In 2005, one student saw a television commercial in which chefs at work described how grand it was to have high-level jobs in the food industry. He dialed the number he saw on the screen, 1-800-BAY-CHEF, and was referred to a woman calling herself an admissions counselor, who scheduled an in-person interview. She showed him a catalog claiming CCA was a selective school so committed to its students’ careers that its graduates enjoyed a job placement rate of 97 percent.
The pitch persuaded the student, who dreamed of maybe even hosting a TV cooking show, to enroll. The illusion didn’t last. “What I learned in the real world was that people aren’t interested in hiring students from the Culinary Academy,” he says.
The 97 percent placement rate was fabricated. In reality, many CCA students went on to menial labor jobs paying $12 per hour or less; career placement consisted of referring students to job websites; and the school wasn’t selective at all. As Strickland reported, by 2005 it had a horrible reputation among Bay Area restaurateurs for churning out unskilled job applicants who were more trouble than they were worth. They considered a CCA certificate equivalent to a “Do Not Hire” name tag.