Le Cordon Bleu, which operates 17 culinary institutes in the US, reported a 20 percent increase in students in 2010. In San Francisco, a venture called Hands On Gourmet, which teaches clients to cook through private and corporate parties, now reaches almost 5,000 people a year.
"A lot of people who come through our doors don't know how to cook, but most people want to learn," says chef Stephen Gibbs, who runs Hands On Gourmet. "When they learn how to make their own Indian or Thai curries ... they say, 'holy moley, I just made that?' They are flabbergasted."
The proliferation of new media is adding to the foodie culture. No longer do you have to thumb through some Italian cookbook you may or may not have to find the best way to make shrimp fra diavolo. You can find as many recipes as you want – for the novice or gourmand – with the click of a mouse. Want to know something as mundane as how long it takes to boil an egg? Type the query into Google's search engine and you'll get 40,600,000 suggestions in less than one second.
Something more obscure? Try vichyssoise, a seasonal soup, usually served cold, that is made of scallions or leeks, potatoes, and cream. An online search will yield 640,000 hits, including a debate over the soup's origin (best guess: either a French chef or one at New York's Ritz Carlton in the early 1900s).