From Tradition to Innovation: Why JWU Is a Global Culinary Leader

There’s a reason why JWU is known as a global leader in culinary education. (In fact, there are many.) But, at the core, it boils down to being the best: The best instructors, the best facilities, the best career outcomes rate. Johnson & Wales has an appetite for success, and the university has a proven track record of it. It matters when you are choosing a school — and it also matters to the future of the world. “Food innovation is an essential ingredient for making a better world — for everyone,” notes College of Food Innovation & Technology (CFIT) Dean Jason Evans. “And so, the future for CFIT and its graduates is bright, as our focus is on empowering students to change the world through food.”

Live, Work and Be Inspired by Two Unique Food Cities

With 400+ restaurants, Providence is massively enriched by the large number of JWU alumni who put down roots and either work for or open their own restaurants or food startups. The city is also optimized to assist food ventures through all stages of their development, with social enterprise mentorship programs, kitchen incubators, and sustainably-minded distributors in close proximity.

Named one of the U.S.’s top food cities by Zagat in 2018, Charlotte is packed with incredible eats. And North Carolina is also the second largest U.S. state for food and beverage processing, with more than 46,000 farms and 1,000-plus food-related processors. That spells career potential for JWU alums, particularly in the areas of applied food science, sustainable food systems and culinary nutrition.

Examine How Food Impacts the World

Food is culture, medicine, politics, economics. All CFIT degree programs situate culinary systems within these contexts and ask students to examine not only their own place within it, but ways to potentially move the industry forward.

“When you visit CFIT labs, what you’re really seeing are problem solvers thinking on their feet.”

These programs also build upon a common baking & pastry arts or culinary arts core (with the option to mix-and-match courses through electives and a growing list of minors). Scroll through JWU’s list of food-related programs — ranging from culinary science to food/beverage management, entrepreneurship to nutrition, product development to sustainability and beyond — and it’s clear that the options for a culinary career are as open-ended as your imagination.

JWU students plating for Senior Buffet.

Once you have a career goal in your sights, how will JWU support you through your growth as a student, scholar, and future culinary professional?

Faculty Experts Who Make You an Expert

Our faculty are great at what they do. Just ask Dean Evans and Assistant Dean TJ Delle Donne, who collaborated on defining what makes JWU faculty members so passionately dedicated to sharing their wisdom and experience:

“CFIT faculty love what they do. They are masters in their fields who have the incredibly unique ability to boil years of experience into valuable learning outcomes for our students.

“They truly get excited when their students achieve success in JWU kitchens and bakeshops. They also understand that food is connected to every other part of the human experience, so they use food education to create important learning moments about sustainability, food security and the global food system.

“In fact, many of them have expertise in these areas, ensuring that JWU graduates appreciate food in its larger context and are prepared to take on challenges and opportunities no matter where they arise in the professional food landscape.”

Become a Culinary Problem-Solver

JWU’s curriculum is designed not only to build a strong suite of culinary skills; integrated throughout are courses that strengthen equally important life skills like time management, critical thinking, problem-solving, and leadership – all of which are major assets in the kitchen, and outside of it.

Dean Evans and Assistant Dean Delle Donne spend most days in awe of the focus, professionalism and drive of CFIT students but are quick to point out another equally important element: Joy. Joy and pride in work done not just well, but with exceptional skill:

“You can take an action-based approach to address sustainability like no one else can.”

“When you visit CFIT labs, what you’re really seeing are problem solvers thinking on their feet. What other college experience asks students — every day — to bring technical skill, teamwork, creativity and critical thinking to bear in producing products that are absolutely essential to the way we all live and enjoy life?

“Our students learn to be listeners, doers and leaders because they have to. Our kitchens and bakeshops are proving grounds where failure engenders success and success engenders the confidence to tackle life’s challenges.

“You might also notice in visiting CFIT facilities that our students smile and say ‘hello’ — they are happy to be in this incredible learning environment; through their intensive interactive lab experiences, they have mastered the soft skills that are so important for lifelong success — and joy.”

Collaborate Across Majors

Johnny cake with brandy maple apples; pickled red onion purée; kale and radish salad; and mustard vinaigrette by JWU Providence students Chantelle Gonsalves '23 and Madison Chamberlain '23.A large part of the JWU advantage is the ability to work on interdisciplinary projects with other JWU colleges (like tackling food truck design with the College of Engineering & Design) to grant-based, collaborative research into topics like sustainable wellness and nutrition in the Americas.

Putting learning into action — and gaining perspectives outside your own major — is part of JWU’s educational DNA.

“CFIT students are so fortunate to be learning all-things-food in a university environment that offers limitless opportunities for exploring other disciplines and interests,” explain Evans and Delle Donne.

“Through arts and sciences electives, free electives and myriad academic minors, they learn how their core interest in food is inextricably linked to history, economics, politics, ecology and really, everything else.

“They collaborate with engineering students on building food production systems; with design students on food marketing initiatives; with culinary science students on product and menu development projects; and with health & wellness students on making food more nutritious.

“Because of these experiences, CFIT students find internships all over the world — and in every imaginable part of the economy, from traditional food service to healthcare, agriculture, nonprofit management, sports nutrition, food and beverage entrepreneurship, food manufacturing, food distribution, food policy-making and on, and on, and on.”

Students can also network and flex their skills alongside food icons through the Epicurean Society, which is active at both campuses and helps raise funds for culinary scholarships (among other activities).

Envision the Future of Food

From the recent FIT Symposium to the upcoming Future Food All Stars Challenge with alum Tyler Florence '94, '04 Hon. (bringing the Food Network to CFIT!), JWU is dedicated to staying engaged with the industry’s biggest challenges — and looking ahead to innovative solutions.

“Thinkers who can re-imagine food distribution and food service operations will create an economy that is more just and more sustainable,” note Evans and Delle Donne.

Take Sustainable Action

JWU will empower you to advocate for locally sourced food, humane treatment of animals, access for all to food and water, and other ways to prepare and cook with integrity.

While sustainable practices are highlighted throughout JWU’s culinary programs, JWU’s new bachelor of science degree in Sustainable Food Systems focuses entirely on ways to transform our entrenched, largely industrialized systems into more resilient networks that work for — not against — the planet.

Chef Branden Lewis, who spearheaded the program’s development, sees it as “a moral obligation” for chefs to understand how their professional practice (be it cooking, sourcing, product development or policy-making) affects the long-term longevity of our food systems: “We’re teaching students about the political economy that surrounds their food,” he explains. “You can take an action-based approach to address sustainability like no one else can. You have to know what your decisions mean for the food system, for your communities, for your workers.”

(There is also a master’s program in Food Innovation & Technology for those who want to take an even deeper dive into these complex systemic issues.)

“Food affects every part of our lives,” note Evans and Delle Donne. “All of our moments of celebration center around it; our cultural and social identities our rooted in it. Our health, appearance, emotional wellness and quality of life all trace back to it. We are, in fact, what we eat. Professionals who can develop and market foods that are more delicious, more nutritious and more affordable will change the way people eat.”

Take Advantage of a Full University Experience

Being at JWU offers so many opportunities to get involved, expand your boundaries, and meet new people. From joining (or starting!) a club to trying out a club sport or new activity, there are so many options.

“A vibrant out-of-classroom experience more aligned with a traditional college community awaits new JWU CFIT students,” explains Dameian Slocum, JWU Providence’s associate dean for student services. “More than 100 clubs and organizations allow students opportunities to participate in academically-based interests and well beyond, including fraternities, sororities and social fellowships.”

Ready to get moving? The Providence Campus features 16 varsity athletic teams and is affiliated with the NCAA and Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC). JWU Charlotte has 5 varsity athletic teams and is a member of the USCAA; both offer numerous club sports and fitness classes.

In addition, JWU has many events that have become traditions and that “unite students across all our colleges in their JWU experience,” notes Slocum. “JWU has a fantastic community with many opportunities to support and round out your college experience.”

TOP RIGHT: STUDENTS PLATING FOR A CHEF’S TABLE. BOTTOM LEFT: JOHNNY CAKE WITH BRANDY MAPLE APPLES, PICKLED RED ONION PUREE, KALE/RADISH SALAD AND MUSTARD VINAIGRETTE BY MADISON CHAMBERLAIN '23 AND CHANTELLE GONSALVES '23. BELOW: CULINARY STUDENTS WALK ACROSS THE CHARLOTTE QUAD.

Charlotte culinary students walking across the quad.