What do you get when you make pizza, pumpkin-chocolate chip muffins, and ice cream all on a Saturday?
Plates and bowls of deliciousness plus an introduction to college-level science, if you are a lucky high-schooler who attended a virtual cooking class hosted by Washington State University’s Office of Academic Engagement (OAE) and the School of Hospitality Business Management (HBM).
For three hours, dozens of OAE student participants across the state followed along in their own home kitchens while three HBM instructors in chef’s whites worked in front of cameras set up throughout Todd Hall’s commercial kitchen in the Carson College of Business. OAE is part of the Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement (DAESA) in the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President.
The HBM instructors demonstrated everything from knife safety to the dough-expanding chemical and biological reactions of leavening agents. The students—many of whom had never cooked before—learned about such things as thermodynamics, as in how heat and energy turn gooey batters into tasty treats.
“This Saturday experience from WSU showed the high-school students that, literally, science happens every day and that it can be fun—even in something as routine as preparing food from scratch,” said Giselle Verduzco, a senior human development psychology major who works with students at Bremerton High School and Hudson’s Bay High School in Vancouver as part of OAE’s College Access Programs (CAP).
Ingredients for success
The primary audience was high-schoolers from five schools who participate in Cougs Rise, a federally funded OAE TRIO program that works with low-income, first-generation students as they prepare to transition to college.
“We thought that preparing food together would be a novel way to introduce college-level STEM topics while also showing how WSU classes—in this case hospitality—give students science lessons in some unique and hands-on ways,” said Jamie Callison, HBM executive chef and director of the Marriott Foundation Hospitality and Culinary Innovation Center.
“Each semester, we host at least one experiential learning adventure for our Cougs Rise students,” said Ray Acuña-Luna, OAE CAP director. “The idea to partner with the HBM chefs was the perfect recipe for success.”
OAE and HBM worked closely together to plan the class. OAE’s Acuña-Luna and Cougs Rise coordinators Cesar Munguia, Araseli Solorio, and Dani Neeld discussed best ways to engage students and fine-tuned project and learning goals. HBM crafted recipes, detailed a lesson plan, and assembled necessary items.
Developing a taste for science
“We came up with a menu to show that everyone is engaged with science every time they cook something,” said Jason Butcherite, HBM chef de cuisine. “We also tapped into the aspects of nutrition in this real-time experience.”
The science of leavening agents in baking was a big part of the lesson. They cause expansion of doughs and batters by the release of carbon dioxide and gases within mixtures. Yeast in the pizza dough, baking powder and soda in the pumpkin muffin batter, and air infused into the cold ice cream mixture proved the team’s points.
“There was a lot of chemistry and physics and microbiology talk going on in this class,” said HBM Ph.D. student Jessica Murray. “Energy. Hot and cold temperatures. Gluten contraction and structure. Fiber impact on gut microbiota. Macronutrients and calories. And, then, in the end, everyone got to eat the products of the lessons.”
Acuña-Luna said the cooking class was such a success that OAE and HBM are looking forward to future collaborations. Some CAP students visiting campus in summer might be surprised, he said.