From jobless bankers to former chemical engineers, the unemployed are flocking to cooking schools in record numbers. A withering economy has given people an unexpected opportunity to pursue career dreams or hobbies seen before as unrealistic past times.
Le Cordon Bleu London cookery school, Leith’s School of Food and Wine, and Mountain Chefs School ” which trains ski chalet chefs ” have all reported a huge rise in enrollment and inquires for classes. The Institute of Culinary Education has also reported a “record-setting 20,000 inquiries for enrollment, up more than 12 percent from the previous year”
“Surging interest and growing enrollment at ICE is directly related to the current economic climate,”says Rick Smilow, president of The Institute of Culinary Education.
“People are re-pondering the importance of food in our lives,”says Mark Erickson, vice president of The Culinary Institute of America. “I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that food is a topic on the national agenda. People are thinking about the health, social and political implications food has, and it’s a wonderful time to think about a career in the food profession”
“Cooking is something I’ve always been passionate about,” says David Payne, a laid off worker from a hedge fund company. “But it seemed irresponsible to give up a several-hundred-thousand-pounds-a-year job to indulge it.” Payne enrolled in a nine-month-long diploma program which teaches cooking and pastry making at Le Cordon Bleu cookery school.
“Jack Bernowitz,” writes MSNBC’s Eve Tahmincioglu, “a 44-year-old laid-off broker from bankrupt Lehman Brothers, enrolled in New York’s Institute of Culinary Education this past November with his sights on becoming a chef.”
“For 20 years I loved going to work,”says Bernowitz. “But in the last four years, with the greed, corruption on Wall Street, the love was gone. I always loved cooking for my family and friends, even bringing food in for the people at work. Sometimes you need a tragedy to push you to do what you want to do”
But the surge in chef and cooking school enrollment is also motivated by frugality. Instead of dining out, people want to learn how to prepare meals at home – for a fraction of the price – that they previously enjoyed at restaurants. Stacy Sloan, director of culinary education at Holiday Market’s Mirepoix Cooking School in Royal Oak, Michigan, anticipated sales for her cooking classes would decrease, but the opposite happened. “I was awestruck at the people who were signing up. My classes are full and it’s not all from Christmas gifts. Rather, it’s from people signing up for themselves.. [and] going back to the kitchen to learn how to make those foods they are used to eating out”
“According to food and lifestyle experts, home cooking is expected to be a hot trend in the food world this year,”writes Susan Selasky for Hattiesburg American. “And the reason is the one most of us would expect: Cooking at home saves money”
Selasky points out how Chef Bonnie Fishman, owner of Bonnie’s Kitchen and Catering in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, is offering courses that include a budget-buster meal class with a focus on pinching pennies.
Even you’re not interested in becoming the next “Top Chef”or your family’s new budget gourmet, there are several employment opportunities worth considering in the food world. A career in nutrition ” while requiring a 4-year bachelor’s degree ” may open many employment doors in hospitals, nursing homes, or schools.
The food safety sector is also a consideration with all the news headlines regarding contaminated food and a “new administration that promises to beef up the regulatory environment”.
“Gonzalo Checa,” writes Tahmincioglu, “who worked for Kimberly-Clark in its business-to-business division, decided to leave his career behind..and join Steritech Group, Inc., in Chester Springs, Pa.
“I thought there were opportunities in food safety, and I also wanted to work for a smaller company.”Checa is now president of the food safety division of Steritech Group.