Sunday, March 14, 2010
So here's the thing....
I'm a mature aged student, very mature, 51 this year. I'm studying towards a BA/BEd to eventually join the ranks of the state school teachers here in NSW. I'll be teaching English and Drama, which dosn't seem to have much to do with cooking I know. I am actually a chef who loved specialising in pastry, for the past three or so years I've been teaching in private colleges in Sydney. Yes, those private colleges which you read about in the paper. Some have been closed down because the people that owned them did something scurrilous finacially, one got closed down because it was woefully inadequate (I like to think my complaints to the Department of Education and Training helped), and the most recent closed down because as far as we can tell it just wasn't making enough money for the overseas group who bought it. It was a frustrating, gutwrenching but ultimately edifying experience. Teaching students who had no interest in the subject, and who made no bones about letting me know that was a challenge. In the beginning I answered that challenge the way I would teach in the kitchen...loudly and emphatically. Over the years I was made to see that these students were not actually apprentice chefs who needed to learn how to cook, but customers who needed to learn enough to achieve a qualification that would allow them to become Australian residents. Thankfully there would inevitably be one or two students who preserved ones faith in the system, who actually did want to learn. Those students became the reason for persisting in a relatively thankless job, them and of course the pay...much better rates than for slaving over a hot stove. Through it all I discovered that despite the situation I had an aptitude for teaching. I remember a tutor of mine when I went to Canterbury College back in '94 telling me that I should consider teaching. I thought she was mad, I was scarcely halfway through my two year course...I wasn't even qualified let alone good enough to teach. Strangely enough she was right, it's not about being the best chef in the world, it's about being able to explain a concept in simple enough terms that another person can pick it up and run with it. The best teachers are often surpassed in skills by their students...I live to hear that my students have achieved more than I ever did.
Last year I started getting involved with taking classes for the general public. Initially through a cupcake shop that I had done some recipe development for prior to it's opening. The facilities were not the best but I managed to make the classes interesting enough and fun enough that the feedback was pretty positive.
Which leads me to the reason for this blog...my trip to Vietnam in November. I've been accepted to go to KOTO Hanoi which is a hospitality school for street kids. Take a look at the website to see the wonderful things that have been happening there . My desire for involvement stems from a professional development trip to Vietnam my mate Jo Stratfold and I took two years ago. We took several cooking classes in different parts of the country. Whilst in Hanoi we took the opportunity to visit KOTO. I had carried about 20kg worth of books, clothing, kitchen equipment and general stuff donated by my friends and colleagues for the students of KOTO. Our dinner booking gave us a chance to deliver this and also see the magic at work. The food was good, the service excellent and after the meal I approached the kitchen. I asked a young man to point out his teacher so we could congratulate him and his class. "No teacher" replied the young man, the students were working unsupervised. Jo and I could scarcely believe our eyes and ears, had we left a class unwatched like this chaos would have ensued! I was entranced. Over the years I have followed the KOTO website with the idea of returning some day. So this is the year...no more excuses...no more procrastination...I'm going in November.
The only thing is how to raise the money...this dear readers is where you come in...I'm offering cooking classes - natch - in your own home or mine. From only $50 per person with a minimum of 5 people. The classes can be tailored to suit you or you can choose from a list of ideas I have drafted. I bring the ingredients, my enthusiasm and years of experience. Together we create our own little bit of culinary magic.