Think Tank

Jun 27, 2017, 10:27

Think Tank: What Will Culinary Education Look Like in 2025?

What can we learn from Detroit automakers, BlackBerry and Blockbuster? Technology and other factors are gradually changing how we cook, what we cook, how it is served and to which audience it appeals. Culinary programs need to begin planning today to meet the future needs and demands of an evolving marketplace.

By Paul Sorgule, MS, AAC

It might seem odd to be thinking about an educational model 10 years from now, yet most successful businesses build strategies based on what they know and what they don’t know about the future. As deans and directors, are you asking the right questions? Are you spending enough time thinking about tomorrow while still dealing with the challenges of today?

Who should be involved in these discussions? Thoughts about tomorrow should (must) include all stakeholders in the educational process, and even those businesses and individuals who may offer insight through totally different disciplines. The stakeholders would certainly include faculty, employers, students and leaders from other institutions of higher learning, but should not be limited to this cadre of people who are directly impacted by your planning.

Think Tank: Is Experience the Best Form of Education?

Employers seek graduates who follow directives, have a strong foundation of technical skills and enthusiastically respond, “Yes, Chef.”  Yet knowing the “why” and “how to” is as important a skill as the actual process of completing a task.

By Paul Sorgule, MS, AAC

The intent of articles in “Think Tank” is to stimulate opinion, emotion and, most importantly, openness to creative thought. Articles over the next few months will hopefully do just that.

I encourage you to share these with your faculty and administrative staff. Solicit their thoughts and create a dialogue in preparation for the next few decades of culinary education.

The question of theory vs. practical application has been a topic of debate for quite some time. The core issue is whether or not the traditional model of education really prepares a student to be a productive and successful member of society or if the “school of hard knocks” still reigns supreme.

Think Tank: Preparing Students to Be Humble, Caring and Generous

As much as our primary educational mission is to prepare students to be professionally successful in their chosen career, Chef Sorgule asserts our obligation extends far beyond: Educators have a responsibility to help mold good citizens, community leaders and honorable members of society.

By Paul Sorgule, MS, AAC

Chefs and restaurateurs have historically been some of the most generous people that I have known; however, this generous nature grows by following the lead of mentors who set the example.

When disaster strikes, when others are in need, when a good cause cries out for support, chefs and restaurateurs are typically at the front of the line to help. This caring nature is what has always drawn me to restaurant people and something that I feel is paramount to truly experiencing a level of personal success.

As crusty as some chefs and restaurateurs appear to be, they care about others both on their team and in the community at large. Chefs, in particular, are very protective of their team, oftentimes going above the call of duty to support and help when there is a need.

Think Tank: Partners in Education

Integration of industry and education better prepares students for success and makes a school essential in the eyes of all stakeholders. Good news is that opportunities for your program to partner with your local business community are endless.

By Paul Sorgule, MS, AAC

Sometimes programs tend to underestimate the breadth of resources and educational talent at their disposal. We look to our full- and part-time faculty as the primary resource and strength of a program, as one would assume.

However, those program administrators who see the potential to draw the hospitality community into the folds of their faculty resources can build a truly dynamic curriculum to rival the largest and finest colleges. Creating a stage for Partners in Education allows business leaders to understand how they might assist in building extraordinary opportunities for young people aspiring to a career in hospitality.

We all understand how this might occur through internships and externships, giving students the ability to apply the hands-on skills they are developing in a campus program, but few programs understand that this “partnership” can extend to all academic courses, as well. Hands-on can apply to every part of your curriculum. Considering that most students enrolled in culinary programs are tactile learners, this application approach can result in a more-engaged student, enhanced relationships with outside stakeholders in your program, and a truly balanced graduate.

Students, parents and accrediting agencies are collectively holding college administrators and faculty members to a different standard. Everyone seems to want measureable, and visible, outcomes that make a difference in a student’s professional life. Stakeholders are looking for value.

Think Tank: Train the Trainer, Teach the Teacher

How adept are your faculty at integrating technology in the kitchen and classroom? Are you training and teaching them to understand issues relating to farming, processing, packaging and shipping of raw materials used in kitchens? Great teachers, like excellent employees in any field, thrive on self-improvement.

By Paul Sorgule, MS, AAC

Your facilities are in order, all of the collateral pieces are designed with wonderful pictures of incredible food and the smiling faces of your students, the website is up to date and your curriculum has been designed with input from accrediting agencies and industry leaders. You invested the time and energy seeking the best possible faculty.

So, everything is ready to go. Open the doors and let the students in. Is anything missing?

When institutions such as yours build their checklists for successful design and implementation of a culinary program, there is far too often one critical piece missing. Staff training and development, just as is the case in restaurant operations, falls victim to the deadly budget cut. Let’s think about this for a moment.

Administrators would likely agree that their most valuable asset is the cadre of great teachers they hire. These great teachers are dedicated to their chosen profession and excited to share their knowledge with students.