While many college and university students are enrolled in dining plans, 65% of them also have access to a kitchen, according to Technomic’s 2017 College & University Consumer Trend Report, powered by Ignite. Some FSDs have turned to on-campus teaching kitchens to get students interested in food and nutrition, and provide them with the skills they need to cook at home. Here are seven tips from such operators on how to make a cooking class a success.
1. Don’t get too geeky with culinary jargon
Instructors should make sure they communicate using familiar language, says David Iott, culinary educator and training executive chef at Stanford University in Stanford, Calif. “It is important to communicate with students on a culinary level they understand,” he says. “If you use unfamiliar terms, take the time to thoroughly explain what those terms mean.”
2. Have ample tools
Keep classes flowing by ensuring students have all the resources they need throughout the whole session. “If everyone can have their own equipment so they don't have to share, we find the class goes a lot smoother and it’s a lot more hands-on,” says Paul Houle, director of campus dining services at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “Having enough utensils so that there’s one per person really helps out.”
3. Solicit feedback
After each class held at the University of Vermont’s new teaching kitchen, students fill out a survey about how they enjoyed the class and what their takeaways were. The survey also leaves space for students to suggest ideas for future classes at the Burlington, Vt., school. “We’re really getting the students engaged, and if they want to learn how to make pasta—which we heard three times this week, for example—then that’s definitely a class we’re going to incorporate because we know there’s a lot of interest behind it,” says campus dietitian and instructor Nicole Rohrig.
5. Leave room for creativity
Chefs at CU Boulder try to suggest ingredient alternatives to encourage students to think outside the box and make a recipe their own, Houle says. “If you were making pico de gallo, for example, you can say, ‘You don’t always have to use tomato, or you don’t have to always use a jalapeno—try another pepper.’”
6. Build relationships beyond the class
Make classes more effective by connecting with students outside of instruction time, through open kitchen or office hours, Iott says. “My students and I build strong relationships during class, and this inspires them to want to learn more and seek me out to ask even more questions about healthy cooking, nutrition and sustainability.”
7. Look at what students are eating
When planning which classes to offer, Rohrig turns to social media to uncover what students at UVM are talking about and eating. “Getting on Pinterest and Instagram and looking at what the students are posting about or are interested in—I think that’s really important,” she says.