7 Delicious Culinary Schools

So, you want to learn to cook? Here's a menu of seven schools where you can trade your suit and tie "“ or T-shirt and jeans "“ for a toque and white jacket.

1. Culinary Institute of America

The nation's other CIA, which has branches in Hyde Park, the Napa Valley, and San Antonio, bills itself as the world's premier culinary college. The label is well deserved, as the list of CIA graduates reads like a who's who of the best restaurateurs, chefs, and food writers. The CIA offers degrees in Culinary Arts and Baking and Pastry Arts Management. While the CIA does not require applicants to submit SAT scores, it does require six months of experience in a professional kitchen, banquet facility, hospital kitchen, soup kitchen, or other non-fast-food facility. Students spend more than 1,300 hours in the kitchen while working toward their degree.

History: The CIA opened in 1946 as the New Haven Restaurant Institute, a vocational training school offering a 16-week program for World War II veterans. It became known as the Culinary Institute of America in 1951 and opened its Hyde Park facility in 1972. One year later, the school opened the Epicurean Room, a public restaurant where students gained hands-on experience in the kitchen. In 1995, the CIA opened a second campus in Napa Valley to accommodate the growing number of chef wannabes. After receiving a donation of $35 million from David Pace, the salsa mogul, in 2007, the school opened a campus in San Antonio to promote Latin American cuisines.

Tasty Tidbit: The college employs more than 130 chefs and instructors, including the largest concentration of chefs certified through the American Culinary Federation's 10-day master chef certification exam. A 2000 survey revealed that the average starting salary for graduates is $25,000 to $35,000 depending on whether they earned an associate's or bachelor's degree.

Famous Alum: Like deciding on an entrée at a five-star restaurant, it's difficult to pick just one. Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity chef, traveler, and author, graduated from the CIA in 1978 after attending Vassar College.

2. Le Cordon Bleu


Le Cordon Bleu began as a single school in Paris and has evolved into a worldwide training institution with eight official campuses and 29 affiliate programs. Roughly 20,000 students are enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu programs each year. Students at the Paris campus can earn diplomas in Culinary Arts or Pastry. For about $50,000, they take classes in both disciplines and work toward a Grand Diplome. One of the best schools that offers Le Cordon Bleu program outside of its eight main campuses is the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco.

History: Le Cordon Bleu, meaning "blue ribbon," derives its name from the symbol of L'Ordre du Saint-Esprit, an order of nobles created by King Henry III in the 16th century that regularly enjoyed magnificent feasts. The culinary arts school was founded in Paris in 1895 by Marthe Distel, a journalist and publisher of a cooking magazine. In 1896, the first cooking demonstration ever to be held on an electric stove was staged at Le Cordon Bleu in an effort to promote Distel's magazine and his new school. The publicity stunt worked, and Le Cordon Bleu established a reputation as one of the premier culinary arts programs in the world.

Tasty Tidbit: For an insider's account of life as a student at Le Cordon Bleu, check out Kathleen Flinn's memoir of her experience at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry. The memoir includes recipes, as well as anecdotes about Flinn's competitive classmates.

Famous Alum: Cooking icon Julia Child, who helped popularize French cuisine in the United States after graduating from Le Cordon Bleu and published best-selling cookbooks until her death in 2004, was the first woman inducted into the Culinary Institute Hall of Fame.

3. New England Culinary Institute

new-england.jpgThe New England Culinary Institute, which has two campuses in Vermont, operates under the mantra that students should "learn it by living it." To that end, students have the opportunity to work in a for-profit restaurant as part of their curriculum at NECI, where the student-to-instructor ratio is 10:1. NECI has a total enrollment of more than 500 full-time students, 76 percent of whom are 18 to 25 years old, and offers degrees in Culinary Arts, Baking and Pastry Arts, and Hospitality and Restaurant Management.

History: NECI was founded in 1980 by Fran Voigt and John Dranow, who made the learn-by-doing model the hallmark of the NECI education. When it opened, NECI was one of the first culinary arts schools to require physical education credits for graduation. "You know the saying, "˜Never trust a skinny cook?'" Dranow asked a New York Times reporter in 1987. "We decided to turn that saying on its head." The school offered free memberships to a nearby health club and students held quadrathalons, which involved running, biking, cooking, and foodservice.

Tasty Tidbit: Laureen Gauthier, the Director of Curriculum & Education at NECI, baked a 6-foot-long chocolate replica of the Smithsonian Castle for the Smithsonian Institution's 150th anniversary celebration in 1996.

Famous Alum: Alton Brown began his career as a cinematographer before switching paths and moving to Vermont to attend the NECI. He graduated in 1995, worked briefly in a restaurant, and started his popular cooking show, Good Eats, in 1998.

4. French Culinary Institute

fci.jpgThe French Culinary Institute boasts a world-class faculty, including award-winning French chef Jacques Pepin, and an impressive list of alumni. The roughly 600 students enrolled in the FCI's 600-hour Culinary Arts program have the opportunity to practice their skills by preparing four- and five-course meals at L'Ecole, the school's student-run restaurant in Manhattan. In addition to its full-time Culinary Arts and Baking and Pastry programs, the FCI offers specialized courses, such as the Art of International Bread Baking, and other workshops. Unlike the CIA, students don't need any culinary experience to apply. They will need $35,000 if they're admitted, however.

History: The French Culinary Institute was founded in 1984 by Dorothy Cann, who had served as director of the Apex Technical School, one of the country's largest trade schools, since 1978. Cann loved good food and believed that cooking should be taught like other trades. "The discipline that goes into learning cooking is the same as that for learning welding," Cann told the New York Times in 1985. "I don't want to put down cooking in any way because, of course, it is very much a creative profession. But at the same time it is a trade, and that's how you should learn it."

Tasty Tidbit: The Italian Culinary Academy, a sister school of the FCI, opened in 2007. Students enrolled in the 29-week program learn to prepare authentic Italian cuisine by spending 18 weeks in some of Italy's top restaurants. While students spend the other 11 weeks of the course in New York, classes are taught in Italian in keeping with the "total immersion" method.

Famous Alum: Celebrity chef Bobby Flay graduated from FCI in 1984. He opened his first restaurant, Mesa, to critical acclaim in 1991 and earned the FCI's first "Outstanding Graduate Award" in 1993. In addition to serving as an instructor at his alma mater, Flay publishes cookbooks, contributes to The CBS Early Show, and stars in multiple shows on the Food Network.

5. Kendall College

kendall.jpgWhile it doesn't have quite the same name recognition as some of the other schools on this list, Kendall College is respected among people in the food industry. Nearly 600 students are enrolled in the downtown Chicago school's Culinary Arts program. Students refine their skills during a required three-month internship and the school's Culinary Advisory Board, made up predominantly of foodservice professionals in the Chicago area, helps instructors develop the curriculum and students find jobs after graduation. Kendall College features a student-run restaurant called The Dining Room.

History: Kendall College was founded in 1934 by two Scandinavian Methodist seminaries, who hoped to provide students with the tools they would need to become competent professionals. Those tools didn't include knives and spoons until 1985, when the Kendall College School of Culinary Arts first opened its kitchen doors to students. At first, the school offered an Associate Degree in Applied Sciences, but has since added a Bachelor of Arts in Culinary Arts and other degrees that are accredited by the American Culinary Federation. Kendall College was located in Evanston, Ill., from its founding until 2004. The campus is now on the Chicago River and provides students easy access to Chicago's many restaurants.

Tasty Tidbit: Kendall College is devoted to going green and became the first culinary-training program to receive the Green Award from the Foodservice Consultants Society International in 2007. The school created an educational video with tips on how to make foodservice operations more eco-friendly in 2008.

Famous Alum: Shawn McClain, a 1990 graduate, is the executive chef and partner of Spring, Green Zebra, and Custom House, three of the most popular restaurants in Chicago. McClain was a 2006 James Beard Award Winner as the best chef in the Midwest.

6. Tante Marie's Cooking School

tante.jpgNot to be confused with the Tante Marie School of Cookery in England that was recently purchased by Gordon Ramsay, Tante Marie's Cooking School is a small, private school in San Francisco that offers short-term courses in culinary and pastry arts. In addition to professional courses, the well respected school also offers various workshops for the more casual chef. Tante Marie's facility has two kitchens, one of which can be converted into a demonstration kitchen that seats up to 35 students. Enrollment for the professional, 22-week Culinary Arts course is limited to 16 students; tuition is $19,500.

History: Tante Marie's was founded by Mary Risley in 1979. Risley, who taught herself to cook by reading Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, worked in the investment business for 8 years before deciding that her true passion was cooking, eating, and writing. When she realized her dream and opened Tante Marie's, it was one of the first culinary schools in the county to offer all-day, year-round classes. The school has produced more than 3,000 graduates in the 30 years since. Risley is the founder of Food Runners, a nonprofit that delivers 10 tons of donated restaurant leftovers to soup kitchens, shelters, and needy residents throughout San Francisco each week.

Tasty Tidbit: The school offers "Party Classes" every Friday and Saturday. For $150 a person, a group of 20-30 friends or coworkers can use Tante Marie's kitchen to cook a three-course meal under the guidance of the school's chefs.

Famous Alum: Tori Ritchie, a cookbook author and regular contributor to Bon Appétit, produces 5-minute cooking segments for The CBS Early Show. She also teaches cooking and food writing at Tante Marie's and is a volunteer with Food Runners.

7. Johnson and Wales University

johnson-wales.jpgJohnson and Wales is a private school with more than 16,000 students enrolled in programs at its campuses in Denver, Miami, Charlotte, and Providence, R.I. For nearly a century, the school has been dedicated to producing employment-ready graduates in a number of fields through two- and four-year programs. Students in the Culinary Arts program receive hands-on training in university-owned or affiliated commercial facilities, such as a Radisson hotel and the Johnson & Wales Inn near the Providence campus.

History: Known as "America's Career University," Johnson and Wales was founded as a business school in 1914. A culinary arts curriculum wasn't offered at JWU until 1973, but the program quickly took off from there. In 1992, Johnson and Wales opened its Miami campus and formally established the College of Culinary Arts. The Denver campus opened in 2000, while the Charlotte campus opened in 2004.

Tasty Tidbit: The Center for Culinary Excellence, an 82,000-square foot facility with nine hot kitchens, seven pastry and chocolate labs, and a slew of features, is scheduled to open at Johnson and Wales' Providence campus this fall.

Famous Alum: Food Network regular Emeril Lagasse turned down a full scholarship at the New England Conservatory of Music to attend Johnson and Wales. He graduated in 1978 and was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1990, the same year that Esquire named Emeril's Restaurant "Restaurant of the Year." Lagasse has authored 12 cookbooks and is the chef/proprietor of 10 restaurants.

Michael Campanella/Getty Images
10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
Michael Campanella/Getty Images
Michael Campanella/Getty Images

Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.


"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.


"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles


"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole


"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles



"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole


"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles


"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."


A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios

"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole

How Apple's '1984' Super Bowl Ad Was Almost Canceled

More than 30 years ago, Apple defined the Super Bowl commercial as a cultural phenomenon. Prior to Super Bowl XVIII, nobody watched the game "just for the commercials"—but one epic TV spot, directed by sci-fi legend Ridley Scott, changed all that. Read on for the inside story of the commercial that rocked the world of advertising, even though Apple's Board of Directors didn't want to run it at all.


If you haven't seen it, here's a fuzzy YouTube version:

"WHY 1984 WON'T BE LIKE 1984"

The tagline "Why 1984 Won't Be Like '1984'" references George Orwell's 1949 novel 1984, which envisioned a dystopian future, controlled by a televised "Big Brother." The tagline was written by Brent Thomas and Steve Hayden of the ad firm Chiat\Day in 1982, and the pair tried to sell it to various companies (including Apple, for the Apple II computer) but were turned down repeatedly. When Steve Jobs heard the pitch in 1983, he was sold—he saw the Macintosh as a "revolutionary" product, and wanted advertising to match. Jobs saw IBM as Big Brother, and wanted to position Apple as the world's last chance to escape IBM's domination of the personal computer industry. The Mac was scheduled to launch in late January of 1984, a week after the Super Bowl. IBM already held the nickname "Big Blue," so the parallels, at least to Jobs, were too delicious to miss.

Thomas and Hayden wrote up the story of the ad: we see a world of mind-controlled, shuffling men all in gray, staring at a video screen showing the face of Big Brother droning on about "information purification directives." A lone woman clad in vibrant red shorts and a white tank-top (bearing a Mac logo) runs from riot police, dashing up an aisle towards Big Brother. Just before being snatched by the police, she flings a sledgehammer at Big Brother's screen, smashing him just after he intones "We shall prevail!" Big Brother's destruction frees the minds of the throng, who quite literally see the light, flooding their faces now that the screen is gone. A mere eight seconds before the one-minute ad concludes, a narrator briefly mentions the word "Macintosh," in a restatement of that original tagline: "On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984.'" An Apple logo is shown, and then we're out—back to the game.

In 1983, in a presentation about the Mac, Jobs introduced the ad to a cheering audience of Apple employees:

"... It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers, initially welcoming IBM with open arms, now fear an IBM-dominated and -controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom. IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?"

After seeing the ad for the first time, the Apple audience totally freaked out (jump to about the 5-minute mark to witness the riotous cheering).


Chiat\Day hired Ridley Scott, whose 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner had the dystopian tone they were looking for (and Alien wasn't so bad either). Scott filmed the ad in London, using actual skinheads playing the mute bald men—they were paid $125 a day to sit and stare at Big Brother; those who still had hair were paid to shave their heads for the shoot. Anya Major, a discus thrower and actress, was cast as the woman with the sledgehammer largely because she was actually capable of wielding the thing.

Mac programmer Andy Hertzfeld wrote an Apple II program "to flash impressive looking numbers and graphs on [Big Brother's] screen," but it's unclear whether his program was used for the final film. The ad cost a shocking $900,000 to film, plus Apple booked two premium slots during the Super Bowl to air it—carrying an airtime cost of more than $1 million.


Although Jobs and his marketing team (plus the assembled throng at his 1983 internal presentation) loved the ad, Apple's Board of Directors hated it. After seeing the ad for the first time, board member Mike Markkula suggested that Chiat\Day be fired, and the remainder of the board were similarly unimpressed. Then-CEO John Sculley recalled the reaction after the ad was screened for the group: "The others just looked at each other, dazed expressions on their faces ... Most of them felt it was the worst commercial they had ever seen. Not a single outside board member liked it." Sculley instructed Chiat\Day to sell off the Super Bowl airtime they had purchased, but Chiat\Day principal Jay Chiat quietly resisted. Chiat had purchased two slots—a 60-second slot in the third quarter to show the full ad, plus a 30-second slot later on to repeat an edited-down version. Chiat sold only the 30-second slot and claimed it was too late to sell the longer one. By disobeying his client's instructions, Chiat cemented Apple's place in advertising history.

When Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak heard that the ad was in trouble, he offered to pony up half the airtime costs himself, saying, "I asked how much it was going to cost, and [Steve Jobs] told me $800,000. I said, 'Well, I'll pay half of it if you will.' I figured it was a problem with the company justifying the expenditure. I thought an ad that was so great a piece of science fiction should have its chance to be seen."

But Woz didn't have to shell out the money; the executive team finally decided to run a 100-day advertising extravaganza for the Mac's launch, starting with the Super Bowl ad—after all, they had already paid to shoot it and were stuck with the airtime.

1984 - Big Brother


When the ad aired, controversy erupted—viewers either loved or hated the ad, and it spurred a wave of media coverage that involved news shows replaying the ad as part of covering it, leading to estimates of an additional $5 million in "free" airtime for the ad. All three national networks, plus countless local markets, ran news stories about the ad. "1984" become a cultural event, and served as a blueprint for future Apple product launches. The marketing logic was brilliantly simple: create an ad campaign that sparked controversy (for example, by insinuating that IBM was like Big Brother), and the media will cover your launch for free, amplifying the message.

The full ad famously ran once during the Super Bowl XVIII (on January 22, 1984), but it also ran the month prior—on December 31, 1983, TV station operator Tom Frank ran the ad on KMVT at the last possible time slot before midnight, in order to qualify for 1983's advertising awards.* (Any awards the ad won would mean more media coverage.) Apple paid to screen the ad in movie theaters before movie trailers, further heightening anticipation for the Mac launch. In addition to all that, the 30-second version was aired across the country after its debut on the Super Bowl.

Chiat\Day adman Steve Hayden recalled: "We ran a 30- second version of '1984' in the top 10 U.S. markets, plus, in an admittedly childish move, in an 11th market—Boca Raton, Florida, headquarters for IBM's PC division." Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld ended his remembrance of the ad by saying:

"A week after the Macintosh launch, Apple held its January board meeting. The Macintosh executive staff was invited to attend, not knowing what to expect. When the Mac people entered the room, everyone on the board rose and gave them a standing ovation, acknowledging that they were wrong about the commercial and congratulating the team for pulling off a fantastic launch.

Chiat\Day wanted the commercial to qualify for upcoming advertising awards, so they ran it once at 1 AM at a small television station in Twin Falls, Idaho, KMVT, on December 15, 1983 [incorrect; see below for an update on this -ed]. And sure enough it won just about every possible award, including best commercial of the decade. Twenty years later it's considered one of the most memorable television commercials ever made."


A year later, Apple again employed Chiat\Day to make a blockbuster ad for their Macintosh Office product line, which was basically a file server, networking gear, and a laser printer. Directed by Ridley Scott's brother Tony, the new ad was called "Lemmings," and featured blindfolded businesspeople whistling an out-of-tune version of Snow White's "Heigh-Ho" as they followed each other off a cliff (referencing the myth of lemming suicide).

Jobs and Sculley didn't like the ad, but Chiat\Day convinced them to run it, pointing out that the board hadn't liked the last ad either. But unlike the rousing, empowering message of the "1984" ad, "Lemmings" directly insulted business customers who had already bought IBM computers. It was also weirdly boring—when it was aired at the Super Bowl (with Jobs and Sculley in attendance), nobody really reacted. The ad was a flop, and Apple even proposed running a printed apology in The Wall Street Journal. Jay Chiat shot back, saying that if Apple apologized, Chiat would buy an ad on the next page, apologizing for the apology. It was a mess:


In 2004, the ad was updated for the launch of the iPod. The only change was that the woman with the hammer was now listening to an iPod, which remained clipped to her belt as she ran. You can watch that version too:


Chiat\Day adman Lee Clow gave an interview about the ad, covering some of this material.

Check out Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld's excellent first-person account of the ad. A similar account (but with more from Jobs's point of view) can found in the Steve Jobs biography, and an even more in-depth account is in The Mac Bathroom Reader. The Mac Bathroom Reader is out of print; you can read an excerpt online, including QuickTime movies of the two versions of the ad, plus a behind-the-scenes video. Finally, you might enjoy this 2004 USA Today article about the ad, pointing out that ads for other computers (including Atari, Radio Shack, and IBM's new PCjr) also ran during that Super Bowl.

* = A Note on the Airing in 1983

Update: Thanks to Tom Frank for writing in to correct my earlier mis-statement about the first air date of this commercial. As you can see in his comment below, Hertzfeld's comments above (and the dates cited in other accounts I've seen) are incorrect. Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Frank, in which we discuss what it was like running both "1984" and "Lemmings" before they were on the Super Bowl!

Update 2: You can read the story behind this post in Chris's book The Blogger Abides.

This post originally appeared in 2012.


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