The Idaho Potato Commission recognized secondary and postsecondary educators with the 2015 Idaho Potato Commission Innovation Awards at the 11th-annual Leadership Conference of the Center for the Advancement of Foodservice Education in Niagara Falls, New York, in June.
“Innovation is a critical component of leadership,” says Don Odiorne, IPC vice president-foodservice. “And when bright, courageous, and bold individuals share their learnings with others, we all benefit. The Idaho Potato Commission applauds culinary educators whose vision brings a new and exciting prospect to the arts of cuisine and hospitality.”
Collen Engle, chair of the culinary arts program at Miami Culinary Institute, part of Miami Dade College, received the top award this year for his solution to a challenge that many culinary programs nationwide face: exploiting culinary students as free labor by the school and community.
Engle says such labor too often lacks educational and career value to students, nor does it benefit the culinary program financially or the program’s image.
His answer to the dilemma: a formal stagiaire system to successfully engage students with the college and community, and result in meaningful practical experience outside the kitchen classroom. Engle’s strategy embraced criteria for assessing the value of any work request. Is it a learning experience? Does it result in job opportunities and/or student scholarships? Does it positively brand the culinary program?
For the last three years, the stagiaire system has been part of each culinary lab at MCI.
Engle says students now get excited about their outside work, which ranges from tending the school’s organic garden to supporting chef demos at trade shows to cooking and serving crowds at events such as the Taste of Miami with the Miami Marlins and Miami Book Fair International.
More than $60,000 in scholarships has been raised—softening the burden of student debt—and more than 20 MCI graduates have accepted jobs related to the events and activities they worked as students.
For his first-place recognition, Engle received $1,500 from the Idaho Potato Commission and full registration to CAFÉ’s 2015 Leadership Conference at Niagara Falls Culinary Institute.
Two runner-ups in 2015 each received a complimentary registration to the Leadership Conference and $500 from the Idaho Potato Commission.
Anna M. Page, assistant hospitality management professor at Johnson County Community College in Overland, Park, Kansas, partnered with Feeding America and its local food bank to teach her students how to teach others in the community healthy, economical cooking.
Page says students gain experience teaching while reinforcing the material they’ve learned. Those in need in the community learn basic essential cooking skills and more about nutrition, plus receive free bags of groceries from the food bank.
Pam Sloan, a culinary-arts teacher at Manchester High School in Midlothian, Virginia, offers her students experience in event planning, food costing, leadership, and teaching.
Working with local elementary schools, Sloan annually challenges her students to develop and cost out a recipe that follows calorie and allergen guidelines for live demonstration and tasting for kids in kindergarten through fourth grade. This year, working from mobile table-top kitchens, Sloan’s students worked in pairs to prepare whole-grain lo mein with vegetables and pineapple/kale smoothies for each group of six elementary students.