The Natural Gourmet Center will help chefs meet the growing demand for meat-free meals.


Plant-based food is definitely having a moment in 2019—from Carl’s Jr. opting to keep the Beyond Burger on its menu through spring, to a survey showing that over a third of people want to eat more plant-based foods. In order to train the next generation of chefs who will serve up dishes to meet this growing demand, in April the Institute of Culinary Education’s (ICE) new Natural Gourmet Center, which launched in January at the Los Angeles campus in Pasadena, will offer its first classes from a curriculum dedicated to plant-forward cuisine, reports The Whittier Daily News. The program will be eight-to-12 months long, and graduates will receive a diploma in Health-Supportive Culinary Arts.

According to the center’s FAQ section, most of the program is plant-based; however, there are certain animal proteins, including dairy, poultry, and shellfish, that will be used (though students who don’t eat them will not be penalized if they choose not to handle them). There will also be a course on baking and desserts available, which focuses on taking standard recipes and making them more plant-friendly (e.g. using less refined sweeteners), as well as catering towards diners with dietary restrictions. Overall, the Natural Gourmet Center focuses on Dr. Annemarie Colbin's seven core principles for food selection: whole, fresh, seasonal, traditional, balanced, local, and delicious. Students will spend 432 hours in the classroom, and 200 hours in externships.

The curriculum comes from New York’s Natural Gourmet Institute (founded by Colbin)—the first licensed and accredited plant-based, health-supportive, and nutrition-focused culinary school in America. According to a statement, the NGI and ICE signed a licensing agreement that allows ICE to offer “NGI’s full range of career training and recreational courses at the new Natural Gourmet Center.” In turn, the NGI will close in April after operating for over 40 years, according to the New York Times. Both the ICE Los Angeles campus and ICE’s campus in Battery Park City will take over the curriculum, so chefs looking to learn more plant-based recipes will have options on both coasts.

"We have always thought it important and smart to offer a plant- and nutrition-oriented culinary training program, and the opportunity to have that based on NGI's highly respected curriculum is fantastic," Rick Smilow, ICE's president and CEO, said in the statement. "ICE's mission is to help everyone who comes through our doors to find their culinary voice. We're thrilled to now offer a program that expands upon the meaning of that mission."

The first classes at the Natural Gourmet Center start on April 30, according to its site—so you better get moving. Tuition starts at $26,500 for the first group of students and then goes up to $28,500 “for all subsequent classes,” according to the Whittier Daily News. However, if you don’t want to do the full program, two-week certificates and recreational classes are also available.