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FoodGrads Podcast Ep 23:Balancing management with culinary skills with George Brown’s Honours Bachelor of Commerce Program (Culinary Management) with Chefs Warren Ford and Riley Bennett

Welcome to episode 23 of the FoodGrads Podcast. The podcast where we explore careers in the food, beverage and hospitality industries. I’m your host Veronica Hislop, a molecular science graduate student and career partner with FoodGrads.

On this week’s podcast, I interviewed Chefs Warren Ford and Riley Bennett professors and course coordinators at George Brown College in Toronto, Ontario. Today they are here to introduce the college’s unique Honors Bachelor of Commerce (Culinary Management) which combines foundational culinary skills with operational skills like accounting, finance, operations and food theory.

Ford and Bennett spent this episode talking to me about this exciting program and how it prepares students for multiple careers path after graduation. Riley and Bennett talk about how they believe this course teaches resilience and adaptability in a time which is anything but uncertain. The two of them stress that the restaurant industry is resilient and we are going to see a lot of new things come post-pandemic. Talking about this just makes me so much more pumped to go out and support my local restaurants on a patio!

Before we dive into the episode I will mention that at the time of releasing there are spots still open for the September 2021 semester. So if you are interested check out the links to this episode to find out more information.

So let’s get into it.

Show Notes

[3:14] Can you provide a general overview as to the George Brown Commerce (Culinary Management) program?

  • Warren and Riley are professors and course coordinators for the program
  • It is a four year Honours program that not only covers culinary basics in terms of food terminology and techniques. The program also looks at things surrounding culinary like HR, marketing, gastronomic theory, the economics of the culinary industry and operations.
  • Ford points out that a lot of what he learned about the industry was on the job and not necessarily in school
  • The program doesn’t make you miss out on the chef skills that George Brown is known for. Though you can combine this with things you would learn in commerce.

[3:54] What is commerce?

  • It is essentially business. It looks at the specific business aspects of the industry in this case specializing in culinary management
  • It looks at revenue management, operations and finances
  • This program is looking to give these tools to students to create a sustainable business

[5:27] Can you tell me more about what a student can expect going into this program and coursework?

  • The first two years are focused on the basic and advanced culinary skills which mirror their other culinary management dipolma but also weaves in buisness, service and accounting courses.
  • The final two years are heavily are focused on finance, buisness, nutritional science and food science. During this time they will do two capstone projects where one is acadmeically focused where they choose and research a topic related to the industry and write a paper. The second project is creating a three-course meal in two hours using advanced culinary skills.
  • In the last two year are focused on research and marketing and why food does what it does. Why do operations need to focus on finances to be sustainable. The degree starts to shed light on things people need to look out for in the industry.

[10:55] What type of jobs does this program set you up for?

  • Creates a wide variety of options
  • As students progress through the program they might realize they don’t want to be a chef but are more interested in the research aspect. This program can help individuals with an entrepenurial spirit. Though it also opens the door for operational, hotel, and operational jobs.

[12:55] We talk about how this program is unique

  • The program is meant to develop critical thinking skills and how you apply the knowledge you are gaining in a critical way.
  • Students get to choose their research and how it ties with their future. This program even sets people up to apply to other universities

[14:43] Why should students attend this program despite what has been observed with the restaurant industry in the pandemic?

  • Before the pandemic, there were many challenges in the restaurant industry and the pandemic has brought a lot of awareness. However, through challenges there are opportunities. This pandemic has shown the chance to have a more entrepenurial spirit. As well, the program is meant to help show resilience.
  • Riley believes that e-commerce is going to become a big aspect of the restaurant industry.
  • Ford believes there is going to be more opportunities. To look on the flip side of the pandemic. Yes, restaurants are going to open up again but there is going to be a customer base that has pent up demand. People going to patios and dining out. There is going to be a demand for staff with the knowledge and skills.

[17:55] Veronica talk about how she just wants to go and eat at a restaurant

[19:25] Talking about new opportunities in the food industry

  • Talking about getting products directly from suppliers
  • Some restaurants having a one-stop shop where you can buy your groceries there too
  • In one of the courses, the students make a preserved product and learn how to sell it
  • Restaurants need to look at what they can do to provide service and value for customers not just limited to eating in the restaurant

[21:37] Does the program have any experimental learning, internships or co-op?

  • There are two work placements which equal to about 1000 hours of work experience. The first one is actually a foundational culinary piece where they get paid to work in a restaurant. They cook in an introductioy environment.
  • The second placement is an experience is personalized that the student gets to choose. It can be entrepenurial or they can work on their own product. Or they can do an advanced back of the house position or front of the house to learn about operations.
  • Students change during the years and this allows them to choose what suits their future goals. Warren talk about a student during her time at school who didn’t know what she wanted to do but due to course work fell in love with research and development

[27:10] We talked about it prior to the show but could you elaborate in how this program is meant to teach students about resiliance?

  • When talking about resilience we also need to talk about adaptability. How do you assess situations and think critically. Part of it is knowing your strengths. How do you face challenges. No matter what your role is you are going to need to face challenges. So how do you manage each new situation? The program is meant to prepare you for challenges like customers and the situations they bring up. Staffing, ordering and what comes up in operation. Half of the challenges come from surprises?
  • The program brings up these challenges to see how the students will react to prepare them. Not only that but how to make a decision. Teaching them the decision-making process and critical thinking through courses like Advanced Critical Thinking and Risk Management

[31:52] Is this program also going to address other issues like diversity or sustainability.

  • The two chefs always are looking to include real-world issues into their coursework. The industry is always changing and is not static. There are so many issues in food service that are not just limited to food.
  • In terms of sustainability. Sustainability a complex issue and the food industry is one of the biggest x issues in it. There is supply chain issues, politics and so many things that affect climate. Many topics are included in courses in the context of sustainability because it is a complex issue made of many issues.
  • The food literacy course blends with the Food Studies program.

[35:38] Why do you love being at George Brown?

  • Ford loves the opportunity to take his vast knowledge and experience to impart knowledge to people are who are passionate about this industry. To have conversations and be inspired with up and coming chefs and what they have experienced. It is a way to stay connected with the industry. There is a lot of collaboration and discussions to learn about food.
  • Riley worked in their family restaurant and the passion was always there for the restaurant industry. Cooking has allowed him to travel. Though once you have worked for so long you start to question what you can do with all your experience without sharing it. It is about giving back. There is always learning involved and stepping p to challenges. Everyone at George Brown is amazing and their staff.

[41:19] How do we find out more information about the program and how do we apply?

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