The weeping and gnashing of teeth at Delta Airlines is turning into good news for the Midwest Culinary Institute in Clifton.
A rising trend at the chefs' school is that Delta employees in Greater Cincinnati are enrolling in record numbers, many seeking a "career backup" as the airline faces multiple woes. About 75 students start the two-year program five times a year, on either a cooking or pastry track.

Delta flight attendant Cindy Fudala, 49, is one such student who is helping change the age-range demographic of the college's student body (which traditionally hovers in the twentysomethings, but now leans toward the forty- and fifty-somethings in mid-career job changes).
Fudala actually can use her years of Delta customer service experience to fulfill the work credits required for every student's graduation.
With a 95 percent graduate job placement rate, the institute - a division of Cincinnati State Technical and Community College - is an obvious choice for those considering, or being forced to consider, radical mid-career switches.

The cooking school is run by an unlikely dean, Dan Cayse, a lean academic who doesn't boast a white chef's hat, and truth be told, isn't going to be the next host of the Food Network.

What Cayse, a C.P.A., does bring to the table is a keen sense of business. As dean of the business technologies division at Cincinnati State, Cayse oversaw the recent $55-million expansion of the school's cooking program. The number of kitchen classrooms at the Culinary Institute jumped from one to one dozen.

"It's really just a business program," says Cayse, "just with a culinary arts emphasis." The dean kept meeting people who in the food industry who were terrific chefs, but had trouble managing the business of running a restaurant. "We decided to create a world-class model and redefine our co-op program," partnering with restaurants across the nation.

That's not all. In creating an innovative culinary and food sciences degree program while adding the 218,000-square-foot facility, the college has whipped up a delicious academic concoction.

Included in the retrofit: An international kitchen equipped with custom stoves for preparing Asian and European dishes; climate controlled labs where students learn to butcher fish and meat; instructional bakeries with giant plasma TV screens for watching intricate demonstrations; a pastry shop open to the public; and a state-of-the-art, 200-seat demonstration kitchen and amphitheater with full video production capability.