Long Island’s only private professional cooking school has closed.
Students, faculty and administrators of the Culinary Academy of Long Island in Syosset were informed Tuesday that all classes were canceled, effective immediately, and that the school would cease operations, a news release said.
The school had 97 students, Victor McNulty, president of the Syosset campus, said Wednesday.
The shutdown came a little more than a year after the school’s parent company, Star Career Academy in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, was ordered to pay $9.2 million in a class-action lawsuit that accused it of defrauding students in its surgical technology program. The program lacked accreditation, and its graduates couldn’t obtain their certification, published reports said at the time.
The news release issued by Star Career Academy on Tuesday didn’t mention the lawsuit. Instead it said the closing was “the result of the negative financial impact of a continued declining student population while operating in the challenging for-profit postsecondary school industry.”
Star Career Academy didn’t return calls seeking comment yesterday.
But McNulty said the lawsuit “crippled the company financially.”
He stressed that his campus performed well and said that thousands of graduates have gone on to own bakeries or work for employers like the Food Network.
“It’s really sad, because the school didn’t have any problems,” he said. “Our students got placed, and we hit all of our benchmarks always with accrediting bodies and the state Department of Education.”
Tanya Salagiannis, 28, co-owner of Sweet Surrender Bake House in Levittown, graduated from the Syosset campus’ pastry program in 2008, her second certificate from the school. Her bakery sells its trademarked Crannoli, a hybrid croissant, doughnut and cannoli. She credits the school in part with her success.
The Culinary Academy of Long Island, CALI, was founded in 1996 by Michael Levitt. In 2004, the Westbury school moved to larger quarters in Syosset and was then acquired by Star Career Academy, which operated eight campuses in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. All of the schools, with an enrollment of more than 1,000 students, have closed.
When it was acquired, the Culinary Academy changed its name to Star Career Academy, but last month McNulty announced that the school was returning to its original name.
Lenny Messina, a seasoned baker who ran the pastry program at CALI, said that the Syosset students were not given advance notice that the school was closing. “Yesterday we made cheesecake,” he said Tuesday, “and it’s still in the refrigerator.”
McNulty said that any students currently in the school’s internship programs will be considered graduates. For more information, students and employees should go to starcareer.edu or call 856-719-0300.