Education about Food

views updated


EDUCATION ABOUT FOOD. Traditionally, chefs' proprietary interest in their culinary knowledge has hindered their efforts to educate successors. Before the late eighteenth century, culinary education meant apprenticeship in privateor royalkitchens. To some extent, it still does mean that, although modern kitchens are more commonly commercial. Today, culinary education other than apprenticeship occurs in two primary forms: formal and independent, each subdivided into professional and domestic training.

Formal Study

In the late eighteenth century, chefs began to seek the respect accorded to other professionals. Recognizing that formal education is required for professional status, E. Kidder opened the first school for chefs in England in 1781. It was not until 1874, however, that the prestigious London Cookery School emerged. The pioneer French culinary school, École Professionnelle de Cuisine et des Sciences Alimentaires, debuted seventeen years later, but was short-lived (18911892). Le Cordon Bleu (1895), the first truly successful professional cooking school, became the prototype for most subsequent culinary programs.

Outside the United States, culinary schools generally issue certificates, not degrees. Since the end of World War II, many American chefs have been educated in collegiate culinary programs, receiving degrees from Cornell's School of Hotel Administration (1922), The Culinary Institute of America (1946), Johnson & Wales University (1973), or dozens of other colleges.

Cooking schools for domestic (primarily female) cooks began earlier than those for professionals. The first American cooking school, Mrs. Goodfellow's, opened in Philadelphia around 1820. Its anonymous textbook Cookery As It Should Be (1853) was reprinted in 1865 as Mrs. Goodfellow's Cookery As It Should Be.

The Boston Cooking School (1878) was the most influential of the early cooking schools, resulting in the publication of Mrs. Lincoln's Boston Cook Book: What To Do and What Not To Do in Cooking in 1884. Fanny Farmer's The Original Boston Cooking-School Kitchen Cook Book (1896) applied scientific structure and principles in the home kitchenforeshadowing Auguste Escoffier's Le Guide Culinaire (1903), which attempted to do the same for the professional kitchen.

Independent Study

Early professional cookbookswritten by and for mensuch as Apicius's De Re Coquinaria (first century) or the Viandier of Taillevent (fourteenth century) were simply collections of recipes. They did not attempt to teach technique because they were intended for professional cooks whopresumablyunderstood their vague, missing, or abbreviated instructions. Charles Carter's cookbook, The Complete Practical Cook: Or, A New System of the Whole Art and Mystery of Cookery (1730), was typical of early cookbooks in that it was written for the management of wealthy households, but it consciously strove to educate the reader in the "most useful and noble Mysteries of their Art."

Most early home cookbooks, such as Torquatto Tasso's The Householders Philosophie (1588), were intended for women. They featured cooking instruction as just one of the duties comprising home economics or "domestic science." Home economics was envisionedespecially in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuriesas a way to modernizeand professionalizewomen's household work with "scientific" respectability. The Boston Cooking-School's textbook (1887) was such a treatise on "domestic science."

The earliest professional magazines for chefs and bakersL'Art Culinaire (not the L'Art Culinaire available today), Le Progrès des Cuisiniers, L'Étoile and Le Progrès Gastronomique first appeared in the 1880s. Today, there are hundreds of trade magazines for food professionals in almost every imaginable language. Even more food magazines are targeted at home cooks, and almost every major newspaper carries at least a columnand, more often, an entire sectiondevoted to food preparation.

Televised cooking lessons have grown in popularity and sophistication since Julia Child's The French Chef (1963). An entire network is now devoted to food programmingalthough it is intended largely for amateur cooks. The Culinary Institute of America and the California Culinary Academy (1977), however, produce series for public television that teach professional techniques for home use.

The Internet is a major supplier of culinary information for both home and professional cooks, offering recipes, reviews (of books and restaurants), nutritional data, links with TV cooking shows, and dozens of specialized culinary discussion groups.

Food Studies

Aside from cooking instruction, "Food Studies" is beginning to be recognized as a legitimate scholarly subject in its own right. Today, one can earn a master's degree in gastronomy at Boston University or the University of Adelaide, or a doctorate in Food Studies and Management from New York University.

Professionals in food science and nutrition have long had academic societies, but more recently scholars working in food studies have formed such groups. The Oxford Symposia on Food and Cookery (1981) provide opportunities for scholars from diverse backgrounds to share their research. The Association for the Study of Food and Society (1986) and the Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society (1987) promote research and scholarship on food-related issues, drawing on disciplines as diverse as anthropology, sociology, geography, literature, nutrition, and history.

Excellent culinary librariesincluding the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America (Radcliffe College); the James Beard Foundation Archive and Library (New York); the Conrad N. Hilton Library (Culinary Institute of America); Culinary Archives & Museum (Johnson & Wales University); Foundation of Chinese Dietary Culture (Taipei); Foundation B. IN. G. (Bibliothèque Internationale de Gastronomie, Italy); and Bibliothèque Municipale de Beziers, Bibliothèque Municipale de Dijon, and G. Sender (France)inform food scholars.

The American Institute of Food & Wine (1981) and the James Beard Foundation (1985) spread awareness of gastronomic excellence through education, publications, scholarships, and events. Oldways Preservation & Exchange Trust (1988) and Italy's Arcigola Slowfood (1986) are preserving the knowledge and practice of traditional foodways.

Several societies of professional culinary educators have been organized to enhance respect for chefs. The American Culinary Federation (1929) awards the culinary equivalent of a doctoral degreeCertified Master Chef (CMC)and accredits over one hundred American culinary education programs. Similar groups include the Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education (1946) and the International Association of Culinary Professionals (1990).

Les Dames d'Escoffier (1976) and Women Chefs and Restaurateurs (1993) were formed specifically to advance the professional status of women in the food service industry, successfully doing for professional female culinarians what the domestic science movement attempted to do for home cooks.

See also Beard, James; Child, Julia; Cookbooks; Escoffier, Georges-Auguste; Food Studies; Gastronomy; Goodfellow, Elizabeth; Taillevent.


Allen, Gary. The Resource Guide for Food Writers. New York and London: Routledge, 1999.

Carter, Charles. The Complete Practical Cook: Or, a New System of the Whole Art and Mystery of Cookery. London: Prospect Books, 1984 (facsimile of the 1730 edition).

Davidson, Alan. The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Escoffier, Auguste. Le Guide Culinaire. Translated by H. L. Cracknell and R. J. Kaufmann. New York: Wiley, 1997.

Farmer, Fannie Merritt. The Original Boston Cooking-School Cook Book. New York: H. L. Levin Associates, 1896 (facsimile: New York: Crown, 1973).

Goodfellow, Mrs. Cookery As It Should Be. Philadelphia: T. B. Peterson, 1865.

Lincoln, Mary J. Mrs. Lincoln's Boston Cook Book: What to Do and What Not to Do in Cooking. Revised edition. Boston: Little, Brown, 1918.

Mennell, Stephen. All Manners of Food: Eating and Taste in England and France from the Middle Ages to the Present. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985.

Ruhlman, Michael. The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America. New York: Henry Holt, 1997.

Sculley, D. Eleanor, and Terence Sculley. Early French Cookery: Sources, History, Original Recipes and Modern Adaptations. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995.

Shapiro, Laura. Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1995.

Trubek, Amy B. Haute Cuisine: How the French Invented the Culinary Profession. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000.

Gary Allen

About this article

Education about Food

Updated About content Print Article