I am standing in front of my class at UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management administering the final exam. The class — FSS 3008 in the course directory — was titled “Culture and Cuisine,” and over the past 15 weeks we’ve gone around the world, discussing various countries, their people and their foodways (the definition of foodways was on the first quiz).
I had great fun learning how to teach a college course. I enjoyed all the students, a great bunch of young adults — 44 of them, about twice as many as I expected — who were serious about learning. They were curious, ambitious and asked great questions. And I loved being called Professor Joseph. I just might change my byline.
I am grateful to the members of the restaurant community who took the time to come speak to the class and at times demonstrate their native cuisine. Among them were:
- Norman and Justin Van Aken, who were in town touting their new book, My Key West Kitchen, talked about fusion cuisine (who better to explain that than the man who coined the term?)
- Rabbi Sholom Dubov, who explained koshering
- Bruno Vrignon, executive chef at Chefs de France, who made escargots for the class to try, the first snails for many of them
- Rocco Potami, explaining what real Italian food is
- Theo Hollerbach, spoke about German food and made us potato pancakes
- Abeba Gonesse of Nile restaurant, who demonstrated how to make injera bread and then cooked up a lentil wat for the students to eat with the Ethiopian bread
- Dun Chau, who showed the proper way to make sushi and talked about the culture of a sushi restaurant
- Aaron Allen, global restaurant consultant, who took the students on a visual world tour and showed them the myriad foods he has tasted in his travels
Each one of them gave insights that neither I nor the textbook could offer. I can’t thank them enough.
I have a renewed respect for people who make teaching their life’s work. It is not easy. In fact, it’s pretty damned hard, and a tremendous responsibility.
And what a terrific facility UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management is. We’re lucky to have such a school in our community. And a special thanks to Renee Bence and her team in the college’s kitchen, which was our “lab” for the cooking demonstrations. They also put together an international feast for our last meal together. Professionals, every one.
Because of commitments over the next several months, I’m not able to teach the class next semester. But I hope pick it up again next year. And I hope I’ll be a little better at it next time.