MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The Vermont-based New England Culinary Institute, which was on the verge of closing last year, has since merged with an Ohio art and design school, changed its curriculum and plans to open a branch in Boston and offer programs in Cleveland. But some students aren’t sold on some of the changes.
President Milan Milasinovic said Thursday that the school’s curriculum now includes more business, finance and general education courses to produce well-rounded chefs who understand consumer behavior, marketing, management and finances.
But some students say too many of their classes are now online instead of in teaching kitchens.
“They’re really working on it but it’s a really big change for us especially because we went from six days a week (in the kitchen) to two,” said Brooke Hill, 19, of Corinth, Vermont.
NECI is responding to students’ concerns by requiring online courses to have a hands-on component as it continues to fine-tune its curriculum, Milasinovic said.
Aside from a new curriculum, NECI also has bought the equipment and supplies from the Cambridge, Massachusetts, program of Le Cordon Bleu, which has closed its 16 programs across the U.S. NECI plans to open a branch in Boston by spring 2019, he said.
“The idea behind it is to provide our students with an urban environment, which is Boston. And to provide them with a suburban environment, which is Vermont,” he said, with students having the option of spending semesters at either campus.
It’s also looking for a place to have a farm in Vermont and plans to have programs at the Virginia College of Art and Design in Lakewood, Ohio, which it merged with in June.
Culinary schools have been grappling with declining enrollment, and programs across the country have closed due to expensive tuition, less federal financial aid and restaurant jobs that provide training.
NECI has dropped from an enrollment of 800 in 1999 to about 200 this fall.
It’s been “challenging times” for culinary education, said Cindy Komarinski, the incoming chairwoman of the accrediting commission for the American Culinary Foundation.
Some institutions are flourishing, and others have closed or are nearing closing, she said.
“I think everybody’s kind of resorting to maybe creative strategies on attracting new students and retaining students that they already have,” she said.
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