A Day in the Culinary Life at JWU

There’s nothing quite like the hum of activity when culinary classes are in session at JWU. At the Providence Campus, the Cuisinart Center for Culinary Excellence is like a hive thrumming with adrenaline, creativity, and the focused energy of students aligned around a common goal. (Namely, becoming the best chefs, bakers, pastry chefs, nutritionists, dietitians or food entrepreneurs they can be.) In Charlotte, the glass-fronted labs along West Trade Street turn class into a spectator sport for pedestrians walking by. No matter where you are, the excitement – and enthusiasm – on display is palpable.

But you might wonder what an “average day” might look like for students and faculty alike. What are their favorite time(s) of day? Is it the moments where they’re plugged in, powered by a combination of instinct and inspiration? (And let’s be honest: Caffeine!) Or the moments of quiet, when taking time to reflect on the day’s successes and teaching moments helps prepare them for the next day.

We asked a handful of students and faculty from Providence and Charlotte to share their reflections with us.


MORNING

I’m an early riser, I take the opening shift every day, which means I’m on campus at 6am.

What an exciting time of the day — it’s like watching a giant slowly come alive. The lighting in the Cuisinart Center is on a timer and they start to click on one by one just after 6, illuminating the color-filled hallways and telling the AM lab students that it’s time to come start their day’s journey.

What makes me most happy at that time of the day is seeing the real excitement on the students’ faces as they head to their laboratories. It’s not the faces you’d expect to see at 6:30am, tired and lackluster. These faces are awake and eager to get their days started — inspiring to me, as a matter of fact.

One reason being is that I remember EXACTLY what it felt like as a student — always opting for morning labs. The excitement I had to go join my cohort of fellow students and knowing that every day I was learning something new — and the aspirations I had — trying to plot my career in food out on a day-to-day basis. Seeing these hungry, eager students at that time of the day brings me nothing but joy. -JWU PROVIDENCE ASSISTANT DEAN TJ DELLE DONNE '04 , '07 MAT

I did my AS in Baking & Pastry Arts and am currently finishing up my bachelor’s in Food & Beverage Entrepreneurship. While I may not have labs in my curriculum anymore, my job with Culinary Operations allows me to stay involved with the environment.

One thing I miss for sure is the super early mornings. The expected class time would differ by course, setting alarms for 5-5:30am seemed insane, but at the end of class I’d feel accomplished and energized, having the whole rest of the day available for free time.

Another might be the stress, believe it or not. I keep using the word accomplished but that’s really what it was to me. In the moment, having a busy production schedule and 10 things happening at once, your adrenaline starts rushing and the stress levels rise, but it really teaches you how to work smart and how to manage tasks appropriately. It’s times like that that make you look back and think you’re capable of much more than you think. -JWU PROVIDENCE TEACHING ASSISTANT JULIE KURZ

“What makes me most happy at that time of the day is seeing the real excitement on the students’ faces as they head to their labs.”

The best time of the day in the CCE building is when I just start to mise en place the ingredients for the meal or dish I’m making in that class.

I have a.m. labs, so I usually wake up around 5:45, which isn’t ideal for most college students. But if you think about it, you will wake up the same time for a job in the industry. It is worth all the back pain and knee pain to run a restaurant one day! -JWU PROVIDENCE STUDENT ALYSSA ROSENTHAL


AFTERNOON

My favorite time of day in the CCCE is definitely around 11:30am or noon. Labs run from 7am to 1pm, which means that around 11:30 am is the time that production is finishing. On the fourth floor you’d start to see cakes and bread sculptures in the hallway, on the third you could see the buffet by the garde manger lab. The overall feeling was ease and accomplishment as everyone is evaluating and taking pictures of their product before moving onto cleaning and breaking down. -JULIE KURZ

My favorite time of the day in the Academic Center is halfway through a culinary lab, when we are all working together to prepare a variety of dishes. Usually, in the midst of production, I stop for a second, look around, and realize how much I love working in a kitchen.

Because of COVID-19, college looks very different. We have had to adapt in many different ways. However, I am so glad we have been able to continue the culinary labs, where we get to network with our classmates and chefs and expand our culinary skills.

Undoubtedly, lab days can be exhausting, especially if we have academic classes as well. Nonetheless, there is so much knowledge you gain from one single class that, if you take a second at the end of the day to reflect, you will notice you are a step closer to becoming the chef you aspire to be. People have different opinions about college; however, if there is something I can assure you of it is that at JWU, we are a family. We care about each other and we will always be here to support one another. -JWU CHARLOTTE STUDENT LAURA R. RAMOS MARTINEZ

“I always get excited to start the new day.”

When I think about a day in my life as a JWU student, I think of the many hours I spend in the Academic Center, from working as a culinary assistant in the morning, to doing my zoom and lab classes throughout the day.

One thing I love about this school is how much the administration cares about our futures. Each chef and teacher I have had has shown me life lessons that I will take into my future. Additionally, I have had chefs listen to my aspirations and guide me to make the right choices with my future. As you start your education with JWU you can expect to have as many people as you need to help you succeed. -JWU CHARLOTTE STUDENT MOLLY RINGLE

Being able to experience leadership is why I love to cook. I feel this every day that I am in labs – so every day is my favorite time of day!

When I first became a student at JWU, I wasn’t quite sure what it was about cooking that pushed me to pursue it as a major. Was it the idea of making a wide variety of food every day or was it trying to turn my passion into a career?

My third year at Johnson and Wales has given me a small taste as to what the real industry will be like. ... The adrenaline and rush I feel while being on the line is why I love to cook. Starting a “restaurant” from scratch and watching my classmates turn my vision into a reality is why I love to cook.

I’ve always known I had the potential of being a great team leader and being in these classes has helped me improve my skills and really push myself to see how great I can be. -JWU PROVIDENCE STUDENT ESMERALDA BENCOSME


LATE AFTERNOON/EVENING

I love the last day of spring semester: Students are ready for a break, faculty is ready for a break, and administration is looking forward to some quieter times for a few weeks, when some much-needed attention can be shifted to items, concepts or ideas that have been “on the back burner.” -JWU CHARLOTTE DEAN JERRY LANUZZA

Once I get back home after class, I start to look at the next day’s recipes and review what I will make for the next day. Although having 6-hour labs can be tiring, I always get excited to start the new day and begin to master the cooking skills I have learned. -ALYSSA ROSENTHAL

TOP: JWU PROVIDENCE SENIORS FINISHING UP THEIR LAB EXPERIENCES WITH A FINAL BUFFET. BELOW: JWU PROVIDENCE LABS IN ACTION; JWU CHARLOTTE PASTRY LABS; JWU PROVIDENCE ADVANCED PETITS GATEAUX BUFFET PRESENTATION.

JWU Culinary Labs in Action, 2020.

JWU Charlotte pastry lab in session.

JWU Providence seniors presenting their final Advanced Petits Gateaux buffet.