David Martin, 36, of Tucson chucked his landscaping business and took out a student loan to pursue his passion for cooking. But after a year at Scottsdale Culinary Institute in the world-famous Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts program, Martin realized he wanted to run hotel kitchens, not just work in them.
He enrolled in the cooking school’s year-old Le Cordon Bleu Hospitality & Restaurant Management Bachelor of Arts program.
The cooking school’s bachelor’s and a shorter associate program in hospitality and restaurant management have been approved by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology.
The curriculum has all the general courses required for a typical university degree — math, social studies, science, English. But some have a topical twist, said Jon Alberts, Scottsdale Culinary Institute president.
Students take Food History rather than Western Civilization, Nutrition instead of Biology 101.
Exercises in the college math classes emphasize such useful applications as recipe measurement conversions, Alberts said. And other general knowledge courses such as ethics, environmental science and even social psychology are focused on practical applications for future hotel or restaurant general managers, he said.
Core courses include basics such as Wine Studies I and II, Hotel & Lodging Management I and II, Catering and Event Management, Food Culture & Ethnic Identity, Hospitality Business Law, International Travel & Tourism and, of course, Le Cordon Bleu Cuisine I and II.
Bachelor’s students need 120 credit hours to graduate, including an internship in a hotel or restaurant. Martin is already working as a line cook at The Phoenician resort in Phoenix.
Like local community colleges and Arizona State University, the program has students who enroll right out of high school and others, like Martin, returning to school for a career change. Unlike typical colleges, this school has lots more of the older students than the younger ones, Alberts said.
Thirty-eight students are enrolled in the hospitality and restaurant management bachelor’s degree program. Alberts expects to have 60 in classes by January. Another 66 are enrolled in the 2-year-old associate program, with an expected 80 by January, he said.
The school runs back-to-back classes year round, so a bachelor’s degree takes about 2 1/2 years to complete, and the associate program about 18 months, Alberts said.
Unlike typical college students who come to class in grunge wear, Scottsdale Culinary Institute students have to wear a uniform. The culinary arts students wear chefly duds. Hospitality and restaurant management students don white shirts and Le Cordon Bleu ties.
Alberts said it’s as much a part of the school’s practical education as the classroom work.
“We stress professionalism, ” Alberts said. “If you’re an employee in this industry, you are on stage all the time.”
The school is much pricier than the competition. Tuition for the bachelor’s program is $59,500. Tuition for four years at ASU — or Northern Arizona University, which has a hotel management degree program — is less than $19,000.
After 20 years as a cooking school — eight since the Le Cordon Bleu affiliation — Scottsdale Culinary Institute has earned a worldwide reputation for furnishing gourmet kitchens with new talent. Now the school hopes to gain the same reputation with resorts.
Le Cordon Bleu first introduced its hotel management program in Australia, Alberts said. The Scottsdale school took the Le Cordon Bleu curriculum and added the general courses required for a U.S. university degree.
Bringing the program to Scottsdale just made sense, he said. “We’re located in the heart of the resort market,” Alberts said.
The hospitality bachelor’s program is so new in Scottsdale that it hasn’t graduated any students yet, but local hoteliers say it is a boon for the business.
“We have such world-class resorts in the Valley dependent on having quality talent,” said Richard Bibee, general manager at the Renaissance Scottsdale Resort. “There is an incredible need here.” Bibee said interns can help hoteliers beef up staff during the winter tourist season, and graduates who stick around can become the next wave of managers.