by CIA Chef-Instructor Elizabeth Briggs
I find teaching Culinary Fundamentals is a huge responsibility. I expect myself to prepare the student for their upcoming career in the food service industry. I am responsible to teach them how to be teachable, to be humble, to listen, and to hear and understand the lessons of the day. They need to think on their feet, to work with any type of person, to plan, and to organize. They need to work fast, clean, and neat.
I need to teach them how to communicate and work as a cohesive group. I teach them to respect each other and each other’s ideas. I help them to take direction from a group leader, but also to speak out in their group. I help them come out of themselves and be an active part of the classroom, adding to their learning experience.
Sound like a lot? I’m not done… I am responsible for teaching them how to dress and to care for their whites. They need to know how to care for their personal hygiene throughout the class and their future endeavors in their profession.
And that’s all IN ADDITION to teaching them the culinary skills that they’ll build their education and careers on.
I have great expectations for my students! I push them incredibly hard and I expect a great deal out of them. I feel overwhelmingly responsible to completely prepare them for the next phase of their education.
I love the fact that when my students leave my class at the end of the term and I look into their faces, there is no fear. There is a sense of self-confidence and, I swear, they have grown three inches in the pride of accomplishment. I am proud of how hard they have worked and how many layers of the onion they have peeled back to attain the foundation for their cooking journey.
“The only stupid question is the one you did not ask!”
As my students go into the kitchen of the Bocuse Restaurant on their pre-day one tour, we go from a very dark hallway into a crisp, white-tiled kitchen. We step from darkness into light and I tell them:
“Don’t stand in the doorway of Roth Hall on graduation day and say ‘I only wished I had studied harder!’ Make that commitment here with me today for an amazing educational journey through your learning experience at the CIA.”
Teaching has been THE most rewarding job I have ever had. The Culinary Institute of America has instilled in me that I am teaching the future of our industry.
Last week I read an article about influential women and men who had made a huge impact in our industry. And, in reflection, I spent 28 years helping most of them reach that goal. We teachers are the unsung heroes, but the reward for me is touching each person who has journeyed through my kitchens.