For many of us, a delicious meal is one of life’s joys. For Culinary Nutrition Management students at George Brown College, it represents much more: an accomplishment realized through hard-earned knowledge and skills focused on the art, craft and science of food preparation and service.

The two-year diploma program offered by the college’s Centre for Hospitality & Culinary Arts lets those with a passion for food, cooking and health develop the competencies needed to excel in a variety of culinary environments. Students learn about culinary techniques, food service management, ingredients, healthful recipes, menu preparation, food product development, and the principles and practices of nutritious cooking.

All of this training culminates in the fourth semester with Chef’s Kitchen, a seven-week course that involves putting into practice all of the theory and skills learned in the classroom and lab. The class is divided into two groups, and each group must conceptualize, prepare and serve three meals to the other group. This is far more than just an academic exercise: we’re talking about preparing nutritious three-course lunches or dinners—including a vegetarian option—plus alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and presenting them in a professional way not only to other students, but to their invited guests.

“I consider it their capstone project—it pulls together their theoretical knowledge of food, nutrition, ingredients, hospitality, costing, teamwork and more, so it really challenges them,” says program professor and professional chef Jeanne da Silva.

For each Chef’s Kitchen course, da Silva gets the students to gear their meals according to the culinary traditions of specific countries, and this time, she chose Japan, India and Spain. The students were responsible for selecting who on their team would act as the chef and sous chef, whose job would be to develop the overall work plan, request ingredients and equipment, create a final report and manage the lab. Team members also needed to be appointed to oversee appetizers, the main course, dessert and beverages, and to act as servers on the presentation day.

vegetarian paella
Vegetarian paella

The menu and recipes the students planned had to be inspired by their chosen country, with techniques and ingredients adapted as needed to create a healthful meal. They were also tasked with requesting and gathering food and equipment; preparing the meal using previously learned methods; arranging table settings, décor and music; and presenting the elements and nutritional aspects of their meals to the invited guests. The course requirements also include conducting a nutritional analysis of the ingredients, and preparing a final report on the entire process.

The goal of this part of the program curriculum is to provide a comprehensive hands-on learning opportunity that prepares students to be culinary leaders, and to incorporate better nutrition practices within the industry.

“They have a short period of time in which to research, plan, produce and serve their meal, so it lets them apply their training in a very practical way,” da Silva says. “The experience also gets them thinking about the specific niche they want to pursue in the industry.”