Western educators get fired up about hospitality

PULLMAN — Twenty-eight high school teachers from seven Western states donned starched chef’s aprons embroidered with their names and sharpening professional knives from their sets as they sliced into a unique summer school program at At Washington State University.

“We were excited to give these educators from Washington, Alaska, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Nevada and Oregon a taste of our hospitality program,” said Terry Umbreit, director of the School of Hospitality Business Management in the business college.

These educators switched their typical roles by becoming students once again to get hands-on lessons about everything from haute cuisine meal preparation to kitchen knife handling, and from fundamentals of cooking techniques to food safety and sanitation.

Faculty and staff in hospitality business management created a relevant, yet fun, curriculum especially for this group — members of the nationwide ProStart program. In their home high schools, their students — those interested in careers in restaurant management and culinary arts — participate in ProStart, the school-to-career youth program of the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation. WSU is one of only eight locations to host cohorts of high school teachers affiliated with the NRAEF summer institutes this year.

“The ProStart summer program gave visiting teachers at this summer institute a hands-on look at our outstanding hospitality program at WSU,” said Gene Fritz, HBM culinary educator and chef. “They can see what their students might experience here in terms of faculty and facilities. It can help them help their students know what to expect as they transition from high school to college.”

The agenda for the five-day program featured days that started promptly at 7:30 a.m., and sometimes didn’t end until well into late evening. Field trips took them to such sites as Ferdinand’s creamery, Spokane’s Anthony’s Restaurant and Davenport Hotel, and Moscow’s to Sangria Grill and Applebee’s Restaurant.

The ProStart teacher-students attended several special classes led by WSU HBM professors. Guest speakers included chef Mark Beattie, currently a graduate student at Gonzaga University, who will teach an HBM course in fall, and Patrick McLaughlin, food and beverage manager at the Davenport Hotel.

In the program’s full-sized restaurant kitchen in Todd Hall, Fritz led them through hands-on “moist heat fusion” and “dry heat fusion” food preparation. “Moist” includes such cooking methods as steaming, poaching, braising and stewing, while “dry” covers grilling, sautéing, roasting, broiling and deep-fat frying. The teacher-students savored everything they prepare, Fritz said. That included a range of flavors from dishes like cedar planked salmon and “apple-calvados braised Northwest chicken.”

“By the end of the week, they had a good feel for what our hospitality students experience here when they study culinary arts and practices at WSU, as well as what graduates of the program experience in their careers,” Umbreit said.

The WSU hospitality program is a leader among hospitality programs around the world, continuously ranked in the top 10. Students in the program earn a four-year baccalaureate degree from an accredited business program and develop special management skills tailored to the hospitality industry. They must have earned at least 1,000 internship hours to graduate; by commencement, the average student has received more than four job offers. Students in the WSU Hospitality Business Management program have the opportunity to study abroad at numerous locations, including Brig, Switzerland, and Florence, Italy. They can join a number of student clubs that give them leadership and teamwork experience; the hospitality club Sigma Iota is the largest at WSU. Its members interact with industry executives and alumni and produce the annual fundraising Winefest event each fall.

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