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Peter Hertzmann (Independent Scholar): A Survey of Culinary Education (Mostly in America)

In our modern world where individuals learn to cook through a combination of television presentations, engineered cookbooks, and the in-person occasional class, it’s helpful to look back at how we arrived in our current state of culinary education. For millennia, cooks either cooked for others as a paid profession or cooked for themselves and others as an unpaid familial service. In either case, they learned to cook from others with more experience. That basic form of training hasn’t changed overtime, but the methods used to transmit information from cooks with more experience to cooks with less have changed drastically. Starting with printed books in the seventeenth century, the training transmitted required less in-person interaction. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the printed word expanded its presence to magazines and later newspapers. Towards the end of the century, in-person cooking classes became popular. Domestic science classes became a course of study for women in college. Food processors created slim educational volumes to promote their products. Prior to the First World War, the government created a vast series of educational programs operated through state colleges as a means of educating women in rural America. With the advent of radio a bit later, cooking lessons took to the airwaves. In modern times, culinary education has taken a turn towards entertainment, and traditional means of educating beginning cooks have changed. It’s worthwhile to chart the path that we’ve followed to today’s culinary education.

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