Students file class-action lawsuit against California Culinary Academy

Le Cordon Blah

The peanut-butter-and-jelly-pizza class project was definitely a red flag. But for those who say they've been wronged by the California Culinary Academy, the alleged lack of skill demonstrated by some students who were allowed to pass through to graduation — including the pizza-maker who reportedly couldn't even boil water — was just one of many problems at the San Francisco school. Students and graduates of CCA, as well as former employees, also told SF Weekly reporter Eliza Strickland tales of woe including admissions representatives behaving like used-car salespeople, poorly qualified teachers, and aspiring chefs graduating from Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts and other programs so sacked by student loan debt they couldn't even afford to pursue their culinary dreams ("Burnt Chefs," June 6).

Now, the struggling chefs are hoping it's payback time. Several dozen CCA students and graduates filed a class-action lawsuit late last month against CCA and its parent company, the Career Education Corporation. In the complaint, filed in San Francisco Superior Court on Sept. 28, the plaintiffs allege that CCA engaged in "a fraudulent scheme" in connection with the recruitment of students, misrepresented the admissions process, and failed to provide students with meaningful assistance in finding employment.

"I feel badly for these people. They were apparently misled while simply trying to get an education and earn a decent living," said the chefs' attorney, Ray E. Gallo. "They feel genuinely wronged and we intend to do something to help them and, hopefully, prevent this from happening in the future."

This isn't the first time CCA's parent company has been taken to court. Career Education Corporation has recently been hit with eight other lawsuits across the country.

However, one academy official says she's proud of her school and up for a fight. "We believe the allegations of the complaint to be without merit and we intend to vigorously defend the lawsuit," CCA president Jennifer White said in an e-mail. "California Culinary Academy remains proud of its outstanding 30-year history, its students, faculty, staff, and alumni."

The Weekly is also proud — proud of Strickland's article, which just won an investigative journalism award from the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Read the orginal story
Burnt Chefs by Eliza Strickland

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