Culinary School’s Dining Room to Get Fresh Air

Ann McClure's picture

Students here have simply called it the “E Room” as they toiled in the kitchen to feed some 1.5 million diners over the last 38 years. But on Thursday, the Escoffier Restaurant, the fusty, classically inspired, formal French dining room of the Culinary Institute of America, will close its doors in preparation for a radical transformation into a sleek, haute brasserie.

When it reopens next year, after a $3 million down-to-the-studs renovation with an interior by Adam Tihany, who also designed Daniel, Jean Georges and Per Se, the restaurant will offer a contemporary, French-accented, globally influenced menu.

It will also have a new name: the Bocuse Restaurant, after Paul Bocuse, the celebrated 86-year-old Lyonnaise chef.

But the change is not simply an homage to Mr. Bocuse. In shedding the name of Auguste Escoffier, who codified the French cooking canon and helped create the hierarchical kitchen brigade system that long ruled grand kitchens about the world, the 66-year-old school hopes its new restaurant will reflect “the dining revolution in America,” said Tim Ryan, the institute’s president. It will embody, he added, the shift away from kitchen servitude — and toward creativity and collaboration — that has taken place over the years.

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