Many culinary school graduates would argue that all culinary schools are a racket, but one local example really was just a front for a con artist that didn't really offer legitimate training or job placement at all! The Academie de Cuisine, as the Examiner reports, has been in the business of tricking Chinese immigrants into spending up to $3,600 for job training, only to work various catering jobs for free and never get the twelve-week paid externship they were promised. Heading up the scam is one Angelo Mueller Degenhardt, a.k.a. Chef Angelo Mueller, a con man released from federal prison in Utah in early 2010. The City Attorney is bringing a lawsuit against Mueller today, alleging that Mueller collected between $2,000 and $3,600 from each of 50 students, taught classes in an office regardless of their ability to understand English, and never found them jobs.
The kicker is this guy was pretty good! He got local non-profits in the Chinese-American community to refer students to him, and he held a fundraiser last September that Senator Dianne Feinstein attended, adding a whole new air of legitimacy to his otherwise shoddy website.
Former instructor Randy Wei, a career chef, quit after four months after realizing it was a scam. Also, nine students went to a local Chinese newspaper to expose Mueller, who then threatened to sue the students if they didn't apologize.
The school remains operational, apparently, and City Attorney Dennis Herrera says he hopes the suit will "encourage" them to shut it down.