Culinary Schools: Are Some Not Worth the Dough?

Food enthusiasts have been enrolling in culinary schools 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.

Journey, however, may get some of her money back. Under a pending $40 million settlement in state court, Career Education has agreed to offer rebates up to $20,000 to 8,500 students who attended the academy between 2003 and 2008.

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CS MONITOR

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