What’s happening for chefs today is monumental. I can have lunch in Mexico City and be home in time for a late dinner. Interest in international foods is growing at a pace we haven’t seen. It’s critical that students learn how to function in an international space, whether they end up working in a different country or they bring ideas from countries they’ve visited to their restaurants at home. Joining the international conversation is now the norm.
There is also an increased interest in what local means. I encourage every student to learn about internationality and their own local cuisine. For example, just because you grew up in China doesn’t mean you understand traditional Chinese foods. Chefs who learn about traditional recipes, indigenous foods, and the way their ancestors cooked can share their findings through an international lens—in the restaurants that they lead.
In the Kendall College School of Culinary Arts, we encourage our students to understand where they grew up and what the rest of the world looks like. To make it in today’s culinary landscape, chefs need knowledge of as many global cuisines and techniques as possible. The best way to do this is through a curriculum that has a global approach, where students learn these techniques in the classroom and through interaction with international students and international internships.
Kendall College provides students with the tools to earn a global culinary education. Currently, our students represent nearly 50 countries. This diversity helps bring global perspectives to every classroom. There is an unquestionable amount of informal learning that happens when you rub shoulders with people from other countries. You talk to them, learn about their local foods and preparation techniques, and come away with a totally different (and inspiring) understanding of their culture.
At Kendall, we know that experiences in the classroom aren’t enough. That’s why the connections we have with fellow Laureate International Universities are so important: More than 1,200 students participate in Kendall Culinary Certificate programs at 16 affiliate campuses through the world. Kendall also partners with globally inspired restaurants and marketplaces in the U.S., such as Eataly, the Four Seasons, and Green City Market, to provide real-world experience that expose students to global culinary influencers.
When you consider culinary arts programs, be sure to review how much time is spent in the kitchen. The more, the better. Also consider how big the classes are, especially kitchen classes. There should be enough equipment (stoves, tables, mixers, etc.) for students. Is teamwork a key component? Will you have a chance to make every recipe? I also encourage you to visit culinary schools. Meet the people. Find where you feel comfortable—but know you’ll be challenged. And most of all, look for a program that will push you to fulfill your long-term career goals and open up doors for unique international experiences. To become a leader in culinary arts, you can never stop learning and you cannot allow geographic boundaries to limit your success.
By Chef Christopher Koetke, vice president of the Kendall College School of Culinary Arts. Photos from the 2015 Kendall College International Fair.