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Archive for May 2007

Culinary Education in Indy

Originally published on, May 26.

Indy’s blogworld glowed toxic this week and inserted in the drama was moi.  

Ruth Holladay ( posted an entry about Carol D’Amico’s severance package, citing a source that provided her with insight into the sad history and current state of affairs at Ivy Tech. 

Out came the wiggo, wongo, bongo blogworld, seeomg imaginary demons and conjuriiing up more conspiracy theories than Dodi’s dad.

In the interest of journalistic integrity, hell, in the interest of common sense, I came forward as the source. My short life as Deep Throat is over. 

It appears I’m critical of Ivy Tech.

I am.

Tuition is high. Facilities are dirty and inadequate. Graduation rates are low, not enough full-time faculty. Region VIII is the worst in a lackluster system. The list goes on and on. 

An exception to all that is wrong with Ivy Tech is the hospitality program. Faculty is strong—experienced professionals with tough standards. Kitchens, though located in an old building, are clean. Students suit up (wear the uniform of a professional kitchen); they are held to high standards. 

A few weeks ago, Kim Severson wrote “‘Top Chef’ Dreams Crushed by Student Loan Debt” for the New York Times. Lured by the glamour of Food Network and celebrity chefs, students are enrolling in private culinary schools, acquiring substantial debt in private loans (cost of 2-year programs, $48,000), only to graduate and work at $10/hr cooks’ jobs.  

The practice is so egregious; the debt so severe, New York Times published this op-ed” 

“culinary students default on their loans at high rates because the bulk of the jobs available pay so poorly, while the cost of their training outstrips the limits for low-interest federal loans, leaving many with high-interest loans beyond their means to repay.”

(New York Times, May 10, 2007) 

This month one of Ivy Tech’s faculty members, Chef Thom England, is on the campus of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), the most prestigious and advanced school in the United States.

Chef England takes time to share his experiences. Click over to Feedmedrinkme ( and you’ll find his astute observations.  

This is what he says about the article: 

Without a doubt many culinary schools are overpriced. I see schools, even in the Midwest that are charging over $40,000 for a 2 year culinary degree. It is insane for me to think about a recent high school grad going to these schools. They will graduate thinking they are going to be the next Emeril and end up making $10.00/hr working a line. They will wash out of the business in months. As the person mentioned on Ruhlman’s blog, go to a community college and spend the $2,000., May 10, 2007 

Chef England provides those of us in the profession, and others contemplating entering the field, with valuable knowledge of the changes coming to our industry. He will bring that knowledge back to Indiana and share it with colleagues and students. It’s just one of many examples of how solid our culinary program is and how much better it will become. 


So bloggers, for all the sad, tacky baggage surrounding Ivy Tech, there is hope.


Written by Susan Gillie

May 26, 2007 at 1:14 am

That Time of Year

Orginally published on

 It’s that time of the year. Yes, next Sunday is Mother’s Day, but no, I’m not talking about Mother’s Day, or the Mini-Marathon or the Indy 500.  

I’m talking about the May issue of Indianapolis Monthly yearly “Best Restaurants.” It’s on newsstands. 

In 2002, when I relocated from Ann Arbor to Indianapolis, I was in culinary shock. Atlas closed the month I moved here and my good friend, Whole Foods, reneged on their written promise to open a store. Indy Monthly was a glimmer of hope. It provided much needed information about where to shop and eat. I looked forward to the annual “Best Restaurants.” 

Now that I’ve found my favorite haunts, though, “Best Restaurants” provokes irritation. I’m grateful Indy most popular and glitzy shelter/lifestyle magazine devotes so much space to restaurants—after all, I’m a cook and anything that supports my industry is appreciated.  

It’s time, though, for some cosmetics. This is what’s needed for next year’s “Best Restaurants.” 

·        Eliminate steakhouses. Six of the 32 “best restaurants” are steakhouses (actually seven, but one has pretensions to haute cuisine, so we’ll give ‘em a pass). I respect the skill it takes to select, prepare and present a hunk of beef, but steakhouses are concerned with grilling, not cuisine. They are temples worshipping power, status and money. They are eateries for businessmen, lawyers, rug-headed lawmakers and lobbyists. If they want to reintroduce smoking and ban all women except hookers and strippers, that’s alright. Indianapolis Monthly can do a separate cover feature on “Best Steakhouses.” Just don’t pretend they are high-end, white-tablecloth restaurants. Besides, eliminating 19% of nominees leaves slots for up-and-coming ethnic restaurants, the real hope for a dynamic Indy food scene. 

·        Create meaningful categories. The restaurants were divided into categories that don’t make sense. “A Classic Good Time,” “People Pleasing,” “Worldly Pleasures” are clever titles but don’t provide readers with information. Use categories average readers understand—the star system, or Grand, Family-Style, Casual, Ethnic. The Washington Post revised categories to facilitate better understanding and use of its dining guide. Time to define and simplify dining categories. 

·        Give readers the criteria critics use to select “best restaurants.” Indianapolis Monthly invested considerable resources; Christine Speer edited and nine journalists wrote the feature. Maybe I missed something, but nowhere did I find out how they came to their conclusions. Was it service, décor, food, food presentation? What made the writers, and the magazine, select these restaurants over others?  

·        Conduct research. One restaurant’s is described as serving food made with fresh ingredients. That’s true for some dishes, but deserts are pre-made frozen Sysco products with premium prices normally charged for handmade deserts. (See Slate magazine’s February 21st article, “Every Bite You Take.”) Careful reading of the menu and a quick tour of the kitchen tells writers what is really being served. Restaurants benefit financially from best ratings and should be willing to subject themselves to scrutiny. 

·        Quit praising restaurants serving too much food. Indy restaurant-goers are paralyzed by a bargain shopping mentality toward dining. Restaurants are pressured to serve quantity over quality. Several restaurants, both high-end and casual, were recognized for serving generous portions. Quit enabling this behavior. Support restaurants that reign in the tendency to overfeed patrons.  

So there you have it. A few simple changes to make this entertaining feature better in the future.

Written by Susan Gillie

May 6, 2007 at 1:11 am