Culinary creativity while distance learning

Culinary students use creative talents in menu design

Culinary Arts students had an opportunity to engage in some creative fun outside the kitchen while distance learning has been in place.

Chef instructors in the culinary program had to develop food-related assignments that were manageable for their students at home and kept the focus on food and other activities related to serving food and operating a restaurant. They had to take into consideration that students may not have access to an abundance of ingredients or the tools they can access in the school kitchen/classroom.

“With 70 percent of our work being hands on in the kitchen, all we really can do remotely is complete chapter work and quizzes on the units of the curriculum as well as other written projects. Watching instructional videos and demos as well,” said Chef John Damiani.

Chef Peter Tomaskovic has his seniors working on the physical design of a menu for a Mexican restaurant. Students were encouraged to be creative. Some students used their own drawing talents while others developed creative designs on their computers.

This work stems from a project culinary students had done while school was in session. Students created menus, cooked food and served their classmates in a “restaurant” on campus. One such exercise in the fall had the Feast of San Gennaro as a theme, serving up Italian fare. These types of hands-on projects help students get a sense of what it is like working in a restaurant, in both the back of the house where they prep and cook the food and the front of the house where they interface with customers and practice table-setting and serving. As a bonus, students in different programs, as well as staff, got to enjoy some delicious food.

The Mexican theme had been selected while school was in session when the entire campus at the Center of Career Services had an opportunity to vote on a theme. Since they were unable to open their Mexican restaurant while school was in session, students are now working on their menus at home. Students were required to design a menu with three appetizers, three main courses and three desserts. They had to cost out the prices too. They were encouraged to be creative with their menu design.

“The hands-on part of the project would have been the actual running of the restaurant inviting students from our campus in as guests,” Chef Tomaskovic said of the Mexican fiesta his students would have done.

“Las Cocinas de Boces” is serving Jalapeño Peppers, Mexican Layer Dip and Beef Quesadilla Bites for starters. Entrees include Chicken Chimichangas, Shrimp Tacos and Steak Fajitas. Dessert options include Tres Leches Cake, Churros and Flan. Some menus included specialty drinks too, such as Horchata (a sweet, milky white rice water) and Aqua de Jamaica (hibiscus tea).

Chef Tomaskovic has suggested his students make a video of themselves cooking and serving their menu options as well as their table settings all things they learn as part of their classwork.