Oct 31, 2016 | Harrison College
Looking into culinary school can be both exciting and bewildering. A common misconception is that culinary schools are a one-size-fits-all experience. You enroll, you learn to cook, you walk away with a degree — right? There’s actually a bit more to it than that.
Culinary schools vary widely in length, cost, specialty and program type. Depending on what you choose, you might finish with a degree or a certificate. It could take a few months or a few years. You could have expertise in pastries, French cooking, or almost any culinary focus you can imagine.
With all the options out there, it’s important to take the time up front to do your research and weigh your options. If you’re considering enrolling in The Chef’s Academy at Harrison College (TCA), you came to the right place!
We compiled the research for you. All that’s left is for you to decide if this program fits your culinary career plans. Keep reading to learn 10 fascinating facts about TCA.
Associate degree programs typically take two full years to complete. This time includes frequent breaks as well as long summer vacations where your progress is suspended. For some students, that’s ideal. But others want to get trained and prepared to enter their new jobs as quickly as possible.
“Our students tend to be nontraditional learners who have a family to support or who enrolled to advance in the industry,” explains Paul Sottile, Campus President of The Chef’s Academy.
With that in mind, TCA designed a program that allows you to earn the same degree a little faster so you can enter the workforce sooner. This time period applies for both associate degree options offered by TCA: Culinary Arts and Pastry Arts.
Culinary school graduates should walk away from school with more than a degree and a skill set. You should also gain additional benefits like industry contacts that could lead to employment, friendships that become a solid network of chefs, and community work that can help spice up your resume. Some schools may consider these perks, but TCA considers them a priority!
TCA hosts large events that benefit charities like Cakes for Kids, the Boys and Girls Club, and area food shelves. The Morrisville, NC, campus has some big perks for the culinary community as well. “We are right in the middle of some of the best foodie areas around!” Sottile says.
Additionally, TCA offers several competitions between students to foster the excitement of cooking against each other and the opportunity to form stronger relationships. Sottile mentions a chili cook-off, the Who’s Left Cooking challenge and other competitions focused on special ingredients or local products (all of which can be seen on the TCA Facebook page).
The food industry in America has long been criticized as being rife with wasteful environmental practices. But thankfully, some schools are committed to changing that.
The Chef’s Academy composts everything “from the coffee grounds in our break room to our compostable silverware, plates and food in the kitchens,” Sottile points out. In doing so, TCA has significantly reduced its landfill trash and has removed all commercial trash bins from each of the kitchens. These efforts are part of the reason TCA campuses are 90 percent trash free.
Sottile says one of TCA’s kitchens boasts an Italian combination oven that has only been available in the U.S. a short time. It can cook multiple things at different techniques and levels all at once. But even cooler, it has cloud technology for recipes and safety. “It’s the next generation in combination cooking,” Sottile adds.
TCA gets its hands on cutting-edge kitchen equipment fast thanks to partnerships with restaurant suppliers. “It’s a mutually beneficial relationship,” Sottile says. “They donate equipment that almost no one has yet and we get to learn to use it. They get to hold demonstrations for industry leaders in our space and our students get to mingle and sometimes even demonstrate the equipment.”
TCA uses a cohort system for admissions, meaning that the students you meet on your very first day are (most likely) the students you’ll take classes with until graduation. These groups are small enough to encourage a sense of true camaraderie as you advance in your training. “Our student-instructor ratios are 15 to 1,” Sottile shares.
Small class sizes are all well and good, but what’s the point if all classes wind up sharing space in one giant kitchen? Sottile says many culinary schools have one large space that students must share with other classes and instructors while they learn.
If your instructor is trying to teach you the foundation of classic French pastry dough, and another class is learning how to use knives 15 feet away, it can be extremely hard to concentrate. To avoid this problem, TCA features three individual, state-of-the-art kitchens so classes don’t have to share the space. “It will be just you, your cohort and your instructor,” Sottile says.
“We’re all educators, regardless of job title,” Sottile says. Everyone on staff at TCA has the mind-set of helping students succeed. Students are all offered individualized attention throughout the process of admissions, financial aid and career services.
Sottile says TCA keeps kitchens accessible and open to students for extra practice time. Even alumni can come back and spend time refreshing their knife skills or practicing on the specialized equipment.
Other resources include one-on-one tutoring and long office hours for students who missed class or just want to chat about the future. “[Faculty members] are all looking at attendance every day and we pick up the phone if we see a pattern,” Sottile explains. “If someone has an obstacle getting to school, we find resources for them.”
TCA offers a 25 percent tuition discount for students enrolling from local restaurants and bakeries. “I spent most of my life in this industry,” Sottile says. “I always had great employees, but many of them had no formal education. Despite their skill, there comes a point where they can’t advance farther in the industry.”
This advancement issue is why Sottile first decided to go to culinary school himself. “I thought, ‘I want to move off the line someday and be a chef or leader.’ So, I went to college.”
Externships are a lot like internships, only they are built into your program. Near the end of your time at TCA, you’ll be assigned a 10-week externship in a role connected to your specialty. This gives you the chance to put your new skills to use in a non-academic setting and forge relationships for future job opportunities.
At the end of the day, the purpose of obtaining a degree is to improve your job opportunities and help you advance in your career. Sottile says TCA has a strong placement rate and thriving relationships with local restaurants. “We get more calls for workers than we have students to provide,” he adds.
As you can see, The Chef’s Academy at Harrison College definitely has its own unique flavor in terms of culinary programs. The only thing you have to decide is if it’s the right flavor for your future.
If this is only the beginning of your research, you probably have more questions about the program. Check out The Chef’s Academy FAQs or visit the request information page to get the answers to your lingering questions.< Back