As a chef educator I see unlimited potential when I look into the faces of prospective culinary students ranging from high school graduates to retirees seeking new opportunities. I knew early in my culinary career that I would work diligently to one day become a culinary instructor. My goal as a culinary instructor is to be a proper role model for my students and provide the support needed to succeed in the culinary arts realm: without this positive influence, most students will develop negative attitudes, become apathetic and irresponsible, have poor self-esteem, and lack accountability. The chef mentors I had in culinary school were some of the greatest role models I have had while honing my craft; they pushed me to do better and always showed genuine concern for my continuing education. I take the initiative to make the same impact to each student by engagement through constant communication, demonstration, professionalism, and positive energy.
My philosophy of teaching is based on a belief that learning needs to be student-centered and that students need to be equal partners in the learning process. My role involves using my expertise to put the necessary resources in the hands of the students thus allowing the students to be well equipped with resources to find success. Through teaching, I emphasize important values necessary for the success of every student including effective communication and teamwork. When students are able to communicate their ideas and goals, they contribute to resolutions of conflicts rather than increasing conflicts. Listening to the students’ perspectives assists my growth as an instructor. One example for team building activities includes a mystery basket competition held on the first day of class; this activity requires interaction among students in order to efficiently accomplish tasks. Activities such as this promote self-confidence and help students realize they can accomplish great things in groups and individually. I measure students’ progress by utilizing journals, recipe cards, timelines, drawings, plate presentation, and taste. These assessments allow me to determine how the students are responding to the lecture, reading, and demonstrations of practical cooking.
Preparing culinary students for the hospitality and restaurant field continues to be a very rewarding experience. It provides the opportunity to help students develop confidence needed cook a variety of cuisines at a high level and how to operate a successful kitchen. Because of daily instructing, my craft is honed and developed to an even greater level. As an educator, I aim to develop students’ understanding of basic to advanced techniques while teaching them how to be successful in management. Another important aspect I stress is to gain an enthusiasm for networking with chefs and other industry professions. To help my students achieve these learning goals, I use a variety of pedagogical methods grounded in my beliefs about teaching and learning. First, before introducing any new topic, I offer an open discussion at the beginning of class asking my students’ of any pre-existing knowledge or work experiences. Students do not come into the classrooms as blank slates; rather, they have a range of ideas that shape how they make sense of new information and construct new knowledge. Many culinary students have real-life work experience or have spent time in a kitchen at some point in their lives.
Therefore, I uncover any prior knowledge in order to help them become cognizant of their own ideas, which in turn builds upon and refines them during the learning process. For example, at the beginning of a Garde Manger course, I have student’s complete two pre-assessments; one is a reflective journal entry that asks them to share what they think are the key characteristics of a Garde Manger chef, while the other is a food philosophy paper detailing what are their goals, experience and expectations. These assessments enable me to see to what extent they think Garde Manger plays a role in the industry and assists me with student expectations. At the end of the semester, I administer the same assessments in order to show how my students’ ideas and abilities have evolved during the course.
I utilize my professional experience and knowledge to engage students through one-on-one direction from demonstrations and a system I use called, “Say, Show, Do, Review” process. It begins by discussing the objectives of our class such as learning how to break down a whole chicken. For “Say”, I begin by discussing the animal, primal cuts, grades, and utilization of product. For “Show”, we gather the proper mise en place for fabrication. For “Do”, I educate the student through a step-by-step process of breaking down the protein. Lastly, for “Review”, I allow the students ample time to fabricate the protein in which I then offer a critique of the finished product. Continuous through this process, I am there to offer insight and details to help each student individually.
For myself, teaching provides an opportunity for continual learning and growth. One of my hopes as an educator is to instill a love of learning in my students, as I share my own passion for learning with them. I feel there is a need for compassionate, strong, and dedicated individuals who are excited about working in culinary arts. In our competitive society it is important for students to not only receive a solid education, but to work with someone who is aware of and sensitive to their individual needs. I am such a person and will always strive to be the best educator that I can be.