This just in: culinary school enrollment is way up across the country. Time magazine reports that, nationally, 31% more students have signed up at for-profit culinary schools. Revenues at one, the famous Le Cordon Bleu, are up 63%. The article says that this is not such a good thing, because culinary school is expensive, and chefs don't make much money.
But wait! The LA Times counters with a report that culinary school enrollments are dropping, because students are savvy enough to realize that culinary school isn't worth the cost. The LA Times' data seem a little murkier, but the story includes some great anecdotes. For example, they highlight a kid who, rather than spending thousands on CIA tuition, practiced dicing potatoes in his spare time, and now works at Cafe Boulud.
What's the true story? It seems likely that enrollment is up somewhat due to the recession, as the young and jobless try to gain marketable skills at school. But it's pretty clear that the most cost-effective way to get training in the kitchen is to work under a good chef—if you can beat out culinary school grads to get an entry-level job.