Photos and Words by Marilynne Cheng
Since the start of school, I have been asked the same questions so many times when I tell someone that I major in hospitality administration: “BU has a hospitality school?” or “oh, so you’re on the pre-med track?” I tend to respond, hiding my annoyance, “no, hospitality major is not a major in hospitals. I am not on the pre-med track.”
I don’t blame anyone for the misconception around the School of Hospitality Administration, or SHA, because we are a small school. The incoming freshman class was only 25 in the fall, and now it’s around 50 since spring semester. Hospitality administration is a business degree but with more of a focus on the service industry, which ranges from hotels to restaurants, from event planning to real estate. We take courses like accounting and hospitality law, but what sets us apart is the emphasis on hands-on experiences. The course “Principles of Food Production Management,” or better known as “the cooking class”, embodies that unconventional way of teaching in SHA. This cooking class, different from the 1-credit PDP course offered in FitRec, is a lab-based course that teaches food science, nutrition, and food management skills. For those who are ardent watchers of the show MasterChef, this class is structured pretty much the same way. For this article, I want to take you behind the scenes of not some trendy restaurant but our very own BU SHA kitchen on Comm Ave that most people don’t know about.
My cooking classes are on Fridays at 8 AM. However, the class really starts at 7:30 because we need to do the mise en place, which in a culinary phrase that translates to “putting things in place.” This means that we need to measure out all the ingredients according to the recipe cards we had made beforehand, cutting the ingredients in the desired sizes, and claiming all the cooking tools before they run out.
Time passes quickly while scrambling for ingredients in the pantry. When it hits 8:00, we are all required to go back to the classroom for lecture. Lecture includes going over homework questions and the agenda for the day. After the lecture, the chef and TAs perform demos for the dishes we will be making. All the dishes are made simultaneously, so you really need to pay attention to everything that is happening in the kitchen because they are generally very fast-paced. If you watch MasterChef, this is the part when Gordon Ramsay shows off his cooking skills and makes everything look effortless.
After the demo, it is time for us to cook! There are about 45 minutes to cook four dishes, so it is crucial to not waste a single minute during the process. Most often, one person won’t be in charge of one dish. Instead, everyone is constantly doing little things for each other and, as a team, you present the dishes to the chef and TAs. Personally, I think this cooking class teaches more about working in a team and the vital importance of communication than the actual act of cooking. As pictured below, the cooking space can get disastrous, which also reflects how hectic it gets during the process of preparing the dishes. Throughout the cooking time, the chef and TAs walk around and help us to the best of their abilities. As someone who doesn’t cook that often, I don’t know how something should taste like or what it lacks. The chef and TAs can, magically, pinpoint what exactly is missing, and I know to adjust the seasonings accordingly.
As 45 minutes comes to an end, which in this class passes by really quickly, each team presents their dishes on a long table.
But our class does not end there. We need to clean our own station until perfection, and on top of that each team is also responsible for a task in the kitchen for the day, whether that be mopping and drying the floors or loading the dish machines. Cleaning is also a team effort. There is a policy that if the kitchen isn’t clean at the end of the class, everyone fails for that day.
In the meantime, the chef calls each team up for a round of critique. The TAs and chef taste the food and give you feedback, commenting on the things the team did well and needs to improve on. After the critique, we get to eat the food we make and take back whatever food that is left. At that point, all that is left to do is to either go back to the assigned cleaning duties or help others who need help with cleaning! Here are some pictures of the dishes we made during the most recent class.
This concludes my virtual tour of the HF120 cooking class. This is not an easy course, but it is definitely more enjoyable than sitting in a two-hour lecture hall. At the end of the class, it is not surprising to walk out with a shirt soaked in sweat or shoes covered in flour. However, this evidence embodies the spirit of SHA. Even though it may seem fun and easy, we, just like any other students at BU, must learn how to work under pressure and time constraint. Just like any team projects, this cooking class tests our ability to work with others. Just like any homework assignments, it requires memorization and practice. We might not wear fancy suits to class like Questrom students do, but hospitality students take our major just as seriously.