Sunday, March 26, 2006

My Wonderful Students

Just last week I finished teaching 2 culinary classes at Santa Rosa Junior College. Also, in that same 8 week period I taught 3 four-week cooking classes. The culinary classes are straight academics and do not involve food preparation, only talking about it. I enjoy both types of teaching but getting my hands on the food is what really excites me. But back to the students..

The Culinary Arts Survey class is a brief overview of the culinary world. The students' final group project involves coming up with a culinary concept - bar, restaurant, nightclub, bistro, etc. and presenting it to the class. The diversity of their ideas is incredibly interesing. Life experience definitely plays a role with some of the younger students trying to design a wine list when they don't drink wine. Now, why would they take on the position of bar manager, I wonder?

The projects are always interesting even if not especially realistic. For many of them, this is their first culinary class, along with Sanitation and Safety (which was the other class that I taught). One class is creative while the other fills your head with facts, many of them scary. By the time that I finish teaching the sanitation class I am amazed that we all don't get sicker from the food that we eat. Or maybe we do, and chalk it up to a 24-hour virus.

The students in my culinary classes get letter grades which take me way too long to figure out. All the papers, quizzes and final exams pile up and overwhelm me. I am still working on grades from a week ago, although they are due within 3 working days of the end of class. Just a bit late now but I am not perfect.

My cooking classes are always fascinating because I get a such a diverse group of students. One class had students ranging in age from 14 to 60+. Some students are serious and others just want to eat a good meal once a week, and have leftovers for lunch the next day. As long as they show up, ready to get cooking, I like all of them.

The students in these classes give me a chance to see what people really do when they are in the kitchen. I get to test my recipes to see if students can follow them, how they turn out and taste and what kind of marks I get for flavor acceptance. I get to play with ingredients that I might want use more often. Lately that includes agave syrup, seaweed and colored rice (black, red). Who knows what's next? That's the exciting part of being in the culinary world.

I am almost ready to leave for Seattle to attend the annual meeting of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP). The conference is often a who's who of the culinary world. I've had the late Julia Child sit behind me at a luncheon, and chatted with Jacques Pepin, Graham Kerr, Rick Bayless, Martin Yan and more. Some are more personable than others but we're all in the culinary arena for various reasons. Mine is to teach and share my wisdom, and foibles.

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