Diablo Valley College’s culinary arts program has struggled during the pandemic — not only preparing food for hungry students wandering around campus, but more importantly, providing sufficient learning experience for its students. own trainees.
The program hasn’t seen much foot traffic since COVID-19 began more than two years ago, according to chef and director of culinary arts Squire Davidson.
“The number of students on campus is down significantly from two years ago,” Davidson said in a recent interview with The inspector. “It’s hard to say exactly, but I feel like only about 40% of people are coming back.”
The culinary curriculum moved to online learning, like most other disciplines in the early stages of the pandemic. This required students to use kitchen utensils they had at home rather than professional equipment provided by the school.
Davidson said the program sent ingredients and other materials home to students to help with the process, but not having the right equipment caused difficulty for some.
However, as the program began to return to in-person classes — where students were expected to stay in small groups and practice social distancing — some felt the smaller class sizes actually provided a better learning experience.
“What I liked about the small groups was that we had a lot of one-on-one work with the chefs,” said cooking student Brody Stephan, “and in doing so, I felt like having built a relationship with the chefs as I got to know them and they got to know me and understand how I cook.
From shifting to online learning to slowly transitioning to blended courses, culinary arts educators are now trying to rethink how operations might evolve. While the main focus remains on feeding young adults who come through the school gates – whether at the Norseman restaurant or the Express bar – the program has also recently started hosting large events, a trend that seems to be picking up. to pursue.
“We can actually provide a better experience with catering,” Davidson said. “The skill we can do is better, [and] it’s much easier to manage things like expenses.
For example, he added, “we know we have to cook this amount of food for this number of people and we would be paid 100% for what we did. Plus, it gives students more flexibility in case they can’t come, so they can just work on another event.
As a student, Stephan said he supports the program’s move into catering because it allows him to have better contact with the people he feeds. “I love catering because it gives me the opportunity to cook for other people and come up with products that I felt happy creating,” he said.
“Plus, it gives me a clear idea of what it’s like to host an event, be part of a program, and work with classmates on this big project. It’s very rewarding and satisfying to finish the project and be able to go out and see the people you’re cooking for.
Davidson said the transition to catering allows students to sharpen their culinary skills and practice teamwork.
“Cooking is exactly the same as, say, learning to play the violin,” Davidson said. “There are skills you need to develop through practice and repetition.”
With a focus on catering, he added, “we would be able to provide a better student experience and it’s just a win-win.”