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Le Cordon Bleu Commits to Greater Focus on Culinary Fundamentals

30 April 2012

food3_may12National advisory board recommends a more-modern approach to culinary education for the 16 schools in the United States.

Visiting a restaurant today often means watching chefs and their culinary staffs perform in open kitchens, tasting a variety of small plates featuring seasonal ingredients and enjoying a gourmet twist on comfort food. Gone are the days of five-course, white-tablecloth meals every weekend. So as American restaurants continue to evolve, so, too, does culinary education.

Recently, Le Cordon Bleu (LCB) College of Culinary Arts assembled its National Advisory Board (NAB) in Scottsdale, Ariz., to address the demands for today’s culinary professionals and how their educational programs can evolve. The board, comprised of a variety of chefs and industry business leaders, agreed that today’s educators need to focus on the fundamentals of cooking, while also having the flexibility to integrate a more modern approach.

“The feedback from our advisory board confirms our philosophy to produce the best culinary professionals by teaching flawless execution of fundamentals like knife skills, sautéing, food safety, poaching and basic butchery,” said Ferdinand Metz, CMC, executive dean and chairman of the LCB NAB. “While there is still room to learn traditional skills like ice carving, we know it is important not to overlook the demands of today’s smart, casual-dining environment.”

Throughout the day-long session, many of the board members expressed that garde-manger curriculum should be scaled back so that students could also learn new skills like how to present themselves in open kitchens.

In addition to demonstrating the core skills required for all great culinary professionals, LCB NAB said culinary education will increasingly focus on the following categories:

Business Acumen. Culinary professionals, especially in today’s economic environment, need to learn and understand the importance of recipe writing and purchasing to run a profitable kitchen. As part of this, students need to be taught culinary-math skills. Entrepreneurial skills will become especially important for pastry students. The many major hotels, restaurants and quick-service operators are outsourcing pastry needs, creating an opportunity for pastry businesses to supply them.

Understanding Dietary Needs. The American diet is changing drastically with more medical nutritional needs and the growing prevalence of food allergies. Culinary professionals now need to understand everything from how to safely handle peanuts, prepare gluten-free pastas and create diabetic-friendly desserts. Additionally, general nutrition knowledge to be able to cook properly balanced meals, especially for children, will become increasingly important.

Product Knowledge and Global Awareness. With increased emphasis placed on farm to fork, new culinary professionals need a firm understanding of seasonality and for where foods come from. For example, every new culinary professional, at any point of the year, should be able to name the fruits and vegetables that are in season across different regions of the country. New culinary professionals will also be required to have an understanding of a variety of global cuisines.

Fostering the “It” Factor. To be successful, graduating students need to demonstrate a genuine passion for cooking. They should practice and learn interpersonal-communication skills that will show their ability to work with others and be leaders. Adaptability, discipline, performance under pressure and pride in appearance are also crucial skills for culinary professionals to learn.

“As a leader in culinary education, Le Cordon Bleu has a long history of training our students to adapt to current trends as the industry continues to evolve,” said Metz. “Le Cordon Bleu’s National Advisory Board helps us stay close to the industry so we remain the best place to get a culinary education.”

The Culinary Classroom of the Future
According to the LCB NAB, the culinary classroom of the future will be shaped by emerging technology. The NAB predicts that while students will continue to focus on the fundamentals of cooking, technology will be used to enhance their learning. The NAB envisions that culinary-arts programs will offer more educational mobile applications so that students can watch cooking demonstrations while on the go. The board also believes that schools will put more emphasis on recording classroom time, so that students can go back and analyze and perfect various cooking techniques.

“We see a lot of opportunity in mobile learning to give our students an even broader range of experiences,” said Metz. “We are in the process of piloting a mobile app that will allow students to watch demonstrations anytime, anywhere.”

Along similar lines, the board believes that culinary classrooms will increase the use of video conferencing so students can learn about world cuisines directly from local residents and chefs. Chefs from across the world could be transported into culinary schools for a lesson in, for example, traditional Guatemalan fiambre. This technology will ensure more authentic cooking and encourage exciting opportunities for more fusion cuisine. To motivate and inspire the next generation of chefs, the board agreed that this same technology could be used for “Chef Chats.” Successful industry leaders could virtually visit a classroom to share their personal stories.

The following LCB NAB members and industry luminaries attended the session:

  • Louise C. Bijesse, director of national recruitment, resource network, Compass Group North America
  • Paul Carr, corporate executive chef and vice president, ARAMARK
  • Al Ferrone, principal, AFHS Food and Beverage Business Solutions
  • Kurt H. Fischer, founder and president, The International Food & Beverage Forum
  • Nancy Lally, regional director, HR West, Hilton
  • Meredith Lowden, manager of recruitment programs, Gate Gourmet
  • Pauli Milotte, chef recruiter, Disney Resort
  • Brad Nelson, vice president, culinary and global corporate chef, Marriott International
  • Bob Rosar, corporate executive chef, Gate Gourmet
  • Jim Singerling, CCM, chief executive officer, Club Manager’s Association

Le Cordon Bleu is one of the largest providers of quality culinary-arts education worldwide. Its network of 16 schools in the United States offers culinary students a hands-on education with faculty dedicated to providing students with the necessary skills, knowledge, support and guidance to pursue fulfilling career opportunities in the culinary arts. Le Cordon Bleu, a member of the Career Education Corporation network of universities, colleges and schools, cannot guarantee employment or salary. For more information about Le Cordon Bleu, visit www.Chefs.edu.