Culinary Arts Students Succeed - Safely

Culinary Arts students preparing meals in the kitchen.
Rebecca A. Eckland

Something’s cooking at the TMCC Dandini Campus, and you better bet it’s delicious... and safe! When the program transitioned to remote learning last March, Culinary Arts Professor/Program Coordinator Chef Karen Cannan re-wrote the curriculum for most classes in the program to increase the online access for course content. This included more PowerPoint presentations, Zoom meetings, weekly class discussions and assignments, and more quizzes and written assignments.

“The idea was to get as much of the academic portion of the courses done online, so that when we did get access to our facility, we could focus on the lab requirements of each class and meet those time requirements with fewer in-person lab sessions,” said Cannan. 

In addition to restructuring her classes, Cannan also began discussing a collaboration with UNR’s Medical School. “They wanted a collaboration with our culinary program to create more awareness for incoming medical students and their role with patients… [especially in] discussing good health through eating well,” she said.  Since, TMCC Culinary Arts students have been asked to provide meals for the orientation week for UNR Medical students.

“I saw this as a great opportunity to get our students in the lab,” said Cannan.

Turning Safety Protocols Into Routine

Culinary students wearing their uniforms.

Most students who participated in the in-person labs were on-track to graduate in Spring 2020.

Most Culinary Arts students with missing lab time were planning to graduate in Spring 2020. “At this level, I feel students should be getting as much real-life practical experience as possible and this project gave me the window I needed to do exactly that. COVID-19 has created a new reality for the food industry, and we are seeing food for pick-up and delivery as a huge lifeline for those businesses trying to stay alive,” said Cannan.
On the first day back to the culinary lab, students signed a disclaimer for Cannan’s records that also served as a reminder that health and safety of all  participants are of paramount importance. By signing the document, students promised not to report to class if they were experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms that could not be attributed to an unrelated health condition. 
After each student signed the waiver, students were instructed to show up to class with masks by email. “We came in for about a week to get ourselves settled back in our kitchen and start getting used to our new norm—making good, clean food that was packaged and safe,” said Cannan. 
Each day, students were greeted by a dry erase board at the entrance to the culinary arts lab with reminders of steps to be completed before each class session: 

  1. Please wash your hands. 
  2. Using the Virex sanitizer, wipe down the desk area and chair backs. 
  3. Get your temperature checked
  4. When leaving a desk or work area, all students wiped down their desks and chair backs again with Virex.

“It was a simple process and did not seem to take up too much time,” said Cannan. “After just a couple of times, the students were doing everything on their own as a routine.” Each lab accommodated fifteen students.

Creating Opportunities and Positive Outcomes

Students assembling a row of meals in takeout containers.

Together, Culinary Arts students created 788 packages meals over the course of six days.

Over the course of the following week, TMCC Culinary Arts students created 788 packaged meals that included breakfast and lunch for six days. These meals accommodated special diets, which included: vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan as well as meals for those who are allergic to melon or nuts. Each day had its own unique menu. Everything, Canaan said, was made from scratch. 
“The students were amazing, and I was so impressed and touched by their approach. Every day they came into class, they followed protocols, worked hard, and we ended up with a great outcome. It was a great team-building experience and training for the real world. It also gave us a really good insight into how we can succeed in our program and continue...even through a pandemic,” said Cannan.
For more information about the Culinary Arts Program at TMCC, contact the department at 775-673-7132.