By Sarah Wright
A Well-Rounded Culinary Education
Some college students think they know a lot about booze. But drinking it on the weekend and studying it in class are two different things. What's the point of alcohol in the classroom? It may seem silly, but it's an important part of preparing culinary students for today's restaurant market.
Fine dining patrons are likely to notice that we're experiencing something of a cocktail renaissance. As always, a good restaurant will have a wine list stocked with wines that will compliment the chef's food. But now, many fine restaurants are also offering their patrons a selection of cocktails to pair with their dishes. Good chefs are aware of the necessity of alcohol connoisseurship as well as being well-versed in different cooking styles. It seems reasonable, then, that culinary students a Johnson and Wales University are required to take beverage classes as part of their training.
It's a Classroom, Not a Club
Before you rush to apply for the 4-year culinary program at Johnson and Wales, you should be aware that the use and consumption of alcohol in these classes is highly regulated. Students under the legal drinking of age 21 are only allowed to taste wine if they spit after tasting, or if it is paired with food. The New York Times did a story on this, and reported that for cocktail mixing classes, the liquid in the name-brand booze bottles is actually colored water. This is not so much to control students' drinking - students in this program are likely aware of the fact that the food and beverages they work with are important educational tools - but to save the school money on overhead. Alcohol is, after all, more expensive than water and food coloring.
A Sensible Addition for Culinary Students
Cocktails and other alcoholic beverages are an important component of culinary knowledge, but taking these types of classes can also be helpful in making culinary students more widely marketable. One student interviewed for the story in The Times notes that she started her post-college career as a cook at a restaurant where she was eventually promoted to bar manager. Learning to mix drinks in a precise and economical way makes for a good bar employee.
In addition to wine and cocktail mixing classes, Johnson and Wales also has a course in making microbrewed beer, which could be a good entrée into a career as the owner of a brewpub. Being knowledgeable in all aspects of this type of business, from the kitchen to the bar, would be a great asset for graduates intending to follow this career path. Though Johnson and Wales' program is unique, thanks to its high-tech facilities, many culinary schools offer this type of training. With a tough job market for culinary school graduates, covering as many career bases as possible while in school may be a good idea to ensure future success.
Non-culinary students can get bring good cooking practices into their lives by eating healthy at school.