Alain LeNotre comes from three generations of culinary professionals and said he considers it an honor to continue this legacy. The Culinary Institute Lenotre, which LeNotre founded in 1998, alongside his wife Marie, recently celebrated a 25-year milestone.

“It is more than pride,” LeNotre said. “It’s also a responsibility. We started with six students, and now there are more than 3,000 [graduates].”

The backstory

LeNotre said his love for baking came from his grandmother, Eleonore. She was one of the first female executive chefs in France in the early 1900s, he said.

After becoming a household name in the 1950s through an innovative concept of combining fresh pastries, bread, wine and a deli in one, upscale store, LeNotre said he urged his father to start a school.

“I knew education was my calling,” LeNotre said.

LeNotre moved to the U.S. in the 1980s to start an American arm of his parents' deli and bakery franchise.
Alain and Marie Lenotre established the Culinary Institute Lenotre 25 years ago in 2024. (Courtesy Culinary Institute Lenotre)
Alain and Marie LeNotre established the Culinary Institute Lenotre in 1998. (Courtesy Culinary Institute Lenotre)
He said he faced years of adversity to make a name for himself in Houston. Business partners would betray him, staff would steal from him and stores that housed his pastries would shut down.

It was only through tenacity and perseverance that LeNotre and his wife Marie would open The Culinary Institute Lenotre, he said.

About the school

Today, CIL offers associate degrees in hospitality and restaurant management, baking and culinary arts; as well as diploma programs in baking and culinary arts. The school hosts job fairs and several seminars for budding chefs and employers in the food and beverage industry.

CIL was ranked the No. 1 Culinary Arts College in America from 2019-21 and again in 2024 by Niche, formerly College Prowler, an organization which reviews U.S. schools and colleges.

The institution boasts a low chef-instructor to student ratio for personalized instruction and 14 kitchen labs with individual work stations for each student to practice their culinary skills.
The school has 14 kitchen laboratories and boasts small chef-instructor to student ratios for personalized training. (Asia Armour/Community Impact)
The school has 14 kitchen laboratories and boasts small chef-instructor to student ratios for personalized training. (Asia Armour/Community Impact)
LeNotre and his family have authored several cookbooks, some of which are used in the curriculum at CIL. His wife Marie also established the Gaston Lentore Scholarship in 2001—named after his father—to fund scholarships for underprivileged students to further their culinary education.

What's next?

To stay around for the next 25 years, LeNotre said the key will be to continue investing in his teaching staff, giving employees a stake in the company, and offering hands-on, personalized training to students.

“When the recipe is good, you don’t change the recipe,” LeNotre said.