Despite program delays, culinary students, instructors, and research facility team stay active

By Rosanna Hempel

Anna Borys from the Prairie Research Kitchen displays a recipe she helped develop for BUMP — a local company producing beef and plant-blended protein products. Red River College’s Prairie Research Institute team has been working from home since mid-March, assisting students and developing recipes for clients./ROSANNA HEMPEL

Melissa Hryb was instructing at the Paterson GlobalFoods Institute when she found out her classes at Red River College were shutting down and transitioning online.

For over forty culinary students and instructors, this transition has meant continuing theory lessons on WebEx and other online platforms, while labs and work placements are postponed until the college reopens in September.

Hryb said delays will differ for various groups within the program.

“I think the students are really disappointed, but they understand,” said Hryb.

Second-year student Mike Licharson said the format of the fall curriculum hasn’t been decided, including whether some labs will be expedited.

“Everything’s being handled as well as can be by the administration,” said 23-year-old Licharson.

Moving classes online hasn’t been without challenges.

“I was worried about having that connection with students,” said Hryb. “[But] you can still kind of see their personalities, and you still get to have that connection with the students, which is huge for me.”

She said while it would be fun to take culinary lessons online in the form of videos, it would be unfair to students who’ve paid for hands-on education. Many students also lack the cooking equipment and materials at home to continue with their training.

“We want to be able to give the industry some time to bounce back before we start looking for placements for students to go,” said Hryb. “We have standards to follow when it comes to apprenticeships.”

Second-year student Diego Carvahlo was planning on working abroad this fall but will have to adjust to complete his program.

“For me, I’m not someone who looks particularly down on stuff,” said 21-year-old Carvahlo. “From this situation, I’m cooking more at home, which I enjoy doing.”

Both Carvahlo and Licharson have been making the most of their reduced course load by preparing go-to dishes at home and refining some techniques of their trade.

The Prairie Research Kitchen at Paterson GlobalFoods Institute has also made similar adjustments.

“With this COVID-era, it’s taught us that we can adapt very quickly meanwhile still keeping this machine rolling and keeping research going,” said Anna Borys, a recent culinary graduate who now works at the Prairie Research Kitchen.

Borys helps entrepreneurial, up-and-coming clients develop new products and prepare recipes for places like BUMP, a local company that produces animal and plant-blended protein products.

While Borys has limited access to the state-of-the-art facility on campus, the college has permitted her to take some equipment home such as the Foodini 3D printer, which can turn any paste-based food product, from chocolate to mashed potatoes, into a printed design.

“Now that we are kind of in this weird time where we’re working from home, I’ve had a chance to finally sit down and work with it,” said Borys.

“It’s just important to know that the Prairie Research Kitchen — we exist to support economic growth, which is going to be important once life is back to normal,” she said. “We’re doing everything that we can to support our clients and help their businesses grow, meanwhile they’re trying to focus on day-to-day operations, so you know the little engine that could.”