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Was it worth it? (long one) ...pastry school?

post #1 of 38
Thread Starter 
For those of you that attended pastry school, or those did not but went ahead and started a successful business, would you do it all differently if given the chance to go back?

I know that everyone goes about achieving their goals differently, depending upon their circumstances, but I was really hoping to gain some insight on the subject from both sides of the fence. Was it worth the money to go, or do you wish you had passed go, taken that money (about $25,500 for a diploma where I'm at) and put it into a business straight away?

Or, if you're a self-taught business owner, do you feel you missed out on anything by not going to pastry school? Alternatively, do you feel your success was attributed to the hands-on experience you gained by working in the field or jumping right into it, more so than anything you could have learned from a classroom? From a business perspective, what makes more sense? Lastly, on a personal level what have you gained from either experience?

I'm truly sorry about all of the Q's and the length of my post, but this has been quite a burning question for me. Any and all input will sincerely be appreciated and valued icon_biggrin.gif
post #2 of 38
.. lots of good questions today!
post #3 of 38
I'm self taught, and I'm fine with that. I get a great deal of satisfaction when ever I learn something new on my own! Or when I've figured out how to make something work! And it looks awesome! I think that I could use some business/marketing training.. That would be so helpful. But other than that, I'm cool with being self taught. I know it sounds funny but It makes me feel smart.. lol
post #4 of 38
Ask Tara...PinkZiab, she graduated very recently!
post #5 of 38
I'm almost graduated from pastry school (4.25) and wouldn't have done it any other way, no regrets, even with another student loan to pay.

I started out in 1997 at a sam's club bakery. once they closed I made cakes for family and friends ever since. then my husband got me a gift certificate for a class at a local cake supply store and I took more after that, then decided to go official. There's lots of things I knew and didn't know and lots n lots of things I learned. I think my degree will help me get to where I want to be in life... opening up my own shop someday.
post #6 of 38
Thread Starter 
Thank you, thank you, thank you icon_smile.gif

Muddpuppy, I know what you mean about feeling accomplished when you tackle something you haven't done before. I love the challenge of figuring things out on my own and then standing back and feeling proud of what I've learned on my own. Can't beat it!

As for the business/marketing, I do have a degree in business management and about 15+ years worth of experience in managing businesses and running my own. I don't think I would turn back the clock and not go to school since I did have the opp (though I likely would have majored in something else), but at the same time I have to admit that the bulk of my business skills were gained during the time I spent actually running things. Which is why I'm torn with which way to start my second life, lol!

Atomikjen, congrats are in order!!! I'm glad to hear that that you have no regrets, even with the student loan. I think that's really what's holding me back, even though I'm lucky enough to be able to make that work if I really want to. It's a whole different story for me now compared to my first time around, especially with 3 kids in tow and this crazy economy. I really want to go for it since there's so much I still have to learn, but I'm afraid of that ominous student loan cloud floating over my head everywhere I go icon_rolleyes.gif However, hearing that it was worth it for you regardless makes me think that it might be worth it for me too icon_biggrin.gif Did you continue to sell cakes from home throughout school? Maybe I should just bite the bullet and do both at once, hhhmmmm...

Well, kids will be starting school full-time in the fall and I have to get all of my ducks in a row now icon_surprised.gif so I'm hoping to figure this one out soon.

Again, thanks so much for your input ladies! I love that I can come here and ask people who have been there and done that for their perspective, and you are all so helpful icon_smile.gif
post #7 of 38
Thread Starter 
Jamie, thank you! Do you think that Tara would mind if I pm'd her with my post? I don't want to be a pain in the woohoo icon_redface.gif
post #8 of 38
Not at all...she's usually up for chit chatting about stuf like that!
post #9 of 38
I am just finishing up a Culinary Management program up here in Canada from a college. Although it did focus mostly on the savory kitchen we did alot of work with pastry/baking as well. I baked alot on my own before, but now I feel that I have a much better skill set and understanding of some of the more complex issues behind baking (like chemistry, etc) then I could have ever learned to gain in the same time on my own.

A bonus with taking a program is that you get to learn from the experts and get the hands on practice. My pastry chef has worked in some of the best restaurants in the world, and wants to pass on his knowledge to eager students (you can bet I talked his ear off each class, asking a million questions lol).

In fact my college is opening up a Baking/Pastry program in 2010 and I am going back to take it (as are alot of other students who found a passion with baked goods).

Although each person is different, I know for me I feel like I'm more on my way to being on the level of professional bakers/decorators because I took the course. Not to mention I've got some amazing contacts in the area for when I'm in need of some help/recipe.

Hope this helps.
post #10 of 38
I just have to say that I looked at the cakes you have posted here and I would save the $25,000 and use it towards your business. You are talented and do a knock-out job already. Sure you may learn new things, but I have found that between youtube and CC you can learn to do a lot. Just my opinion.
post #11 of 38
Thread Starter 
Cheyanne25, Congrats to you! I do have to agree that working with the experts and gaining a broader knowledge of the chemistry involved in baking builds you up to a certain level of confidence, which is where I feel I'm lacking. I guess I feel I'd that maybe I'd achieve a higher level of confidence through school at a much quicker rate than I would do so on my own. I'm impatient, damn it, lol! That and the fear that one day I may accidentally leave something out on the shelf that I'm not aware isn't shelf stable. Maybe I'm OCD but that is one of my biggest fears. What an excuse to eat cake too...might as well use myself as a guinea pig to see how long it lasts in the fridge before I make it for someone else; lol because I have actually done this when I don't find the answer online! Not so good for the waistline I say!

Pennywells, thank you! You don't know how much that just made my whole week, really icon_smile.gif And you're right, there is an incredible wealth of info here (and youtube). I did take a few cake decorating classes but the majority of what I have learned up until now came from this site.
post #12 of 38
Thread Starter 
Holy cow Pennywells icon_eek.gif your cakes are amazing! I just took a peek and that Chanel bag is absolutely gorgeous, the "hardware" looks so realistic! Went right to my favs.
post #13 of 38
Whether or not you attend culinary school depends on what you want to do. If you want to be a cake decorator or bakery owner, then you probably don't need a culinary degree. I am torn between being a chef and pastry chef. I do not want to own a bakery, so a culinary degree will help me in whatever I decide to pursue.
post #14 of 38
If you have the time and the $, you will never regret going to pastry school. There's nothing wrong with being self-taught, though. Even those of us who've gone to pastry school (or culinary school) continue to "self-teach" ourselves! Pastry school exposed me to certain things like building sugar sculptures, chocolate sculptures, tempering chocolate, etc. that you most likely wouldn't take on yourself. Even if you did decide you wanted to try something like blowing and pulling sugar on your own, it would be next to impossible to get the experience you can in school. I say if you can, go for it.
post #15 of 38
Hey there... I'm happy to post my opinion, and answer any questions you have. As others have said, whether or not pastry school is for you depends a lot on what your goals are. I have ALWAYS loved to bake and decorate cakes (although not to the degree that I do now--I never sold them or did anything as high-end and involved as the cakes I now do before). I DREAMED of going to the FCI day and night for over five years (it took my those five years to get my life to a point where I could make it happen). I never imagined that I had any artistic skills or that I COULD be a cake designer... that spark was ignited by my amazing chef instructors. I don't regret it at all and I wouldn't change a thing (I only wish I knew when I was younger that this was what I wanted... then I would've went to the CIA hehehe).

But I'm drifting off here lol... what it comes down to, again, is what you want to do. I WANT to be a pastry chef--meaning more than a cake designer/decorator (not downplaying that at all, but I want the whole kit and kaboodle... the science behind WHY we do what we do, the technical knowledge to create and change recipes to suit my liking... some day I want to own a cafe/patisserie alongside a custom cake studio). If, however, you feel like cake design is the sole direction you want your business to go in, then I really do feel that culinary school isn't necessary. Of course, an education is never a waste, but it's an education you can most certainly get hands-on. You time would be better spend getting a GOOD internship (not just any local bakery... seek out the BEST cake designers you can find and inquire there). That could lead to a job and learn from there, and practice practice practice.

If you do, however, want to be a pastry chef (possibly in a restaurant), well again, a pastry degree/diploma isn't necessary (and it certainly doesn't get you to walk into a restaurant and take the top position from day one), but you will start a little but higher up the "food chain" so to speak, than if you were to take a kitchen position sans any education or experience.

I hope I haven't rattled on too long... if you (or anyone) have any specific questions, please feel free to PM me and I'll do what i can icon_smile.gif
Tara
<---wonders if anyone uses REAL ingredients anymore--sugar fruit nuts, cream, butter etc--instead of flavoring chemical cream from a bucket with pudding & jello and calling it "mousse"
Reply
Tara
<---wonders if anyone uses REAL ingredients anymore--sugar fruit nuts, cream, butter etc--instead of flavoring chemical cream from a bucket with pudding & jello and calling it "mousse"
Reply
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