Think Tank

Mar 28, 2020, 23:25
Culinary Education Disruptors Ideation: Part Two

Culinary Education Disruptors Ideation: Part Two

08 January 2020

Moving ideation forward and championing the role of culinary education disruptor.

(This is a two-part story. Please click here to read part one A process to begin change that will drive culinary education into the future.)

By Paul Sorgule, MS, AAC

Ideation is an open forum that allows individuals within an organization to “free think” and build on the ideas of others. Free-thinking requires participants put aside what they are know, what they are comfortable with, what is the norm, and start with a clean slate. All ideas are good ideas and as such cannot be discounted during the process. Every idea has merit and may, at the very least, set the stage for those participants to move in different directions.

Springing from last month’s Culinary Education Adopters or Disruptors article, I have put together the following thoughts that can be used as a starting point for program concept ideation among your faculty members and administration. Take a breath and let each idea sink in, model it in a manner that allows interaction, and see where it takes you. Remember, things must change in culinary education – the market demands it. So, get excited and be prepared to shake things up!

  1. Begin with this question: “If I were to design the most appropriate, flexible, student-oriented, success-driven program today – what would it look like?” Do not allow anyone on your team to say: That won’t work. We have tried it before. That’s a weird idea. That’s not how things are done in education.
  2. Think in terms of what is needed now, and what will be needed in the future. Whatever you build must be able to adjust to rapid change and designed for sustainability and growth.
  3. Don’t be confined by talk of a degree. A formal degree may not be the answer in the future.
  4. Be prepared to challenge the current parameters of what a degree or certificate looks like. Remember, the surviving programs will likely be the ones that fall into the category of “disruptor.”
  5. Give some thought to the development of fluid certificates and certifications that can be independent or stacked toward an eventual degree. There is an indication that this might be the future wave in career-oriented education.
  6. Talk about how you might truly align with industry as a partner in education. This might include program sponsorship with an upfront agreement to hire students who complete the program, shared guest lecturer programs, training business leaders to be adjunct faculty, use of a company’s facilities to deliver class and lab activities rather than invest in expensive kitchens on your campus, or build apprenticeship-like programs where a company is a true partner.
  7. Discuss a change in approach and design where your school is focused on education facilitation using your resources from outside the physical school rather than staying involved in education delivery.
  8. Helping great faculty members and chefs become great teachers to serve as independent private entrepreneurs and then build a program using these contractors to deliver dynamic, fast-paced, and current content. Focus your school on training the teacher.
  9. Design a mass customizable program that suit the needs of every individual. This becomes very realistic if the program is built by entrepreneurial, independent experts. If a degree is not the end goal, then there is room for greater flexibility. Think about these examples:
         - Southern Cuisine with Chef Sean Brock of Husk Restaurant
         - New Orleans Cuisine with chef and historian: John Folse
         - New California Fusion Cooking with Dominique Creen
         - Fermentation and the Artisan Bread Movement with: Daniel Leader of Bread Alone
         - Refer to Master Class as a model for this type of programming:
  10. Don’t dismiss online and hybrid delivery as well as intensive short residency programs. This may better suit the needs of the student, especially those who are a bit older and provide ways to increase enrollment without increasing kitchen space.
  11. Talk about creating Culinary Incubator environments rather than view your space as more traditional classrooms. An incubator can focus on those short residency programs for students who want to develop a particular skill in a short period of time. Or, a future business person looking to further develop a concept under the watchful eye and critical oversight of your faculty and industry experts.

All of these ideas may turn out to be ill founded, but on the other hand there may be something evolutionary about each of them that sparks the energy of your faculty and administration – an energy that could define who you are and how you will be perceived in the future.


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..