Necessity is the mother of a delicious invention

Transformative Learning | Strategy 13: Practical Learning
Theme: Innovation
Joel Barohn (left) and Gerry Kasten (right) have a grand vision for the kitchen/lab space to become a centre of excellence for food nutrition and skill development for all allied health | Photo credit: Jake Hermiston

Gerry Kasten and Joel Barohn love food. In fact, their background as commercial chefs, combined with their mutual appreciation for the culinary arts, is what brought them to UBC’s Faculty of Land and Food Systems as co-educators in dietetics, cooking, and food theory. So, when the pandemic forced them out of the classroom and into the virtual space, they knew they had to turn up the heat, act fast, and find an innovative way to get students back in the kitchen.

“Many disciplines translate easily to online lectures, but food is not a medium that naturally lends itself to virtual delivery,” says Barohn. “A great deal of food literacy and the development of cooking techniques require hands-on practice. You need to build your confidence in the physical space, feel the heat of your pan, and develop muscle memory through repetition.”

At the start of the pandemic, as UBC course instruction was redirected online, Kasten and Barohn tried something new. With the help of an old digital camera and their trusted iPhone, they got to work recording a series of recipes using the classic one-way directional ‘cooking-show’ model – something akin to what you might see from Julia Child, or your favourite Food Network TV host. “It was a bit hodgepodge and boot-strappy,” recalls Barohn, “but it was a labour of love for us.”

While this instructional video approach worked for a few weeks, Kasten and Barohn realized they needed to find a longer-term solution that would not only better meet their needs as educators, but also the needs of their eager students who were hungry for hands-on practice. After all, these were the students who were on-track to becoming Canada’s next generation of registered dietitians – food and nutrition experts.

“Lofty questions began to percolate in our heads,” remarks Kasten. “How do you safely bring students back to the kitchen during a global pandemic? How do you reintroduce two-way engagement? And, how do you minimize class time without disrupting the integrity of your curriculum?”

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Through Strategy 13: Practical Learning, UBC is committed to expanding experiential, work-integrated and extended learning opportunities for students, faculty, staff and alumni.