As a culinary student, you want feedback from a Chef Instructor to learn and improve upon your skills in the kitchen. But how does the evaluation process work with online schools? Is it as accurate and useful as in-person feedback?
While working face-to-face with a Chef Instructor is certainly a great experience, thousands of working adults could never earn a culinary school degree or diploma if the only way to learn was by attending in-person classes. And as you’ll see in this article, it’s not!
Now, top culinary and pastry arts programs from an accredited institution are available to anyone, anywhere, as long as you have access to the Internet.
In this article, we’re going to outline how you get your assignments, record your process, submit your work, and get individualized feedback from your Chef Instructors.
But first, you’re probably still wondering…
How Can a Chef Instructor Evaluate Food Online When They Can’t Taste It?
As an online culinary student, you may be wondering how you will receive feedback from your instructors. Is it individualized? Will it help you get better at the core skills you need to know?
Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts’ evaluation process provides students with one-on-one feedback for every assignment. Tasting the food isn’t even required to learn and improve. In fact, even with in-person classes, Chef Instructors do not taste every dish…there are just too many dishes to taste, so it’s not practical (or even necessary). However, students are taught to build their flavor profile and describe what they are tasting.
As Escoffier Chef Instructor Jesper Jonsson explains, “Most people, once you tell them that we teach culinary arts online, always ask ‘But you can’t taste the food. How do you know?’ The truth of the matter is I’ve seen so many steaks getting grilled that I know what the temperature of a pan sounds like. If I see a chicken breast, I can tell you if it’s dry on the inside. Then I can ask you what temperature did you cook it to? What was the carry-over temperature?
“While there are some limitations as to what can be done online, on the flip side all of our students are probably better at verbalizing what they’re doing and describing tastes. If I can’t taste it, you have to verbally be able to tell me: Was it salty? Was it bland? Was it tangy? And we use our flavor wheels for that. I think students being able to verbally describe foods and tastes has proven to be a tremendous asset.”
Now that we’ve covered the whole “tasting” issue, let’s get into the details of how the evaluation process works in practice.
1. Get Your Assignment and Instructions
Each week you receive an assignment with specific learning objectives.
The assignment includes recommended readings and videos to watch. Students then attend the live online class for further instruction, or watch the replay if they are unable to attend live. They are also required to test their learning with knowledge quizzes.
Classes are led by professional Chef Instructors from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. This means that you’ll have the opportunity to gain multiple perspectives on dish preparation, as well as a variety of leadership and management styles.
Each assignment involves a list of required photos to record the process, and a narrative and production sheet. We cover these steps next.
“I learned a lot. My Chef Instructors took a difficult task, really broke it down, and challenged us to retrace our steps— especially when we made mistakes—to understand why the pastry may not have turned out perfectly. This helped to both expand our knowledge and understand the science behind the art.”
Megan Sloan, Pastry Arts Graduate
2. Record Your Process With Photos
Taking photos and recording your process is important, so that you can show your Chef Instructors the various steps of the process.
What does this look like? Following the assignment instructions, you simply take photos at specific steps of the preparation and cooking process. This can include how the space is set up, sanitary measures, preparing ingredients, specific cooking steps and procedures, and the final product.
3. Submit Your Assignment with a Document Explaining the Experience
The narrative and production sheet is where students write down how the process went. It provides an opportunity to discuss what worked, and where they might need more guidance.
Students also use a flavor wheel to describe their dishes. The flavor wheel includes aroma (e.g., berry-like versus onion-like), mouthfeel (e.g., juicy or dry), and taste (astringent, tangy, etc.) Assignments are accessed and submitted through the Escoffier Student Portal online, or via the Escoffier mobile app.
4. Get Feedback From a Professional Chef Instructor
After submitting an assignment, students get a feedback video from their Chef Instructors. This is where instructors point out what went well, what seemed to fall short, and any tips or tricks to assist with future execution.
Most importantly, Chef Instructors offer encouragement and opportunities for students to ask questions. Students can email, text, and call their instructors, and set up appointments with them for deeper discussions.
Escoffier Chef Instructor Tom Beckman explains: “I’ve been teaching in the culinary and pastry field for over 25 years. The online programs at Escoffier allow students to develop the same skills as ground campus students, but you complete the program in your own kitchen.
“Once your assignment is completed, a chef will go through your production sheet and photos with feedback. For me, this is one of my favorite parts of the process because I’m able to give each student a lot of attention and talk through what went well and how to improve each week.”
“There was one time when I made veloute, one of the mother sauces. I thought it tasted fine, but when I smelled it, it came off a little bit smoky, so I wrote it down. My Chef Instructor gave me feedback by looking at the pictures of my sauce. He noticed the moments it began burning from the pictures that I didn’t really notice. But he was able to catch it, see where I went wrong, and correct me along the way.”
Damian Palacios, Online Culinary Arts Student
Your Externship Provides Opportunities for Hands-on Feedback
The culinary externship is a practical, hands-on placement in a working kitchen. Completing an approved industry externship is required as the final component of an Escoffier student’s curriculum before they graduate.
While the duties during externships may vary, all offer an opportunity to practice skills and receive feedback from chefs and cooks in a professional environment.
As student John Hadala said about his experience, “One of the best parts about Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts is they help you along the way to find externships.
“At the end of my externship, my Sous Chef said that if I gave him a few weeks, he could probably get me a job. You have to be patient in small kitchens, and you have to let them know how you feel [about wanting to work there long term].”
Are You Ready For Mentorship From Professional Chef Instructors?
Too many people put their culinary or pastry arts dreams on hold, believing that face-to-face training is required to get a degree or diploma in the culinary or pastry arts. In this article, we’ve shown that the online, distance learning format works wonderfully in the culinary arts.
Whether you want to open your own restaurant, work as an executive chef, or simply build an exciting career for yourself in the food business, you don’t have to wait. A quality education with world-class chef instruction is available now, online.
Take the next step and get a plan to learn how you can turn your passion for food into a new career and life.
Read more about how online culinary and pastry arts programs work: