Adult learners find flavorful careers in culinary programs at Salter College in Worcester and The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts.
Baking was always a passion for Jack Waters, a 54-year-old Millbury resident. But he wanted to become a more well-rounded cook.
"I have spent the last 10 years working in a bakery at Price Chopper in Boylston," he said as he kept one eye on a mixer full of dough to make sure it had the right texture. "I wanted to do more with cooking."
So he enrolled at Salter College in West Boylston.
"Cooking is more of an art," said Program Director Kim Youkstetter, "whereas baking is more of a science; it's full of precise measurements. With cooking you can add or take away, but baking has to be exact."
Each of the 19 classes the school offers are five weeks long. Day students typically finish within a year; night students finish in two years.
"We are unique in the fact that we enroll every five weeks," said Youkstetter.
The school offers two times for day and night classes. The day classes run from 8 to 11 a.m. or 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; night classes run from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. or 7:40 to 9:40 p.m.
The certificate program, which trains students for mid-level cooking positions, costs $16,000 and includes books, cookware and cutlery.
"It gets them qualified to get a job in a short amount of time," said Youkstetter.
Salter College mixes students of all levels with seven chefs, two of whom are part-time and the other five are adjunct instructors.
The program can be tough for some students.
"Out of my original group, there are four of us left," Andrea DuPont of Boylston said. "But you get what you put into it. If you don't try then you won't succeed."
Being at the school not only helps students learn culinary and cutlery skills, but also enables them to learn what some words mean like ratatouille, an eggplant dish.
"I like it here and I've learned quite a bit. My knife skills are so much better," said LaToya Hayes, a 19-year-old Worcester resident. "The teachers see the best in every student. They work one-on-one with you and make you feel comfortable."
Chef Patrick Rinne said students come back all the time and tell him success stories about their cooking skills.
"To show someone something and then they get the glory, that hits me right here," said Rinne, pointing to his heart.
Salter College began in 1937 as The Salter School, a secretarial school named after Dorothy Salter. In 2007, the school moved from Worcester to West Boylston and the name was changed from Salter School to Salter College, as the school now has degree-granting authority from the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education and accreditation by the American Council of Independent Colleges and Schools.
The college recently approved its 19th course in which students build college survival skills like test taking; budgeting time, life, work and school; and preparing for interviews.
For a culinary school a little bit closer to Boston, check out The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts.
First started in 1974 as a school to teach people how to further their cooking skills, Director Roberta Downing went with the times and turned it into a school designed to flow with the industry.
"She started teaching and kept getting more and more students," said Julie Burba, director of communications. "The students would apprentice, at that time, in a kitchen, and then when people wanted more formal education, she opened up the first kitchen downstairs in 1981 with a curriculum."
The school offers four tracks: the professional chef's program, culinary certificate program, professional pastry program, and a certificate pastry program. The school also offers basic cooking classes and couples cooking.
"The couples cooking classes have been getting very popular," Burba said. "Daughters bring their fathers, sisters come, newlyweds, the recently engaged, and three years ago we started the 'cooking couples cook pride' classes exclusively for gay and lesbian couples for the gay pride parade."
The school is equipped with four kitchens and is expanding with a fifth kitchen.
A former financial consultant, Elise Bayard Franklin, 29, of Boston, decided sitting at a computer all day wasn't for her but cooking was.
"It was something I had been interested in since college and at that point I didn't like my computer," she said.
A career change worked for her. She still hates her computer but loves working at The Buttercream Baking Co. in Newburyport.
The cost of the school averages $25,000 for the professional programs and $12,200 for certificate programs. The price includes equipment kits, knives, cooking tools, class materials and a uniform.
"We focus on provincial French, Italian, intensive French, Indian, fusion, American and regional Asian cuisine," Burba said.
The school has two full-time chefs: Roberta Downing and Delphin Gomes, and other staff who have administrative duties as well as teaching duties.
Learn to cook:
Want to be a chef? Learn to cook at these Massachusetts schools offering classes for adult learners:
Salter College, West Boylston: www.saltercollege.com
The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, Cambridge: www.cambridgeculinary.com
Le Cordon Bleu, Boston: www.bostonculinaryarts.com
Bunker Hill Community College, Boston: www.bhcc.mass.edu
North Shore Community College, Lynn, Beverly and Danvers: www.northshore.edu
Bristol Community College, Fall River, New Bedford, Attleboro: www.bristol.mass.edu
Holyoke Community College, Holyoke: www.hcc.edu
Berkshire Community College, Great Barrington and Pittsfield: www.cc.berkshire.org/noflash.html
Boston University Culinary Arts, Boston: www.bu.edu/foodandwine