Miami – Le Cordon Bleu

A lot of people wonder about why there are Le Cordon Bleu (LCB) schools in the U.S. Most people are surprised to find that in addition to the original flagship school in Paris, there are more than 27 Le Cordon Bleu schools in 15 countries, with more coming online all the time. (A major new outpost is underway in New Zealand.) I investigated this as part of the research for The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry. Some of the schools are owned outright but most are set up via complex licensing agreements. In the U.S., the schools are managed by Career Education Corporation, an Illinois-based publicly traded firm that is the nation’s leader in operating for-profit on-campus education programs. (CEC has come under some scrutiny from the press and the SEC, according to this article on Wikipedia and other sources.)

Right now, CEC manages 18 schools under the Le Cordon Bleu moniker, most of them in schools that already had a culinary arts program, but adopted the moniker when they entered into a marketing/licensing agreement with Le Cordon Bleu. It is now now possible to become a “Cordon Bleu-trained chef” all over the place, and about 22,000 people graduate from a Cordon Bleu-named school each year, according to the Paris school.

In October, as part of my book tour, I was invited by the Miami outpost of LCB and learned more about the U.S. operations. My key contact there was an affable chef who gave me a tour of their operation. It’s a huge school, with the kind of gleaming kitchens with masses of stainless steel that I expected from the Paris school. This school has about 800 to 900 students going through its coursework at any time; the Paris school has about 200. One of the chefs used to be a health inspector, so the school’s focus on sanitation is intense. (He even stages mock health inspections in the kitchens…) They have an entire fleet of cubicles in which people labor to admit students and then help them get jobs after they graduate. The program is longer, and requires an externship, but still focuses on core principles of classic training, driven by recipes that teach technique.

I was impressed. Quite possibly the thing that drives any culinary school most is the passion of the teachers, and they had that in spades… just like in Paris

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Filed under book tour tales, Le Cordon Bleu

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