Ever since Julia Childs stepped in front of a TV camera 57 years ago to prepare an omelet, people have been learning culinary skills via television cooking shows. So, it was an easy transition for Learn4Life high schools to continue their Career Technical Education (CTE) classes for aspiring chefs during distance learning.

Under the direction of Chef Shanel Burnias, culinary pathway students are cooking together on video conferencing to perfect knife skills, cooking methods and baking techniques. Students learn the basics of restaurant management, such as cost analysis, budgeting, profit margins and customer service. “Food prep and cooking are only part of what the students learn in this 32-week course,” she points out. “They develop life skills like teamwork, planning and time management, that will stay with them regardless of what career they choose.”

Our teachers find that students in CTE courses are more engaged in school overall and perform better in all their classes. “The great thing about cooking is the immediate positive reinforcement and sense of accomplishment they feel when they learn a new skill or create something delicious,” said Burnias. “That hasn’t changed during remote learning and has been especially valuable in keeping up morale.”

One challenge to overcome was to ensure every student in the culinary program had the right ingredients and supplies to prepare the weekly lessons in their own kitchen. So Learn4Life partnered with Home Chef, a meal kit delivery service that sends fresh food and supplies to students at their homes.

A recent class featured demonstrations from chefs from around the world. Students watched chefs cook in their homes, and asked them about their country, food traditions and how they have been affected by the pandemic and closures.

Written By:
Ann Abajian