FCI: Beyond an Appetizing Presentation

Hello, and welcome to my first post on Chef2Chef! I'm currently in Level 4 of the Classic Culinary Arts Program at the French Culinary Institute, and only two months from receiving my graduation toque. For more about me and my culinary background, please check out my bio.

If you're one of the readers of this blog other than my mother (who may be the only reader), you're probably considering the FCI. In an attempt to be helpful, I want to write about a serious question I had when applying to the school. Most of the research I did about the program was done online from my office in the Virgin Islands. It was a painful process, but only because fire ants invaded my keyboard to find warmth in the AC. The FCI’s website was actually a pleasure – clear information, easy to navigate, and fun animation. The only sticker was, it was a bit too good. I wondered, does the FCI live up to its own hype?

For those of you that have visited the FCI's web page, you know that the school can market itself. For one, it conveys star allure. A mini Marcus Samuelsson, Dan Barber or Donatella Arpaia pops up on the home page and begins praising the school. You figure they must be right, as images of smiling students in their very white whites are abundant on the site. And then there is the claim that you emerge "fully-trained" in 6-9 months. I felt the same way I did about the AbTronic ("tones without any effort on your part!"). I wanted it to be true, but was skeptical of anything that good.

As it turns out, the FCI isn't the AbTronic of culinary schools. I knew that the school was even better than its web image after my first visit, and certainly after my first class. I have yet to see Marcus Samuelsson, but the school's own culinary stars like Deans Jacques Pepin and Alain Sailhac are frequently in the class kitchens mingling with students (not to mention all of the great chefs featured in demonstrations). The students are a little scrubbier after 6-hour classes than those on the site, but the majority of them are genuinely happy to be here. And most importantly, the assertion that graduates are kitchen-ready by the end of the program is accurate. Of course, it depends upon the student, his abilities in the kitchen and commitment to learn. But between the high quality of the chef instructors, the thorough curriculum and the school's amazing connections, one is set up for an exciting culinary future.

As for the AbTronic, I'm still waiting for a refund….

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