Sunday, February 07, 2010

what if 2000 characters could change your life?

In the Fall of 2008 Food Network aired The Chef Jeff Project. This show featured Jeff Henderson, a drug dealer and prison inmate turned chef who was trying to turn around the lives of six disadvantaged people in Los Angeles. The participants who completed the program were each offered scholarships to The Art Institutes culinary arts program. The Food Network also sponsored an essay scholarship contest for viewers, with a prize of $20,000 to the winner. I entered and never heard anything.

A year later, in Fall 2009, the Food Network was conducting their search for the next Iron Chef. In conjunction with this they did the same essay competition for another $20,000 scholarship to The Art Institutes. I thought back to my previous entry, and after seeing the ads for weeks I finally entered again. Weeks went by and I didn't hear anything, again, so I exhaled and went on with my life.

You can imagine my surprise when I got a call a few weeks ago and was told I'm one of the five finalists in the competition. Once I got over my shock I started looking more seriously at The Art Institutes. To be honest I had not looked at their curriculum... or their tuition costs. I was gobsmacked to learn that a two-year associates' degree program costs $53,000; a four year bachelor's degree is over $80,000.

The exorbitant cost made me take a hard look at what I want to do, as well as what I can afford to do. After a lot of soul-searching I finally decided not to pursue the scholarship competition. I appreciate getting as far as I did, I simply can't justify putting myself that far in debt.

I'm back to my old plan now, which is to pay off all my debt and attend culinary school in 2011. I'm going to continue experimenting and finding my culinary voice and point of view. Going through this got me thinking about how people are just as afraid of success as they are of failure. The first step truly is the hardest.


  1. Charles,

    This is fantastic. Glad to hear about your plans for 2011. If you need an assistant Gayle may be interested.

    You rock.

  2. Congratulations, Charles, an excellent accomplishment. It is great to see you traveling a road of opportunity, but in control of your own destiny.

  3. Congrats on making it that far, and even more so in finding the ability to reach inside and make such an important decision.

  4. That is awesome! But agreed rather expensive. Tough call but you make it and it will work for you better in the long run.

  5. Thanks everyone, it's been an interesting experience. I have done a lot of thinking, filtering, reassessing, and soul-searching. It's as exhausting as it sounds, but I think I came out the other end with a much better understanding of what I want out of my culinary hobby.

  6. Charles,

    It's hard to walk away from something like that, but admirable that you're keeping things in perspective.

    My cousin Lance is actually an RA (or something similar) at the Art Institute's Cincinnati campus.

    They have great programs for creative professionals, but they are an expensive school.

    Good luck sticking with your plan. At least you got some encouragement that your passion for culinary arts was impressive enough to get you noticed. :)