Peter Kelly

Contact Information
There should be room to hear what students have to say, to truly hear their questions and answer them fully without judgment — and find out if they really understand what I am teaching.”


A scholar, a chef, an entrepreneur, and a 15-time Boston Marathoner, Peter Kelly was among the first group of instructors to teach JWU’s new Science of Cooking and Sensory Analysis class, one of several courses that have been developed as part of the university’s culinary curriculum overhaul. He has been a resource on a variety of topics and trends, including presidential menus and gastro-pubs, and has written for The Boston Globe. When not teaching, Kelly and his wife operate Anchor Toffee.

Personal Statement

My philosophy of teaching was most likely forged initially in the home where I grew up. My parents placed a great deal of emphasis on shared work, attention to detail, and accountability.

My father was a stern disciplinarian ex-Marine combat veteran who would toil at whatever task was at hand until he dropped. My mother was kind, gentle, soft spoken and above all, a brilliant cook who could make almost anything. Without knowing it at the time, I learned from them the value of hard work, durability, thrift, and a disdain for waste, whether in time, food or money. These are all things that I try to model, and emphasize in my classroom. What I did not learn in that home, and possibly the greatest gift I have received from brilliant teachers, and teaching, is the power of good communication.

I teach because I want to help people get better at what they do. Chef Madeleine Kamman, who was a mentor, mentioned to me that I should consider teaching because I had a gentle way, as well as a good way with words.

At New England Culinary Institute, where apparently every chef had a nickname, I was called “Zen Chef” because I remained calm, and did not unnecessarily raise my voice or go out of my way to belittle people. I learned there by defusing tensions, talking things through, being prepared, that I no longer needed to go and write down the emotional issue, I could rise with the passion of the moment, resolve the problem, and let it go — no harm, no foul. Teaching taught me this, and it is what I try to pass on to all of the generations of classes that I am fortunate enough to teach.

I think there must always be some base level of discipline, respect for each other, and decorum, but I feel no need to control every second of my student’s performance. There should be room to hear what students have to say, to truly hear their questions, and answer them fully without judgment, and to find out if they really understand what I am teaching. I continue to administer quizzes, written finals and require written feedback on topics as a means of assessment. I also persist in close observation and communication with students during individual practical exams because in that somewhat compressed time, there is truly no place to hide, and opportunities for growth are more sharply contrasted.

What makes me unique as a teacher is the same thing that some of my direct supervisors and close relatives tell me is a weakness. I am told that I am too nice, and too sensitive.

When I worked for the Sheraton Corporation, most chefs teaching philosophy consisted of screaming, yelling, swearing, or throwing things. I determined long ago that although I can remember their swollen veins, and numbers of dental fillings, the only thing I learned from those chefs was that I never wanted to be like them.

When people try to convince me to be “meaner” as a tool to gain more respect from the students, I go back to my office and read my evaluations that specifically state how grateful my students are for my patience, for not being insulted, or embarrassed for making a mistake. While student evaluations are not the perfect barometer of teaching success, over time, consistently high scores are one affirmation of my teaching philosophy, and style. I also consider the fact that I have been chosen by administration to train new instructors on a number of occasions.

I was honored by my peers with the Robert Nograd Excellence in Teaching Award a few years ago. Since so many of my colleagues hold Chef Nograd in such high esteem, I was humbled to earn the award in his name that distinguished my teaching above the norm.

I believe that the most important teaching tools for me are less pedagogy than a way of life. Respect the student, the tools, the ingredients, the building, and my colleagues. Demonstration of technique as many times as required is also invaluable, along with the patience, and tolerance necessary to understand that there will be some who try valiantly, only to achieve minimum competence. I believe that there is room for everyone at the table. Not every student will have their own restaurant, or work in a Michelin-starred kitchen, but those are by no means the only measures of success.