Who needs culinary school when you have Chipotle and IHOP?

IHOP, Wendy’s, Chipotle, and other chain restaurants are replacing culinary schools as the launchpad for many chefs who end up at independent restaurants.


January 9, 2020

Photo by Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images

A growing number of successful chefs at high-end restaurants are forgoing fancy foodie degrees from culinary schools… and instead cutting their teeth — and their vegetables — in the kitchens of chain restaurants like IHOP and Applebee’s.

Traditional culinary school just doesn’t cut it anymore…

And, according to a report from The New York Times, attendance at prestigious culinary institutes is declining: 800 aspiring chefs were enrolled at the New England Culinary Institute in 1999; that number had fallen to 300 in 2017.

Meanwhile, a growing number of successful chefs credit their success with experiences at restaurants like Olive Garden, California Pizza Kitchen, Applebee’s, IHOP, and Wendy’s.

So, what led to this shift?

For one thing, there’s the earnings issue: Culinary schools cost money, while chain restaurants provide aspiring chefs with income.

But, beyond that, chain restaurants also offer a number of benefits to early-career chefs:

  • Training is often more formal
  • Operations are often more efficient
  • Schedules are often more predictable
  • Corporate policies discourage abuse and harassment
  • Benefits are usually better

So, if you’re really serious about that Michelin star… ditch that fake French accent and hop on over to IHOP.

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