Cooks in the Spotlight

Another student blogger posed an interesting question on this site, and it’s one that I've been considering myself for awhile. In Shun Slinger's post, "No, I don't watch Top Chef!" he discusses the food media, voicing concern about its influence on the industry. Specifically he writes about culinary students whose only prior kitchen experience is watching Top Chef. With this in mind, he asks the crucial question: "Is all of this focus good for the integrity of the business?"

I share Shun Slinger's concern about people who enter culinary school with images of Rachel Ray dancing in their heads, and no real sense of what cooking in a real kitchen involves. But typically, such students either wise up or drop out. It might be annoying to watch them fiddle about in class, but unless they actually work in a restaurant, they don't hurt the industry. If anything, I think the media's focus on the culinary world has helped the reputation of the business tremendously.

This point was really driven home when a French journalist visited the FCI last week to interview students about their experience. Celebrity chefs aside, she was fascinated by the respect an average cook garners amongst their peers. She explained that in France, young people aren't motivated to work in kitchens because it's a difficult, thankless job. She said that for the most part, cooks are seen as people who aren't skilled enough to work in other professional industries. She asked that if I, as a cook, was amongst friends – doctors, lawyers, secretaries – would I be regarded as an equal professional? Without hesitating, I replied yes.

I think much of the reason I could respond this way is the media's focus on the culinary world. Besides creating some star appeal, shows like Top Chef reveal how demanding, skillful and artistic the job actually is. The best cooks are combinations of athletes and artists – the job requires stamina and coordination, as well as an innovative mind and keen visual sense. One might not realize this eating in a restaurant, but with cameras and writers in the kitchen, America has a greater understanding of the skilled work that cooks perform.

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            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
            5 Program(s) Found
            • 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
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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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            2 Program(s) Found
            • Culinary Arts program includes the 3-week Farm To Table® Experience, where students gain a direct, in-depth look at where food comes from.
            • Numerous scholarship opportunities and financial aid are available to students who qualify.
            • Accreditation from the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET), and the Council on Occupational Education (COE).
            • 2 campuses located in Boulder, Colorado and Austin, Texas.
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            Good for Working Adults
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            • 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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            • Offers educational opportunities for the aspiring, career-minded chef.
            • Students are trained by professional chefs and spend the majority of their final term working in the campus restaurant to learn all phases of the culinary industry.
            • St. Louis campus offers new Food Truck Entrepreneurship courses.
            • Has a student-run food truck that tours around St. Louis.
            • All campuses have a public restaurant where food is prepared and served by students.
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            • Flexible Scheduling
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            • Students get real-world experience through the required externship at the end of the program.
            • Curriculum includes laboratory sessions, academic preparation and hands-on experience.
            • Program objectives are to provide students with skills needed for cooking wholesome, attractive, food preparations and to assist graduates in obtaining positions in the food service industry.
            • Accredited by the American Culinary Federation (ACF).
            • Has campuses in Melbourne, Sarasota, and Tallahassee, Florida
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