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Unrest at the CIA & the Import of Culinary Degrees


Tiny
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Ha; quite interesting..there was also a paper on that in the Poughkeepsie Journal a week ago or so.

Good thing I just graduated right before this happened; though coming back real soon for my bachelors, kinda making me rethink it though

Jim

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I was there when he was the big dog and well I never laid eyes on him until graduation - would not have know and voiced that in the hallway before we started walking - I was supposed to follow Ryan - and had to ask who is he! The school is expanding too much and going to look like many of the other failing culinary programs - good luck - but they won't last not with the economy...

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I am disappointed to read about the problems at the CIA, but I am not surprised. I graduated in 2002, and even then there were signs of trouble ahead. It seems that the school severely relaxed it's admissions policies in the last several years; the high standards that the school was well known for are no longer passed on to students. In the past, an employer knew what he or she was getting from a CIA graduate, but I am sad to say that this is no longer the case. The unfortunate effect of poor admissions policies and a general dumbing-down of the school curriculum is that the students are not getting the superior education and experience that the CIA is known for. Seems an end of an era, too bad.

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The school is trying to become something that it is not, and as a result, failing on both ends. Dr. Tim Ryan has tried too hard to turn the school into a culinary based bachelor degree program, but the result has been lackluster. The two year culinary program has seen its cooking classes make room for classroom-type courses that basically teaches you introductory level writing and math. Some chef instructors have expressed concern about the decreasing importance placed on the cooking aspects of the program.

The bachelor program cannot be considered a full-core college program, as the school is simply unable to offer the breadth and depth of courses needed to provide a proper college level curriculum (lack of classrooms, facilities, faculty etc.). I would doubt that a bachelor program graduate of the CIA would be as competitive as someone who graduated from a regular 4 year college program in hotel & restaurant management.

As a CIA graduate, my hope is that the school returns to its culinary roots, rather than becoming a novelty tourist destination off of route 9.

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I agree, the 4 yr thing is a little much especially since they have cooperative agreements with Cornell which has the staff. I graduated from a 4 yr business school - worked in the white collar world and then went to the CIA and I found lots of the approaches to certain things so academic that it was not practical. BUt in most schools the professors in many fields do not have practical experience. Now I am not slamming the program, but I am just not sure how serious the school degree can be taken on paper as compared to a non culinary school - college and university status insitutions. I also can say that the classes did not seem as hard core as I thought they should be as compared with mine so many years ago.

On the letting people in - I also think that many culinary schools relaxed admissions to get people in the door. It is a very expensive thing to run. My class had the majority of us were career changers and all of my classmates had done lots of time in kitchens - it is a lot different when you are not spending mommy and daddys money - and none of the career changers in my class stayed to do the next 2 years.

I think I said Tim Ryan - well - I saw him once in the hall and then at graduation. Now my other job was with a University and the president was everywhere. The school I received my bachelors degree - he was everywhere. So the visibility was certainly not there. I made a wise crack while lining up to gradaute - the lady was telling us what to do and to follow Dr. Ryan - and I said who is that and what does he look like. Many agreed with me, but she did give me a look - oh well.

Edited by Jakea222 (log)
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Is there a larger trend here? There have been recent media reports of problems at CCA and some LCB facilities. Is there a crisis in American culinary schools in the making? Those of you who are currently enrolled, are your classmates feeling they're not getting a good value or that admissions standards are too low?

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I think Ruhlman's "Reach of a Chef" does a smart job about the hopes and fears of the CIA as a culinary and an intellectual institution. He also has long pieces with Ryan and Metz. It's worth reading.

But the positioning thing -- as if you spent 25 grand a year for a "prestigious" degree, like say, economics from the University of Chicago, med from Johns Hopkins, Harvard Law, Animal Husbandry at Penn State. Last I heard, no students at these schools were complaining the class work wasn't hard enough, but they aren't going to an upscale trade school. I'm all for, say, a BA in Food history, or even Food Media, but if the kids are complaining about Skills, they should walk, posthaste, to the best junior college program available, save their money for stages and travel, and work the line or the pastry station in their spare time.

CIA or Kendall College, you're still going to be lucky to make 12 bucks an hour when you graduate.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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“The C.I.A. really should be a mecca of gastronomical studies,” he said, “but right now it feels like a corporation that is pumping students out for the benefit of the industry.”  <---from the article

Sounds like every culinary school. I hate to say it, but the 25K/year students spend on tuition at the CIA would be MUCH better spent on travel, living expenses while doing a stage, books, tools, etc...

And like has been said upthread, even with the 'prestigious' CIA degree, students will still be lucky to get $12/hour... It's still just a trade school, and cooking will always be a trade.

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well I make more than 12 an hour - I stepped into a Exec Sous job from the get go - but so I don't start a new debate here - the school is still the best as far as connections. It still has the best prefessors you could ever get in one place. I had 4 CMC a CMB and you can't get that anywhere else - BUT that being said as a former University Comm Director I can say that not just culinary schools relaxed requirements - SAT scores are a LOT lower than they have been and schools had to make numbers to stay moving. US students are not putting out scores like they used to. It is not cheap running schools - of any type especially the ones that have special schools - Med Schools, Law, Pharmacy and Nursing - they all cost big buck and without federal money and the state money many would be really hurting - so private schools really hurt.

I am a grad - I have a couple of degrees and I have come to realize that chefs don't typically cook or do what they do for the money - yep it is there and yes it is why we show up - but the satisfaction is what it is all about - I know especially today as I have been non stop for 2 freakin days on a mothers day thing and it has been nuts in the restaurant too. My Exec is a JW grad and while we pick on each other all of the time - we know what we together can do and use our skills to put out great food...

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I'm so glad I took the BPS courses after graduating from the B&P program. Now that I've started my own business, I'm thanking God we took courses in accounting, marketing, ethics, food and culture, etc... Couldn't imagine not having these courses offered to me. I also made more that $12 per hour right after graduating... although my wife made way less that that. And after traveling for six months through europe and spending around 20K, I'd say that the education I received was better spent than the trip. The trip rocked, don't get me wrong, but from an educational standpoint, no doubt that CIA was a WAY better learning experience in the traditional sense.

Like most colleges, you get out of it what you put in. I put in a lot while I was there, and I'm still reaping the rewards of my hard work there.

Edited by ohmyganache (log)

Stephen W.

Pastry Chef/Owner

The Sweet Life Bakery

Vineland, NJ

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I'm so glad I took the BPS courses after graduating from the B&P program.  Now that I've started my own business, I'm thanking God we took courses in accounting, marketing, ethics, food and culture, etc... Couldn't imagine not having these courses offered to me. 

For those of us not familiar with these terms, can you define them for us?

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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well I make more than 12 an hour - I stepped into a Exec Sous job from the get go - but so I don't start a new debate here - the school is still the best as far as connections.  It still has the best prefessors you could ever get in one place.  I had 4 CMC a CMB and you can't get that anywhere else - BUT that being said as a former University Comm Director I can say that not just culinary schools relaxed requirements - SAT scores are a LOT lower than they have been and schools had to make numbers to stay moving.  US students are not putting out scores like they used to.  It is not cheap running  schools - of any type especially the ones that have special schools - Med Schools, Law, Pharmacy and Nursing - they all cost big buck and without federal money and the state money many would be really hurting - so private schools really hurt.

I am a grad - I have a couple of degrees and I have come to realize that chefs don't typically cook or do what they do for the money - yep it is there and yes it is why we show up - but the satisfaction is what it is all about - I know especially today as I have been non stop for 2 freakin days on a mothers day thing and it has been nuts in the restaurant too.  My Exec is a JW grad and while we pick on each other all of the time - we know what we together can do and use our skills to put out great food...

Did you just do AOS or BPS as well?

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Sounds like every culinary school.  I hate to say it, but the 25K/year students spend on tuition at the CIA would be MUCH better spent on travel, living expenses while doing a stage, books, tools, etc... 

And, that sounds like students across the field in almost every educational endeavor. You could make the same argument for those students as well- they could save the money and just buy the textbook, how the educational theories in the classroom is a waste of time and not practical, etc..

And like has been said upthread, even with the 'prestigious' CIA degree, students will still be lucky to get $12/hour...  It's still just a trade school, and cooking will always be a trade.

At one point in time, medical doctors were not highly regarded either and now look at them. Without schools like the CIA trying to raise the bar, cooking will be seen as a trade, instead of a profession.

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And, that sounds like students across the field in almost every educational endeavor. You could make the same argument for those students as well- they could save the money and just buy the textbook, how the educational theories in the classroom is a waste of time and not practical, etc..

At one point in time, medical doctors were not highly regarded either and now look at them. Without schools like the CIA trying to raise the bar, cooking will be seen as a trade, instead of a profession.

There's a bit of a difference here, and a little problem with your analogy.

To be a doctor or a lawyer, you have to have the documented education and pass rigorous testing, and be licensed.

This is not so in the culinary field. One is completely able to be competitive with a culinary school grad just by having experience and perhaps raw talent.

Unlike the professions of doctor and lawyer which require knowledge of specific important laws and facts, culinary arts is just that.....an art form. There are certain basics of cooking that all chefs should know, but what makes a chef great is how they apply the basics to the art of cooking. Creativity is what separates the mediocre from the great.

No one can make a blanket statement about who is better.....those who have attended culinary school vs. those who have not. But is IS completely possible for those who have never attended school and have only had experience working in the field to be more than successful. Attending culinary school is NOT a guarantee of success. It is what you make of your education and experience that determines that. In the culinary field, what will separate you from the crowd is drive, passion, and creativity. No school can teach you that. :wink:

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Without schools like the CIA trying to raise the bar, cooking will be seen as a trade, instead of a profession.

Cooking IS a trade.... I don't know about other cooks, but I'm proud to work in the trade. I make good money for my age (comparable to college educated 'professionals'), and get plenty of respect. Not to mention, I get to make great food.

If trying to 'raise' the bar means charging outrageous amounts of money for a certificate, then trying to convince everyone they need it, then I think it's something our industry can do without. I'd hate to see the day when the industry becomes any more elitist than it already is...

Edited by Mikeb19 (log)
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WiscoNole, I just did AOS Culinary Arts - BUT I have a Bachelors Degree already. I went as a career changer. While i know that all these people are going to jump me as they usually do - but moving up with education is everything. I am cooking my a-- off, but also my knowledge as a business degreed and culinary school grad made me very hirable and I only had one no out of lots of interviews and cooking tryouts. Say waht you want about cooking schools but they do help down the raod....I am going to move up a lot faster than most of the non schooled route people irregardless of what you think about schools...any school.

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To echo some of what Jakea222 said, most of the people with serious cooking experience who attended my culinary school were there because they believed they'd move up faster with educational credentials.

That being said, I have to say I never saw the point of getting more than two years of training at a c-school--and I specifically chose a 1-year certificate program over a 2-year associate degree. I already had a BA and wouldn't have looked to a c-school to fulfill that credential. Has anybody here done a 4-year c-school/BA degree, and if so, what was your experience?

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I am just pro education - my father was a blue collar employee and my mother was a masters degree white collar and my father is the one that pushed education. Yes I may make a few dollars more on the hour when it comes down to it, but I am an exec sous and will certify and will move up when I am ready - not when I prove to the boss that I can not only cook, but can do the business part of the food business. I think everyone should further knowledge, class in somehting you want to know about to better yourself in any way - I am looking to take a french class - but I have lots of goals in my life that I want to hit - straining the brain is one of them.

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  • 2 months later...
And, that sounds like students across the field in almost every educational endeavor. You could make the same argument for those students as well- they could save the money and just buy the textbook, how the educational theories in the classroom is a waste of time and not practical, etc..

At one point in time, medical doctors were not highly regarded either and now look at them. Without schools like the CIA trying to raise the bar, cooking will be seen as a trade, instead of a profession.

There's a bit of a difference here, and a little problem with your analogy.

To be a doctor or a lawyer, you have to have the documented education and pass rigorous testing, and be licensed.

The analogy is appropriate. Paul Starr's landmark book The Social Transformation of American Medicine (which was just released in a 20th-anniversary copy) details how the medical profession struggled to become, well, ... a profession. Just like cooking today, there were no licensing exams, some people had classroom training but most had on-the-job or at-home experience, etc. Same thing with law in this country (you know how many Supreme Court justices never went to law school?).

Both professions had to organize to set standards for licensing and education, ethics, etc. This altruistically, arguably, improved the quality of the field, but also enabled them to raise salaries and compensation. Before that anyone could decide tomorrow they were a doctor and sell you a homebrewed remedy, which made it a very low-paid field that was dominated by those who were already independently wealthy.

I would argue we need a lot more work before cooking becomes a profession. Take licensing, for instance. Why not require every line and prep cook to get sanitation/health-code certification? Here in NYC, with one of the most stringent laws in the country, only one person in the restaurant at a time need have it (and that can be a FOH manager). There is no barrier to entry at all.

Brian Ibbotson

Pastry Sous for Production and Menu Research & Development

Sous Chef for Food Safety and Quality Assurance

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Why do I always get to these things after they have already blown up.

There is always good with the bad, of course. Tim is a bit mis-lead. I think he may not realize how to be the best president. The whole time at school I resented the fact that I never saw him. Though I did go to a meeting with him and about 40 other students to discuss the schools progression and where it sat amongst other schools.

The truth is, CIA is still ahead of everyone else, so how much can we really complain? The real problem is a lack of truly devoted students. Maybe they should drop down, but if they did they wouldn't be able to build the new stuff like the the restaurants, the library, the rec center, the baseball field, the lodges, the new asian cuisine center, the latin food center, etc. The increase in students is needed not only for money but just to put bodies in the seats or at the stations.

Nobody knows this more than me and my close personal friends that ran all the clubs and on campus organizations. I once had the president of the ales club, wine club, cheese club, and gourmet society just to help me promote Sam Masons event because the students their are just lame. But you know what, its not just there, its everywhere. We really aren't looking at the big picture. All grades and schools from 6th grade up are seriously lacking compared to the rest of the world. We have allowed our society to grow soft. This situation at CIA is just one tiny spec in a sea of problems, but we as culinary enthusiasts are noticing it at our level.

If we really want to fix the problem we need to start demanding competition in all schools and get the government out of it. If you start increasing a high demand for learning, cost will go down too. And don't get me started on the loans, I won't be making my electric payment this month because I had to dish out another $550. All school did for me was make it harder for me to get a job. People dont even pay attention to the long list of experience behind the degree, all they see is I graduated last year. I have had maybe a dozen people tell me I was unqualified for a pastry chef position because I had no managerial experience on my resume, but had they taken the time to read beyond the school they would have seen I have been a pastry chef of a bakery and a restaurant before I decided to go. I am probably one of few people in this world that school became a deterrent, even when I did so much to provide for the school. I even had to watch Tim Ryan give the leadership award to the biggest drunk in my class who never participated in a single thing for the school, not even group leader, yet for some reason a guy who founded a group, turned two clubs around, provided students the ability to meet four high profile chefs and assembled a number of tastings for the students by the students and a few large companies, I guess he was just too good of a leader.

The school doesn't care, it really doesn't. I have often thought of writing Ryan a nice long letter, but one of my mentoring instructors advised me that it would be a waste of my energy because he will never read it, I don't blame him because I probably knew more about that school than he did.

That might be a big reason why I haven't finished my diary, sorry about that I just didn't care to remember why my life has become so difficult.

But to add to all of it, I don't want to hear anyones bullshit about the students not being taught enough, because of all my touring in this country so far, the average chef is far behind what he should be. There is a ridiculous amount of impotence and bullshit in this business. Everyone has a philosophy to make themselves feel better and nobody wants to be put to the test. I beg for someone to give me six hours in a kitchen, but the excuses are endless.

This industry is parallel to the instability and blurred future of the american economy.

Dean Anthony Anderson

"If all you have to eat is an egg, you had better know how to cook it properly" ~ Herve This

Pastry Chef: One If By Land Two If By Sea

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The analogy is appropriate. Paul Starr's landmark book The Social Transformation of American Medicine (which was just released in a 20th-anniversary copy) details how the medical profession struggled to become, well, ... a profession. Just like cooking today, there were no licensing exams, some people had classroom training but most had on-the-job or at-home experience, etc.

But there are big flaws in this analogy. As Starr points out, much of the transformation was driven by the political activity of the American Medical Association in the early part of the 20th century. Back then, the AMA was one of many organizations trying to get its version of medicine (allopathic, if you care about such things) legitimated as the "real" one. Just ask your osteopathy doctor, midwife, or chiropractor to learn how that all unfolded; suffice it to say that the AMA had a battalion of adept lobbyists wielding great elevator speeches long before elevators existed.

The basis for their political claims was, of course, that the AMA was an objective, scientific organization that had the health interests of the populace at heart. It also worked hard to turn the populace against other systems of medicine, to great success; traditional medical practitioners were suddenly quacks. Whether you buy that or not isn't really the point: it worked.

Given all that, I can't really see any equivalent culinary organization being able to make a similar claim or wield political power to similar ends. In addition, the AMA's actions helped to define the very notion of "profession" (the truly wonky will want to read both Starr and Eliot Friedson's Profession of Medicine for details on that). The culinary field enters a world in which such professional criteria have been largely established. Finally, I can't really understand how any culinary organization could make the epistemological claims needed to stake out "the truth of cooking," whatever the heck that would be.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I can't really understand how any culinary organization could make the epistemological claims needed to stake out "the truth of cooking," whatever the heck that would be.

I guess that would be anything edible. Sounds like a good speech.

Edited by chiantiglace (log)

Dean Anthony Anderson

"If all you have to eat is an egg, you had better know how to cook it properly" ~ Herve This

Pastry Chef: One If By Land Two If By Sea

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The CIA was getting strange when i was there in 03. When I graduated - here we are line up in the hall and some lady starts tells us how things will play out and she says - After Dr. Ryan starts in then - blah blah - and I made an off the wall statement sayng "who the hell is Dr. Ryan" - well of course when I made the statement the room was quiet for some off reason and then everyone looked at me laughed and high fived me - I saw the man once when I was there - the ADM was so hell bent on campuses all over the place that they really left the students in a thought process of who the hell are these administration people. The "front line professor" are the ones that are probably really wondering what the heck is going on. My friends and mentors up there never answer that question when I ask how things are going. Mostly that they have students that don't have the passion - money is getting some kids through and while the education is still very very good and cutting edge - it is not like it was.

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