Hennepin Tech Culinary Students Remain Optimistic as Restaurant Industry Struggles
Education, during this era of COVID-19 and distance learning, has taken on a whole new look. But while many classes have moved online, there are some subjects at Hennepin Technical College that require a more hands-on experience.
“We are a hands-on program,” said Denis Durnev, a culinary instructor at Hennepin Tech. “I am so grateful that we are an essential program, that we can actually do the live interactions here.”
One of those live interactions happened Thursday, where students in their third semester of the college’s culinary program learned how to develop a five-course menu, executed it, and then served the meal to “customers.” Students in the building have to wear masks and have their temperatures checked.
In this class, the so-called customers are first semester culinary students who got a taste of what they’re going to have to do when they get deeper into the program.
“The most important skill I can teach is communication, is the life skills, is good kitchen skills,” said Durnev. “So when they actually go into the professional world, I know for sure that they will know what to do.”
By the time students like Arku Aboge complete the culinary program, they’ll have the necessary skills to work in restaurants as a chef, line cook, executive chef or sous chef.
“My goal when I graduate from school is to open my own restaurant,” Aboge said. “I want to do a global kitchen, because I’m from Liberia, and I want people to get a taste of my culture and other cultures.”
Looking beyond the COVID-19 pandemic
Yet with COVID-19 still impacting everyday life, there’s a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the struggling hospitality industry.
Durnev, however, wants his students to remain optimistic. After all, people still have to eat.
“We’re going to adapt,” he said. “And I do not like this term ‘the new normal.’ I hope and I’m always optimistic. I hope that we’re going to go back to normal and we’re not going to go into underground speakeasies serving customers in the restaurant setting.”
It remains to be seen when states will lift many of the pandemic-related restrictions placed on restaurants.
“It’s a little bit difficult right now, but I feel like, in the process, it’s going to get better,” Aboge said.
But for now, these students are working toward a goal of providing top quality food — and service — for when their time comes.
“There is hope, and there [are] jobs,” Durnev said. “Come and invest into your education. That’s my message No. 1.”