As anybody will realize who's spent much time watching Anthony Bourdain's shows or witnessing the rise of "foodie" culture and the celebritization of chefs over the last decade, much has changed since a teenaged Wolfgang Puck went to work peeling potatoes in an Austrian hotel basement. Only a generation ago -- maybe less, depending on who you're talking to -- people didn't get into the food industry to become the next Bobby Flay. There was no reality television or Iron Chef-like competitions or series of casting calls that seemed more like auditions for soap operas than for actual kitchen jobs. There was also not the explosion of culinary schools, places that often charged more than the annual tuition of Vassar or Yale or USC for a year or two of instruction on how to make veal demi-glace.
Which brings us to a question that I've heard posed many times over the years, mostly by chefs who own or run or work in very highly regarded restaurants, chefs who regularly hire young cooks who've come through those schools remarkably unprepared, or in astonishing debt, or often both: Why don't we institute a restaurant apprentice system?
It's not a question of bringing it back so much as establishing it. This is, after all, not Europe, with its centuries-long guild tradition.More »