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Generation Next

We already have a good idea about what skills the current crop of culinary school students will have when they start full-time restaurant work. But what will be going on inside their heads?

We now have some insight, thanks to a survey conducted by the International Culinary Schools at The Art Institutes. The school polled its students and the results show that the next generation of chefs thinks a little bit differently about their career path than did their predecessors.

Remember when the pinnacle of the profession involved cooking high-end French food in a white tablecloth setting? Those days are, in part, over. More than 40 percent of survey respondents think Spanish and South American cuisines will have the most influence on future menus. As for their own specialties, more students are interested in incorporating Italian cuisine (68 percent) rather than French (53 percent) in their professional repertoire. And a whopping 84 percent said they would consider specializing in a “fusion” cuisine.

These students think they'll be going green, too. Ninety-seven percent think environmental responsibility will play a role in their culinary careers, with more than half saying it's “very important.” Seventy-five percent of respondents want to work with locally supplied ingredients; 55 percent want those ingredients to be organic.

Longer term, most of the students surveyed expect to become chef/owners one day. Eighty-one percent plan to open their own restaurant. Of that number, 40 percent want to open a fine-dining establishment, the remainder hoping to command a mid-scale establishment. We wish them all luck.