The International Culinary Center And Former Students Continue To Spar In Ongoing Lawsuit

Litigation against the International Culinary Center has become complicated. Last summer, the prestigious culinary school was sued by two former ICC students who claimed that the center was guilty of false advertising, allegedly stating that students could get "top-tier culinary jobs" immediately after graduation, but not following through on the promises. International Culinary Center founder Dorothy Hamilton dismissed the lawsuit as baseless, saying, "we stand behind our 30-year history of excellence in education."

Now, the ICC has issued a statement suggesting that the plaintiffs' case "has unraveled," citing a change of format in the suit. Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the case have chosen not to attempt to certify a class action lawsuit, which means that the two original plaintiffs will have to move forward with their case alone. "The two individual plaintiffs in the case are or will be facing summary judgment motions as to their individual claims," said Hamilton in a prepared statement. "If those motions are successful, International Culinary Center has indicated it fully intends to pursue plaintiffs to recover the costs ICC has incurred."

"We have spent 30 years building a reputation as an exemplary culinary school," Hamilton's statement continued. "It is clear that these baseless claims cannot diminish the experience and success of over 15,000 graduates who take great pride in their hard work and education here." According to the statement, the plaintiff's attorney has said that he will pursue a different case on behalf of other graduates, to which Hamilton says "We are absolutely confident that these cases will also be defeated."

The attorney, Ray E. Gallo, tells the story differently. "The court has made no ruling," he told The Daily Meal. "Our motion for class certification is due today [April 2], by midnight Eastern time, if we choose to file one. ICC knew from the outset, as did we, that class certification was unlikely here and that we might elect not to pursue it at all.... We have notified ICC that we anticipate proceeding on a mass rather than a class basis by filing roughly 50 individual lawsuits. ICC now claims it's a victory to be sued by 50 people instead of two, with the possibility of more to come. The truth is, they lost their motion to dismiss the two...ndividual claims on the merits months ago, and now scores more cases are being filed."

Gallo also offered his opinion on the case, telling The Daily Meal, "The evidence we have shows that ICC lied. ICC's ads said 'become a chef in six months,' 'our 15,000 alumni are chefs,' 'six months [at ICC]... is equivalent of years of a traditional apprenticeship... ,' etc. None of that is, or at any relevant time was, true. Our interviews with scores of former ICC students also confirm that ICC didn't tell prospective students that only a minority of ICC graduates ever become chefs. The law is that class actions work where everybody saw or heard the same lies. Here, different people saw and heard different lies from ICC — there wasn't just one lie that everyone heard. Finally, some ICC graduates support ICC, and will testify that they got what they were promised and expected... We only want to help individuals who want help, and who are willing and able to prosecute their claims. So, this case is not ideally suited to class treatment."

"The International Culinary Center will continue to focus every resource to combat such lawsuits," said Hamilton in her statement. We have contacted her and the ICC for a response to Gallo's remarks, and will update our story as more information comes in.