Senior lecturer Steve Ellwood considers how a modern human-centred design approach in culinary education might address some of the weaknesses of the old model.

The once entrenched dogma and instruction of classical culinary practice used a hierarchical knowledge and power framework, the Master/Apprentice model, to control and disseminate its own reality of what should and should not be quantified as valid or true. That learning process  devalues the learner’s input and thereby any individual or creative thinking processes.  

Involvement in the Bachelor of Culinary Arts program has given me the opportunity to consider a shift in my teaching practice from not only demonstrating a culinary process, service or product (the physical quality) to considering how the learner also believes the end user of a process, service or product understands or interacts with their proposed outcome.  Both the traditional and contemporary contexts are explored while offering time and space for independent exploration and discovery using human-centred design principles. A teacher operates as co-learner and facilitator rather than a master instructing apprentices.

Alternative teaching and learning methods can be implemented within any given context, while recognising still the usefulness that imitation and habit formation have. In challenging the traditional pedagogy, I have implemented a pragmatic human-centred design approach within a new and innovative culinary learning environment, a food market.  Students were grouped and facilitated through the delivery of a Friday Market Day providing bread selections, both sweet and savoury pies and tarts, Danishes, croissants and lunch-time snacks. The starting point of human-centred design is what is desirable to the people we serve, which then needs to be balanced with what would be feasible, based on factors such as staffing and capability or practicality of delivery. Then we consider the overall financial viability and sustainability. 

The quality of the formative feedback gave the learners the opportunity to improve their offering in line with the wants and needs of their end user. By analysing the comparative weekly feedback on their work the learners were able to self-direct their iterations based on both quantitative and qualitative critique. A pragmatic, human-centred design approach to culinary education can improve the understanding and outcome for all stakeholders, learners, end users and facilitators. 

April 2019