Chef turned educator takes on culinary education

A former chef, who chooses to remain anonymous, offers his personal take on culinary training and how it’s changed since he opened his first restaurant more than 40 years ago in Western Massachusetts with no professional cooking experience.
A friend observed at the time that ‘there’s a big difference between cooking for two and cooking for 200.”
“No wiser truism was ever uttered,” he now declares.
“Fortunately for me, cooking for 200 really turned me on. And that’s my point about cooking schools. In the lab, they teach you how to make the dish. The atmosphere is pleasant. The eqit out ouipment is state of the art. The instructor is gentle and patient.”
What’s not taught, however, he continues, is “how to make the dish 200 times on a Saturday night in a tight, steamy kitchen on a stove that needs repairs, with a temperamental sous chef screaming at you and a line cook who didn’t show up.”
Today, he feels, “you have to have advanced degrees, not industry experience.” Chef X, as we’ll call him, believes the culinary schools today may be removed a step from the reality of the industry.
Students with working class families can’t afford $35,000 a year tuition to get a job that is entry level. He sees it as “an expensive gamble.”
He’s taught culinary arts in high schools, at the community college level, and in a professional school, following a successful career in the industry, creating and operating five restaurants and a club. A talented chef in his own right, he seeks to impart his skills to an audience of “ghetto kids” in an inner-city high school.
“I’ve long advocated for the professionalization of the FOH, and I’d like to think that the CIA has seen the light and the need to go in that direction. The people who work in the FOH already earn many times the pay of the guys and gals sweating n the line.”
Creating professional service standards, he believes, would provide customers with more satisfactory experiences and raise the bar for getting a job.
Commenting on the popular TV cooking shows, he observes that his students view them as “entertainment.”
His situation, in “one of the most dangerous cities in America,” involves teaching “kids who do not want to work” and can’t define the phrase, ‘work ethic,’ an assignment he gives his classes each year.
Students at the high school level come into his classes with basic math skills and poor reading skills. “I can teach a student to make bread by demonstration and through drilling and practice, but I can’t teach them how to take a recipe for 10 loaves and scale it up 45 loaves if they can’t add, subtract, multiply and divide. And if they can’t read, they can’t follow the written recipe.”
He’s sending his students, if they graduate, to culinary programs at the community college level. “If by some miracle, they get through that, they are the ones who are going to be knocking at a restaurant door, looking for a job.”

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