Think Tank

May 21, 2019, 12:41
Not too Late to Plan for Training the Trainer

Not too Late to Plan for Training the Trainer

26 January 2018

Help faculty members make it real by staying relevant, thinking differently and getting a good start.

By Paul Sorgule, MS, AAC

We are well into New Year’s Resolution time, a chance for each of us to take a hard look at the things we have been putting off even though we know how their importance. Our resolutions, with every good intention, are designed to make us healthier, happier, and more productive. They may drift over to our work life with the intent of doing the same for others and our institutions. So, what are your resolutions for 2018? My hope is that a portion of your list is dedicated to helping your faculty become more in tune, productive, innovative and creative, and simply better at what they do.

The new year provides an opportunity to look at ways of investing in faculty development, refreshing your programs and methods of delivery, and in the long run – improving the level of education you offer students. There is no greater investment in your program than an investment in those individuals who deliver the content of a curriculum. When this is done the program benefits, the school benefits, the students benefit, and the individual faculty member feels invigorated and better prepared to deal with the challenges of teaching.

What might be on your list of “train the trainer” activities in 2018? Here are some thoughts:

Making It Real
Without a doubt one of the great challenges of a culinary education is discovering ways of adding reality to a classroom situation. We tend to focus on teaching students how to cook, but often struggle with how to build confidence, speed, agility, and real-life problem solving skills that more often than not only emerge once a student is thrust into an everyday, busy kitchen environment. Try connecting with local chefs and restaurants to bring those life situations to the classroom or discover new, innovative ways of bringing the student to the life situation. The solution lies in collaboration. 

Addressing Contemporary Methods of Learning
Students are much different today than they were 10 years ago, five years ago, and even last year. This will continue to be the case as their priorities change, technology continues to engulf their lives, and their attention span rapidly diminishes. There is no value in trying to turn back the clock or resisting the looming need to adapt. Connect with those who understand the current and future opportunities that technology brings. Study and discuss the ways this technology has changed how students process information and actively seek to adjust and lead the effort to evolve. Add online components to your model, focus as much as possible on tactile experiences, and build demanding exercises that will force situations where students must work together as a team.

Staying in Tune with the Times
The sin of our time is to turn a blind eye to the way our industry is changing and will continue to do so. What are the trends, challenges, opportunities and threats to culinary education and to the food business as a whole? Your faculty MUST be connected with the food world around them. Even though budgets are always tight it is the responsibility of a dean and director to engage faculty through membership, attendance at workshops and seminars, connect through webinars and online courses, subscribe to trade journals and other food publications, and network with creative people who are not waiting for things to happen – they are creating what others will eventually emulate.

Connecting with Innovators
The community of education goes well beyond those who wear chef whites or a lab coat in the culinary classroom. Innovators may even be found outside the food business at this time. You never know how an idea from an unrelated discipline may eventually impact on what happens in the culinary world. Ten years ago when online education was really starting to show signs of excellence and promise – no one would have ever thought this method of delivery would have application in culinary education. Today, we are beginning to understand that this might be our future. When Thomas Keller can offer a $99 class through Master Class to an audience that will surely be staggering in size, then we can start to see the writing on the wall and the opportunities in front of us.

Cooking with Thomas Keller 

Thinking Differently
Prepare your faculty to break out from stogy, uber-disciplined attitudes that never stray from the way things have been done in the past. This is, quite possibly, the first step in training the trainer. The following quote from Rob Siltanen, an advertising genius who represented Apple Computers, was written and reluctantly adopted by Steve Jobs. It signified the company’s commitment to a different way of thinking and could easily apply to changes in modern education:

“Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Becoming a Knowledge Worker
As much as the culinary arts trade is skill-based and tactile – modern chefs are individuals who have a much broader understanding of the “why” as much as the “how” to do something in the kitchen. Understanding culture, farming, science, math, and the social sciences are as critical to the success of our students as the right way to handle a knife or prepare a stock. Many of those who teach in our programs did not come from this balanced educational background and we should not assume that they did. Part of your investment in faculty must include enhanced training in these complementary disciplines.

Leadership and Team Building Skills
Leadership requires followership and true leadership comes from a deep understanding of a discipline, empathy toward others, the ability to create an environment of trust, and the communication skills that allow all of this to be evident to others. What are you doing to help develop educational leaders and astute team builders?

The IDEO Style Deep Dive and Future Perfect
What will tomorrow bring? What might education look like in a few years? What new and innovative ways of content delivery might exist in 2020? How can our program and school set the pace for innovation and change? Take a look at one of the most successful, innovative design companies in the world – IDEO. They begin every project with a blank slate, put aside all preconceived ideas and will not allow anyone to dump cold water on another person’s ideas. They know that every challenge, every design problem has a solution if you bring together open- minded knowledge workers and give them the chance to design solutions from a blank slate. This is how our faculty interactions should work, this is how a program moves from being a follower to becoming a leader in education.


Where to Get a Good Start?
Have you registered for CAFÉ’s Deans and Directors Retreat from March 2-4? Take a look at the agenda and know that a train the trainer initiative is at your fingertips – the help is there. See you in San Antonio. 


Paul Sorgule, MS, AAC, president of Harvest America Ventures, a mobile restaurant incubator based in Saranac Lake, N.Y., is the former vice president of New England Culinary Institute and a former dean at Paul Smith’s College. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..