Think Tank

Aug 17, 2017, 16:20

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 amazon.com, 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?

Think Tank: Creating Value in Culinary Education, Part 1

Graduates need to crawl before they walk and walk before they run. What are the skill sets that chefs and restaurateurs expect your students to have when they start their employment? Can your students meet those expectations?

By Paul Sorgule, MS, AAC

Designing a culinary program is no different than developing any other sound business with potential for growth. The key is to focus on two primary areas as a start:

  • Identifying the need
  • Envisioning the opportunities

I would encourage all those responsible for the health and viability of a culinary program to assess their curriculum with these two areas in mind. First, does your program adequately address the current needs of the industry that it serves? Have you engaged this industry in the process of ensuring that the content and measureable results meet the skill sets that are critical for entry-level culinarians? Are your graduates “kitchen ready”?

Although all culinary programs are mindful of preparing graduates for a career that brings them to positions of greater responsibility, graduates must first demonstrate their ability to function as part of a kitchen team. Graduates need to crawl before they walk and walk before they run. What are those skill sets that chefs and restaurateurs expect your students to have when they start their employment? Do you engage industry leaders in identifying those skill sets and is your curriculum designed to adequately address them?

Think Tank: An Introduction

“The Gold Medal Classroom” launches a new editorial department and forum for deans and directors in 2014: a leadership think tank.

By Paul Sorgule, MS, AAC

These are challenging times for culinary-arts programs. Administrators are faced with demands for measureable outcomes from various accrediting agencies, the cost of equipping and operating viable programs is increasing exponentially, and the price of education for students has increased far greater than other indexes (one leading culinary school reported that its yearly tuition alone increased from $8,490 in 1990 to $24,550 in 2010--or 290%) while financial aid and personal loans have become more difficult to obtain.

The ever-increasing number of culinary programs across the country has skewed conversions for admissions departments and increased their cost of identifying candidates (qualified or unqualified), and faculty are faced with teaching a student body that is oftentimes ill prepared for the rigors of a career in food. On the bright side, the restaurant industry in America is strong and growing and demand for qualified graduates remains high.

How do we sift through these challenges, face them head on, differentiate between cause and effect and prepare programs and students for a successful future? This is the most important task that faces program deans and directors. Too often we find ourselves dealing with the operational challenge of today and losing sight of the issues that will keep our programs viable and our students employable.

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