First-and second-year students from Durham College’s (DC) culinary and hospitality programs recently had the opportunity to show off their skills when they spent the weekend cooking and serving pancakes at the Purple Woods Maple Syrup Festival. During the weekend of March 19th and 20th, students from DC’s Culinary Management, Hospitality Skills, Hospitality – Hotel and Restaurant Operations Management, Special Events Planning and Advanced Baking and Pastry Art programs took on the challenge of feeding festival goers with a wide range of products. Chef Peter Lee, program co-ordinator for the Culinary Management program at the College’s Centre for Food (CFF) says this was the first time DC students had been involved with the festival and, by all accounts, their work was extremely successful.
“The students did everything from providing front-of-the-house services to setting up and preparing pancakes in the kitchen,” said Lee. “They also operated a pop-up bake shop while feeding about 1,000 people per day. With the festival’s organizers saying everything went very efficiently with almost no line ups to get food, it is clear that the skills our students are gaining in the CFF’s classrooms, kitchen and labs, are making a very real impact when it comes to working in the field.”
In particular, events like the festival give students an opportunity to learn more about the requirements of feeding a large number of people, in close quarters, under tight deadlines. Students were responsible for setting up serving lines, cooking dozens of pancakes at a time, estimating how long it would take each batch to be served and how many could be prepared in each hour. Once the morning and afternoon pancake events were concluded, the students cleaned up, washed up and got ready to do it all again a few hours later.
”There are a number of advantages in taking part in these festival-style events, despite the large volume of work involved for our students,” added Lee. “This includes offering young people who might be considering a career in the culinary, hospitality or events industries the chance to meet with DC students and staff and learn about our award-winning programs.”
And the need to connect is a two-way street, as returning students and new graduates from DC’s culinary and hospitality programs are already searching for either summer jobs to pay for next year’s classes, or looking for the first job towards a full-time career. As Chef Lee points out, being visible in the community pays dividends for DC students as they start their career search.
“I’m fielding calls from a number of local restaurants who are seeking both summer staff and full-time cooks at their locations in Durham,” he added. “Being visible at events like the festival at Purple Woods Conservation Area gives us a chance to show potential employers what our students can do, while helping out in the community.”