Future Chefs’ Beliefs on the Role of Nutrition, Diet, and Healthy Cooking Techniques in Culinary Arts Training for Foodservice: A Cross-Cultural and Gender Perspective

In Canada, four of the top 10 causes of death – heart disease, stroke, colorectal cancer, and diabetes – are related to poor dietary and lifestyle habits. Although literature often focuses on healthcare providers’ role in mitigating these risks, foodservice workers and trainers — culinary educators, chefs, cooks, and culinary students — are an often-overlooked group when it comes to assessing willingness to assist in promoting healthier meal options. As frontline food providers, although cooks and chefs play a direct role in impacting the consumer experience in foodservice environments, their willingness to engage in the meaningful promotion of healthy alternatives is typically characterized as lukewarm.

However, it seems that current generational views of the importance of nutrition are evolving toward the healthier side compared to their previous cohorts.

In a 2020 study published in the Journal of Culinary Science and Technology, researchers surveyed 342 first-year George Brown College culinary students to determine their nutrition views. You can read the full report by downloading this PDF file. Here are some of the highlights:

  • 99% believe chefs need knowledge beyond simply making tasty food and require an understanding of how to prepare nutrient-dense fare
  • Over half of the respondents felt chefs play a direct role in the health of their customers
  • 70% felt comprehending nutrition labels would be an important component of their future professions
  • 86% noted they would consider a nutrition-related culinary career
  • Significantly more females envisioned nutrition as part of their future careers
  • International students placed a higher value on nutrition than domestic students

As the culinary industry recognizes the need for highly focused and knowledgeable culinary staff to meet restaurant clientele’ demands, and as executive chef positions are competitive, having expertise in nutrition may make a chef candidate more marketable.

This study demonstrated a change in focus for future chefs with an emphasis not only on taste but also on the use of ingredients that are healthy when providing food for the public. This renewed interest is distinctive in certain populations, and nutrient education should reflect this diversity.