It seems like a big decision, although I suppose it wouldn't be for everyone. At least for me, there are several things that factor into this--more than just do I want to learn to make killer desserts.
What kind of program do I want? How much structure do I need? Do I even want a credit-type program? If I do, should I go full-time or part-time? Which programs will allow me to go part-time? How much is each program? I'm lucky that in Dallas I have a few options, though still not as many as I would like.The first step is to figure out what I want to get out of all this. Do I want to go work in a bakery one day? Hmmm, maybe. Ideally I'd like to get a variety of experience that I could use in the future if I want to, so perhaps a structured program (as opposed to just individual one-time classes at an independent location) might be the best way to go. I'm not sure that a 3-hour class once or twice a month would give me enough dedicated time with an instructor who could tell me what I'm doing wrong, but I've never taken one, so I could be wrong. When I looked at the tuition of the programs around Dallas I nearly choked.
Both Le Cordon Bleu and the culinary programs at the Art Institute of Dallas are upwards of $17,500 (before you tack on books, tools, etc.) and as someone who is still paying off a BA from an expensive private school, I couldn't add on another $20K of debt to our student loans. I just won't do that to us. So that leaves El Centro Community College.
El Centro's registration deadline for the current term has passed, so I plan to spend the next 4 months deciding if this is really what I want to do before I sign up for CHEF 1305 Sanitation and Safety (because that class sounds like a blast!). From January to May, I'll take classes at Sur la Table and Central Market, read through the new edition of On Baking when I get it in March, practice the things I'm having a hard time with (*ahem* tart shells) and take every excuse imaginable to bake.
Then I can decide what to do. Get an associate degree or certificate in Baking and Pastry? Take classes a few times a month just for fun? Who knows? I don't. Maybe I'll never do more with my love of baking than making awesome desserts for my friends and family, but so far I'm enjoying the journey, and enjoyment is what baking and pastries are all about, right?