Culinary Arts Still Popular Career Choice

By Staff

February 16, 2009

Despite growing cutbacks in the restaurant industry, many are still hungry for careers in the culinary arts.

Late last week, the school of business at Chicago's Kendall College announced the creation of a Bachelor of Arts in Business with a concentration in culinary arts degree, which is being offered in conjunction with the school's culinary arts school. The program is designed to give students a competitive edge in the food service business.

According to QSR Magazine, the program will teach students introductory culinary skills including how to make stocks and sauces, how to meet sanitation standards, and how to maintain a nutritious menu.

Similarly, the Windsor Star reports that people have expressed significant interest in being accepted to Canada's St. Clair College's provincially-funded training program for aspiring commercial cooks. About 100 people recently attended an information session, eager to apply for the 20 available spots in the college's pre-apprenticeship cook program which is slated to run from April through October.

Sue McLelland, development and marketing officer for the college's school of skilled trades, noted that the high response reflected the unemployment in the area as well as the strong interest from applicants seeking training. She conceded, however, that culinary arts is a "tough trade."

Last week at the Lancaster, Pennsylvania campus of YTI Career Institute, 127 students began the current quarter in the 21-month culinary program, and another 24 began the 12-month pastry course, reports LancasterOnline. The program includes courses covering food preparation and management, as well as a three-month externship at a restaurant.

Experts caution that the economic downturn is most definitely affecting the restaurant business. Mick Owens, president of the Lancaster chapter of the Pennsylvania Association and owner of Mick's All-American Pub, told LancasterOnline that the average area restaurant is reporting a 15 percent drop in gross sales. Nevertheless, said Owens, he doesn't expect the recession to affect job prospects for culinary graduates.

"We still have terrific employment for students," agreed Rob Poulton, YTI's culinary arts program director. "Ninety-seven to 100 percent have jobs when they leave here. We don't see that falling off."

William Ashmore is one example of a restaurant owner who will very likely soon be looking to hire new employees skilled in culinary arts. The owner of Ivy, a restaurant in Boston, Ashmore has viewed local store closings as an opportunity to purchase prime estate. The Boston Globe reports that he is currently building his second restaurant in the area, and plans to launch a third around the corner.

"Every day someone tells me I'm crazy," Ashmore told the Globe. "Yeah, you can call me crazy. But I feel so strongly about this. I think it will work."

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