Is It Worth Blowing $42,000 on Culinary School?


Today, the Atlantic's Food channel asks, “Does Culinary School Matter?” When we posed this question to chefs a couple of years ago, they were split — autodidacts like Michael Psilakis thought that by-the-book learning tends to hinder chefs, while Adam Perry Lang defended institutions like his alma mater, the CIA. Michael White has questioned whether most culinary-school grads can so much as clean an artichoke, and though Anthony Bourdain seemingly rages against the machine in his next book, he’s a graduate himself. David Chang is similarly ambivalent: Of his own culinary-school experience, he told Big Think, “I know I’ve been critical of it at times, but at the end of the day it was awesome for me.”

So it’s no surprise the Atlantic similarly fails to answer its own question, instead quoting a CIA grad (Marco Saurez of Bon Savor in Boston) who wishes he had ditched school in favor of using his $25,000 loan to support himself while working, but also a classmate (Barry Joyner of Top of the Hub and Grill 63) who says, “The school is what you make of it. I felt like I came away with a lot of tools.” Celebrity chefs, meanwhile, are also on the fence: Wylie Dufresne is glad he went to a six-month FCI program that today costs $42,500 (gulp), but he admits that, with only so many chefs applying for jobs at an increasing number of good restaurants, he has no choice but to hire non-grads, so long as they’re passionate. And Daniel Humm does the same: “That happens here and, I'm pretty sure, at every restaurant in New York,” he says. After a tour of the CIA, author Paul Wachter’s final words are rather damning: “At least these kids eat well. But for $50,000 a year, is that enough?”

Does Culinary School Matter? [Food/Atlantic]