SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Food enthusiasts have been enrolling in culinary school in growing numbers, lured by dreams of working as gourmet chefs or opening their own restaurants. For many graduates, however, those dreams have turned into financial nightmares, as they struggle to pay off hefty student loans and find work in a cutthroat industry known for its long hours and low pay.

Now, some former students are suing for-profit cooking schools to get their money back, saying they were misled by recruiters about the value of culinary education and their job prospects after graduation.

“They just oversold it and pushed it. They made misleading statements to lure you in,” said Emily Journey, 26, a plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against San Francisco’s California Culinary Academy, part of Career Education Corp.’s chain of 16 Le Cordon Bleu cooking schools. In 2004, Journey was a recent high school graduate, dreaming of opening her own bakery, when she enrolled in a 7-month program in pastry and baking arts at the San Francisco school. Recruiters convinced her it was a worthwhile investment and helped her borrow $30,000 to pay for it.

After finishing the program, the only job she could find paid $8 an hour to work the night shift at an Oregon bakery — “something anyone could have gotten without a culinary certificate,” she said.

Journey, who now lives in Bakersfield, has abandoned her baker’s dream and now plans to attend community college to become a nurse or dietitian. Without the settlement money, she will be paying for that culinary certificate for another 15 years. “Was it worth the money and the time to have this loan hanging over my head?” she asked. “Absolutely not.”

Two other Le Cordon Bleu schools — the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena and the Western Culinary Institute in Portland — also face lawsuits from former students who say they were duped by deceptive advertising, particularly the schools’ job placement rates.

I guess the saying “you get what you pay for” doesn’t apply here.




  1. Glenn E. says:

    Oh, I forgot what point I was making before, about Hollywood. They make movies and Tv shows about Horse racing, when that’s failing. They make movies about Baseball, whenever there’s a strike and no games being played. The make movies and Tv shows about Las Vegas, when the tourism there is in a slump. And now we’re seeing upcoming Tv shows about Pan-Am (a defunct Airlines) and Playboy’s old “Club” (closed decades ago). And I’m thinking it’s because both are in trouble, and really need the sales boost a lame Tv series might provide, from zombified Americans who go wherever and buy whatever Tv tells them to.

    Why is Hollywood such a tool of these other industries, that it devotes script development to saving their bacon? Something to do with studio board members being on the boards of these other businesses, perhaps? Think about it.