Think Tank

Oct 17, 2017, 22:30

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.

Think Tank: Separating the Sizzle from the Steak

In curriculum development, although enrollment-management departments like to promote courses that concentrate on attractive ancillary skill sets, insufficient dedication to teaching strong foundational abilities will negatively impact student employability and success.

By Paul Sorgule, MS, AAC

Marketers have long understood that promoting what excites people is the best way to sell a product. The classic mantra has been: “The sizzle sells the steak.” This can be problematic when the steak is sacrificed for the sizzle in an effort to increase sales. Eventually, the customer will become dissatisfied with the results.

Colleges have adopted this classic marketing strategy over the past few decades with significant investments in physical plant and amenities that are far removed from the primary mission of delivering a valuable education. This has, in some cases, even crept into curriculum development.

Think Tank: A Different View of Grading in Culinary Education, Part II

There should be no room for variance from a standard of expectation among all stakeholders—employers, faculty, parents and the students themselves. To ensure that culinary grads meet acceptable skill and aptitude standards, Chef Sorgule suggests employing a “passport.”

By Paul Sorgule, MS, AAC

The first question is, “What are the critical skills that will allow students to progress within your program and reach a level of success on internship and after graduation”?

Although there are numerous core competencies that set the stage for “learning” and the ability to adapt to various situations, there is a specific grouping of more tangible competencies that are essential in building “employability” aptitudes in kitchens. If planned correctly, these aptitudes can provide the setting for the other core competencies within a curriculum.

These critical skills should be drawn from a collaborative process of involvement including faculty, industry chefs and bakers, alumni and the students themselves. Knowing the expectations of these constituencies is the foundation for building a curriculum and system of evaluation that will develop confidence and lead to student success.