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Q&A: How the Food Business School is cooking up a new kind of culinary education

5 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

Today’s food business landscape is constantly evolving. Packaged goods manufacturers are taking inspiration from high-end culinary trends (and vice versa), and increasingly savvy consumers are demanding food that is healthy, sustainable and craveable. To help the next generation of food entrepreneurs respond to these new challenges, the Culinary Institute of America is expanding its focus with The Food Business School, a new center for executive and graduate education that will prepare students for the next era of food business.

The school’s Spring semester will begin in March, and registration for classes opened on Wednesday. Food industry entrepreneurs, designers, big name chefs and business professors from Stanford, UC Berkeley and UC Davis will make up the school’s faculty. Some CIA graduates will also teach classes at FBS, including Michael Chiarello, Neil Grimmer and Emilie Baltz.

SmartBrief interviewed Dean and Executive Director William Rosenzweig about what makes FBS stand out and the kind of businesses that might be launched there.

What does the Food Business School offer that a traditional MBA program does not?

The Food Business School focuses on entrepreneurship and innovation in the food sector. This makes it the first sector-specific business school that is focused on helping entrepreneurs and innovators transform ideas into new food businesses. The school is also designed for a inter-generational student body — attracting millennial “wantrepreneurs” and accomplished leaders of growing companies.

The food business is distinct and requires specialized industry-specific expertise and an understanding of cultural, regulatory, sourcing, distribution and safety issues that are unique to the food industry.  While there are several graduate programs in food and gastronomical studies in the U.S. and Europe, they are cultural or historical in focus and none offer an experiential, hands-on curriculum focused on enabling and empowering the next generation of food entrepreneurs and industry innovators that will transform the food industry.

Added to this, there is growing and vibrant interest in food-related programs at college campuses across the nation. While single courses, clubs, and informal student-run activities have started to emerge to fill the need, there has been no dedicated place for passionate and purpose-driven students to learn the skills to discover, design and launch new ventures and corporate initiatives. FBS is the logical next step for people who want to cultivate their passions into viable business that make change and profits.

FBS also offers a deep and active network of food-industry mentors and professional partners who can be instrumental for students as they build their ventures.

And, FBS will not offer an MBA, but rather programs that meet serious students where they are in their entrepreneurial journey. The programs are intended to be high value, affordable and accessible.

 How will today’s food landscape (the rise of fast-casual, the prominence of local and sustainable foods, etc.) shape the curriculum of the Food Business School?

The food industry landscape is changing rapidly and requires entrepreneurial leaders to embrace a “systems approach” to their thinking and the design of their businesses. The Food Business School pairs accomplished industry practitioners with faculty from leading business schools. FBS provides executive courses and certificate programs that deliver practice-based business education that focus on solving the challenges that executive leaders, entrepreneurs, and aspiring food industry innovators face each day. From courses such as “Scale Up Your Authentic Food Business” and “Pop-up Your Restaurant: From Culinary Artist to Entrepreneur” taught by renowned chefs Michael Chiarello and Kurt Huffman, FBS offers a diverse curriculum specifically tailored for today’s food landscape.

 How will the Food Business School’s curriculum supplement the education students receive during a full course of study at the CIA?

The Food Business School is the CIA’s new center for executive and graduate education. The Food Business School broadens the CIA’s commitment to the future of food education and leadership with specialized programs for executives, recent graduates and mid-career explorers.

An increasing number of CIA undergraduates are interested in starting their own businesses and a great number of them intend to participate in the food industry, outside the traditional roles of cooking. Many of them will find The Food Business School a natural next step in their educational path.

In addition, the Culinary Institute of America, in collaboration with the Harvard School of Public Health is influencing many of the trends seen in today’s marketplace through their Menus of Change program. Menus of Change: The Business of Healthy, Sustainable, Delicious Food Choices is a ground-breaking initiative that examines today’s most pressing social and environmental concerns. The Food Business School is perfectly positioned to take this kind of valuable thought leadership and shape it into valuable course content for its students.

Classes at the Food Business School will be team-based and interactive. What is the benefit of this style of education to today’s food entrepreneurs?

Learning to lead, form and perform on fast-moving teams is a core entrepreneurial skill set. FBS students get to practice in ways that push them into unfamiliar territory, helping them gain familiarity and confidence of the predictable patterns of entrepreneurship. They develop the skills, mindset and network needed to transform their ideas into successful enterprises, from artisanal to industrial. FBS fosters the development of scalable ventures across a variety of food industry sectors, from food technology to packaged goods and food service. Examples of the types of businesses that might be born at FBS include healthy meals for underserved populations; the development and marketing of new sources of protein; programs for the elimination of food waste; big data systems for agriculture and supply chain management; healthy fast food solutions; and more. The opportunities for change and innovation are boundless.


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