The Culinary Institute of America

Students, like those at The Culinary Institute of America, are learning a lot outside the traditional kitchen setting.

Editor's Letter: Culinary School’s Out for Summer

School conjures different memories for all of us. Time spent in the kitchen for chefs, the classroom for academics, maybe internships or externships for B-Schoolers, and late nights at the college paper for me. Those experiences can begin to shape us for the world outside of school, and ideally should if we’re getting our money’s worth.

But my experience during a day in the life of today’s culinary school student was completely unfamiliar to me—and not just because I didn’t go to culinary school. Students these days are learning truly remarkable things.

As you’ll read, culinary students today are learning a lot outside the traditional kitchen setting—food science, blogging, food styling, community gardening—to help them connect the dots between the restaurant business and the rest of the world. And social media plays a big role, too. Instagramming is such a big part of the food business that students at the Culinary Institute of America are learning how to create media for Instagram in a way they’ll be able to replicate in the future.

It’s a specific skill set, for sure. I can attest to that, having styled plenty of gratuitous food shots myself. And while whether a photo looks too cluttered or what it says about the dish or the brand are points to learn, using the platform itself isn’t something students need much help with. Not surprisingly, they’re platform-native. Because of that, they easily share their experiences at culinary school online. But maybe you didn’t get that opportunity, so we’re giving you the chance now. Get on Instagram and share your culinary school stories with the tag #2Cul4School and we'll share it, too.

Most striking about my visit to the CIA campus, however, was something that’s not new at all. When I stood in the menu testing classroom listening to 19-year-old Kelsey Vogt lead her team into a tasting and critique, I was awed. These kids have better interpersonal skills than I do, I thought. Which is perhaps the best and most steadfast part of the restaurant business going forward: the people.

This issue is all about the people of the restaurant business, where they start out in school, where they land in the kitchen, and everything else that comes along with managing people in restaurants these days. And by these days, I mean the #MeToo days. In which case school is most certainly not out for summer—the #MeToo school is still in session, and we are all still learning what has come to pass and what will come to be.

It’s scary, for sure, but as many leaders of this movement—and particularly those leaders who are in the restaurant industry—have said, the answer going forward revolves around something you already do every day: talking to the people you run your business with. It’s going to take some hard conversations. But I think that is what this business prepares us for, or at least that’s what the kids in Kelsey Vogt’s culinary class showed me. And that gave me hope.

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