BY JULIA KURZ
From basic knife skills to the art of French cooking, the Carmel High students in Monterey Peninsula College’ssustainable culinary arts program are taken from a range of culinary backgrounds and are taught not only the complexities of various recipes, but the practical applications of sustainable sourcing, management and cooking.
MPC’s hospitality courses were opened to Carmel High students in 2014, beginning as a class devoted primarily to the basics of reading a recipe and producing a dish. Since the course was redesigned in 2016, students have received an additional layer of perspective to frame the curriculum of the course, one that pushes the lens of sustainability, a widely growing topic in the field of hospitality.
“We actually offer the only certificate in sustainable culinary arts by a public university in the U.S.,” professor Jorge Caughman notes.
Caughman and hospitality department head Molly Jansen teach the classes, with Jansen picking up two sections in the fall and Caughman teaching one class in the fall as well as a more advanced course for a smaller number of students in the spring.
“The course is really about sustainability, sourcing locally, creating menus, as well as basic cooking skills,” Jansen explains.
Students begin their five-hour class with instruction, which either consists of a lesson on sustainability, the reality of the food industry or a cultural delicacy—whatever it is they will be focusing on in the latter half of the period, which will be spent cooking and, ultimately, eating. After the lesson the students swarm the hooks of aprons at the back of the classroom and are thrown into the frying pan…or, rather, their food is.
“I really like being able to do something hands-on, being able to just go and cook for a couple hours and do it ourselves,” says junior and aspiring chef Max Belliard.
Groups of kitchen stations make it easy for students to get the hands-on experience Belliard describes and, at the end of the day, the group dynamic of a shared meal.
“Students really get to experience what it feels like working in a restaurant with a family of people, and the time we take to share a meal at the end really solidifies that,” Caughman says.
Part of the curriculum involves learning the seasons of different produce, what products to avoid and which ones to support.
“The students’ final is designing a menu for a theoretical restaurant with recipes they choose, all sustainable,” Caughman says. “They also have to create their own recipe and do a demonstration for the class.”
Students taking the class had varying reasons when they decided to sign up for the course.
Belliard explains that he wants to be a chef and decided to take the class to get a head start on the technique. On the other hand, students like junior Augie Ahn decided to take the class because of the opportunity to learn about the food industry, have fun and make food.
“My favoite part of the class was eating the food at the end,” Ahn says. “It was really fun because we got to work with our friends.”
From dicing tomatoes to slicing carrots julienne, the students learn the basics and work their way up to the more complex methods of fine cuisine, especially in the second semester class.
“We had varying levels of experience in the kitchen,” Jansen says. “Some already knew a lot, others had to start from the beginning.”
Coming up next week is a lesson where students create an Italian-style meal using local ingredients.