Eminent Australian wine critic Peter Scudamore-Smith reviews the state of hospitality & tourism training today and identifies 10 of the top institutes around the world
The past year has been a watershed for Australian gastronomy and food recognition, and indeed gastronomy around the world. Four Australian restaurants made the World’s Best 100 and television series MasterChef slayed the viewer ratings with record numbers of mums and dads learning about non-takeaway food for the first time. Such a glitzy portrayal of cuisine energises more young guns, and some not so young to enter the restaurant and hospitality industries. At culinary arts training institutes globally, new and exciting ideas are taking shape.
In the case of Australia, education exports have never been better. You see, the hygiene infrastructures around the local product make it a world choice for our near Asian neighbours; though the establishment standards in hotel and chef schools in USA and Canada remain similar. Travel proximity and an easy sociable education environment remain attractive Down Under.
Hotel schools are and continue to be attracted to the Australian chef training scene. For over 20 years Australia has hosted the Le Cordon Bleu schools which now stretch from Sydney to Melbourne to Adelaide, and in some cases around the world, cumulating in higher level degrees running into hotel management and gastronomy. Such French involvement (it is now a brand) in hospitality & tourism education engenders a situational expression of “why is this so”?
Food styles have moved so fast. I tracked back to consider the summer restaurant items on Brisbane’s second oldest restaurant, Baguette in 1990. Choose from grilled milk fed lamb, olives; char-grilled corn fed chicken, macadamia salad; or Charolais fillet, red wine vinegar jus, prices $18-24.50. Similar transformations in food and hospitality can be seen around the world, and training institutes continue to produce graduates that can cater for contemporary tastes.
Apart from prices almost doubling in 20 years from rising fixed operating and compliance costs, ingredients, descriptions, food styles have moved on to a range of levels. It is quite normal for a signature restaurant in a capital city to offer a series of dishes and accompaniments, and a melange of cooking styles that no near-by competitor practises. Such is the range of ethnic influences, lack of generic thinking and focus on the individuality of plate content.
Today you can tell the standard of your restaurant by the presence of a sommelier: without one usually expect second rate wines, about the same as the bottle shop around the corner, whilst the places at their peak serve mainly glasses, food-matched, edgy-flavoured, particular and not broad brush styles which entertain diners’ palates. The wine list is generally not a tome but of modern abbreviated style, minimalistic, informed, wines will come from up to 10 countries, little domination by local brands and traversing many regions who make wine. For example, 15 percent of Australia’s market is imported wines but on restaurant wine list it can be far greater: part of an experience.
The education schools are expected to turn out wine students at entry standard to first tier restaurant needs, and then grow in experience and understanding with hands-on participation. And the leading guidance is provided by the professional organisation, Sommeliers Australia. Some wine bars and restaurants have moved to wine sales solely by-the-glass using argon partial bottle storage, and opportunities for rapid staff development are quite endless.
Finally, in many countries it is the informality of eating out that has changed culinary education. It’s left classical and formal dining behind in a country which can mix the best chefs, winemakers, cyclists, soccer players and surfers anywhere. Here are 10 of the top culinary arts training institutes around the world today.
Le Cordon Bleu operates the world’s most comprehensive network of hospitality institutes. Culinary arts is one two of the institute’s specialties (the other is hospitality management), and students from all over the world are enrolled. The school’s strong reputation draws on the French culinary tradition, but its coursework is international and highly relevant to today’s fine-dining scene. The school began a little over a century ago in Paris and has grown from a modest Parisian cooking school into a world-class international institute. Students spend plenty of time learning the fundamentals that set French cuisine apart, but just as much attention is given to world cuisine and modern culinary techniques. Le Cordon Bleu’s courses have been under constant development for more than a century. Several culinary arts programs are on offer, including several certificate and diploma programs. The campus in Melbourne, Australia offers a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts, which includes certification in commercial cookery and a foundation of management courses that will have you leading teams of culinary professionals in the future.
THE ART INSTITUTES
The Art Institutes is a North American chain of educational centers. In all, there are more than 45 branches scattered across the US and Canada. The International Culinary Schools operate through the Arts Institutes and is one of the most successful chains of culinary schools in North America. With so many branches across the continent, the International Culinary Schools are particularly accessible. Campuses are in or near major cities, so it’s easy to find a branch in a part of the US or Canada that you’re most interested in experiencing. A culinary education from the Arts Institute can follow several different tracks. These include degrees in culinary arts, culinary management or hospitality management. You can also specialize in wine and spirits or baking and pastry. Several programs are offered through the International Culinary Schools of the Arts Institute. Students can pursue associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, or they can supplement their education with certificate courses. Students with plenty of discipline can complete a bachelor’s degree in as little as three years by opting for year-round study.
INTERNATIONAL CENTRE FOR CULINARY ARTS DUBAI
The International Centre for Culinary Arts (ICCA) Dubai is a world-class vocational school that teaches a mix of Continental and regional culinary methods. As a student, you’ll go beyond basic culinary practices and cooking skills to learn leadership tactics and skills that you can put to use in a multicultural professional setting. Most students enroll in professional certification courses that provide the skills and theory necessary to be a competitive 21st-century chef. Proficiency courses are also on offer. These are designed to bring you up to date with the latest culinary techniques and practices that today’s chefs are using. A course like this is ideal for a seasoned chef looking to expand their skills set. But you don’t have to be a full-time student to take classes at ICCA Dubai. Foundation courses are designed to introduce you to the world of culinary arts, while short courses are designed with hobbyists and non-professionals in mind.
Johnson and Wales University was founded at Rhode Island in 1914 and now enrolls more than 16,000 students across four campuses. The university is best known for its Business and Hospitality program and Culinary Arts program. The College of Culinary Arts is so much more than a cooking academy. It relies on the latest industry input to stay grounded in emerging culinary breakthroughs without abandoning time-tested techniques. Graduates of JWU join ranks with some of the most success culinary artists in the world. Both at the graduate and undergraduate level, the culinary arts programs and Johnson and Wales University are grounded and career-oriented. You’ll learn all of the latest culinary theory, but just as much of your time will be spent putting that knowledge to work in training kitchens. In addition to learning what the faculty call “knife skills,” you’ll also develop your own personal leadership style and solid business sense during your tenure here. Small class sizes mean that your instructors have plenty of time for personal mentoring, ensuring your skills will be fully developed by the time you graduate.
HONG KONG CULINARY ACADEMY
The Hong Kong Culinary Academy has worked with the hospitality industry in Hong Kong for years, offering certification and training courses to enhance the skill set of local hotel and restaurant staff. Recently, the academy has branched and now offers full-time degree courses for students hoping to take high-profile positions in China’s growing tourism and hospitality scene. The academy offers a variety of courses. As a full-time student, you can major in Hotel Culinary Management, which follows the same syllabus as the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. This degree will equip you with the expertise and practical know-how to work with top-tier restaurants across the world. The other major offering at the Hong Kong Culinary Academy is a two-month intensive Bakery and Patisserie certificate course. Courses are taught in Cantonese, but English is used for real-time practice in the kitchen. This is a great stepping stone for students in Hong Kong, who benefit from instruction in their native language while getting plenty of on-the-job practice speaking English in a results-intensive environment.
With its base in Hyde Park, New York, The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) also has branches in Texas and California. The institute offers degrees in culinary arts along with ongoing support for industry professionals. It’s one of the most prestigious culinary institutes in the US. As a student at the Culinary Institute of America, you’ll learn advanced culinary techniques through hands-on practice in training kitchens and restaurants. The main programs on offer are bachelor’s and associate’s degrees in culinary arts, both of which equip the next generation of chefs, food critics and restaurateurs. The CIA also offers degrees in baking and patisserie. At the core of the CIA learning curve is an astonishing 1,300 hours of hands-on training in ultra-modern kitchens and bakeries. This is coupled with an 18-week externship in the institute’s working restaurant and café, where the knowledge acquired in classes and the experience you’ve gained in the training kitchen come together in a real-world working environment.
A comprehensive cooking school in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood, the French Culinary Institute (FCI) teaches courses in international bread making, pastry and culinary arts. This award-winning institute is an easy shortlist candidate for the best cooking school in the US. As a student, you’ll thrive in the FCI’s “Total Immersion” program. This involves six to nine months of highly intensive training in classrooms and practice kitchens, where you’ll live and breathe the culinary arts along with a handful of other highly motivated students. Class sizes are the smallest in the industry, which for many is motivation enough to study at the French Culinary Institute. On average, one teacher works with 12 students at a time. Some industry experts claim that six to nine months at the FCI is on par with a few years’ apprenticeship to a chef.
CULINARY ACADEMY OF INDIA
As the first training school for professional culinary arts in India, the Culinary Academy of India is a leader on the Subcontinent. It’s located in the city of Hyderabad, in close range of major hotels in this South Indian tourist destination. The academy partners with these hospitality giants to produce expert chefs who go on to lead the industry in India. The training and educational facilities at the Culinary Institute of India are top-notch. Instructors walk students through culinary techniques and kitchen-management strategies in one of seven state-of-the-art training kitchens. This is followed up with real-time experience in the teaching restaurant, which seats up to 40 guests. The Culinary Academy of India offers two degree packages: a bachelor’s degree in catering technology and culinary arts (a three-year program) and a post-graduate diploma in culinary arts. An 18-month craft certification course in food production is also on offer. These programs are locally accredited and taught by instructors who’ve worked with well-known hotel and hospitality firms.
HATTORI NUTRITION COLLEGE
Easily the best-known culinary school in Japan, Hattori Nutrition College is led by Yukio Hattori, well known for his role in the popular Japanese game show Iron Chef. In the show, students of Hattori Nutrition College would assist competitors (leading chefs from around the world) in crafting their culinary masterpieces. Even before the days of Iron Chef, Hattori Nutrition College was well-known for its culinary arts programs, but the school has since taken on legendary proportions. It’s now a top choice for any aspiring culinarian in Japan, with an increasing world following as well. Hattori Nutrition College offers certification courses and full degree programs in culinary arts and dietetics. In keeping with Japan’s forward-looking mentality, the coursework at Hattori is on the heels of the latest trends in cooking and the culinary arts. There’s a particular emphasis on healthy, “body-friendly” culinary techniques. You’ll benefit from expert instruction as well as access to truly state-of-the-art practice facilities. The international success of Iron Chef meant that Hattori Nutrition College had both the means and the motivation to constantly update their facilities. As a result, few culinary schools in the world can offer this level of modern infrastructure to its students.
KEISER UNIVERSITY CENTRE FOR CULINARY ARTS
Keiser University Center for Culinary is part of the prominent Keiser network of universities in Florida. The flagship campus is in Fort Lauderdale, but culinary arts students are based in Sarasota, Melbourne or Tallahassee. The Center for Culinary Arts offers associates degrees to get students ready for a high-paying career in the hospitality sector. Credits can also be forwarded to other institutes and universities and put toward a complete four-year degree. Keiser University Center for Culinary Arts offers associate’s degrees in culinary arts and baking and pastry arts. Both are terminal, two-year degrees accredited by the American Culinary Federations. In the process of studying at Keiser, you’ll learn advanced skills through plenty of hands-on experience. In the course of earning an associate’s degree in either of these fields, you’ll complete 60 hours of specialized classes and laboratories where you put your newly acquired skills to work. This is followed by an externship or residence where you’ll lay the foundation for a professional career as a chef or baker.
Peter Scudamore-Smith is founder and director of the consulting firm Uncorked and Cultivated in Eastern Australia. He is a wine professional writing Masterclass for Grapegrowers and Vignerons and Smart Farmer. He has held posts writing weekly for the Brisbane Sunday Mail, monthly and bi-monthly for Winestate and Vogue, and in the 1980s, Wine Spectator. He is Australia’s second Master of Wine – Institute of Masters of Wine (UK), 1991. He is also, of course, AsianCorrespondent.com’s resident wine critic. You can read more of his writings here.