Here’s some sad news on the culinary education front: The International Culinary Center (formerly The French Culinary Institute)located in SoHo, New York, announced the closure of its well-known restaurant. L’Ecole, which served as a training ground and working restaurant for culinary students, will serve its last meal in November, following the end of the ICC’s 30-year lease with the building.L’Ecole has gotten quite a bit of attention through the recent years, with consecutive Michelin Bib Gourmand awards from 2009-2014, as well as a handful of Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast awards over the years.
After L’Ecole closes students will instead learn the realities of working in and running restaurant kitchens by participating in 200-hour paid externships. It’s a well-known model followed by one of America’s other most well-respected culinary schools: The Culinary Institute of America. "The culinary world has changed and lots of students do not want to go into restaurants any more so the new curriculum actually helps those students in putting them on farms, media, catering companies and small businesses," ICC CEO and founder Dorothy Hamilton told The Daily Meal.
“In our thirty years of being on that wonderful corner, our two 15 year leases allowed us to enjoy a reasonable rent,” Hamilton said. “Now, the future rent would be exponentially higher (think 5 times!). Alas, we cannot renew the lease for that floor. We will continue to operate the school at the location but without L’Ecole and the ground floor.”
She went on to explain how the future of the ICC externship will work for students:
“For those looking to be a chef, instead of working in L’Ecole, our culinary students will be placed in strictly monitored paid externships. We have tested this curriculum for the past year at our California campus with excellent results. We will also offer externships in media, small food/wine businesses and farms. We have now also partnered with excellent other academic institutions such as Babson College (to provide expertise in entrepreneurship/ business skills), the New School (to round out the education for a college degree), and Stone Barns. This is more than just L’Ecole’s closing but a rethinking of culinary education to make it closer to the needs of our students.”