How Wake Tech culinary classes are adapting to online formats during the pandemic

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – On Feb. 4, CBS 17 got a close-up look inside the kitchen of Wake Technical Community College’s culinary program. The kitchen closed and online learning began about a month and a half later.

“Our faculty has been fantastic at being able to go from zero to 60 with this and basically rewrite their course plans,” said Jeff Hadley. He is the Department Head and Chef Instructor.

Wake Tech has figured out how to make it work. Jo-Nese Lassiter thinks her experience working in a restaurant during the COVID-19 pandemic will come in handy when classes resume.

“I’m in the back of house and we have to do all the same things we are wearing masks. We have our temperature checked, taken, so we do all these things,” Lassiter said. “Those steps, I’m already prepared for to return to the classroom.”

There will be in-person labs beginning in August, but they won’t look like they did earlier in the year. Class capacity will be below 50 percent. Times will be staggered.

“All students are going to have their own bus tub in order to take care of their own equipment, wash their own equipment — knives, pots, and pans, whatever it is,” Hadley said. “Again, we’re going to be working on a schedule to stagger those students so they’re not all congregating at the dishwasher.”

Lassiter has already taken online courses over the summer. It worked out well for her.

“They made it very convenient. And so, you don’t have as much stress, and they know a lot of people are also dealing with family at home and kids at home and different things. So, it’s been very convenient for everyone,” Lassiter said.

When it comes to taste testing, it’s become a family affair.

“That’s up to the family and the neighbors, coworkers if you’re still working, so it’s been a good thing families have because you cook more at home,” Lassiter said.

Hadley added: “It’s kind of hard to run a culinary or baking program in an online way because you can’t taste what they’re making. It may not taste that great. It may look good, but did you put salt instead of sugar? We would never know, so we’re taking them at their word.”

The department is still waiting on guidance from the state when it comes to the fall semester and early-college programs with high school students.

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