Amateur Hour: Home Cooks Are Moving In On Professional Chefs

I started cooking 20 something years ago, back when the only connection between the names Julie and Julia was in the spelling. At that time there were basically two recognized classifications of cooks: the professionals, who cooked in restaurants, and the amateurs, who cooked at home– but there were also a small group of cooks who hovered somewhere in between. These were the home cooks who were legendary for their culinary prowess. People like the BBQ master, whose smoky, succulent ribs required more supplies and days to assemble than a rocket ship, or the soccer mom, who was crushing up Heath Bars and adding them to homemade ice cream long before those two hippies from Vermont thought to do so.

With the exception of a few success stories, like Debbie Fields of Mrs. Fields Cookies, most ambitious cooks never thought to expand their talent beyond the home kitchen.

Today, however, the story for nonprofessional cooks is quite different. For those who aspire to take their talent to the extreme, there are shows like The Next Food Network Star, where amateur cooks compete for their own television show, and Breaking Into Tesco, a British reality show in which contestants compete to get their food product manufactured and sold in one of England's largest supermarket chains.

San Francisco has definitely caught the fever too, and is now amassing a whole new generation of culinary talent. Food carts, a fantastic venue for enthusiastic cooks to show off their skills, seem to be appearing on every corner with their popularity based less on the reputation of the cook, than the quality of the food. Local favorites include a curry cart, a pie cart and a pizza cart, none of which is run by a professional chef.

At La Cocina in San Francisco, affordable commercial kitchen space is provided to low income entrepreneurs (primarily women) with the intent of helping them produce and sell their products. Currently over 20 businesses create food here, the ideas for most of which started out in home kitchens.

Another recent San Francisco food craze sees both amateur and professional chefs competing in local cooking competitions, often attended by as many as 200 guests. SF Food Wars is a monthly event where roughly 20 cooks compete for cash, prizes and a coveted “champion” title. The event theme changes each time, with past themes ranging from macaroni and cheese to bread to holiday side dishes.

Another monthly competition, Iron Cupcake, features cooks facing off on rotating cupcake themes. Sometimes the themes revolve around flavors, as with this month's 'bacon', or around more broad concepts, such as last month's 'love'.

In both of these competitions, attendees sample every item and it is their collective vote that determines the winners.

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            4 Program(s) Found
            • Hands-on culinary education with focused attention on each student
            • An ACCSC School of Excellence with multiple “Best Vocational Cooking School” awards*
            • 15,000 graduates, including celebrities like Bobby Flay, David Chang, and Christina Tosi*
            • Programs in Culinary Entrepreneurship, Professional Culinary Arts, Professional Pastry Arts, and much more
            • Campuses in New York and Silicon Valley with nearby housing available
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            Platt College Oklahoma , Oklahoma City
            • Each campus features a public restaurant where culinary students work under the direction of professional chefs for real-world experience.
            • Hosts Platt College’s Food Fight, a friendly dessert competition for students held once a month.
            • Offers programs in culinary arts, nursing, and healthcare.
            • Accredited by the American Culinary Federation (AFC) and Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            • 5 campuses in Lawton, North and Central Oklahoma City, Moore, and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
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            • Received the 2015 and 2013 “Cooking School of the Year” Award of Excellence from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            • Externship opportunities are available at numerous famous New York City restaurants.
            • Campus is located near downtown Manhattan, within walking distance of many popular attractions such as the Radio City Music Hall.
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            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
            • Has a team of about 4,000 faculty members focused on helping students tap opportunities in a marketplace driven by ideas.
            • Offers programs in design, media arts, fashion, and culinary.
            • Provides program coordinators who work with students to ensure they have the learning materials, assignments, facilities, and faculty to get the most out of the program.
            • Over 50 campus locations nationwide.
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
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            • Gives students the opportunity to earn their associate’s degree in the culinary arts field in less than 15 months or bachelor’s degree in the food service management field in 2.5 years through their year-round schedule.
            • Located in Norfolk and Newport News, Virginia.
            • Offers externship experiences to students for experience in the field.
            • Hosts regular career fairs for employer recruitment.
            • Has student housing available.
            • Accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC).
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            Baker College is the largest independent college in Michigan with the most focused approach to education and training available. Our mission is to prepare you for meaningful employment.

            2 Program(s) Found
            • Ranked among the Best Colleges in the South in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • Ranked the 13th  Best College for Veterans in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • A private institution founded in 1977 with a current total undergraduate enrollment of over 15,00.
            • Its student-faculty ratio is 12:1, and 89.3% of classes have fewer than 20 students.
            • Has students attend one class at a time to ensure easy access to faculty and a more hands-on education.
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