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B-School With A Sizzle: HEC Paris Cooks Up A New Dual Degree

HEC Paris Dean of Programs Eloïc Peyrache, third from left, and Nicolas Bergerault, founder of L’Atelier des Chefs, celebrate the launch of the new French cooking/MiM double degree with students in the program. Courtesy photo

Would you like a freshly baked apple turnover to go with your business plan? Perhaps some spicy tacos to keep you awake during accounting class? How about a duck flambé to get you through your data course?

Cooking school and business school may be strange stove-fellows, but in France — a country obsessed with comestibles — a marriage of the two perhaps makes more sense. Starting this fall, HEC Paris, the highly ranked elite Grand ecole for business, is teaming with cooking school L’Atelier des Chefs to serve up a foodie option, a double degree that is France’s first professional degree in cooking for Master in Management students.

The new offering, which also will be available to all HEC Paris Master in Management students as an elective course, is a direct response to increasing demand from students interested in developing a career in the catering/hospitality sector, says Eloïc Peyrache, HEC’s dean of programs.

“Some of our students will follow this course to discover a new universe,” Peyrache says. “Others will dream of venturing into the catering industry. Either way, following training with L’atelier des Chefs represents a fantastic opportunity to discover the art of French cuisine.” The course’s first cohort is now marinating, so to speak, and the university recently built a restaurant on campus, called Gustave, where students can cook and commune — and feed their colleagues, as well as the school’s faculty and staff.

L’ATELIER DES CHEFS FOUNDER ATTENDED HEC PARIS IN EARLY 2000S

Peyrache and Bergerault. Courtesy photo

How much does it cost to learn the art of cooking in the epicenter of fine food? You might want to start packing your valise when you hear: MiM students pay about $43,000 for the whole program, which offers students the usual menu of business courses like marketing, finance, consulting, international business, etc. Compare that to The double degree is 100% online; in this first iteration this fall, it is being delivered in French, though future classes are expected to be more international, with translations in English, Spanish, and Chinese.

The lack of English instruction did not hobble the program out of the gate, however. Applications numbered about 120, says Nicholas Bergerault, founder of L’Atelier des Chefs, who himself attended HEC Paris 18 years ago. “This is an old dream coming true for me,” Bergerault says. “I wish I could have had such an opportunity while I was a student at HEC Paris! Today’s digital transformation has opened doors to an array of new possibilities.”

After graduating, Bergerault honed his marketing and management skills at L’Oreal and other companies before starting his cooking school with his brother, Francois, in 2004. So far, they have 11 restaurants (nine in France and two in England) catering to some 200,000 customers a year. Beginning three years ago, L’Atelier des Chefs has trained several thousand apprentice chefs in commercial catering and retail. The new course is “our answer to the current very important needs of the catering industry in France.”

The school also serves busy people who don’t have the time to cook at home: No recipe takes more than a half-hour. Hungry individuals are welcome to stop by, “but you have to cook to eat,” Bergerault warns.

DEGREE IS ‘A BIT FANCY’ — BUT HELPFUL FOR THOSE BOUND FOR THE FOOD BIZ

Alix Caillard is an HEC Paris graduate who helped spur the school to launch the dual diploma. She took the cooking class on her own a few years ago and loved it so much, she wanted others to have the same experience. “I finished the cooking course and suggested it would be good to make it more accessible to other students,” she says.

The course takes 186 hours, usually spread over two years. It is discounted from €1,000 to €690 (about $700) for MiM students, who typically start their grad school careers straight out of undergrad. They get three credits that they otherwise would have to get from a business class. At the end, if they pass the course and the exam, they get a professional degree: a CAP (certificat d’aptitude professionelle). “It’s a bit fancy to have this diploma,” Caillard says. “But if you want to work in the food business, it’s really important. And the diploma gives you more credibility in other programs.”

For her, the frosting on the cake was inviting friends over for lunch and dinner. “A lot of friends who didn’t know each other got to meet,” she says.

The course is not just for chefs or restaurateurs. Caillard went on to do an internship on fighting food waste and is now getting a second master’s in agribusiness, through one of HEC Paris’ partnerships with an engineering school, AgroParis Tech. But as a side dish, she recruits students for the cooking elective.