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National Restaurant Association - 5 ways summer workshops help your future employees

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5 ways summer workshops help your future employees

ProStart students at Taunton (Mass.) High School will be using more fresh ingredients and practicing their plating this fall.

Their teacher, Sarah Gibson, recently finished what she calls “culinary boot camp,” otherwise known as ProStart Summer Institutes. And she’s bringing back new ideas for her students.

Nearly 300 teachers are participating in the weeklong professional development workshops from the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. The workshops combine classroom training and hands-on exercises to help teachers enhance their skills teaching the ProStart curriculum.

Professional development opportunities can be limited for vocational teachers, especially culinary instructors, says Gibson, who attended Level 2 this summer at Daytona State College and Level 1 last year. “It’s nice to receive added instruction, and network with other chef instructors from around the country,” she says.

Here are a few take-aways from her experience:

1. Hands-on instruction. A former English teacher, Gibson didn’t go to culinary school. Last summer, she spent a lot of time on soups and stocks. But this summer, she was excited to learn to fillet a fish – which she’ll teach her students this year.

2. Discovering free resources. Thanks to the Summer Institutes, Gibson plans to contact commodity organizations, such as the American Egg Board and National Dairy Council, which offer free instructional material. Plus, she’ll be writing to publishing companies for demo books and CD-ROMs.

3. Getting the inside scoop.

One of her instructors, Chef Costa Magoulas, is the Florida ProStart Invitational’s lead judge. He shared what judges looking for at competition, as well as competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. Apparently, plating is a recurring challenge. “We will definitely concentrate more on plating this year.”

4. How to work with local suppliers. Gibson plans to work with more fresh product, as well as ingredients unique to her area.  

5. How to find corporate sponsors. Like many high school teachers, Gibson has to work within budget constraints. So if she wants her students to cook with fresh ingredients, she’ll need sponsors for her team.

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