What is the best cooking school in America

The Harvard of Cooking

Even in the cold Advent season, he sometimes sits there by the fountain in front of the picturesque monastery and sniffs with relish:

"I like the smell of roasted onions best. Nowhere else is there such a fragrant campus area!"

Tim Ryan is the director of the CIA - the best cooking school in the world. The foundation stone for the gourmet academy was laid by religious dissidents who found shelter in the complex and, out of gratitude, made themselves useful at the stove.

"In order not to attract attention, they dressed like the priests who had welcomed them: long robes, high hats. But out of respect, they didn't choose black, but white uniforms!"

The white dress code has remained. Not so the contemplation of the former monastery life. Frantic commands penetrate from the 39 training kitchens of the CIA. There is a lot of crowd everywhere, constant stress. It would be unthinkable as a layman to join in here.

In fact, the CIA new students are not really beginners: Only those who have at least half a year of restaurant experience are accepted. Yonghee fills a Christmas goose with peanuts. The Korean did her internship in Paris: But that was too one-sided for her.

"With growing prosperity, more and more Koreans are getting an international taste: I'm here to get to know the kitchens of the world!"

Unlike in Europe, where aspiring chefs learn from individual masters, the CIA's apprentices are supervised by 130 lecturers from all over the world. The menu is just as cosmopolitan as the teaching staff: the school is considered to be the nucleus of the fusion style: the style of cooking that combines flavors and ingredients in a completely new way. Martin Frei, a native Swiss who has been teaching at the CIA for years, raves about a "UNO of Gastronomy".

"The Europeans are still very attached to traditional recipes. The Americans are more flexible. This is where wonderful things come about, like this: mashed potatoes with roasted garlic and wasabi!"

But only those who have mastered their craft can cross things that initially seem incompatible. That is why the teaching at the CIA is strict - and academic in its essence. Students have to take exams every week for three years, switching to a new subject every three weeks that builds on the previous one. Benjamin is about to graduate.

"The best thing is that I don't have a specialist diploma, but a recognized bachelor's degree in my pocket. That means I can easily add a master's degree, in nutritional science, for example. This school is rightly considered the Harvard of cooking!"

The CIA library can actually compete with any elite university: it contains more than 69,000 books that are not just about food and cooking. The CIA students also learn foreign languages, psychology and management - business administration subjects are becoming increasingly important, says institute director Ryan:

"Our graduates are increasingly shifting from haute cuisine to industry. The heads of product development at McDonald's or Burger King, for example: Both of them learned their trade here!"

The apprentice chefs gain practical experience in the institute's five star restaurants, which are often booked out weeks in advance. Chris has been mixing sauces at the "Escoffier" all evening. Nevertheless, the 26-year-old has to move on to a part-time job: after all, every CIA semester costs 10,000 dollars.

"I am on my feet every day from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m., working 70 hours a week all in all!"

But the effort is worthwhile: CIA graduates rarely have to go looking for a job. 95 percent sign an employment contract during their training.