I get so many questions about my experience at taking the Chef’s Training Program at The Natural Gourmet Institute (NGI) that I decided to dedicate a page to it! I hope this answers some of your questions, if you are considering attending.
Why Did You Choose The Part-Time Program, Instead of the Full-Time Program?
I didn’t have a choice! I had a 1 year lease on an apartment, and I needed to make money to pay for it, so I went to school part-time. The part-time program is approximately 11 months, and you take classes 1 weeknight and 1 entire weekend day: I took classes Wednesday nights from 6-10 pm and all-day Saturday (I think 8 am – 4 pm). Even though I chose part-time out of necessity, I am SO GLAD that I did. Being in the part-time program allowed me to REALLY get to know my classmates, to experience NYC with my new food knowledge (trying new healthy restaurants & wellness stores) and to space out my work load. NGI is a lot….A LOT of work. There’s a good deal of reading, studying, tests & quizzes and practice. The full-time students have approximately 5 months to complete their degree, so they are in school morning-evening Monday-Friday. They don’t have time for much else, and it is a seriously intense grind. If you have the means to stay in NYC for the 11 months, I personally recommend the part-time program.
Do you Feel that NGI Gave You a Good Foundation for Blogging and Recipe Development?
This is an interesting question. No and yes. When I was at NGI, there was not a lot of information about building a website and blogging. That may be very different now, as social media has exploded since I was there. So on the blogging front, I really had to teach myself how to set everything up. I use WordPress, but there are other website building platforms now like SquareSpace and Wix. However, the concept of blogging is really just writing…online. If you are a pretty decent writer and you enjoy it, you don’t need anyone to teach you how to blog. I DO believe that NGI taught me a lot about recipe development. While we didn’t have a course specifically labeled as such, I learned how to properly write a recipe, and I learned a ton about what makes food taste good: techniques, layering of flavors, what makes a plate look beautiful (which helped with food photography) etc. I absolutely felt armed with a foundation of knowledge to get in the kitchen and start experimenting to create my own recipes, when I graduated.
Were There Any Skills You Learned There That You Didn’t Expect To?
I was not expecting to spend a good chunk of time on MATH! The Chef’s Training Program teaches and tests recipe/menu costing, so you can actually breakdown how much a dish would cost to produce at a restaurant. You then implement this knowledge by costing a 100-person 3 course vegan dinner, which is the final graduation project. Each plate must be $10 or less, and learning how to make this work was extremely valuable. I also didn’t realize how far-reaching the cultural perspective on health are at NGI. You discuss and are tested on a range of holistic health traditions, from ancient to modern, Eastern to Western. NGI doesn’t force you to believe anything—there is nothing dogmatic about the program. Instead, you are offered information so that you can determine what you want to pursue/what resonates with you.
Do You Feel That NGI Provided Any Prep or Support For Running Your Own Business?
Definitely. Not only do you learn the mechanics behind costing a menu, you also must complete an internship at a restaurant (or food business of sorts). For at least 100 hours, you are immersed in a thriving business, getting an insider view into the kitchen and front-of-house management. I did my internship at ABC Kitchen, and while it was an intense experience (to put it VERY nicely), it taught me SO MUCH about how to conduct myself professionally in a kitchen. In addition, NGI does a fantastic job of connecting students with the alumni network and creating opportunities to chat with successful alums doing COOL stuff! As I noted earlier, there was not a lot about how to start an online business during my program, but I imagine that has changed with the times.
Who is NGI Right For?
Only YOU can ultimately decide if any of the programs at NGI are right for you. It is pricier than programs like the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN), but it is so much more expansive in terms of hands-on experience, exposure to chef professors, curriculum content, one-on-one support and peer interaction. I chose NGI over IIN OR doing the dietetics route, because I specifically wanted COOKING to be the focus of my business, not wellness consultations or health coaching. So for me, it was a perfect fit. It is a commitment, but like anything, what you put into it, you get out. If you MILK your NGI experience, taking advantage of the information and resources and NOT missing class (seriously you really can’t miss class), you will feel equipped to face the “real world” afterwards. If you just skate by, you’ll be left with empty pockets and “now what” attitude.