How stupid do you have to be to think you can just graduate from school and start making a ton of money? That's not just this industry but any industry. And seriously how do you go to school for something, rack up all these loans and not talk to people to find out what it's really like?"
Protege: "All I remember was the woman telling me they have an in with all the hotels around the area and that it should be no problem for them to help me find a job. She even set up the stage at the Ritz in the pastry kitchen for me."
Chef: "Yeah, key word there 'help you find a job.'"
Argument 2: Low Paying Jobs
Chef: "I find it hard to believe that girl (in the article) could only get an $8 an hour job at a bakery. There's gotta be more to that story."
Protege: "We don't all have your resume Chef. Some of us have to take what we're offered."
Chef: "Even so something ain't right. That little chick you worked with at the club was just out of school."
Protege: "Oh I'm sure she made a least a dollar more than me."
Chef: "Probably more."
Argument 3: A Much Needed Foundation To Be Successful
Protege and Chef: "That's a bunch of bullshit!"
Chef: "How many chefs do we know who didn't go to culinary school? For that matter, how many of the guys that you have talked to say they didn't go and are extremely successful? Yeah, it's a great thing to have but where they got themselves into trouble is telling kids they won't be able to find work without it. You may have to start at Chili's or something but fact is in this industry everyone starts at the bottom. There's a ton of shit I learned from slinging pizzas and peeling onions that I never got from school."
Protege: (Sigh) "Still I'll always be one step behind and have to work that much harder."
Chef: "There's nothing wrong with that. You get more respect for it."
Argument 4: Aggressive Marketing Strategy
Chef: That's their jobs! That's what their supposed to do! They sign up kids and get paid.
Protege: Dude, all I remember was my recruiter was relentless. I stopped by to get more info and the next thing I knew she had me measured for a uniform 'just in case'. I told her I had to talk to my parents about the loan. She called me that morning to give me a pep talk. Then she called me the next morning to see how it went. Finally, I had to yell at her and say that I didn't have the money. That's when she stopped calling. But (six years later) I still get random phone calls, emails and brochures!"
Argument 5: Was It Worth It?
Protege: "So glad I didn't end up going. I would be so screwed right now with that bill hanging over my head."
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Chef: "Yeah you didn't need it--you met me (laughing). But look at some of the titles you've had and places you worked without a proper education. Can you imagine where you'd be with it?"