Friday, April 16, 2021
Sun Valley Culinary Institute Seeks Professional Students as It Celebrates Past Efforts
Chef Chris Koetke teaches behind a glass partition and a face shield.
Monday, January 4, 2021


After successfully offering several months of enthusiast classes, the Sun Valley Culinary Institute is again officially accepting applications for its inaugural professional cooking school.

Classes begin Sept. 27, 2021. Students will spend four months in instruction modules and eight months in paid externships. Financial assistance is available. For more information, visit

The school had just begun accepting applications in the winter of 2020 when it decided to postpone the program because of uncertainty about the coronavirus pandemic.

“We were early in the process with a number of people very interested and having discussions,” said Chris Koetke, the dean of the school. “But the last thing I wanted to do was to have students make plans to come to us and then we had to say ‘No.’ I didn’t think it was fair to the students.”

Now, the school is ready to roll again, he added.

“I’m very optimistic the world will be different by Fall of 2021 when we start the program. I am very optimistic about vaccines being distributed, and I think 2021 is going to be a really, really good year.”

The delay has given Koetke more time to refine the program. As he’s learned more about local food producers, he’s learned of more opportunities for learning outside the classroom.

Students will learn to cook and bake in the kitchen for five days. On the sixth day they will take field trips to learn about local food and food systems.

“It’s good to visit farms and understand how food happens,” said Koetke. “I’ve met some amazing dairy farmers and I used to teach cheesemaking so that’s certainly one of the avenues we’ll explore. And I can’t wait to take the students to Hillside Grain south of Bellevue to help them understand flour. Flour is, after all, one of the most important staples in our diet.”

The Sun Valley Culinary Institute’s program is different from other programs. Students will spend fall and spring slack seasons in the kitchen learning at the Culinary Institute, which is housed in a historic building on Ketchum’s Main Street. Then they will gain paid hands-on experience in some of the top restaurants around Ketchum and Sun Valley during the busy ski and summer seasons.

“One of the great things about what we’re doing that’s so different from other programs around the country is that we’re offering 100 percent culinary arts in a short time frame—one year. And at the end of that year the student will have a very solid skill set and not much debt,” said Koetke.

Koetke said the talents of the students will be needed as the restaurant industry revs up as the pandemic winds down.

“We will come out of it, and there will be such celebrations,” he said. “I believe the restaurant business will have a renaissance like we haven’t seen in a long, long time. At the end of the day, we’re all very social creatures. We crave contact and we crave each other.”


The Sun Valley Culinary Institute managed to hold 75 food enthusiast classes covering everything from salsas to Beef Wellington since June despite COVID.

The classes were limited to eight, participants were masked, and chefs, which included guest chefs Scott Mason, Esta Hornstein, Naomi Everett and Tim Filgate, demonstrated their secrets behind glass.

“I’m very careful because, as a chef, I don’t want to lose my sense of taste and smell,” said Chris Koetke, who taught the majority of the courses.

Additionally, the Culinary Institute supported local restaurant during the lockdown with a virtual supper club. And Suzy Orb won a dinner and stay in Boise in a Passport to Dining promotion designed to get valley residents to present their passport to at least 16 of 34 participating restaurants.

“This has given as us a foundation on which to build a future,” said Koetke. “In this rea of COVID we still got together and had fun. It’s about learning, having fun and enjoying a meal together even if we’re six feet apart. And, when we finish, I always have a smile on my face because I know people have had a good time.”


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