Top chef trained at community college

Richard Rosendale, chef at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, hopes to be the first American to win the Bocuse d’Or cooking competition in France, reports the Washington Post. Rosendale and chefs from around the world will compete Jan. 30 “in the world’s most challenging and prestigious culinary competition,” which is held every two years in Lyon, France. French and Norwegian chefs have dominated the competition.

In an age when many aspiring young chefs head to the Culinary Institute of America, Rosendale enrolled in the culinary program at Westmoreland County Community College in Youngwood, Pa. He earned his associate degree and entered the Greenbrier’s apprenticeship program, the one he now oversees. This led to apprenticeships with several certified master chefs, training in Europe and sous-vide training at the French Laundry.

Rosendale’s rise shows that “college” can mean real-world vocational training, writes Ben Wildavsky on The Quick and the Ed.

The current requirements for the degree Rosendale earned include not only baking, beverage management, and so forth, but also college writing, microcomputer concepts, social science or math, and more. Students also work many hours as apprentices in restaurants, hotels, or resorts. This culinary arts program . . .  combines practical classroom instruction, an out-of-the-classroom apprenticeship, and classes that focus on some core skills that could prove useful to students in many settings.

It’s not that “too many” Americans go to college, writes Wildavsky. “College” broadly defined — job training as well as Plato —  can benefit many more people.

Chef’s advice: Don’t go to culinary school

Should aspiring chefs go to culinary school? “The short answer is no,” says chef Anthony Bourdain, a graduate of Culinary Institute of America, in his new book, Medium Raw. Serious Eats explains:

It’s not that Bourdain thinks culinary school is an inherently bad idea. But he warns that even a degree from the very best school is no guarantee of a job, and there’s serious debt involved. If you’re not quite young and not quite fit, a career as a chef may not be for you. If you crave a predictable hours and a manageable level of stress, it may not be for you. Before you sign up for all that debt, he says, you should go work in a kitchen and make sure you really, truly want to be a chef.

In an excerpt on Michael Ruhlman’s site, Bourdain warns that quality restaurants don’t hire graduates of  “the Gomer County Technical College of Culinary Arts.”

A degree from the best culinary schools is no guarantee of a good job. A degree from anywhere less than the best schools will probably be less helpful than the work experience you could have had, had you been out there in the industry all that time.

A new chef with an elite culinary degree — and a pile of debt — will start at $10 to $12 an hour, Bourdain warns.

Some graduates of for-profit culinary programs have trouble repaying federal loans because of low starting salaries, writes Education Sector’s Ben Miller in Are You Gainfully Employed Setting Standards for For-Profit Degrees?