Culinary education, like the rest of the world, has adapted

Chef Bourinaris, photo provided by Chef Bourinaris
Chef Bourinaris, photo provided by Chef Bourinaris /

Have you thought about pursuing a culinary education?

According to, 15.3 million students attended high school in the United States of America. Those students, along with their colleagues across the globe, felt the effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic hard when they were forced to switch their education from in person to online learning.

While this seems like an unideal but feasible way to learn for those who have internet and computer access at home, there is another group of students who lost out exponentially on their educational experience with the lack of a classroom environment. Students who are enrolled at technical and vocational high schools suddenly were removed from their ability to learn their craft hands on.

This situation put vocational instructors such as Lynn Bourinaris, Culinary Arts/Hospitality Management Instructor at Sussex County Technical School in Sparta, New Jersey, in a situation that required immediate adaptation.

“We of course needed to learn how to go about using different technology from a home setting first. Once we began, assignments were creative and funny…students would create meals and upload photos and recipes.”

One could easily see how a once vibrant educational experience of working in a kitchen with actual chefs alongside your peers could get turned into a monotonous routine of packets and tests with the enforcement of remote learning. Luckily for the Culinary Arts students at Sussex Tech, educators like Bourinaris, Chef Trimper, and Chef Gasiorek kept things vibrant and interesting- with the help of a few guests.

The students were assigned biographical projects on chefs Sonny Sweetman, Scott Leibfried, and Jet Tila. Little did they know that they’d get the opportunity to chat with the very chefs that they were performing research on.

“The students had no clue when we connected on zoom that they would be there! It was awesome!” Bourinaris said.

While students in these type of programs learn the basics of preparing meals, they also learn proper sanitation and food safety measures as well. Never before has this type of training seemed so applicable to what is happening outside of the classroom.

“This will drive home the importance of sanitation, and bring into our curriculum the need for quick adaptation such as selling all grab & go pre-packaged meals with pre-wrapped utensils, and bread.” Explained Bourinaris.

Although the students seemed to have been able to get a lot out of their remote learning experience, it still does not measure up to the environment of being in a kitchen together. Bourinaris, who is in her 15th year of teaching and 40th year in the industry, echoed this sentiment.

“It is very challenging to not be hands on with the students. [I miss] That one on one connection and bond between us that we all get after spending 4 years together. Making foods from around the world all together from scratch and respecting the foods of our ancestors.”

Even for students in high school, time spent in the kitchen with a respected instructor is considered sacred. It is not going to be easy to restore that same environment once students are permitted back in school.

“It is always important to incorporate all of the brain-based learning styles into our lessons to accommodate a visual learner, an audio learner, hands on etc. We still do not know what our new year will look like. It could be partial A/B days (one week remote one week in school).  I am planning on doing more [online] demonstrations for students.”

Whatever may happen in the future regarding culinary education, one thing is for certain. People will always need to eat; therefore, people will always need to learn how to prepare food. The pandemic may have changed the way that students learn how to cook, but it will never change the need for people who know how to cook.

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Do you think that culinary education will continue to adapt in this new form of education?