Pandemic doesn’t “curb” cuisine cooking and dining service training for Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management majors
Food Production and Services Management class prepares lunch for first responder students and faculty, present recognition award to Chef Israel “Izzy” Villanueva for dedication toward student success
Article by Melinda Eddleman
What could be better than culinary cuisine instead of fast food or leftovers for lunch that’s delivered curbside? Chicken Piccata, Rice Pilaf, Eggplant Caponata, Focaccia Bread and Tiramisu Layer Cake … that’s the menu Del Mar College (DMC) Public Service students taking first responder courses and faculty enjoyed Thursday, Oct. 29, courtesy of the Food Production and Services Management class.
Before delivering the lunches, the class surprised Chef Israel “Izzy” Villanueva, assistant professor of Culinary Arts, with a Leadership Award for continuously supporting his students. Among their reasons for the recognition were Chef Izzy finding donor underwriting covering American Culinary Federation certification for 10 students upon graduation, providing competition participation during the pre-pandemic Texas Chefs Association state convention at South Padre Island and inclusion at major events supported by the Texas Chefs Association of the Coastal Bend Chapter.
Chef Izzy is a man of many chances and will exhaust every option to see his students succeed in this industry. He's so passionate and selfless in all he does for us. Chef Izzy’s leadership truly speaks measures to our hearts and for that reason we stand behind recognizing him.
Luna organized the award presentation honoring Chef Izzy.
Since mid-September, Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management students have put their skills and flexibility to the test. The pandemic and necessary safety protocols have changed how the eight students, who are taking the Food Production and Services Management course, train to prepare and serve cafeteria-style food production.
“This course involves large quantity cooking, which could be for 50 to 100 people,” Chef Izzy said. “Normally, we have dining room service with cafeteria-style meals with our prime clientele being DMC faculty, staff and students and regulars who have joined us for Thursday lunch for years.”
Customers paid a nominal amount for first-class culinary cuisine and dining services. Of course, normal operations are not possible right now.
However, Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management students still need the hands-on training the course provides as part of their degree plans, so Chef Izzy had an idea––deliver the meals students prepare and package to others on the College’s East and West campuses. “Our students need the experience, and we don’t want food to go to waste,” he said.
Those two factors have benefited several DMC departments with the delivery of top-notch cuisine.
Because the Food Production and Services Management course usually addresses both food preparation and dining services, this semester’s training includes not only lunch preparation but also packaging and delivery to the selected departments, which started Sept. 24 and ends Nov. 12. Students plan menus, convert recipes for cooking large quantities and then determine product amounts for vendor orders to prepare the 50 to 60 lunches each week.
Chef Izzy noted that COVID-19 has impacted the industry with food delivery, cubside and pick-up only as the huge trend nationwide since dine-in capacity is very limited. Students are learning some lessons because of this trend, along with food product availability.
“Food vendors are not able to attain some products, so students are having to work around this by improvising menus,” he said. “Additionally, ‘To Go’ packaging is difficult to acquire since the industry must do the same due to the pandemic. Ironically, boxed meals were already in the works with online meal prepping services, GrubHub, catering companies and even grocery stores with prefabricated convenience meals.”
Chef Izzy noted these options will be around for a long time. “Our industry has had some setbacks, especially small businesses. But, the broken supply chain seems to be catching up.”
Taught as a hybrid course, students first started with online instruction before moving into the kitchen and following strict health and safety protocols. Each week, a different student manager oversees the kitchen to develop the skills necessary to ensure operations at all levels run smoothly from start to finish.
Improvising and being totally flexible, regardless of the situation, will make you a very successful chef and a profitable entrepreneur. Sometimes you must let go of what you know, to know what you can be.
Listen to KEDT 90.93FM host Lon Gonzalez's interview with Chef Izzy on Wednesday, Oct. 28, about the Food Production and Services Management class and how students have had to adjust to training during the pandemic:
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Del Mar College empowers students to achieve their dreams. We offer quality programs, individual attention, outstanding instruction through faculty with real-world experience and affordable costs to credit and noncredit students in Corpus Christi and the South Texas Coastal Bend area. Nationally recognized while locally focused, we’re ranked in the top two percent of community colleges in the country granting associate degrees to Hispanic students (Community College Week). Del Mar College focuses on offering our students programs that match current or emerging career opportunities. Whether students are interested in the fine arts, sciences, business, occupational or technical areas, students get the education they need for the future they want at Del Mar College.