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The Culinary Institute of America Wants to Be the 'MIT of the Food World'

The school even hopes to launch master's degree programs one day.


The Culinary Institute of America wants to be the "MIT of the food world." According to the Wall Street Journal, the CIA on a quest to "become the nation's first university of food." To do so, the CIA has introduced a slew of new classes and degree programs in subjects like applied food studies. In the past two years, the school "has tripled the number of bachelor's majors, introduced six concentrations, and founded a business program." The CIA also hopes to offer master's degrees in the future.

These new lines of study cover topics like the "historic role of food in societies," global food policy," and the "production, distribution, and consumption strategies of sustainable food systems." A spokesperson for the school tells the WSJ that offering a "broader focus is essential for chefs who also must be businesspeople and scientists." Plus, says the spokesperson, many of the chefs may eventually help create and shape food policy.

The school has raised some eyebrows with its ambitious academic expansion plans. Nutritionist and New York University professor Marion Nestle points out that "chefs who don't have fancy bachelor's degrees can't see any reason why anybody else needs one." She adds, that in contrast "academics think that cooking is a trade." Because of the way both sides of the equation see one another, she fears that no one is going to care about where "these students [who] come out of this bachelor's program and take graduate record exams and get high scores" came from.

So will these new academic programs justify the hefty culinary school price tag? A bachelor's degree from the CIA — which has four campuses around the world — would cost $150,000 with room and board. Many argue that they pay and the debt they accrue to enter a career path that is notorious for insane hours and meager salary is simply not worth it. CIA students even staged a walkout in 2013 where they protested against the school's high costs and "lowered standards for admittance and graduation."

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