Many Market Square customers are unaware that on certain days of the week the meals prepared for them may be the product of another student's hard work.
The Department of Nutritional Sciences offers a Quantity Food Production course designed to teach students about the theories of different cooking methods and how to prepare food for large quantities of people, said Samantha Powell, a lecturer in the Nutritional Sciences department who teaches the class.
The course includes both a lecture and a lab component, which requires students to work in the first floor Brown-Lupton University Union kitchen. Students also tour different food service operations across campus, Powell said.
She said the required lab for the class allows students to work with the university's chefs and to learn from the ground-up what it takes to put meals together.
In the kitchen, students work within four concept areas: cold prep, hot prep, baking and serving. They also learn how to order food, how to receive food, how to properly store food and how to apply preparation methods, she said.
Powell said most of what the BLUU kitchen produces is made fresh from scratch, providing opportunities for students in her class to participate in all areas of food service.
The students' responsibilities within the kitchen vary from chopping onions to learning the step-by-step planning process of how to get food on the table for so many people, Powell said.
Jesse Davenport, a junior nutrition major, said she has enjoyed the course, whether learning in the kitchen,during a lecture or on the food service tours.
Davenport said during one lecture, Charlie Guajardo, executive chef in the BLUU kitchen, talked to students about how he manages the kitchen, works out the cost of food, stays within the budget and determines the amount of food to cook. All of these lessons helped Davenport realize the amount of planning that goes into food production.
Davenport said he has actually never eaten at the BLUU, but that he enjoys working in the kitchen because it gives him the opportunity to see the quality of the food produced.
He said his experience in the kitchen has taught him a lot about what is put into meals as well as the importance of food safety regulations.
“It’s pretty hectic back there,” Davenport said.
He said a lot of cooking is done in the BLUU kitchen, and he appreciates how the staff implements food safety measures.
The staff gives each of the students an apron and hair net as soon as they walk into the kitchen, and they make the students wash their hands before putting on vinyl gloves, Davenport said.
Michael Dahl, director of operations for TCU Dining Services, wrote in an email that the Dining Services staff and management support students participating in each aspect of the course. He said they even expanded the program to enhance the learning opportunities for students by incorporating food service tours.
“Last year, we revamped the program to include more than just the production kitchen," Dahl wrote. "We have included rolling sushi, working the food truck, a tour of the stadium kitchen and maybe even a day working in the new Chick-fil-A."
Students in the course have already toured Sushi Mama, where they leaned how to roll sushi, Powell said.
Davenport said he enjoyed the Sushi Mama tour because he was able to see different aspects of the food industry, such as how procedures change when preparing and serving raw fish.
Powell said another component of the class requires students to use their knowledge of food service principles while hosting two large events on campus.
One event is a family brunch for nutritional studies students and their parents held at the end of September, she said.
Students must put together a menu, plan decorations, send out invitations and prepare food for about 100 people, Powell said.
The second event students will host is a formal luncheon in November for certain members of the campus community, she said.
Davenport said he is looking forward to these events so he can apply what he has learned from attending lectures and tours and his experience working in the kitchen.
“It is important to have future leaders in the nutrition industry who have hands-on education and a working knowledge of a production kitchen, as well as other aspects of the industry,” Dahl wrote.
Quantity Food Production fulfills that purpose, with each component of the class providing students with opportunities to apply the principles and skills they have acquired.