It may seem that you can’t turn on a TV in 2015 without being confronted by a dozen celebrity chefs — but that wasn’t enough to save the U.S. arm of the cookery school that minted Julia Child.
Le Cordon Bleu’s 16 U.S. campuses, including a Twin Cities location in Mendota Heights, will stop enrolling students after January, and will close by September 2017, Career Education, its money-losing, Chicago-area owner announced last week.
The culinary school was famous for training Child, the nation’s first celebrity chef, at its Paris campus in the 1950s. It grew to serve 20,000 students at 50 schools across the globe.
But if, as the saying goes, “too many cooks spoil the broth,” there are now too few cooks in Le Cordon Bleu’s kitchens.
While the restaurant business has arguably never been more glamorous — at least from the outside — Career Education, which owns the U.S. arm of the chain, has been reeling from complaints that Cordon Bleu diplomas weren’t worth the schools’ tuition fees, which can range from $16,000 to as much as $42,550.
In 2013 it paid $40 million to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by former students who alleged Career Education oversold the benefits of a Cordon Bleu diploma, leaving them with large student loans and only poor-paying jobs.
A federal crackdown on “predatory” for-profit schools, including new regulations that limit student loan payments to 20 percent of a graduate’s after-tax wages, also hit Cordon Bleu hard and was cited by Career Education CEO Todd Nelson, who took over in August, as a reason for the closure.
The regulations “make it difficult to project the future for career schools that have higher operating costs, such as culinary schools that require expensive commercial kitchens and ongoing food costs,” Nelson said in a statement.
Nelson searched for a buyer for the U.S. culinary schools but could not secure a deal that would “protect student, faculty and stockholder interests,” according to a news release.
Includes Star Tribune staff reports.