Lynn University offers cooking classes for students

Students don’t always come to college with culinary skills. But many of those who come to Lynn University are learning how to manage the kitchen during their time on campus. In conjunction with restaurant contractor Sodexo, the Boca Raton, FL-based university offers chef-led cooking classes with the goal of helping young adults increase their confidence in the kitchen.

The program, called Kitchen Academy, launched in the fall of 2020 and has steadily grown in popularity. “Lynn University and Foodservice look forward to connecting with their community through food,” says Director of Foodservice Operations Tracy Miller. “Allowing students to be involved in programs like these promotes collaboration along with practical skills that students can take with them long after they graduate.”

Typically lasting about two hours, Kitchen Academy classes offer a mix of demonstrations and hands-on learning. Aimed at beginners, the goal is to first show students what to do, and then give them a chance to try it out for themselves. Each class focuses on the preparation of a specific dish, such as sushi, pancakes, and breakfast items. Chef Instructor Juan Ramos begins by introducing himself along with the ingredients and kitchen utensils that the class will use. “He will demonstrate how to prepare the dish and then the students will have a chance to try it for themselves,” says Miller. “He supervises them as they prepare and cook, and they have the option to make substitutions as they cook.”

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Typically lasting about two hours, Kitchen Academy classes offer a mix of demonstrations and hands-on learning.

The focus means that students don’t just learn how to make a single recipe. They are exposed to extensive culinary skills that can be used to prepare a wide range of dishes. Safe knife skills are among the most important. “Chef Juan really cares about safety standards and the proper way to use a knife,” says Miller. “When he’s demonstrating, he can show a more efficient and safer way to cut something and why it’s better.”

But that is not all. With the program’s start-to-finish approach, students have the opportunity to learn how to select quality ingredients and how to clean and prepare them before cooking. Proper cooking temperatures are another important issue. “The program teaches students what protein temperatures should look like and how to taste a protein based on their preference,” explains Miller.

Ramos and the students take the time to carefully plate the food once a plate is finished. “Students are also taught about food presentation and how people eat with their eyes,” says Miller. And then, finally, it’s time to eat. All cooked meals, including Ramos’s, are available for all to sample and enjoy. Eating together gives the students and Ramos the opportunity to get to know each other better, which serves to strengthen Lynn’s community relationships.

Kitchen Academy sessions occur throughout the semester and students can sign up for classes individually. “We will advertise the program on campus,” says Miller. “Depending on the area and location we book, we try to limit it to around 10 students. But it depends on the product and what we’re making that day. We like to keep it personal.”

The classes do more than equip students with culinary knowledge. Teaching young adults the skills they need to prepare their own meals provides the foundation for healthy eating. “They can continue to use our recipes outside of the program. This encourages healthy living on campus as students can cook in some of the dorms,” says Miller. And it can potentially serve as a springboard for students to get involved in the world of food, perhaps pursuing a culinary career of their own.

Kitchen Academy has been a popular program. Classes fill up quickly, and students are eager to share their thoughts after spending time with Ramos. “Every class we’ve done has had positive feedback. They’ll go ahead and tell us new options they’d like to try in future classes, like quesadillas or pasta,” says Miller.

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