Who are your culinary grads of the future?

Published in FSD Update

That answer and more at MenuDirections 2014 Kickoff Day: Sunday, February 23.

MenuDirections 2014 got off to a rousing start with the opening of the General Session by Dr. Pamela Allison, Ph.D. and associate professor of the Hospitality College at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, N.C. Dr. Allison gave the crowd of over 200 foodservice directors insights on what to expect from today’s graduates of four-year culinary and hospitality programs.

  • Students today are looking to serve their community
  • Women are starting to take over in a lot of programs, with female enrollment continuing to rise
  • There is more ethnic diversity. About 41% of students are Afro-American.
  • There is more economic diversity. About 25% of students are first-generation college students.
  • There are more military men and women, who bring more maturity and experience to the college experience.
  • There are more career changers. Older students are starting the program, many of whom were laid off from previous positions and are seeking new careers.

These changes are bringing more challenges to the campus, and the curriculum has had to adjust to strive for new levels in education. “We no longer ask students to just spit back facts and memorize material. We now ask the ‘how’ and ‘why’ and analyze how to solve specific problems,” Dr. Allison told the crowd. Critical thinking is key to success. She also pointed out that students today are looking for the greater good and are eager to impact the social environment. But they are also interested in balance and stability—balancing their professional and personal lives and creating job security.

Dr. Allison challenged attendees to take all these characteristics into consideration when hiring graduates. “What’s your triple bottom line?” she asked the audience. Today’s young adults are looking for diversity and inclusion in the workplace; they want to be leaders; and they want to impact the social environment. Foodservice directors in the non-commercial sector should recruit students who are interested in sustainability, health and social responsibility—not the ones who want to make dazzling desserts in a restaurant kitchen. “Even when they are on the bottom rung of the foodservice career ladder, give these students a project that goes beyond themselves; a project that gives them a sense of ownership,” Allison says.

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