The students that pass through the doors of any educational institution all have unique stories, and all take their own path. Navy veteran and Louisiana Culinary Institute alumna, Aimee Tortorich of Gov’t Taco is no exception.
Tortorich began her culinary education at the Art Institute in San Diego, California. While enrolled, her mother fell ill and she left school to return home to Louisiana to care for her. After she recovered and the time came for her to return to California, she opted to stay in Louisiana.
After researching a number of schools she toured LCI. To say she was impressed would be an understatement. It didn’t hurt that the first chef she worked for, Nathan Gresham, was also an LCI alum and helped along the way. Tortorich’s love for the competition and the local chefs sealed the deal. She enrolled as a transfer student.
What was the best part of her education at Louisiana Culinary Institute? Students were encouraged to volunteer; the faculty to student ratio was also a key benefit; and the real world competitions like the Race to Cannes, were all high points of her time at LCI.
Tortorich also offers some words of advice for current and future LCI students , “Try out as many different fields as possible. LCI offers so much. Get involved and test out every aspect from catering to management.”
The reputation of an educational institution is directly reflected by the success and happiness of their graduates. This is an especially defining characteristic when it comes to culinary schools. At traditional universities, while there are a number of key differentiators, it is difficult to foster the creativity and energy that premier culinary schools can in their students. For Louisiana Culinary Institute alum, Christina Cox, this is exactly what drew her to LCI.
As a junior in high school Cox toured Louisiana Culinary Institute and her mind was made up. With desires to become a chef at an early age, there was no more research to be done once she stepped foot on LCI’s campus. So what was it that made this the right choice for her?
The faculty . Of course the teachers and chefs at any institute should be a key consideration, but it was their honesty during her tour that sealed the deal. “The professors didn’t sugarcoat anything, and I loved that,” remembered Cox. They explained a simple formula: if you can get to class on time and keep up with the curriculum, then you are meant to be in this industry.
Along with supportive parents, Cox’s favorite aspect of her education at LCI was that the instructors knew where to focus. This type of industry insight prepares the students for the ins and outs of the food service and hospitality industries that they couldn’t anticipate from a textbook. Everything is timed as a well-rounded curriculum including leadership, accounting, and entrepreneurship classes.
What are a few words of wisdom that an alum can pass down to current and prospective students? “Make sure you are there before Chef Mike says, ‘Good afternoon!’ because that means you’re late. Have your uniform intact and looking nice. Be prepared the night before. Be ready.”
Christina is just one shining example of the chefs that come out of LCI. She is now a chef at the Blue Rose café in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Graduating from LCI doesn’t mean that you walk out of the doors forever. There is a tremendous amount of alumni support, which is just another thing that sets LCI apart.
Having aspirations to become a professional chef says a lot about you. A passion for food and an inspiration to create are at the top of that list. The culinary arts are a perfect outlet for these desires, and can parlay nicely into a fruitful and fulfilling career. But just like in most things, you have to walk before you can run. So this begs the question, “Do I need to go to culinary school to become a chef?”
While you may have been cooking, experimenting, and creating in the kitchen for years, there are skills, techniques, methods, and procedures that need to be learned. And just like it’s rare for an athlete to jump from high school to the pros, it’s difficult to become a professional chef without learning the aforementioned skills and getting experience in the industry.
Earning a culinary arts degree gives you the knowledge and experience you need to become a successful chef. It shows future employers that you possess the skills and education that they want and need in their establishments. So while this degree isn’t “mandatory” in the process of becoming a chef, it is highly beneficial.
During your time in culinary school you’ll be able to focus on the curriculum that supports the field of your choice. Do you want to be a chef? A pastry chef? Manage a restaurant or hotel? The courses in culinary school are strategically designed to equip you with the skills that you need to be successful. Furthermore, a well-rounded program will also provide you with insight to all facets of the food service and hospitality industry.
There are also skills that aren’t always thought of when it comes to becoming a successful chef. Skills you can’t always learn as you work your way up in a restaurant. Marketing, communication, leadership, accounting, and entrepreneurship skills are all critical ingredients in the recipe of becoming successful.
One invaluable benefit that culinary school offers is the opportunity to network. Your school’s partners and industry connections offer the chance to not only get your foot in the door, but gain irreplaceable experience. Furthermore, the staff at your culinary school are personally invested and genuinely devoted to your success. This means that they go above and beyond in finding scholarships , crafting resumes, arranging interviews, and helping you develop your career. These networking opportunities are entrenched in the culinary school experience and set you up for success upon graduation.
At Louisiana Culinary Institute you can earn your Associate’s Degree in Occupational Studies in Advanced Culinary Arts with a Savory Concentration , or an Associate’s Degree in Occupational Studies in Advanced Culinary Arts with a Concentration in Baking and Pastry , or an Associate’s Degree in Occupational Studies in Hospitality and Culinary Management . Each degree program can be completed in 16 months, making the commitment to your career an efficient and valuable one.