New culinary building means new opportunity for students
Aaron Miller, Copy editor
May 8, 2012
Filed under Opinions
Four years ago this September, I walked into the Madison College Culinary Department. Things were different back then: our logos were more abstract, the dining room did not have video feeds to the kitchen, and dreams of a new Culinary Department were far away. Cut to a few weeks ago when years of planning came to fruition, and the district board approved an $8 million plan to move the Culinary Department to a new purpose-built development at Madison College’s downtown campus.
My opinion of this expansion is expectantly biased. I graduated from the Culinary Program last May and was a member of their competition team for two years. I learned invaluable information from some of the greatest instructors of my life. The quality of the instruction is top-notch, despite the low tuition costs. After talking to many people that have attended private schools, I firmly believe that the Madison College Culinary program is better than any private school education, which could cost nearly five times as much.
An Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts from Madison College cost me around $6,000. The same degree at Le Cordon Bleu would be around $38,000. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, the average entry-level cook made only $20,000 in 2010. Choosing a technical school is a no-brainer. You hear about people going to medical school for eight years and coming out with thousands of dollars worth of debt, but that’s not the case with a two-year culinary school degree.
So I’ve explained my opinion on the culinary school, but what do I think about the expansion? I am 100 percent for it. Madison has an incredible restaurant scene for its size, and Madison College Culinary has had a part in that. At an event earlier this year to celebrate the college’s centennial, nearly a dozen different restaurants – all with ties to Madison College – came to serve food at the event. People associated with the culinary department such as Nick Johnson, formerly of 43 North (a well-reputed local restaurant), Robert Bishop of Blowin’ Smoke Catering, and Joe Gaglio of Gotham Bagels (who is also a culinary instructor).
If you have eaten at any of Madison’s great local restaurants, chances are you have eaten food prepared by someone that has gone through the Madison College Culinary School. Moving the Culinary School downtown will make integrating the school and the community even easier.
There are other reasons why the expansion of the school is a good idea. Recently the Madison College Culinary team went to the American Culinary Federation Central Region Conference. Nearly 600 chefs came to Detroit to network, attend seminars, and compete. A larger cooking school with more extensive facilities would greatly enhance the chances of Madison College being able to host to this event. Our proximity to Chicago would most likely mean that over 1000 chefs would attend. Not only is that recognition amazing for our restaurant scene, but it would also equate to millions of dollars in revenue for the downtown area.
The expansion would put Madison on the map as a culinary destination. Let’s score some Michelin stars for our great city! When culinary author and speaker Anthony Bourdain came to Madison a year or so ago, he ate at the airport. That tells me that Madison is not given enough credit for being the culinary hotspot that it is.
So let’s build a better tomorrow, starting with affordable quality training for the people who make our food.