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DCE Magazine

Cooking up a Career in Culinary Arts

Fall 2018

A new hybrid program serves up expert instruction from top chefs.

Is a culinary career a calling or a livelihood? It's clearly the former for Ken Rubin, an accomplished chef who helped revolutionize food education as chief culinary officer of the Rouxbe Online Culinary School. Fascinated by food at a very young age, Rubin taught himself to cook when he was six and catered his own multicourse bar mitzvah when he turned 13.

But you don't need to have cooking in your blood to succeed in the culinary world. Today there's a wide range of opportunities for entrepreneurs looking to change careers as well as those striving to become Michelin-starred chefs.

Whether the goal is to create innovative, exotic cuisine in a five star restaurant or launch a local foodie start-up, the right education can open the door to an exciting new career, Rubin said.

“Believe me, there are always openings for people who are passionate about food, willing to put in the training, show up in the kitchen every day and work hard,” said Rubin, instructor for the DCE's new hybrid Culinary Arts program. “Passion for cooking can definitely be a calling, but it can also be a great choice for career-changers. And there are so many opportunities today.”

Maybe you want to focus on the health and wellness aspect of vegetarian cuisine, sell artisan gluten-free cupcakes or cater special-themed parties. “The opportunities are out there,” Rubin said. “You just have to have imagination and get the right training.”

A world of opportunities

Rouxbe, the world's leading online culinary school, has more than 500,000 students worldwide, providing expert education to individuals and prestigious institutions such as Marriott International and Ritz-Carlton, using an innovative, experiential method. Now Rubin is bringing the same concept to the DCE program, delivered online and on-campus.

Students learn foundational cooking techniques from culinary experts through instructional videos, interactive quizzes, assessments, live broadcasts and text. Then they practice their skills in fully stocked modern kitchen facilities, participating in cooking competitions and catering assignments alongside their regular lessons.

Ken Rubin“The idea is to train students in all the basic skills they need through our online program — proper knife cuts, which pans to use, basic cooking techniques,” Rubin said. “Then they bring those skills into the kitchen to cook and learn alongside top chefs. We let students learn hands-on, with no classroom lectures.” Administered by Rouxbe and certified by the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation, the DCE program is flexible enough to accommodate any schedule. The entire program can be completed in three months at a full-time pace, six months for part-time students. Both options include 200 hours of externship in a professional kitchen.

For those with passion and dedication, the program can lead to a position in the massive culinary industry, which provided 137,500 jobs in the U.S. in 2017, with more than 14% growth projected through 2027.

Innovative culinary training

Rubin sees Rouxbe's approach to culinary education as the wave of the future, leveraging technology with world-class expertise and an innovative curriculum. It's an effective way to deliver quality content in a streamlined package that's far more affordable and accessible than traditional culinary schools.

Consider that acclaimed schools such as Le Cordon Bleu and Art Institute of California cost upward of $50,000 to $75,000, compared to an average of $7,000 for the DCE program.

“Our UCI program costs a fraction of those, and it doesn't take years to finish like with traditional schools,” said Rubin, formerly a chef instructor for Le Cordon Bleu Schools North America. “Don't get me wrong, traditional schools provide excellent training, but they're falling out of favor. Online programs can be offered on a much wider basis, bringing culinary education into communities that wouldn't otherwise have access.”

The DCE Culinary Arts program is also more student-based than traditional schools, he added. Allowing students to dive in and learn from experience is the most effective way to teach cooking — and it's exactly how Rubin learned as a child.

“My parents let me cook without a lot of guidance,” he said. “I was very curious about food, and I was able to get into the kitchen and explore, see what worked and what didn't, burn things and learn from my mistakes.”

That's how the DCE program is designed, only with expert instruction and great facilities to help guide students along.

Mastering a professional kitchen

Through an innovative, hybrid learning environment, students will explore basic chef skills at their own pace online, and then join their class in a professional kitchen for a hands-on, practical application of the lesson. Proper food handling and sanitation, basic nutrition, frying and baking techniques are just a few of the essentials students will learn.

“Here's how it works,” Rubin said. “Let's say week six focuses on doing eggs right. You'd learn online about different types of eggs, different cooking methods, how to use them to thicken and coagulate and so on. Then the class would meet and you'd be ready to actually start practicing.”

That's when students get to start cooking, developing advanced culinary skills in a world-class kitchen. The hybrid approach has proven to be a highly effective method for teaching a wide range of participants.

The Culinary Arts program can be an excellent entry point for first-time students as well as midlife career changers. But it's also a great way for experienced cooks to brush up on their techniques and try something they've never had a chance to do before, like making hollandaise sauce by hand.

“Our program attracts a wide range of students,” Rubin said. “Some are first-timers who aren't sure what they want to do, but they're interested in cooking. I've found that a lot of our career-changing students are entrepreneurs looking to launch their own culinary business.”

Not incidentally, the DCE program provides the chance to network and develop relationships with fellow students as well as instructors. Personal contacts are often the key to opening doors in the culinary world, Rubin said.

“I'd say about 80% of my career has resulted from somebody tapping me on the shoulder, not by looking at job listings,” he added. “I get calls all the time from contacts looking for fresh talent. The culinary marketplace is crowded, but quality talent is always in demand. I'm not saying it's easy, but anyone with enough skill and passion and commitment can succeed in the culinary world.”

Learn more at ce.uci.edu/culinary