I have now visited the two culinary schools I would potentially attend.
The first visit was to PICA a couple of weeks ago when the school held an event for potential students called Exploring a Career in the Culinary Industry. The itinerary consisted of a tour of the school and a hands-on class with chef instructors where we prepared what we would eat for lunch.
The tour didn't take very long as the school is quite small. I think there were four or five kitchens. They intake one culinary class of 15 and one pastry class of 12 every quarter. The director of admissions lead the tour and he was definitely not shy about selling his school. He didn't hesitate to point out all the competitions won by students of the school and all the top restaurants graduates now work at.
The best part of the day was the hands-on class. There were six of us interested in culinary (versus pastry), so we were hustled into a kitchen where a very energetic chef and two culinary students were waiting for us. We didn't waste any time getting into it. The students gave each us a whole raw chicken and we learned the proper way to butcher it into useable pieces. We also trimmed some duck breasts and started cooking them right away. The last thing I did was make mayonnaise from scratch (really easy) before I had to run to work.
I was probably only in the kitchen for an hour, but I felt like I learned so much. The chef demonstrated how to properly crack eggs (on a flat surface and only using one hand), told us that the best olive oil comes from Greece and Spain (not Italy, like I guessed), and showed us the best part, or "oyster", of the chicken (a piece of meat above the thigh, shaped like an oyster, with the flavour of dark meat but the tenderness of white meat). I wish I could have stayed to enjoy the lunch.
Last Friday, A and I went to VCC to participate in the weekly tour. It was very well attended, with over twenty people there. It helped explain why the program has a five month wait list. Even if I apply now, I won't get in until March, though that is actually when I was planning to start.
The tour of the school took a lot longer here because the number of kitchens and students was actually a bit overwhelming. The school accepts twenty new culinary students each month and they rotate to a new kitchen each month, so there are at least twelve large culinary kitchens filled with an amazing number of students. One of the first things I noticed was how much light and air there was in the kitchens. The tour included visiting the butchery, apparently VCC is one of the only schools with a butchery in Canada, as well as one of the numerous pastry kitchens, which smelled wonderful, especially after the butchery! We also saw the restaurant run by the students and ended in the registrar's office with admission information.
After both tours, I have decided to go to VCC. The two main reasons are (1) cost - VCC is significantly cheaper than the privately owned schools because it is subsidized by the government, and (2) red seal support - VCC will sign students up as apprentices, so school hours and even hours at work outside of school count toward red seal.
I sent in my application this weekend. I am just waiting for a passing grade from the FoodSafe course I took on Saturday and my official university transcripts before my application can get processed. Waitlist, here I come!