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7th-Jan-2008 05:54 am

There's a buzz in the air about some U.S. Cordon Bleu schools having legal problems. According to various web pages, U.S. LCB schools are owned by a company called Career Education Corporation that also owns a bunch of other schools - four of which are now officially closing. Any word on the street that any of the LCB schools are going to close soon? Especially, the WCI in Portland? As much as I really really want to go there, I can't chance spending a ton on an education where they close the school partway through the program.
7th-Jan-2008 07:20 pm (UTC)
That's an interesting link. I didn't know anything about the legal problems, but I recently moved to the Portland area and considered enrolling in WCI's patisserie & baking program last fall. I talked to a rep pretty extensively, visited the school, filled out the application, and was thisclose to actually going. But something about it just didn't feel right to me (and that was as much a personal thing as it was about the school), so I decided not to do it.

I would highly suggest visiting the school before you make any kind of commitment. It's a very nice facility with all the bells and whistles you could imagine. The thing was, after touring it, I felt like it was just too slick. They talk a good game, but I wasn't sure that going there would actually get me any further in my career as a baker. (For the record, it would've been a total career change for me--I've been an editor since finishing college in 2003.)

As you might have noticed, they're pretty mum about the cost of the program. I assume this is because it's quite pricey. The baking program I was looking into was $25k for nine months. Yes, other culinary schools charge that much, but they also have better reputations and longer histories. Overall, I felt like I was in a high-pressure sales situation when dealing with the rep there. I felt like she would say anything to make me sign on the dotted line, even though I knew a lot of it probably wasn't true (stuff about them helping you find a job after graduation, success rates, etc.). For an educational opportunity, it didn't feel right. They didn't seem at all concerned about whether the school was really a good fit for me. I considered that a red flag, but others might see it differently.

I don't know what program you're interested in, but there's a community college in Vancouver, WA (right across the river from Portland) that has some culinary programs and a baking program. I visited there and thought it seemed promising--definitely not as slick, but much more personal and real-world (and a LOT less expensive). It would've been my choice if I were able to go back to school full-time. Here's a link to their Web site: http://www.clark.edu/academics/programs/culinary_arts/index.php

This community can be pretty dead, so I hope my response helps at least a little bit. Good luck with whatever you pursue!

8th-Jan-2008 12:09 am (UTC)
Thanks for the help :-)
9th-Jan-2008 04:50 pm (UTC)
On the flip side, I have recently graduated from the WCI's patisserie and baking program, and I found the experience to be a very rewarding - from classroom to externship. Without a doubt, it's not a cheap experience (the AOS program cost me 35K), but I did learn valuable skills. Within two weeks of graduation, I was snapped up as a head baker for a reputable and large national company (in one of their new bakeries in the Pacific Northwest).

I haven't heard about any legal problems at the school. My suggestion would be to contact the WCI and be perfectly candid about your concerns. After all, it is YOUR life and YOUR money. I can understand why you wouldn't want to play the odds with it.

There is another culinary institute in Portland: the Oregon Culinary Institute. I considered going there as well, but the LCB certification seems to hold more weight in the work market -- which helped me make my final decision.

Good luck in whatever decision you make!
30th-Dec-2008 11:57 pm (UTC)
To any aspiring culinary/patisserie/garde manger student, I would instead recommend attending the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) instead of Le Cordon Bleu.
Why? Having worked at a Le Cordon Bleu, I know that the faculty's interest stops when you are matriculated as a student. You are also not given any transferable credit to any other institution and your certificate, which costs about as much as the average law degree basically buys you a line cook job (which you can get anyways).
If you wanted to attend any culinary school at all... please go to the CIA, they are marked by tradition, excellence, and success. In fact, Cat Cora of Iron Chef America was educated there as well as many other well regarded chefs.
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