As traditional colleges shut down in March, We in Culinary Arts Education and Training followed. Vacating our teaching kitchens, classrooms, and on-campus open to the public venues. But unlike traditional colleges, many of which shifted to online learning, culinary schools have had to contend with moving cooking classes, tactile in nature, to a virtual setting and platforms quickly! Most have opted not to, meaning culinary schools and culinary students are stuck in indeterminate state until campuses are cleared to reopen.
We decided to take another approach, insuring to keep our students engaged and our training viable. We focused on the theoretical components of the programs that we teach and supplemented the practical components with online culinary education through professional chef driven demo classes with students joining in to continue the momentum of cultivating an environment of community and growth. We also initiated an online platform that invited our students to stay connected to their peers and share and present their work/cooking/photos with their Chef Instructors for feedback to complete their training.
Looking further ahead, we are thinking about the trickle-down effects the crisis will have on our curricula, which will need to be adjusted to prepare students to enter a changed food industry. How are restaurants going to be staffed? What are menus going to look like? How do businesses balance delivery and dine in? There are so many questions that we need to search for answers. Before we can make changes to the curricula, we must see what the industry wants and will need moving forward. But I am also hopeful that the industry will adapt to its new reality, whatever that may look like and what part are we going to play in breathing new life into the reality of what the industry and industry professionals and students need moving forward. The demand for restaurants has existed for hundreds of years; we must give credit to the resiliency of chefs and restaurateurs. It is a big challenge, but I do not want to undercut the resiliency of the leaders of the food industry and what we need to do to move forward and grow despite what it may look like at the present time. The hospitality industry in its entirety is required to play a necessary and critical role of our world returning to normalcy.
Now more than ever, we will need highly trained professionals to lead the charge. Culinary school graduates, chefs and professionals in the industry need to enhance their value by learning and developing business knowledge and aptitudes in addition to an eye and taste for exceptional and creative cuisine – an educated chef is a confident powerful chef! I believe that culinary school graduates offer far more value to the industry and their employers because they bring a wide variety of proficiencies beyond their training in fundamental skills and techniques in culinary and pastry arts. This includes financial and customer management, business operations and more. Meanwhile many people without formal culinary education only have experience and knowledge in a single aspect or specification of the foodservice industry, not only limiting themselves but also the potential for growth of the industry.
For Chefs, professionals and culinary graduates looking to begin or start a career in the food service industry, the types of skills they need moving forward must match the demands of the times we are living in. With greater reason, that includes a more fortified approach to a comprehensive and all-encompassing culinary education that is augmented with the knowledge of the business side of our beloved industry.
In closing, I have also attached the picture of the plate that our students worked on to participate in the Taste Canada Competition.