The decision of applying to The Culinary Institute of America was an easy one. It’s the best school, simple. Now, choosing between the campuses, you will have to put in a little bit more thought. Each of them will provide the same education and professional environment, but the location is what makes the difference and is what you really want to focus on. In my case, I completed my associate degree in the San Antonio, Texas campus, located in the heart of the American Southwest and a really cool site called the Pearl Brewery. I’m now at the Hyde Park, New York campus completing my bachelor’s degree in culinary arts management. Let me tell you a little bit about how the Texas campus stacks up:
As I mentioned, the Texas campus is located in the historic Pearl district and surrounded by a great culinary environment. The area is full of restaurants, the River Walk and employment opportunities. It’s the perfect culinary environment to enrich your education and provide experiences you’ll value throughout your entire career. There’s a local vibe: you will find a farmers market every weekend, coffee shops and delicious pastries.
It’s like a high school, in the sense that you will be able to meet the entire faculty and create a good bond with all the chef instructors. But, like any other school, everything depends on your input and how willing you are to learn. This campus offered me great networking opportunities that made me feel confident enough to say that I could find a job anywhere at any time. In addition, there are great job opportunities around campus where you can work to get experience and knowledge from experienced chefs. The Pearl restaurants love to hire CIA students; they like their passion and commitment with food and school. Also, they will be flexible and will work with the student to fit their schedule.
Campus life in San Antonio is less than a typical college life that some students are looking for. The groups will vary in ages—some students will be more mature than others and they will often help younger students to mature and learn. When I started I was 27 and living with an 18-year-old roommate. So I was like his older brother—waking him up for class, helping him out with homework and helping him to be more responsible with school.
The life outside campus is fun and there are a few activities to do. My favorite ones were going to Austin (which is about 1:40 hours from San Antonio), visiting Jacob’s Well and hunting fresh produce at different farmers markets. The San Antonio activities are slightly different from Hyde Park. The main campus holds more activities, has more students clubs and offers on-campus housing.
Talking about housing, which I personally think is something that every student should consider, it is cheaper in Texas than New York. I was paying $475 per month and around a maximum of $30 in utilities. The only issue could be the transportation, but there are some affordable places around the campus.
The meal plan works differently and offers fewer options than at the Hyde Park campus. In San Antonio, everyone has lunch at the same time and in same dining room. It was nice to sit with Chef and students at the same table and comment about our performance and food. If you were organized while cooking and not behind in your classes, there is plenty of time to have lunch and walk around the Pearl to have a coffee or relax a little bit. In Hyde Park you have two swipes per day, which is an amount of points given to each student to pay for the meals using the student ID card. In my opinion, I prefer the Hyde Park system because you have different options rather than have a specific menu.
The professors or chef instructors approach is probably one of the things I liked the most of my experience in San Antonio. Since the campus is only about the size of the first floor of Roth Hall in Hyde Park, it’s easy to bump into every chef instructor and faculty member. As someone said, “great things come in small packages,” and in a small place like this you willChef Paul Sartory helping him out in his beautiful garden and working alongside Chef Von Bargen and being part of the delicious meals cooked by his family. It felt more than good to find Latin chefs like Sergio Remolina and Alain DuBernard—they are such a great inspiration and humble chefs that will drive you in the correct path. As I said before, if you’re willing to work, the opportunities are limitless.
The main reason I chose the San Antonio campus was because of my financial status. I didn’t have the money to go to the Hyde Park campus, or at least to start there. So, when I heard about the great scholarship opportunity in San Antonio I didn’t hesitate to contact the faculty to ask for more information. El Sueño Scholarship is a tremendous opportunity that covered almost half of my tuition. It helped me out to reduce the financial burden that almost everyone is scared about.
Honestly, my decision to apply to the San Antonio campus was because of financial issues rather than anything else. But I would not change my decision and I’m grateful for what San Antonio has offered me. The campus and faculty provided me excellent assistance and education that has helped me to succeed at the main campus and to get good financial aid through scholarships. Like I mentioned, it is up to you to succeed. Choose wisely at which campus you are going to have the most benefits and least distractions. The more committed to your passion, the more you will benefit from the opportunities.