Think Tank

Oct 19, 2017, 23:50

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

As culinary educators we have a unique opportunity to view student assessment differently—in a way that measures the ability to “demonstrate understanding” vs. the ability to memorize.

Paul Sorgule, MS, AAC

From the day we first enter the educational system in the United States we are introduced to a method of measurement that establishes a feeling of success or failure, winning or losing, those with potential and those without. My beacon for leadership and management, Edwards Deming, viewed this as one of the most significant problems that faced American economic strength from the 1950s till current times.

The American system of education has, to a large degree, been based on telling students what they should know, relegating them to memorizing facts and then testing them on their ability to repeat that information. Successful memorization equals better test scores; better test scores equals a person with potential. Or does it?

Think Tank: Teaching or Training—Choose a Side

As educators, we cannot not ignore what consumers of education seek. So why do many in education assume that teaching and training are mutually exclusive?

By Paul Sorgule, MS, AAC

The more I researched for this article the more frustrated—and, at times, angry—I became. It appears that there are still many in the field of education who believe teaching and training are mutually exclusive.

To some, the term “training” was not even part of the larger umbrella of education. It was somehow beneath the concept of educational development. In a letter to the editor of the National Forum: Phi Kappa Phi Journal, Spring 2000, Robert H. Essenhigh of Ohio State University states: “There is another major pressure coming into universities, and particularly state universities. It is the increasing insistence—particularly from state governments (with the associated control of the money)—that students, when they leave, must be able to walk into some job without any further training.” He continues: “… universities are not in the business of training. Their business is educating.”

Think Tank: The Most Important Question Is “Why?”

Change is challenging, but necessary for growth. When striving to be the instrument of positive change, a successful, simple way to intercept every reason given for resistance is to utter the single word, “Why?”

By Paul Sorgule, MS, AAC

Understanding that students learn differently today, the industry we serve requires evolving skill sets, and the impact of technology provides interesting alternatives to our established methods of delivery places educators in a position to think change.

Change is a concept that draws a good deal of conversation and a multitude of “how to” theories. When I checked in with, there were more than 17,000 titles listed regarding the concept of change management. Everyone talks about change, yet the reality is that no one truly embraces the concept.

Think Tank: YES, CHEF!

Are you preparing students to be kitchen and career ready?

By Paul Sorgule, MS, AAC

Sometimes the military gets it right. The training program that all soldiers must go through is designed to not just prepare individuals physically for the demands of this type of service, but more importantly prepare these same individuals to function as members of a larger entity. The methodologies used are very well thought out, and all conditioning is directly or indirectly focused on a high level of preparedness. Some may call this conditioning excessive, but I think most would agree that the result is a unit of men or women with a common focus and a total commitment to their respective tasks as part of a team.

Apply those same realities to the function of a professional kitchen, and it would not be a stretch to admit that this type of outcome is exactly what is needed from culinary educational programs. The desired outcomes for both the military and programs focused on careers in a kitchen are: respect, attention to detail, professionalism, image, repetition, physical conditioning, teamwork, respect for chain of command, the ability to follow directives, and accepting roles within an organization.

Think Tank: Intensity, Realistic Environments and Tempering through Experience

Does your program meet the needs of the industry it serves and adequately prepare your students to shine?

By Paul Sorgule, MS, AAC

I just finished re-reading Bill Buford’s book, Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany,about his hands-on experiences on the line in Mario Batali’s restaurant and subsequent time working with arguably the finest butcher in all of Italy.

As I finished this great depiction of the learning process in kitchens I was again inspired to look at how we prepare students for the rigors of the kitchen. What came through very clearly in Buford’s story (and from my own experiences as a chef) was the intensity of the kitchen and the realization that a strong culinary program must be able to recreate this intensity if students are truly destined to “learn.”

There is a difference between teaching and training, and both must be present in a curriculum if the end result is a graduate who is “kitchen ready” today and “career ready” tomorrow. What operational chefs are looking for in culinary graduates is a strong foundational knowledge of cooking, positive attitude, willingness to learn, the ability to work with others as a team, efficiency, stamina and the ability to multi-task under pressure.

To me, it only makes sense that this should be the starting point in building a modern culinary curriculum. Every course built, every lesson plan designed, every facility built and every faculty training session should reflect back on these expectations. Does this design meet the needs of the industry it serves and adequately prepare our students to shine?