I've often thought about this, especially having owned a restaurant in a former life. That is, what is the point of culinary schools? Other than as a means for the people who run them to make huge amounts of money off of future line cooks who are going to be making $10 a hour...if they're lucky...cooking at some country club. We'd have temps come in from our local cooking school when we were in a pinch, and they were without fail worse than our regular cooks who had learned everything they knew by cooking, not by opening text books or having some guy with a ridiculous hat lecturing them.
That thought came to mind because of an article in yesterday's New York Times that should be required reading for anyone who thinks they're going to be the next big Food network star. The bottom line is you're going to be spending tens of thousands of dollars in the hopes that you'll be that one in several thousand who actually gets to own their own restaurant at some point in the distant future. Forget about food TV, you'll probably be making a couple bucks more an hour than the guy washing dishes about ten feet away from you in a hot, sweaty kitchen in Des Moines.
I have never met a really great cook who learned how to be that at a culinary school. You can't teach passion. You can't teach taste. Either you have it or you don't. I like to cook, but I would never fool myself into believing that I have that something extra that separates us wannabes from the professional cooks. No school is going to teach me what comes naturally to a lot of my restaurant pals who just "get it".
The article is a great cautionary tale, and if you know someone who's thinking of taking the plunge off that culinary cliff, pass it on!