Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Common Sense in Culinary Arts

The thought of this post has been with me for some time, even before I started blogging.  As a chef, I learn to do by touching, smelling, tasting, hearing and seeing.  I am just lucky to be part of a profession that utilizes all of the senses to teach the trade to aspiring apprentices.

As a educator, I quickly realized how the senses are just as important in teaching, many studies have shown that engaging students senses (using color, smell, lighting, music) to teach a subject increases memory and helps them recall information when put in a similar environment. Unfortunately most teachers only appeal to two senses seeing and hearing. Those two sense are usually engaged by the teachers use of PowerPoint, where the screen is overloaded with text, no pictures as the teacher reads exactly from the slide... The teacher and the student are slowly lulled into a state of boredom where no learning takes place.

The best way to reach all learners is to use varying techniques and multiple senses.

It is my belief that in order to be a good teacher, educator, trainer:

In an educational culinary kitchen setting

Touch: and feel your product, learn the difference between ripened and unripened fruit, the ability to touch a steak and know the doneness. Anytime I personally encounter a new product, I make sure I touch it, smell it, taste it..

Smell: your product, know the difference between the smell of a product that is fresh, a product that has been around for some time, and is bad.
Taste:, although you would think I would not have to elaborate on this point, taste is one of the hardest things to teach a cook.  The absence of salt and pepper is one of the biggest pet peeves of any chef.  If you don't taste the food you prepare, you shouldn't be serving it.  Plain and simple.
Hearing: other than the fact that most people believe the know how to listen to instruction, but actually don't, the act of hearing in a kitchen helps any young cook develop "kitchen sense" the ability to walk into any kitchen and just by listening be able to pick up on the kitchen vibe, if the kitchen is disorganized, stressed out, or a well running machine and to quickly pick up on the mood of the chef.

Seeing: seeing is the sense we take for granted, just because you looking at something does not mean you are actually seeing it in respect to what is actually going on as your brain often times takes is not always paying attention to every detail. (see the counting game part I & II below)

In a non culinary kitchen setting, educators have to go above and beyond often times to incorporate senses into their lessons.  The old teachers adage of "I do, We do, You do" is often preached but rarely practiced.   

Touch: when ever you can have the student touch an example of what is being discussed, or at least get them up and moving around every now and then. When you touch something the mind is able to associate it with facts.

Smell: different scents have been shown to enhance learning, the scents of lemon and lime elevates the mood while mint awakens, the scent of popcorn builds anticipation and vanilla sooths. Smells can take us back to previous events and experiences, both good and bad.

Taste:  unfortunately today our children have many food allergies, using this sense is often times more difficult than in years past.  In reality a majority of what we believe is taste is actually related to the smells we pick up as we are eating something we only taste salty, sweet, sour, bitter and unami  .  Often times when you taste something it brings back memories of a time, a place, an event where you encountered the same smell before.

Hearing: Music is an element that may also be heard throughout the day. The role of music in learning is well known. Music "enriches the human intellect and spirit. It can provide solace or joy; it can entertain or educate. And music is a universal language, which helps bind together the human community (Campbell and Brewer, 1998).

Sight: Brain research suggests that color and lighting may influence learning. Birren (1977) reported that warm colors and brilliant lighting increased muscular tension, respiration rate, pulse, blood pressure, and brain activity. Insufficient lighting causes visual fatigue. Distracting color combinations can lead to task confusion and slow reaction. Quality lighting and appropriate colors improve visual processing and reduce stress (Birren, 1972).

Pink: soothes; promotes affability and affection.
Yellow: expands the space, cheers your spirit; increases energy.
Black: disciplines, authorizes, strengthens what's around it; encourages independence.
White: purifies, energizes, unifies; in combination, makes all other colors stronger.
Orange: cheers, commands; stimulates appetites and conversation.
Red: empowers, stimulates, dramatizes; symbolizes passion.
Green: balances, normalizes, refreshes; encourages emotional growth.
Purple: comforts, spiritualizes; creates mystery and draws out intuition.
Blue: relaxes, refreshes, cools; produces tranquil feelings and peaceful moods.

I have used several books and articles in this blog and from them have developed a strong believe in utilizing multiple senses to help students learn and achieve.

Brain Rules by John Median is often my first source I go to to find out the if, why, what of how the brain works.

Food Safety Education Using Music Parodies
    • Music can be used to improve food safety education
    • •Musical styles and messages need to be tailored for individual audiences
    • •Individual instructors may have significant influence in determining how well food safety music aids learning
    • •Music needs to be available in formats that are easy for instructors to use (DVD, CD, PowerPoint, Flash, VCR, etc.)

    • The intervention group experienced more statistically significant gains in attitudes and appeared to have a better pattern of gains in cooking related
      knowledge and behaviors. Given limited resources, demonstration cooking classes could reach larger audiences in varied settings, but the impact would likely be weaker than that of cooking classes.


    • Scientists and educators alike have produced volumes of evidence and studies that demonstrate the significant impact that the environment has on learning. But why are we not putting into practice brain-based environmental strategies when we have evidence that they work? The key to a quality-learning-productive environment is a sensory-rich, brain-based classroom using techniques that include visual, color, music and sound, wide-spectrum lighting and even aromas. As long as the student's physical needs are met, and the student feels safe and secure in an environment, sensory enrichment really has no limits.
      We can reduce stress through the use of color by incorporating blues and greens into our classroom walls and floor coverings; using yellow on a bulletin board in the area of the classroom where teachers conference with children to set future goals could produce good benefits; simple changes including changing out light bulbs and using natural lighting has demonstrated many benefits; teaching new information through song and music maximizes the use of teaching time; and incorporating aromas with new learning has been shown to increase recall.
      Enriching student learning through using sensory strategies in a brain-based environment is one of the easiest and most rewarding ways for an instructor to begin to improve the learning environment and academic outcomes for all children! Teachers can no longer ignore the significance the sensory environment and to fail to implement the fore mentioned, well-researched sensory and brain based teaching strategies. We educators must "come to our own senses" and implement the senses through brain-based environments and activities if we are to maximize learning opportunities for children!
Until I blog again: Use your Senses,  Eat Well, Live Life and Be Safe

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