First Ever Online Culinary Program Is Launched

Escoffier is making culinary school more accessible than ever and wants to give you a $1,000 scholarship

Vocational school is a very specific path that students choose to take; it’s a gateway to a lifelong career that they’ve dreamed about and are passionate about, but oftentimes money, time, and location can stand in the way. Yesterday, Triumph Higher Education Group and the Escoffier School of Culinary Arts made vocational school possible for millions by launching the first ever online culinary school.

The school, which will be comprised of a comprehensive curriculum of cooking foundations and techniques, is meant to use the accessibility and affordability of the Web to make the dream of a culinary education a reality. For $5,000, students will be offered a detailed program covering the four fundamental aspects of cooking through the use of interactive classes, a professional kit of essential cooking tools, and a personal culinary mentor chosen from a team of accomplished chefs. 

Jack Larson, Escoffier online co-founder and executive chairman at Triumph, believes that the online program is transforming the vocational school space. "This is truly a revolution in the world of culinary education because we’re doing so much more than simply bringing a great program online," he says. "We’re using the Internet to completely change the definition of a culinary education and who can get it. Our program won’t just level the playing field; it will give our graduates a real competitive edge."

Some might be skeptical about an online culinary education. Don’t you need to watch how the chef chiffonades the basil? Smell the aroma of a roux when it’s just about ready? De-bone an actual duck? There can be many obstacles that stand in the way of learning the basics of culinary skills online, but Larson and the team behind Escoffier believe they’ve done their dirty work and have a product that will succeed. Through the efforts of market research, Larson and his team learned that many chefs in the industry would, in fact, hire a student that took online culinary classes. They can either cook or they can’t, and that will all be revealed when applying for a job, whether or not they actually went to a "brick and mortar" school, as Larson likes to call it, or took online courses.

Larson elaborates, "We’re teaching people the fundamentals — no one comes out of a traditional school and works as a chef right off the bat. Everyone starts on the line. So whether you're getting your education on-site or online, the professional kitchen is where everyone gets that hands-on experience."

In order to overcome the skepticism, the school is offering dynamic features that many students wouldn't have access to with an on-site education. The classes offered through Escoffier Online include everything from reading, video materials, and interactive materials to live weekly sessions and content from well-respected chefs from all over the country. Along with the coursework, the online program will offer an enormous interactive recipe database that allows students to change serving sizes, read material on the techniques, and watch videos demonstrating how to make the recipe. Students have access to the coursework and materials for two years, which can either translate into a two-year program, or just having a reference point once they’ve finished. It’s a far cry from a sauce-stained notebook scribbled with notes and recipes that many culinary school students graduate with today.

What the founders are most proud of is the social dimension of the school, which they hope will encourage a sense of peer-based learning. Larson believes that many students are often hesitant to turn to their teachers to ask questions and are more likely to turn to fellow students to ask a question about a technique or the coursework. The social networking part of the online school will allow students to interact with each other more than ever before through the sharing of photos, videos, and dishes. They’ll have access to their mentors as well, but Larson and his team are hoping that this sort of peer-to-peer communication will create some retention with the program.

Larson has been working in the vocational education space since 1974. After bringing the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu cooking schools to the United States, he turned his attention to online education and has devoted himself to the mission for the past eight years. The inspiration behind the program is easy for Larson: Auguste Escoffier. "He truly was an innovator, and this vision to revolutionize culinary education, as he did in the profession generations ago, shares the same spirit," he explains. As his first online culinary venture, Escoffier Online is an ambitious one, but Larson believes he’s giving many a chance to live up to a dream that might not have been possible before.

If culinary school is your dream and an online program sounds up your alley, consider signing up with Escoffier Online. If you enroll for the program between now and July 31, you’ll receive a $1,000 scholarship by mentioning The Daily Meal in the "How Did You Hear about Us" section of the Q&A.

Anne Dolce is the Cook Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @anniecdolce