evolution:college of business
Imagine, Johnson & Wales’ culinary arts program — the one
most synonymous with its name today — almost didn’t happen.
When Morris Gaebe ’98 Hon., now chancellor and chairman of
the board emeritus, brought his burning belief in the program
to the board of directors, they doused it, asking why he’d want
to teach cooks, when they had such a nice little business school.
But the next year, armed with help from David Friedman ’75
Hon., who owned a restaurant supply company and just happened
to have a warehouse full of kitchen equipment left over
from the 1964 World’s Fair, Gaebe’s dream was realized.
On Oct. 15, 1973, 141 students reported for orientation
at what was called the School of Culinary Arts at Johnson &
Wales College, the first such school in the nation affiliated with
a private, four-year institution. Led by Belgium native Franz
K. Lemoine, it offered a two-year associate in science degree
focused on food preparation and service, with the objective of
training students to become professional chefs. Two decades
later, it would become the first in the country to award bachelor
of science degrees in culinary arts and baking and pastry.
One of its earliest enrollees was Peter Cooper ’77, who today
is JWU’s executive director for culinary procurement. He first
came to Johnson & Wales to apply for a teaching position, having
already completed an apprenticeship. “Socrates Inonog, the
assistant dean, started shooting out terms,” he remembers. “And
although I had the skills to do what needed to be done, I didn’t
really have the formal terminology it would take to teach.”
So they struck a gentlemen’s agreement, and Cooper became
the first Advanced Standing student (an accelerated program
still offered for those with proven experience). The curriculum
had similarities to today’s. “There was always a storeroom class,”
he recalls. “But storeroom now is much more intensive, there’s
much more information given.” He also remembers sauce
kitchen, garde manger and oriental kitchen. “They were a lot
more focused on recipes.”
Karl Guggenmos ’93, ’02 MBA, university dean of culinary
education, concurs, “We’ve changed from a menu-driven to an measurable and transferable skills,” he says. Through the years,
in response to industry feedback, for example, Quantity Foods
morphed into Fundamentals of Food Service Production, teaching
the techniques of baking, sautéing and shallow frying.
Culinary students can also concentrate in specific areas
— sommelier, baking and pastry, wellness and sustainability,
to name a few. “Students seem to be more in control of their
destiny with all these choices,” says Tammy Jaxtheimer, former
Norfolk director of admissions.
Experiential learning and study abroad have mushroomed
with options in Thailand, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and
possibly Peru. In addition, an advanced culinary program in
Singapore has allowed 80 JWU instructors to teach there for
four weeks while immersing themselves in Asian cooking.
“Over the years, our faculty evolved from chefs to educators,”
says Guggenmos. Various programs continue providing specific
pedagogical training for culinary instructors, who today include
everything from artists to scientists. Guggenmos, himself,
exemplifies the standard of advanced academic degrees earned
by faculty. A master chef from Germany, he also possesses an
M.B.A. from JWU.
Cooper believes that, in step with a changing world, JWU
has become a kinder, gentler place. “The faculty has always been
fantastic, but I don’t think the rein on them was as tight. It
was a different era 30-plus years ago and what was appropriate
to say back then, you’d probably get fired for now.” He recalls
a phenomenal pastry instructor who’d chomp on a cigar once
students left. “I don’t think that would go over well in this day
and age,” he chuckles. “Their personalities left an impression on
us, but they really passed on an incredible, indelible skill level.”
As industry’s bar has risen, the university’s student selectivity
has increased along with academic rigor in all classes. In the
associate program, one-third of the classes are academic. “This
combination is one of our biggest differentiators,” says Peter
Lehmuller, associate dean of academic affairs at the Charlotte
Campus. “By synthesizing culinary skills with a strong foundation
in liberal arts and business, we better prepare students for long-term success and satisfaction. It opens up career
opportunities that might otherwise not be available to someone
from a strictly technical training program.” And Guggenmos
notes that between 60 and 70 percent of associate degree holders
now continue toward their bachelor’s.
Lehmuller cites exciting cross-disciplinary conversations
among science, sanitation and nutrition instructors about courses
and classroom issues, and lab instructors bouncing ideas for
written assignments off of English faculty. “This leads to a greater
appreciation and understanding of what each does and how to
assist students to see the program as a unified whole.” Seamless
communication among all campuses has increased dramatically.
The multicampus system exists because of the culinary arts.
Military chef training begun in the 1980s in Charleston and
Norfolk grew into campuses which consolidated into the
Charlotte Campus in 2004. And a program in Vail, Colo.
vividly remembered for students in chef ’s whites riding chair lifts
to class, predated the Denver Campus.
“Facilities have gone from adequate to state-of-the-art,”
adds Guggenmos. Indeed, systemwide, there are more than
100 labs, including technologically advanced wine and beverage,
chocolate, meat cutting labs and more. The $38 million,
82,000-square-foot Center for Culinary Excellence will open in
Providence soon, setting universal standards for food storage,
preparation and handling. Designed with faculty input to meet
rapid-fire industry changes, it marks yet another first for Johnson
& Wales University: the first culinary lab facility in the U.S. built
to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)
certification standards — as green as you can get.
No longer simply responding to industry, but forging alliances
with it, JWU is still transforming the culinary world.