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Community-Based Culinary Arts Training Program Outcomes: Chef-Instructor and Employer Valuations

Rollie Wesen, Johnson & Wales University


Culinary Arts is not a well-researched profession or educational track. As a growing industry with more than 600,000 job vacancies, food service is an attractive option for unemployed or excluded workers. Community-based culinary arts training programs (CBCATs) offer basic culinary training to adults with high barriers to employment (DC Central Kitchen, 2017), such as limited work history, low skills or education attainment, previous incarceration, homelessness, or issues with substance abuse. This study identified learning outcomes for 10 to 16-week CBCATs and discovered the teaching and learning priorities of chef-instructors and employers, representing various food sectors. The study was guided by one overarching mixed methods research question: What are the essential technical skills, soft skills and understandings that should be targeted by CBCATs to prepare students for entry-level positions in various sectors of the food service industry? This mixed methods, sequential, exploratory study collected data through document analysis of existing culinary curricula, interviews with expert hiring managers, and a survey of chef-instructors and employers of CBCAT graduates. Three categories of outcomes emerged as essential for graduates’ success: 1) knowledge of food safety and food handlers’ certification, 2) basic professional kitchen knowledge, and job performance and culinary skills, and 3) positive character dispositions and strong work ethic. Consensus was found among participants, and through the three phases of the study, that a functional knowledge of food safety, including food allergens, as demonstrated by a safe food handler’s certificate was essential for food service work. Entry-level employees also needed a functional knowledge of foods, equipment, and processes common to professional food service, including knife and job performance skills. Good character and dispositions emerged as the quality most valued by employers. The researcher argues that a culinary training program is an excellent environment for the development of character attributes. The study recommends that CBCAT graduates receive educational and food handler’s certificates, and potentially college credit upon completion, that students participate in on-the-job training, that math skills are emphasized, and that chef-instructors are trained as teachers, with particular emphasis on the skills associated with teaching adults with barriers to employment good character dispositions.

Subject Area

Vocational education|Educational evaluation

Recommended Citation

Wesen, Rollie, "Community-Based Culinary Arts Training Program Outcomes: Chef-Instructor and Employer Valuations" (2019). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI27544704.