From Gastronome to Iron Chef: Reshaping and Transforming the Culinary Experience

Expectations of the “Food Network generation”—both in terms of their food preferences and their interest in the culinary arts—are beginning to impact schools in unexpected ways. The Food Network generation has grown up with exposure to multicultural cuisines, non-traditional dining experiences, and food science. As a result, their perspectives on food are far more sophisticated than those of prior generations.     But what does this mean for high school food service programs, as well as culinary arts programs?     Food service programs now have the opportunity to serve a greater purpose than simply providing lunch. Successful programs are featuring “eat-ertainment” components—putting food prep on display in a theater-like setting, adding made-to-order stations, and more—that are not only increasing student participation in dining programs but also resulting in healthier food choices. Increased student interest in using dining areas as social gathering spaces outside of normal lunch hours is also helping these spaces to have a useful life beyond the lunch hour. Food service spaces that are effectively meeting these new demands are also realizing important side benefits, including less food waste, increased efficiency and speed, and a positive social experience.    Successful food service programs are also capitalizing on the visibility of celebrity chefs to spur student interest in pursuing the culinary arts. The Food Network generation expects culinary program facilities to capture the excitement and “personality” of the facilities they see on television. They’re also interested in exploring the linkages between food and other disciplines—nutrition, math, chemistry, physical wellness, etc.—that they’ve been exposed to through television programming.    Learn more about the specific steps that successful schools have taken to invigorate both their food service and culinary arts programs, and discover their exciting results. At the close of our presentation, we’ll introduce the potential for extending culinary programs through partnerships with local food incubators, exposing students to the business of food and the exciting entrepreneurial opportunities associated with it.

Wendy Watts, IIDA, Interior Designer, Wight & Company;

Sean Carney, Assistant Superintendent for Business, Adlai Stevenson High School District 125;

Scott Reitano, Principal, Reitano Design Group

Craig R. Siepka, AIA, LEED, BD+C, Design Principal, Wight & Company


OBJ #1  Gain and understanding of ways in which the latest approaches to food service design can impact nutrition, decrease waste, improve delivery speed and increase choice.

OBJ #2  Explore the financial benefits districts can realize by improving their healthy, sustainable cuisine offerings.  Findings will include programs that do, as well as do not receive funding from the National School Lunch Program.

OBJ #3  Discover food service and culinary program planning/design strategies that provoke positive changes in student behavior.

OBJ #4  Become familiar, through a series of case studies, with programs that celebrate the culinary arts with the same excitement as other maker programs, incorporating ties to multiple subjects and entrepreneurial connections.