Fifty Minute Classroom

Aug 16, 2017, 10:32

50-Minute Classroom: Look for the Open Door. It Is There

As the term comes to a close, Chef Weiner shares a commencement speech he delivered to graduates who were not culinary-arts students. In it, he dispensed with niceties to instead offer a generous helping of reality.

By Adam Weiner, CFSE

If you are a regular reader of “50-Minute Classroom,” you know I believe our job as culinary teachers is not to merely teach cooking. Our job is to use cooking as a tool to help our students succeed in the world. In fact, at CAFÉ’s 10th-annual Leadership Conference in Salt Lake City next month, I am hosting a roundtable discussion on the importance of teaching students the essential combination of life and job skills.

In January I was asked to be the lead speaker at a graduation ceremony for a halfway-house program in my county because of the success I’ve had with teaching and getting jobs for people. Although I have spoken at numerous events about food and teaching, I have never spoken at a graduation other than for culinary students. I spent some time talking with my wife, and I came up with what I wanted to say. What’s interesting is that it wasn’t a “rah-rah you did great” speech, but a speech on reality.

50-Minute Classroom: The Rest of the Science

Combined with last month’s article from Chef Weiner on the basic science behind critical processes in the kitchen that all culinary students should understand, the following 10 precepts truly sum up any student’s “necessary science.”

By Adam Weiner, CFSE

Two months ago I raised the debate about teaching cooking science to students. Last month I wrote part one of what I personally think are the principles of science that should be taught to beginning culinary students. Here is part two:

50-Minute Classroom: Science Your Students Need to Know

For starters, temperature and heat are not the same thing. When is convection mechanical, and when is it natural? And is food cooked by radiation harmful? Chef Weiner explains why all culinary students should understand the basic science behind critical processes in the kitchen.

By Adam Weiner, CFSE

Last month I raised the debate about teaching cooking science to students. My personal opinion is that there are a few science principles students need to know:

1. The only way to lose weight is to consume fewer calories than you burn. I realize that this is not technically cooking science. However, more and more pressure is being foisted upon the foodservice industry to help solve the obesity crisis. Students must be taught that sooner or later, they, their families and the customers of where they work must pay the piper when it comes to calories—and that this is a matter of personal responsibility.

50-Minute Classroom: Do You Need to Teach Science?

Chef Weiner’s dad has chemical-engineering degrees all over his wall, written hundreds of articles and flown around the world to advise companies, yet his cooking was never as good as that of Weiner’s grandmother, who only made it through the second grade.

By Adam Weiner, CFSE

“Food is love.”
Culinary instructor Adam Weiner

“Cooking is a mistake, baking is a science.”
—Elihu Kittell, chef for the County of San Mateo and longtime friend of the author

“Cooking takes advantage of many basic science principles that apply in the kitchen and throughout the universe. Knowing these principles will enable you to perform endless culinary experiments, and to view the world through the eyes of a scientist.”
Page 7 of The Epicurean Laboratoryby Tina Seelig,1991

In January 2013 I tackled the controversy of whether culinary instructors need to emphasize technique or recipe. Please see my 50-Minute Classroom articles on Reading and Writing Recipes, Braising, Baking, Sauté, Steamingand Grilling.

50-Minute Classroom: Teaching How To Prepare to Give a Non-Class Demonstration

Delivering cooking demonstrations to the public and select groups not only benefits others by sharing your and your students’ expertise and talent. More importantly, it also builds and promotes your program’s unique brand. And the strongest advice from Chef Weiner? Keep it simple.

By Adam Weiner, CFSE

Last month I wrote about giving back to the community. One of the things I mentioned is giving cooking demonstrations. Besides being altruistic, another reason to have you or your students give demos is to promote your program.

When I went to obtain my California Teaching Credential, one of the first things I was taught by my instructors and mentors, Lee and Susan Clark, was that it was critically important to promote your own class. If you don’t—they made emphatically clear—you will be unemployed very soon because of a lack of students. I took their words to heart. When I started teaching the program there were seven students and I was told the program was to be shut down in six months. I brought the enrollment up to 20 people, and 10 years later I am still teaching the same program. I continue to promote, and there is now a several-month waiting list.

So giving demos is a good idea for a variety of reasons. Now, you just have to learn, yourself, and teach your students how to do demos. Like everything else in cooking, the key to success rests with three issues: planning, preparation and practice.