Not All Culinary Schools Come From the Same Recipe Book
The best culinary schools constantly change with the times, welcome innovation, respect individual expression, and dare go against the grain. So why choose Northwest Culinary Academy? Here's 10 reasons.
Chef-Owned. This means teachers with more skin in the game, who are committed to their students and their workplace beyond a teacher’s contract. It also means learning your teachers’ commitment to leadership and smart operational-business practices. Learning from chef-instructors is one thing: learning from chef-owners is another.
Student-driven. We screen, first and foremost, for smart learners. And by communicating with them as adults, we evolve our school collaboratively. It is what the best teachers, chefs, and owners do: they listen.
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6:1 Student-teacher ratio. Class sizes max out at 16 students. However, you have 6 chef-instructors (3 on the floor per day, not just 1) who mentor your development. This makes for an unprecedented student-teacher ratio of less than 6:1. It also means you learn the best of each individual instructor, and develop a rapport with a large support group during and well after your education is over.
Realistic Tuition. Some ask why our tuition is lower than most private culinary schools. The real question is why are they so expensive? As a chef-owned school, we obviously have a different business model. All but one of us work in the classroom for your tuition money. We don't have a massive administration. And that means you get much more attention and quality ingredients for your education money.
Creativity-Focused. Some schools abide by the “do it the chef’s way or highway” philosophy, limiting creativity and spontaneity. All schools will teach you techniques, and indeed techniques are vital. But chefs are born to think beyond rules and formulas. They bend them using their own senses and ideas. We discovered that students apply techniques with greater focus, motivation, and craft when we put them in more creative situations. It is a challenging teaching method, but it pushes the mind, hands, and confidence much further along.
Kitchen Design. Our island-configured kitchens allow for greater collaboration and more seamless choreography between theory and practice. And though you share a 6-burner range and double sink with a partner, you perform the vast majority of your daily practical tasks individually. This is unheard of for culinary schools. It means more accountability, better assessment from your instructors, and a faster path to competence and, most importantly, confidence. The working space feels more like an atelier or studio rather than an industrial environment, which promotes artisanship, focus, and behaviour.
Condensed Programs. Every day is purposed to maximize learning and performance. We achieve more in a day than traditional schools because of a simple strategy: treat learners as mature adults capable of bringing a lot to the table. On the very first day we collaboratively discuss and establish our expectations of each other, set some common-sense ground rules we both agree on, roll up our sleeves and get to work. Welcome to a profession where every second counts!
Unique History. In 2004, Northwest was built by experienced chef-instructors who had a vision for a model of culinary education that did not yet exist. A defunct metal fabrication shop on eclectic Main Street was gutted and every square inch strategized with chalk lines, in the shoes of the learner. Northwest quickly attracted the attention of a new profile of student, one that is mature, educated, well-travelled, and, for the most part, shifting careers. And we quickly achieved positive attention and success. Nothing complicated about it really: leave ego, big chef hats, and old-school practices at the door and concentrate on craft, ingredients, creativity, integrity, and recognize that a school is only as good as its learners. That includes us!
Innovative. Our teaching approach reflects a shift away from hierarchal and antiquated ego-driven kitchens. Each term we start over and look at learners, our teaching methods, and ingredients with a new lens. This attitude encourages the discovery of new and better ideas and attitudes, which best describes tomorrow’s influential chefs. It also best describes great teaching!
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Location. Our region is known for its enthusiasm for great ingredients, and this is what continues to define Vancouver as an eclectic food destination city. We chose to build Northwest on Main Street, the most artisanal business strip in the city, surrounded by independent one-of-kind cafés, breweries, restaurants, grocery stores, and some of the city’s more visionary, non-corporate businesses fostering community values. After more than 15 years, we have seen these unique enterprises grow up around us in this very student-friendly residential neighbourhood which is centrally located and very accessible by transit from all directions, with plenty of nearby free street parking.