WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — When the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association called on its collegiate partners to provide virtual lessons for future culinarians in its high school program, Pennsylvania College of Technology chef/instructors answered — and high school teachers are grateful.
Designed to be used when schools must shift to remote learning, Penn College faculty developed lesson plans and produced more than a dozen videos, with support from the college’s Educational & Emerging Technologies Office.
Video lessons range in length from a few minutes to nearly half an hour and cover topics that include knife safety, filleting salmon and tempering chocolate.
In addition, a website featuring lessons based on the interactive “Taste of Technology” presentation that has visited the USA Science & Engineering Festival helps to teach high school students about modernist culinary techniques.
The college’s hospitality program produced the virtual lessons in response to a request by the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association to support future culinarians in the Pennsylvania ProStart program.
ProStart, offered through the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation — and facilitated at the state level by the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association — is a nationwide, two-year program for high school students that develops their talent into tomorrow’s restaurant and food service industry leaders. The program is offered within high schools and career and technology centers.
Pennsylvania ProStart reached out to Penn College and other postsecondary culinary programs to provide virtual lessons that can be used by high school instructors when pandemic-related closures prevent them from being in their own labs.
In addition to providing the virtual lessons to 32 Pennsylvania schools participating in ProStart, the college made them available to all of the high school and CTC culinary programs it partners with — totaling about 110 schools.
“On the day we sent them out, within minutes, 20 schools reached out to say thank you,” said Brian D. Walton, assistant dean of business and hospitality.
As a follow-up, the college invited its CTC partners to participate in virtual visits that include a video tour of the college’s baking, pastry and culinary arts labs, a live baking or cooking demonstration by college faculty, and a Q&A session.
To date, 37 classes from 26 CTCs have participated in the virtual tour and demonstration sessions, totaling 407 high school students. Additional classes and schools are scheduled.
Video lessons and live online demonstrations have been provided by chefs Michael J. Ditchfield, instructor of hospitality management/culinary arts; Christopher R. Grove, executive chef of the college’s Le Jeune Chef Restaurant; Charles R. Niedermyer, instructor of baking and pastry arts/culinary arts; Frank M. Suchwala, associate professor of hospitality management/culinary arts; and Mary G. Trometter, assistant professor of hospitality management/culinary arts.
The “Taste of Technology” initiative is spearheaded by Suchwala.
For the community, Grove and sous chef Angela L. Hess have provided virtual cooking classes, most recently a St. Patrick’s Day-themed lesson that attracted more than 40 participants, and Ditchfield recorded a cooking demonstration as part of the virtual Pennsylvania Farm Show.
Penn College offers 16-month associate degrees and 12-month certificates in both baking and pastry arts and culinary arts, which can be continued toward a bachelor’s degree in business administration or applied management. To learn more, call 570-327-4505 or visit www.pct.edu/culinary.