Thursday, May 10, 2007

Bourdain Brouhaha

In a recent post on Michael Ruhlman's blog Bob DelGrosso (My Gastronomy Professor at the CIA in 1995/1996) reviews an anthropological view of Food Celebrity, focusing on Tony Bourdain. It is a very interesting read, what is even better are all of the comments in response (currently 53 comments). The blog brought up several things that I find top of the mind in many culinary professionals, i.e. Cost of Education, Salaries, Professionalism.

Without a doubt many culinary schools are overpriced. I see schools, even in the Midwest that are charging over $40,000 for a 2 year culinary degree. It is insane for me to think about a recent high school grad going to these schools. They will graduate thinking they are going to be the next Emeril and end up making $10.00/hr working a line. They will wash out of the business in months. As the person mentioned on Ruhlman's blog, go to a community college and spend the $2,000.

Check out the NY times article that was just sent to me on this subject.

Now, this may seem very odd coming from someone sitting in a dorm at the CIA. But before I attended CIA, I had worked in the business and knew it was my passion. 10 years ago when I came here, I knew after I graduated I would be making more money because I had a CIA degree and experience. Today, probably 1/2 of the students in my class have told me they do not want to work in a kitchen after they graduate! I was sitting at dinner with a student last night from Korea. When I asked her what her plans were after graduation she said that she realized being here, she does not want to cook. "What, I am not sure I heard that right", was my response. She travels thousands of miles for an expensive eduction to realize she doesn't want to cook! She is going back to Korea to learn how to teach. Wow

Anthony Bourdain's tales in Kitchen Confidential were great stories that sold books. He knows what to say to push buttons and get people comin' back for more. Believe it or not, all chefs aren't behind the dumpster screwing the bride. Culinary professionals are, well, professional. They are people that manage people in a difficult environment who are under paid. They are people that love food. They love to create. They are perfectionists that take what they do VERY seriously. They wear a uniform with pride. I'll admit, I love to read Tony's books and watch his shows. He is entertaining. But, like watching professional wrestling, you know things are sometimes planned for the audience.

As a side note, I was looking through the bookstore last night and found 2 of his books in the bargain bin. Kitchen Confidential and Bone in the Throat were bundled together for $9.99. I wonder what the Bad Boy thinks of his books being discounted at his own school.


sgillie said...

Chef England
Thank you for taking time to blog during your 3-week course. We know you're tired at the end of the day, but you put in the extra effort to keep us informed.
This post touches on some questions I had for you.
Compared to ten years ago, are the students less seasoned? At one time, CIA would not admit students without a minimum of one year's industry experience and industry references/recommendation? Does this still hold true?
What is the current cost for a CIA education. What % increase is that over the past 10 years?

braingirl said...

I agree, Thom! These dispatches are great!

I know you and I talked about Ruhlman's newest book, The Reach of a Chef, where he revists CIA with some of the same observations. But what I'm still not getting is this: If more than half the students don't want to be chefs, what do they want to be? They can't all be expecting to be television personalities and writers. Are they considering just staying in the food industry in another capacity?

ChefThomE said...

The one of the most popular club on campus is a food styling club. by talking with many of the members they talk about wanting to syle food for all the different food porn mags.
Some talk about wanting to be in the front of the house. Most realize that if they are in a fine dining establishment in a major city they will make a 6 figure income waiting tables.
Then there are the people that are going on from here to get their BA in hospitality management.
A friend of mine from the old days graduated and became a plumber...never did 'crack' that connection.

Anonymous said...

I was actually having a conversation the other day concerning the drop out rate for young culinary professionals that I have come in contact with throughout my career. I can't count on two hands how many guys I have known that have spent money on culinary school and ultimately decided not to cook for a living. The life is hard, it ages you in ways most people can't comprehend, it makes some very bitter, even regretful. That is why I always say "You don't choose cooking for a career, you choose cooking for a mistress." You just have to find a girl who is alright with that lol.