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Business training for chefs is on the menu

November 20, 2014

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Photo courtesy of the CIA.

Restaurants are notoriously unsuccessful businesses. Two-thirds don’t make it to three years, and many cafes and bistros find that profit margins are notoriously thin. But on the flip side, successful chefs have become business moguls in their own rights. Think about people such as Emeril Lagasse, Nobu Matsuhisa and John Besh, all masters of restaurant empires.

Now, the Culinary Institute of America wants to train its students to rank with the success stories, not the failures. It is launching a one-year business certificate as well as online courses aimed at turning food professionals into entrepreneurs.

The courses at the Food Business School are set to begin in spring 2015. Here is the school’s mission, according to its website:

The Food Business School will enable and empower entrepreneurial leaders to design, deliver and lead transformative innovations that address the world’s most pressing food challenges — and its greatest business opportunities.

The faculty is set to include leading business school professors as well as food industry professionals. The CIA says students will “develop the skills, mindset and network needed to transform their ideas into successful enterprises, from artisanal to industrial. With a focus on practice and experience, rather than theory, the school prepares students with the array of tools, plans and resources they need to succeed.”

Although the CIA’s main campus is in Hyde Park, NY, the Food Business School will be based in the San Francisco Bay area. One intriguing aspect of the new enterprise is its online tasting program. CIA is describing these as short-form classes, focusing on the global food industry.

There’s an enormous potential market for this certificate.  According to the National Restaurant Association, restaurant sales reached a record high in October.  According to preliminary figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, eating and drinking place sales totaled $48.6 billion on a seasonally-adjusted basis in October, which represented an increase of more than $400 million over September’s sales volume. And, as this data shows, dining out is definitely back.



The Food Business School

The National Restaurant Association

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Restaurant Industry


  • Micheline Maynard

    Micheline is a contributing columnist at the Washington Post concentrating on business and culture. She has written about flooding in Detroit, tainted water in Benton Harbor, nationwide shortages of restaurant staff, and vaccine hesitancy.

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