Traditional culinary schools have evolved considerably since the 1950’s and 60’s. At that time, gourmet cooking was still based primarily on centuries of tradition firmly rooted in the European cooking tradition. Although there were culinary schools in the United States at that time, they were few and far between because many still felt that the world’s great chefs hailed primarily from Europe and France in particular. Times have changed considerably and the world of gourmet cooking has benefited greatly from the shift.
If you still remember Julia Child’s television series that introduced good cooking to the general public, you may also remember the cooking style she demonstrated which was traditional, satisfying and heavy foods. There were rich sauces and traditional French cuisine that was wonderful, however there was little variety in terms of regional dishes. French, Italian and Spanish dishes were often demonstrated, but Asian and American ethnic cuisines weren’t taught.
It isn’t surprising, like most chefs at that time, Julia Child was traditionally trained in the French tradition. The relatively small number of culinary schools in the United States at mid-century were all based on a traditional French pattern. Over the years, however, the demand for creative dishes and ethnic cuisines grew and culinary institutes began to respond. The finest schools continue to cover the basic and advanced techniques of European cooking, but now also give students in-depth understanding of regional cooking techniques, seasonings and styles.
In the last three decades, ethnic and regional food specialties have gained huge popularity. Where these foods were once found primarily in ethnic neighborhoods, they have now gone mainstream and been elevated to fine cuisine due to their increased popularity and the interest of great chefs around the globe. Culinary schools now teach students everything from unusual cooking methods to sausage making and everything in between.
In an increasingly small world where so many people travel to different cultures and try new foods, it isn’t surprising that the interest in regional and world cuisine has taken off. When travelers return home, they hope to find the delicious foods they’ve learned to love at home as well, and chefs are responding to this trend.
Today’s culinary schools cover a wide variety of food traditions, including French, Spanish, Italian, Asian, Polynesian, Creole and Cajun, as well as many sub-categories of each of these international cuisines. “Fusion” foods are also increasingly popular. Fusion is the combination of two distinct types of cuisine in order to create unique new dishes. Fusion restaurants are now some of the most popular in the country because of their skillful blending of many international traditions that produce flavorful new dishes to tempt diners.
If you enjoy experimenting in the kitchen and trying new ways to prepare traditional foods, culinary school may be the perfect career choice for you. Be sure to ask each school you are considering what kinds of cuisines will be taught. The best culinary schools have evolved and continue to do so in order to tempt the public’s increasingly discriminating and worldly palate.