The Thick of It

I do freelance writing for some online culinary sites about the ins and outs of culinary school, which is kind of ironic since I’ve never been myself. After graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in Anthropology and Women’s Studies, I discovered I had a talent for cooking, a hobby I’d always enjoyed. So I spent the next ten years cooking to pay off student loans for a degree I never really used. The idea of paying for more school–any school–seemed crazy.

Besides, I always thought, why pay for something I can get paid to learn on the job? Every kitchen I worked in gave me plenty of culinary education in the form of countless lessons in cooking and people skills, and running my own catering and personal chef business taught me about marketing, bookkeeping, and leadership. But as I grow older in the culinary arts world, I am more aware of what I do not know. Doing the required research to write these articles about culinary school has made me rethink the benefits of a professional education.

For instance, when researching culinary school curriculum, I discovered that you can take an entire semester length course in hydrocolloids, the thickening agents that form a gel when they come in contact with water. Some chefs use these agents with comfort and creativity in their everyday repertoire. I on the other hand, made two colossal mistakes in the past using hydrocolloids that sent me down the river of deNile where I convinced myself that I didn’t really need to know how to use those ingredients anyway. With the exception of roux, I’ve generally stayed away from thickeners.

First I tried to make a lemon pudding with agar agar (made from seaweed) for a vegan client’s birthday, misunderstanding the critical difference between the powdered and flaked varieties. I waited till the very last moment to invert the pudding onto a plate to serve it only to discover that it was the texture of a large rubber ball. I ran out and got some lemon sorbet, my face as red as the raspberry coulis I had made to go under the pudding.

The second big oops I made was years ago when I tried to make an extremely large batch of chocolate pudding for a group of 400 in an attempt to use up a bunch of non-fat milk before it went sour. I used the tilt skillet to cook the cornstarch custard, but it never thickened. I had to throw out 16 gallons of spotty chocolate milk and scrub the brown crust that had formed on the skillet from cooking it for so long. As it turns out, it’s the fat that allows the pudding to thicken. I learned that, as well as the fact that I should never attempt something new on a large scale.

Chefs that know how to use hydrocolloids are taking advantage of them to create variations on recipes. This creative chef I once read about in the New York Times Wylie Dufresne, once used a combination of xanthan gum and konjac flour (from a Japanese tuber) to make “knot gras”, a foie gras with an elastic texture that allows it to be served tied in a knot. I don’t know if that’s quite my style, but maybe I could learn a thing or two in culinary school.

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Le Cordon Bleu Schools of North America , Online (campus option available)
  • Its first location, in Paris, officially opened its doors as a culinary school in 1895.
  • Teaches students by having them spend significant time in the kitchen practicing precision techniques.
  • Provide hands-on training from instructors who are certified, master chefs.
  • Offer flexible schedules and online programs.
  • Has 30 schools worldwide, spanning 5 continents, including 17 campuses in the U.S.
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  • Member of the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA), the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE), and the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE).
  • Features a fully flexible schedule with no classes to attend, leaving the study pace up to the student.
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  • Offers more than 150 self-paced, career-relevant programs that are connected to a supportive 24/7 online community of students and faculty.
  • Profiled in many publications such as The Boston Globe, Fox Business, and  Inside Higher Ed.
  • Nearly 25,000 graduates each year.
  • Accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).
  • Founded in 1890 in Scranton, Pennsylvania    
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  • Founded in Southern California in 1998 by dog training expert Steven Appelbaum.
  • The largest independent dog training company in the United States.
  • Offers 11-stage programs that feature an in-home study component along with a hands-on training module.
  • A member of the MyCAA Financial Assistance program, which offers eligible military spouses up to $4,000 of tuition assistance that can be used towards any of their courses.
  • Helps graduates find employment and coaches those who are looking to start their own business.
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  • Designated a 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media for the 4th consecutive year.
  • Listed on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll in 2013, for the sixth consecutive year.
  • Links students to hundreds of training opportunities ( beyond their traditional internships and practicum) at their many “partner agencies” in each of their local communities. 
  • Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
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  • Gives students the option to choose from day, evening, and weekend classes to fit their schedule.
  • Offers public spa and salon services at all campuses for students to gain real-world experience.
  • Provides short specialty programs and workshops open to non-students as well.
  • Has 60 campuses across the United States.
  • Accredited by the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts & Sciences (NACCAS).
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  • Accredited
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  • Dedicated to providing a hands-on, career-focused education since 1953.
  • Offers classes online, as well as at 14 campuses across California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois and Virginia.
  • Develops curriculum with input from employers, subject matter experts.
  • Has small class sizes to promote one-on-one, student-teacher interaction.
  • Makes no-cost tutoring available in every subject to every enrolled student.
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  • Accelerated Programs
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  • Students can complete an entry-level technician program in about a year, and manufacturer training and graduate in as little as 18 months.
  • Provides technical education training programs for automotive, diesel, collision repair, motorcycle, and marine technicians.
  • Partners with many well-known manufacturers, including General Motors, Porsche Cars North America Inc., and BMW of North America LLC.
  • Offers internships to students and alumni for first-hand experience.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
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  • Has students attend one four-week class at a time and take their final exam before moving on to their next class.
  • Offers 24/7 online tech support, with a typical response time of 4 hours or less.
  • Has online help centers that offer assistance with writing, statistics, medical assisting, and more.
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  • Researches trends for growing fields to tailor a more effective curriculum.
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  • Offers training in various types of massage therapy, physical therapy/sports rehab, and personal fitness training & wellness.
  • Teaches in an environment that promotes learning and encourages empathetic and compassionate therapists.
  • Career service professionals work directly with students from the start of their program, and help them pursue employment in day spas, luxury hotels, cruise ships, and other locations.
  • Students can work in the SOCHI Massage Clinic to gain experience and build their career skills.
  • Financial aid representatives help students develop a personalized financial plan to finance their tuition.
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  • A post-secondary school that offers a variety of degree and diploma programs including medical billing, nursing, and more.
  • Offers many programs that can be completed in 10 months or less.
  • Students take one class at a time, and can access their courses online 24/7.
  • Approved for the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA) program.
  • Has a Clinical Placement department that works to place students in clinical sites throughout the country.
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  • One of the largest massage therapy schools in the nation teaching since 1979.
  • First massage school in California to be nationally accredited.
  • Has a successful job placement record— 86% of graduates get placed into work in massage therapy.
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Milan Institute , Bakersfield
  • Offers career programs in accounting, cosmetology, massage therapy, physical fitness training, and more.
  • Provides hands-on training led by instructors who have relevant, on-the-job experience.
  • Each campus features a public salon and spa for student practice.
  • Campuses are accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET) and Council on Occupational Education (COE).
  • 11 campuses across California, Texas, Nevada and Idaho, as well as 8 additional Milan Institute of Cosmetology campuses.
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Good for Working Adults
  • Flexible Scheduling
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  • Has over 350 employees who provide personalized, one-on-one live student support.
  • Partnered with AmeriCorps to create the Segal AmeriCorps education award that pays up to $5,500 towards tuition.
  • Provides 100% tuition assistance for military service members who qualify.
  • Offers JANET, the Job Assistance Network that covers instruction on résumé writing, cover letters and weekly job leads for up to three years.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC).
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  • Online Courses
  • Some campuses host low-cost medical and dental clinics, where students can get real-world experience.
  • Designated as 2015 Military Friendly School by Victory Media.
  • Approved A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) since 1976.
  • Campus-specific accreditation from the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC), and the Council on Occupational Education (COE).
  • 16 campus locations across the United States.
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