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Staff Column: University needs a culinary arts program
One thing I’ve discovered in college is my passion for food. Most people love eating food, but I also enjoy experimenting with it. For years I cooked with my mom on Saturday mornings; those experiences became invaluable this summer, as I found myself cooking in my apartment, mixing and matching meats and veggies and spices.
My fondness for food makes me wish Wash. U. offered a culinary arts program. At a university of this caliber, most students are focused on preparing for some sort of graduate school or a well-paying job with a well-known corporation. Our rigorous schedules mean the most cooking we can afford to do is boiling water for ramen noodles. The more cooking-adept or -interested can sometimes snag a spot at a Culinary Arts Society cooking night, but Wash. U. needs at least a basic program to prepare students for an advanced cooking school or for life outside of college.
There are potential disadvantages to offering culinary arts. Wash. U. is known for its scholarship, so cooking might not seem like it would fit into the curriculum well. I, however, envision a culinary program that incorporates anthropology, biology and history. To be a great chef, you need to understand what food really is and how preparing it changes it.
History and anthropology come in when one learns how food has evolved in many cultures; for example, one could learn how South Asian cultures have mixed lentils and rice to make up for amino acid deficiencies in each. The opportunity to research food sources and the impact of modern food system on natural resources would appeal to environmental studies students as well.
Another disadvantage to teaching a trade like cooking would be the admittedly limited benefits it would bring to Wash. U.’s image as a whole. The University’s priority is cutting-edge research, which brings it more fame, faculty and money; offering a culinary arts program will likely do none of these. Yet I don’t think a culinary arts program would in any way lessen Wash. U.’s status as a great school. If anything, it would be a unique feature that could attract more applicants.
A final consideration is money; such a program would require a new curriculum and more employees, and with the current financial situation, this clearly isn’t feasible. I feel that the administration can nevertheless establish the foundations now so that in better economic times, the necessary framework already will be available.
Overall, a culinary arts program would be a great addition to Wash. U., either in the College of Arts & Sciences or University College. If Subway moves out of the Rat this summer, space will be open for training there or possibly in the addition to the South 40 House. If it wants, Bon Appétit could help with the program’s startup or link it to successful chefs around the country. And besides, who wouldn’t want to take classes in which you could eat your homework?
Cyrus is a sophomore in Arts & Sciences. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]