Struggling to staff restaurants – not just locally
The resurgence and gentrification of the city of Detroit has been epitomized by a burgeoning and exciting dining scene that is echoed throughout the metropolitan area. Seemingly every day, a new restaurant is opened with a novel and innovative menu in a cool and creative atmosphere. Investors are hopping on the bandwagon, eager to sprinkle their fairy dust in a city seen rising from the ashes of bankruptcy, or in vibrant pockets of suburbia. After decades of fallow dining, we're now in the throes of creative feasting.
The only blip on this thriving horizon? An unemployment rate of four percent in Michigan – essentially full employment – leaving restaurateurs labor-challenged and increasingly short staffed.
It's not a problem unique to the restaurant industry. Amazon chose to split the choice of its second headquarters – which Detroit had bid on, but was not chosen in the first round – between Long Island City, Queens, in New York, and Crystal City in Northern Virginia, near Washington DC, due to a concern about finding 50,000 employees in one city. There are still concerns about finding 25,000 qualified workers in each of those locations – cities that already attract the young and educated.
Foxconn Technology Group, which has a large plant under construction in Wisconsin, is considering bringing in personnel from China to help staff the facility, according to the Wall Street Journal, as it struggles to find engineers and other workers in this tight labor market.
“This is the biggest issue,” noted chef and restaurateur Zack Sklar, chef/owner of Peas & Carrots Hospitality Group, which currently has 11 restaurants in metro Detroit, including Social Kitchen, Mex and Beau's Grillery, as well as in Chicago and Grand Rapids. “Everyone has a couple bucks in their pocket. There's all this development and everyone wants to put in a restaurant. Every hotel needs food service; every hospital needs a commissary; every new building wants a restaurant. There's not enough people to manage all this. It affects quality and turnover is extremely expensive.”
Bill Roberts, proprietor, Roberts Restaurant Group, which includes Beverly Hills Grill, Bill's, Streetside Seafood, Cafe ML, Roadside B&G and Town Tavern, said, “It's a different market for staff, period, in the metro area – and it's the same all over the country.
“Unemployment is lower,” Roberts continued, noting the difficulty in finding staff members all the way down the restaurant level, from managers to cooks, servers and dishwashers. “It makes you work harder to take care of your team, to keep your staff. You have to keep talking to your people.”
Metro Detroit foodies have been enjoying a cornucopia of new and previously unheard of dining options in the last few years, with adventurous and innovative chefs and owners taking the reins and venturing into what had previously been a “food desert” in Detroit, at the same time invigorating formerly desolate blocks and neighborhoods. Early pioneers like Andy Hollyday at Selden Standard and Greg Holm of the former Antietam restaurant paved the way for recent Detroit entrees Lady of the House, Prime & Proper, Besa, SheWolf, Grey Ghost, Marrow, and oh so many others, including ones that have come and gone, as well as many more on the horizon that are looking to open.
The suburbs have seen an explosion of dining options at all ends of the economic and dining spectrum as well. Just take a look at Big Beaver Road in Troy, with one chain restaurant after another, from Eddie V's Prime Seafood, from the owners of The Capital Grille, to Kona Grill, Shake Shack, Stoney River Steakhouse, Granite City Food & Brewery, Bonefish Grill, Sedona Taphouse, and soon, Yard House and Seasons 52. Independents such as Cantoro Italian Trattoria and Gran Castor have also opened recently in Troy.
While each and every one symbolizes another notch on the belt of the economic boom, every single one requires dozens of staffers – from those in the back of the house, such as sous chefs and line cooks to dishwashers, to the front of the house, where waitstaff, bartenders, bar backs, hostesses and management must be hired for every restaurant.
“The explosion started about seven, eight years ago with restaurants opening in Ferndale and Royal Oak – like Vinsetta Garage and Crispelli's. Then you had Ferndale. Then in the last five years, there's been the explosion in Detroit with all the restaurants. It's impacted the quality of everything,”said Joe Vicari, founder and CEO, Andiamo Restaurant Group.
“My perspective is – if you're an outsider looking to get in the restaurant business, it's going to be harder with the overabundance,” said Aaron Belen, principal, AFB Hospitality Group, owner of Bistro 82 and The Morrie in Royal Oak, and soon, in Birmingham. “That Big Beaver corridor has really been an explosion. Royal Oak is feeling it a little bit more because of Detroit; Birmingham is feeling it because of Troy.”
He noted quality is always an issue, and the labor shortage impacts that. “Our mantra is to leave the ego at home.”
Detroit and local suburbs are not the only restaurant market undergoing a transformation and a boom. From Grand Rapids to South Haven to Petoskey, gourmets are on the move.
Northern Michigan, long the home of “the planked whitefish,” is enjoying a surge of small and unique bistros and restaurants as tourists from all over the country have been visiting the last several years and real estate values have skyrocketed after the Great Recession. But what that has meant for restaurateurs there as well is a labor shortage.
“We're in a bubble,” said chef/owner Eric Patterson of The Cook's House in Traverse City, who believes the market there is oversaturated. “It'll be interesting to see what happens. On the other hand, it's good because you can't serve mediocre food. If you're going to serve whitefish, you better make it damn good.”
He said the area is getting “good chefs who are coming up here to open restaurants, who are choosing to come up here because it's so good. As for labor, there is a worldwide shortage of qualified cooks – you can no longer find good cooks to man your lines. Even dishwashers are hard to find.”
There's a further ripple effect, and Roberts said it's simple Economics 101 – “It's supply and demand. The shortage of staff is causing salaries to increase. Every industry in metro Detroit is having to pay more for people than before.”
“Every time we open a restaurant, the pay scale increases,” Vicari concurs. “They won't work for minimum wage. You can't get them to work (often at all) – even dishwashers. High school kids don't want to be dishwashers. We're reaching out to different ethnic groups. Bengalis, Indians – they seem to have a good work ethic – we use them at our downtown (Andiamo) restaurant and at Joe Muer's Seafood. They're busboys, bar backs and dishwashers. In the suburbs, it's tough. We use Mexicans and Hispanics. We try to go to high schools. We look for kids who play sports – they have a better work ethic. We'll go to the Brother Rice football coach and say, after the season – but between studying and training year-round and community service, we get a few, but not as many as we need.
“It's the biggest issue,” he commiserated.
If you're an employee, that's terrific. If you're an employer, it's impacting your bottom line. And that means, if you're a restaurant, prices are going up on menus, Roberts said.
“The chains drive up wages because they're opening a place and they'll do whatever it takes,” Roberts said, pointing out all the new chain restaurants on Big Beaver Road in Troy. “They take from competitors.”
“Now when someone comes to town, I'm a target,” said Peas & Carrots Sklar. “They say, 'well, he was a chef at Social.' So they'll offer him $20,000 more to someone, because they're developers or a chain restaurant, and they can spend the money. So now we're a target, and other restaurants like mine, and I can't keep up with that money.”
The National Restaurant Association, a restaurant industry business association representing more than 380,000 establishments across the United States, reported that in 2017, 37 percent of its members said that labor recruitment was its top challenge, up from 15 percent in 2015. In an industry with very low profit margins, leaving little room for restaurateurs to increase wages, as other businesses usually do in a tight labor market, restaurant owners are looking for all sorts of ways to incentivize their employees.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in data cited by U.S. Foods, reported that nearly two million new restaurant jobs are expected to be created by 2025 as the restaurant industry continues to expand.
“I'm not sure there is an industry that is more competitive or has a more fickle customer base than the restaurant industry,” noted Justin Winslow, president and CEO, Michigan Restaurant Association.
In Michigan, Winslow said that 62 percent of members said their number one concern is their ability to recruit and retain employees. “It's really a challenge,” he said.
Winslow said owners reported that the concern has caused wages to increase. “In 2018, there has been a 6.7 percent increase in wages,” he said. “That is substantial – that is the direness of the situation,” noting the proliferation of restaurants is at a high.
“Southeast Michigan is feeling the benefits of the economy,” Winslow noted. “Detroit coming out of bankruptcy lowered the barriers for young entrepreneurs. Everyone felt they had the opportunity for investment.”
Winslow noted there has been benefits to the boom.
“A lot of very creative restaurants have been developed,” in the last few years, he said. “Southeast Michigan hasn't had this much opportunity or diversity in a very long time.”
While restaurateurs view the shortage of labor, and the subsequent increase in wages, as a significant business challenge, for workers in the field, it can be an opportunity, providing a chance for them to earn a living wage, hold down one job, rather than several, pay off student loans, and rise from a low-income worker to middle-income level.
Téofilo L. Reyes PhD, research director with Restaurant Opportunities Center United, as well as a visiting scholar at Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California Berkeley, said a labor shortage should lead to rise in wages.
“A labor shortage does lead to a greater turnover in staff,” Reyes pointed out, although “for those employers who do pay higher wages, it leads to reduced turnover and an increased investment in the success of the establishment.”
The swell in local dining options has altered the circumstances for many restaurant workers, he said – but it can also be a double-edge sword.
“Workers can leave an establishment and quickly find another employer,” Reyes said. “But they can just as easily be terminated.”
Local restaurateurs concurred that workers can – and are – easily finding work all over. They also expressed their concerns and hesitations about terminating staff – because of the difficulties in replacing and training them. Couple that with the millennial generation, those born between 1981 and 1997, and restaurateurs are finding themselves between the proverbial rock and a hard place.
According to the Pew Research Organization, most millennials were between five and 20 when 9/11 took place, and grew up in the shadow of the Iraq and Afghan wars and came of age during the height of the Great Recession. Social media and technology are primary and immediate parts of their way of communicating. Because of the upheavals they societally experienced during their formative years, they are considered more “self-absorbed” than baby boomers, and more interested in experiences and immediacy.
“It's crazy. We've lost some servers and some managers – but mostly servers – without any notice,” said Andiamo's Vicari. “They just get up and go. They're all for themselves.”
Scott LePage, owner with his father and mother, Norman and Bonnie LePage of Big Rock Chophouse and Griffin Claw Brewing Company in Birmingham and the new Lumen restaurant in Beacon Park in Detroit, along with other restaurants, said, “You could literally walk out the door in Detroit and be hired at any establishment within a half-hour.”
That said, he loves being open in Detroit after decades in the suburbs, from Wolverine Lake to Birmingham to Rochester Hills.
“It's awesome down there. It's been incredible,” he said.
But, the business is as difficult as others have said, and those working in it, notably the millennial generation, are a different breed.
“The restaurant business is very competitive, and there's no unemployment,” LePage said, noting it has even effected his business at his breweries. “You pay through the nose (for labor) or you get the bottom of the barrel. And I want the best if I'm paying for it.
“This new generation, coming of age, is a new dynamic,” he continued. “The industry I grew up in – it was 'how many cuts do I have on my fingers and how many burns on my hands.' Not today. Today, I'm holding their hands.”
LePage said that what is cool about the generation is “they know how to get things done more creatively. When I was coming up, I never saw daylight. Not these kids. Quality of life is a big part of the equation for them. It's huge. Our average hours when I was growing up for managers were 60 to 65 hours a week. Now, they are getting it done in 45 to 50 hours a week.”
On the converse, he is also seeing some lawyers, nurses, teachers, and other professionals deciding to chuck it all and return to the restaurant or brewery business rather than continue in a field they really don't enjoy.
“At the brewery (Griffin Claw), we have lawyers working there,” he said. “We're going to have a nurse coming over from Beaumont (Hospital) who decided nursing is too regimented. She has her pension, and she's coming over to us.
“It's amazing how many kids who put themselves through school working for us, and after getting their degrees in teaching or nursing, or something, and unemployment is zero – it's not as great as they thought. It's competitive. They have to move to Detroit or downriver, and they don't like it. They decide it's not worth it, and they come back and work for us again, as a manager.”
Zack Sklar, noting that while he is on the tail end of the millennial generation, he has been a chef for 18 years, and studied at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. He opened his first business, Cutting Edge Cuisine, a catering business still operating, 10 years ago.
“My first job, I made $6.50 an hour. I was in high school, working 40 hours on top of going to school,” he recalled of his time working at Emily's in Northville with Chef Rick Halberg and Loving Spoonful in Farmington Hills with Chef Shawn Loving. “I remember for a while my mom would drive me to work. Then, when I got my own license, I was petrified to be late. I wanted to be a professional. I wanted to be a chef. Money wasn't the driver. I understand you had to earn your stripes.
“Today, things have changed. The world is more fast-paced,” Sklar said. “Now kids are on Instagram. They're wearing Prada and Rolex and posting trips to Bali. They say, 'I can't earn $6.50 an hour.' But you can't come out of school and earn $80,000 a year.”
Sklar said that also, because it is an employees market, “if they show late, don't show up at all, call in sick, if you fire them, they don't care,” because, as LePage said, there's another job down the street that is available to them within the hour.
“Everyone is looking at it as a stepping stone,” noted Dan Sutter, general manager at Ann Arbor's Knight's Steakhouse. He acknowledged that when he started with the restaurant, “I never thought I'd be a manager. The mindset is that 'This isn't going to be my full-time job.'” Knight's has two locations, one downtown, and the original on the west side of the city, which has been there since 1952. He said they have been able to retain people “a little longer than others because our owners treat people very well.”
Noting that the industry has a very high turnover, and “what you can afford to pay someone for a job may not be what they want to earn, so we give them a raise right away,” Sutter said. “Entry level jobs especially are hard to fill,” noting that nobody wants to wash dishes.
“It's said but true,” he said, of the difficulty of finding dishwashers, although he said they have more turnover in the front of the house, with servers and hostesses.
Traverse City's Eric Patterson said he and his restaurant values dishwashers as much – or more – than cooks and chefs.
“I would rather go a night without a cook than a night without a dishwasher,” Patterson said. “A dishwasher is essential – it's the most important position in the kitchen.”
Reyes, of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, believes they have the answer to the labor shortage, and it is definitely not one that is widely shared.
“The way to rectify it is we're supportive of a minimum wage and riddance of a sub-minimum wage,” Reyes said.
“We're big believers in a livable wage, especially for our core staff,” Patterson said.
The minimum wage Reyes and his organization is supportive of is $12 an hour.
The current tipped minimum wage in Michigan for restaurant servers and bartenders is $3.52 an hour, compared to the state's minimum hourly wage for other workers at $9.25. The reason behind the tipped minimum wage is that restaurant servers and bartenders are tipped on checks, making up at least that difference. Many servers earn many times that amount per hour, depending on the restaurant, the number of tables they have, if there is alcohol on the tab, their ability, and other factors.
There was an attempt to put the issue on the November ballot here in Michigan.
One Fair Wage was a campaign supported by Restaurant Opportunities Center, which is considered a progressive labor group, worked in Michigan, New York, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia to increase the minimum wages of servers and to eliminate the tipped minimum wage. The group ran a petition drive in 2018 to get the minimum wage increase on the ballot, which was challenged by the Michigan Restaurant Association, representing businesses and restaurant owners, who opposed the increase. It would have been on the November ballot as a voter-approved initiative, but on September 5, 2018, the Michigan legislature voted to gradually increase the state minimum wage from $9.25 in 2018 to $12 in 2022, and for tipped workers, to increase the minimum wage by 48 percent in 2019, 80 percent in 2022 – and 100 percent increase in 2024, at which point the tip credit would gradually be phased out.
Because it was done by the state legislature, and not voted on by the state's voters, there is always the possibility of it being killed through legislation, since changes in passed laws require only a majority vote. If it had been passed as a ballot initiative, it would have required a two-thirds vote of the state legislature to change. And the current lame duck session of the legislature – which has overwhelming Republican majorities in both houses, and a Republican governor – is currently discussing scaling back those minimum wage increases and the tip credit phase out.
“Adopting this proposal only to gut it in lame duck is a slap in the face to Michigan’s 1.3 million tipped workers,” said actress Jane Fonda said in a statement released by the One Fair Wage petition committee. Fonda has been working with One Fair Wage across the country to increase the wages of tipped workers.
Bill Roberts said that for his six establishments, if the measure had been allowed on the ballot and passed, it would have cost him approximately $1.5 million more a year – which he believed could have potentially been an insurmountable amount.
“There is a lot of pent up demand among low wage workers – to eat out, for retail. So if they are paid more, they will reinvest it back into the economy,” Reyes said. “Consumers might see a slight increase in menu prices. From polling consumers, they say they are more than willing to pay an increase in menu prices so workers can earn more.”
Winslow disagreed. “From a restaurant's bottom line, you can increase menu prices, but you can only do that for so long before it costs you sales. You can't expand to new locations if you can't staff it properly.”
“The consumer will not pay $25 for a hamburger,” Sklar said. “Further, some of my wait staff make $70,000, $80,000 a year,” and they would not want to get rid of tips for a $12 minimum wage.
“As for expansion plans – what's holding us back is, we don't have the depth of people to move around to open new places,” Bill Roberts said, noting that previously, when he opened new establishments, he could transfer a trained manager, cook, wait staff to a new place without impacting his recognized locations. “I was just talking about this with Chef Patrick Roettele and Carl Volk (director of operations) – do we really want a new place when we can't staff the places we have?”
With 25 managers in place now, Roberts said they are constantly teaching, training, and chefs are always creating new menus and menu items. “We're doing well now,” he said, “but every day is a challenge. The reason the Grill (Beverly Hills Grill) is 30 years old is because of consistency.”
“The margins in owning a restaurant is 10 percent – it's a thin margin,” said Andiamo's Joe Vicari. “When they took away parking in Royal Oak, and we were losing 15 percent – and in winter, we'll be down 30 to 40 percent – we're losing money. It wasn't worth staying there.”
Winslow explained that the success in defeating the $12 minimum wage and maintaining tipped wage has been crucial.
“There are plenty of staffers who are making six figure incomes,” he said. “Even (some) coney island workers are making $16 to $22 an hour,” because there are faster turns of the table, he said, of the allegations that some workers at less expensive establishments actually want the higher minimum wage.
Winslow said what will happen because of both the shortage of workers and the rise in salaries is twofold: there were be a simplification of menus, which many restaurateurs said is already occurring; and greater automation in restaurants.
In Minneapolis and San Francisco, two cities where $15 an hour minimum wage for servers was approved and no tip credit, the effect has been a significant increase in establishments that have reduced wait staff, putting in kiosks or iPads for patrons to order from, and then having servers run out the food to them, or having patrons pick up their food from counters, even at moderate price point establishments.
“There's a lot of concern about how automation will affect the industry,” Reyes acknowledged.
“If the minimum wage goes up to $12 an hour, you can't pass on the increase, so you have get rid of wait staff,” Sklar said, bearing in mind that patrons come to a restaurant for more than just food, but for the total experience. “Human capital is the most important ingredient in a restaurant.”
With the increase in the number of new restaurants in metro Detroit has come the debate as to “What is a chef?” and “When does someone go from being a sous chef to an executive chef?”
They're questions that are debated by chefs and restaurateurs as well as diners.
“Chefs. I've always thought people throw that term around loosely,” acknowledged Big Rock's Scott LePage. “In Detroit, there are too many people claiming they're chefs. You can usually tell the guys who don't have trained chefs, versus those who are cooks.”
LePage said he went to the Culinary Institute of America, “but I'm not a chef,” because he has not gone through the thorough steps to consider himself one.
“At Big Rock (Chophouse) and Lumen, we have chefs,” he said. “At our other places, we have cooks who follow our chefs' recipes and orders – but they're not chefs. At Griffin Claw and Clubhouse BFD (in Rochester Hills), we use kitchen managers (who take directions from chefs). I think it's important to have it that way.”
“Everybody's a chef – and everybody wants to be 'the chef,' which is irritating,” said Traverse City's Eric Patterson, explaining it is not an easy job to be “the chef.” “The chef is in charge of the kitchen, organizing and keeping it straight, training the rest of the cooks and staff. The line cook does the cooking. The sous chef still cooks but does some whip cracking in the kitchen, keeping everyone in line. The higher up the food chain you are, the less cooking you do.
“My problem with people wanting to be called chef – if you're a line cook, you haven't earned the right to be called chef. A 21-year-old kid hasn't earned the right,” Patterson said. “No, you're a line cook. I'll call someone a chef as an indication of respect. There's a lot more to running a kitchen than cooking, and unless you've done it before, you don't know how to control inventories, your costs, and manage staff.
“You have plenty of time to earn your white toque.”
Kieron Hales, executive chef and owner of Zingerman's Cornman Farms in Ann Arbor and a former head chef at Zingerman's Roadhouse, agreed.
“When I started at 13-years-old in London, I did a modern apprenticeship, of three months in school, then four months in the kitchen, then three months in school,” he said, and traveled the world working in various kitchens. “I left without debt and real world experience. It's a trade.”
He said the labor shortage extends into the kitchen – and it's only getting worse. “We have a 60 percent hole. We're filling it with under-qualified chefs – people who have not done the work yet,” he said.
He too, believes it's a generational shift.
“Something about the art of our work – it is being speeded up without the foundation. There's not enough sous chefs, and it's harder and harder to manage people below in the kitchen,” Hales said. He said he wanted the experiences of cooking in Paris and other places. “But today, the way the world has changed, people are chasing the paycheck.
“If you have a half-decent reputation, you can accelerate and run a kitchen, but the stress is huge because there aren't enough qualified people under you,” he pointed out. “That's what burns out a lot of people from the business. It's an exhausting process.
“At what point do you really earn being a chef?” he asked. “When another chef calls you one. Less than one percent of the industry is different from the top five percent in the world.”
Zack Sklar, who attended the Culinary Institute of America then worked in kitchens in New York and other places, said because of the rapid openings taking place and the need to staff them, “This guy who's coming out of culinary school – he'll have months of work rather than 10 years on the line, working for great French chefs or what have you.
“Because of the economy, no one is staying in a job too long because they don't have to.”
“I don't think there's enough kids coming out of culinary programs. I wish there were more of them, frankly. Some learn at other places, but the culinary world is a fascinating place. And the best way to learn is to move around to different places, different kitchens around the world. Typically, someone would move around, graduate from culinary school, then go to Europe, Chicago, California,” Bill Roberts said. “It's a young and youthful business,” noting his company is looking for more mature individuals who have done that and are ready to settle down and be with a group “who will take care of them.”
“Today, especially in Detroit, the chefs write the ticket,” LePage said of the new restaurants opening in the metro market. “And that's why it's important to give them a piece of the action – and let them hang their hat.”
Restaurant training/education opportunities
Every kid who likes to cook and who dreams of being a chef doesn't necessarily need to head to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, nor sharpen their knives in kitchens in Paris or Rome. There are culinary arts programs locally that can provide excellent training and opportunities.
For front of the house options, Michigan State University's School of Hospitality Business offers management training programs that place students in numerous food and beverage jobs. And the Michigan Restaurant Association has developed Growth Start with OTech in Oakland County, where it is helping students learn culinary arts.
“We're working with students so they can be future leaders in their industry,” said Justin Winslow, president and CEO, Michigan Restaurant Association (MRA). “We're starting on the ground floor where they can learn.”
Winslow said workforce development is a huge challenge. “This is a way of creating a workforce in Detroit,” he said. The MRA is also working with the non-profit Operation Able, which works to meet the employment and financial stability needs of mature individuals, and to assist employers to find a stable workforce, along with Mayor Duggan. “We're training people and converting them into workers,” Winslow said.
He said they're also working with non-violent offenders with the Department of Corrections to help alleviate labor shortages, as well as creating an apprenticeship development program with the U.S. Department of Labor.
“About 70 percent of our members said they're willing to hire non-violent offenders. It's the ultimate rehabilitation,” he noted. “Restaurants are open to this.”
In Livonia, Schoolcraft College offers a well-regarded culinary arts advanced associate's degree, which “provides the skills necessary to enter food service occupations at advanced levels.” The technical portion of the curriculum prepares students in quality food preparation, advanced food preparation, cost control, portion control, quantity baking, quantity pastry, advanced pastry, meat cutting, garde manger (French for “keeper of the food,”or how to choose, keep, preserve foods such as salads, cold soups, meats, and cheeses), dining room operations and classical cooking techniques.
In addition, students learn food purchasing and storage functions, menu formulation, terminology and decorative culinary skills, as well as culinary sanitation. Other courses include butchery, chemistry of food for culinary arts, and charcuterie. Students who apply have to already have professional cooking skills and techniques.
The Schoolcraft culinary arts program is a two-year degree program which is certified by the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation (ACFEF). “Accreditation assures that a program is meeting standards and competencies set for faculty, curriculum and student services,” the school said.
At their Orchard Ridge Campus in Farmington Hills, Oakland Community College has a Culinary Studies Institute which “has been preparing aspiring chefs for a career in the food and beverage industry for decades. Dining at your favorite restaurants, you may be currently enjoying one of our alums' cuisines.”
The school also offers two restaurants, Ridgewood Cafe, where menu items are made from scratch daily by students, and Reflections Restaurant, offering a prix fixe menu, on campus that are operated to provide their culinary students the opportunity to train in a real world setting. In addition there is Ridgewood Bakery, featuring an assortment of breads, pies, Danish, cookies and other pastries make in-house by baking program students.
As at Schoolcraft, OCC's Culinary Arts program is accredited with the American Culinary Federation and offers an advanced associate's degree. “The design of the curriculum is to prepare the student for a career in culinary arts that may lead to executive chef with industry experience, should they seek it,” OCC said. “CSI faculty are experienced professionals dedicated to student learning and skill development in their classrooms, restaurants, and special events. In addition to hands-on cooking and baking course work, students learn guest services, cost analyses, menu development, wine and spirits, and event planning.”
Students also participate in food competitions and can be a part of their ice carving team.
Michigan State University has one of the best hospitality schools in the country, part of the Eli Broad College of Business. Professor Allan Sherwin, who is also a longtime chef whose family has been involved in the restaurant and hospitality business on the East coast since the 1890s, said the school does not provide culinary training “but offers a four-year degree in the hospitality business. It provides a management perspective in the food and beverage business. It gives academic and financial training, and has them do 800 hours of an internship at business which we have relationships with.”
He said most MSU graduates will go to work for Marriott, Hilton or another chain, “and many are ensconced in a family business or own franchises.”
Sherwin noted the restaurant and hospitality has changed over the years, “but all the fine restaurants need cooks.”
He advised aspiring chefs and cooks “to work in a really good place ‘til three in the morning and get the experience, then open your own place.”