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Olive Garden has a chef's school?

In Italy no less? At least according to the TV ad Olive Garden trains their chefs at this culinary academy in Italy. True?

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  1. Supposedly true, but I doubt all their cooks are trained there:


    1 Reply
    1. re: mojoeater

      It sure sounds like a nice perk, assuming this is for real. But it must be really frustrating for someone to win this trip and then have to return to cooking at the Olive Garden.

    2. doesn't mc donald's have a *college* too?

      6 Replies
      1. re: hotoynoodle

        McDonalds University outside of Chicago is not only an incredible training center for McD managers, but the company rents it out for other companies.

        Jfood toured the facility once and will tell you it is EXTREMELY impressive. The corprate exec who escorted us gave quite a passionate description. Before gaining Managerial Status, each manager in training must complete numerous courses including the ability to take apart the Milk shake machine blindfolded (hey never know when that comes in handy). It is fairly rigorous.

        Likewise each graduating class is ranked and then the franchises are distributed based on the class ranking. A franchise in downtown Detroit will earn the franchisee waaaay more money than one in small town America. So its pretty competitive.

        And no, jfood has no affiliation with McD's.

        1. re: jfood

          And the Hyatt Lodge at McDonald's Headquarters is one of the nicest hotels in the area. And it features a lot of McDonald's related art.

          1. re: jfood

            The CIA in NY stresses consistency of quality. A dish should taste the same every time you order. The standard they emulate is McDonalds.

          2. re: hotoynoodle

            I think you are right- I think it is called hamburger u - but I don't think it is to train their cooks. I think it is for the employees to learn the mcdonald way of doing things- I will keep it at that! i think they call it quality customer service. nuff said!

            1. re: hotoynoodle

              And there is or was a DQU, I think.

              1. re: lgss

                I graduated from Tyson University after learning everything I ever wanted to know about chickens. Took three days. Very pleasant campus,great accomodations and food (no chicken at all! except in class) and free plane trip to Arkansas to boot: as much for PR as anything else.

            2. I would doubt they send all there location chefs to Italy, probably a regional person.

              On the school thing, I used to work with a guy who went to Dunkin Donuts U after buying a franchise.

              1. Management and operations training for franchisees and corporate managers is a helluva lot different from high end chef training!

                1. Why not? OG probably doesn't have more than a handful of chefs, all who work for corporate and are responsible for menu development, food design, and training. I'm sure OG doesn't mean that their local line cooks do not train in Italy.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Hungry Celeste

                    Celeste, that was my guess too. The people being trained in Italy are probably doing development, and then they train the regional marnagers, who then train the actual line cooks. Last time I was at olive garden (I know, I know... not my choice) it was pretty apparent that there was considerable "watering down" of food that would be made at a cooking school in Italy.

                    1. re: Hungry Celeste

                      OG might not mean their cooks train in Italy, but they certainly imply it. The chefs create the recipes but you won't find chefs in their restaurants - just cooks. Much of that food is frozen as well!

                      1. re: DMA

                        My understanding is that much of the food, frozen or not, is boil-in-the-bag (and not of the gourmet sous vide variety).

                        1. re: DMA

                          Lets not go casting aspersions on "cooks." I've eaten a lot of food made by "chefs" that wasn't worth the time or money and I've eaten a lot of food made by people who aren't "chefs" that blew my mind and my tastebuds.

                          We can slam the food at OG on its merits all day long (and probably should, for the most part) and we might even question the abilities of some of the people who work there to prepare food from scratch....but the "chef"/"cook" distinction isn't a very helpful one.

                          1. re: ccbweb

                            Chain food "chefs" or cooks ... cook not create. They cook pre bagged, packaged or pre seasoned and comes with a sauce. They cook it but don't actually make it. Just heat it.

                            I have eaten great and bad food from chefs and non chefs. So to me Chef school doesn't make a chef it is just a title and even then. I don't really care about someones title. I just care about what he cooks. The best food I ever had was from a guy in Montana. Never taught how to cook, just self taught. Small diner and we were visiting a relative and spent 6 days there. We ate there breakfast lunch and dinner almost every day. Really. Our friends were in the middle of building so eating out was it. The food ... AMAZING! All different, great, fresh. To me, better than most 5 star meals I have had and definitely better than any so called famous cook book recipe which I hate to use anyways. I use recipes as a base and then usually do my own thing. He cooked from the heart and from the soul. True cooking. NOT following a recipe.

                            We continually keep in contact. He no longer cooks in a restaurant due to illness but offers his recipes which are not very accurate which he claims that a recipe was never the same because ingredients were never the same. I agree. I do the same. I can't stand to follow a recipe and very seldom do except for baking.

                            He said he went to a school and left after 2 days because it was too ridgid. Maybe right maybe wrong, but one hell of a chef.

                      2. The Omaha World Herald has an interview with an academy attendee...

                        1. The commercials I used to see on this featured traditional looking Italian grandmotherly types training chefs in a kitchen. Odd.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: gloriousfood

                            my italian grandmother would turn into a pumpkin before she made anything resembling most of the dishes on the olive garden menu.

                          2. I was not aware Cooks needed special training to open boil in bags that olive garden slop comes in...

                            1. Yes it's true although you get a diploma in a day.
                              This is a Can. This is a can opener.
                              This is a freezer. It's cold.
                              This is a Microwave. It's hot.

                              Now lets all repeat that and yes there will be a test later.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Docsknotinn

                                Isn't it just a marketing school, much like Carvel College and Mikey D U?

                                How to sell crap to gullible consumers for enough money to make the franchisees tons of loot in ten easy lessons?

                                1. re: dolores

                                  I was just being facetious. Most franchises have a "school" for franchisees to get familar with the ordering systems, product etc. It's usaully required to get the franchise.
                                  Other chains have schools for their employees. Mcdonalds managers and leads need to know exciting stuff like how many seeds belong on a sesamee seed bun. McyD has corporate stores as well and some of those operate as a training facility. You can tell when your in a corporate unit as the equipment is always new, spotless and they have much nicer bathrooms. Painted tiles etc.

                                  1. re: Docsknotinn

                                    I know, Docsknotinn. But Olive Garden no more teaches their 'chefs' how to cook well than I would pay to park.

                                    1. re: dolores

                                      LOL I don't think they have chefs or even skilled line cooks for that matter.

                              2. And I trained my cat to use a litter box..

                                Olive Garden has premade-pre packaged everything... if they have a chef it is the same guy who designed MRE's for the field GI's

                                1. All of their recipes come from their culinary school in Italy, which is staffed by their top chefs. Additionally, several of their restaurant chefs are sent to school there. No, the line cooks do not attend. Would you pay to send a minimum wage line cook to Italy for training? Get real, people. Their food is NOT boil-in-bag. Some things are prepared in advance (at the restaurant) and frozen to retain freshness (such as the spinach artichoke dip). If it weren't, you would have to wait FOREVER for your food and you would complain about that!

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: jdjazz

                                    "several of their restaurant chefs are sent to school there"

                                    OG only employs like what? Four chefs worldwide including the two at the cooking school? So whoopi, They sent all of their chef's to Italy. Two of the four live there.
                                    The lead 19 year old in the kitchen at your local OG is not a chef. OG like most corporate chain hell restaurants does not use a system of chefs but rather managers. Which is exactly who OG sends to this school in high hopes the can tell an artichoke from an olive.
                                    And that Artichoke dip that's "prepared in advance" ?
                                    LOL yeeeaaaah like several months in advance in a factory where they freeze it then ship it out to all the units.

                                    1. re: jdjazz

                                      "If it weren't, you would have to wait FOREVER for your food and you would complain about that!"

                                      Myth. I eat at restaurants all the time that make their food fresh and do not have to wait forever. The reason restaurants like Olive Garden serve bulk, pre-prepared, frozen food is not for speed but for consistency and safety.

                                      If they make a large batch of dip or sauce ahead of time and freeze it, then they don't have to rely on cooks to execute recipes on the line, which would require a more skilled staff in each restaurant than they are willing to pay for.

                                    2. Whether they do or don't (and they probably do) is totally irrelevant. Their food isn't horrible, but it is incredibly safe and boring. No chance of a single bold stroke that might offend someone. I can not imagine any trained chef who would make their food other than to make a living (which, of course, is totally acceptable).

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: bnemes3343

                                        yeah except that that level of safety(tastewise) is pretty horrible IMO.

                                        I used to dismiss Chains 100% across the board but have come to realize that some of them actually are good. Case in point, In-N-Out. Chains dont have to be horrible, but the vast majority are....sad really.

                                        1. re: nkeane

                                          remember the very old In-N-Out commercials: 'go to the freezer and get the box'? I believe it was a new employee who didn't get the concept that In-N-Out didn't have frozen fries and frozen beef patties. Wow, I guess I'm really dating myself :)

                                      2. My favorite commercial talks about how a particular place in Tuscany is known for its "roasted garlic" dishes. Give me a break.

                                        1. It is true there is a school the the cooks at the og can go to. and it is Italy.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Allanon2020

                                            I'm guessing only a select few get to go, but it must be cool. I've heard Barilla has an Academy over there that is unbelievably impressive, they do all kinds of research. They have a lot of high end items that the general public might not be aware of, like DOP olive oils and the most delicious parmesan and prosciutto. I wouldn't mind a little tour.

                                          2. Here's a story on it:


                                            Apparently they set up this school for 11 weeks of the year. The rest of the year, it's a B&B with a regular cooking school. The top selling managers and chefs are selected to go.

                                            I've only been to OG a couple times -- by others' choice. I didn't care for it. But clearly there are a LOT of people who do like it -- they are making a profit. Ever notice how many chain restaurants have lines of people waiting to get in.

                                            They may not be authentic or from scratch, but they are meeting a need of some kind. They are popular with enough people that they are making money!

                                            1. It's for dropouts from Luby's Institute of Square Fish Fillets.