Think Tank

May 25, 2022, 16:05
A Daughter’s Perspective

A Daughter’s Perspective

30 December 2021

Key elements covered in a successful roadmap guiding culinary students and professionals.

By Paul Sorgule, MS, AAC
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My children and grandchildren are talented, giving individuals of strong character. I am blessed as a father, grandfather and chef. My eldest daughter is a very talented artist, a person who is passionate about the creative process and her career choice – very similar to the chefs and cooks I have enjoyed working with over the years. So, where am I going with this? Well, I have a small workout room in my basement and on the wall my stationary bike faces is the remnant of a project she completed in a graphic design class years ago. It is a reminder of her mindset and an authentic call to arms for culinary instructors, administrators, and students as well as anyone seeking to find an answer to “success.”

Simply put, the relevant piece of art lists the key elements of a rewarding life and as such a roadmap for every cook and chef looking for a bit of guidance. Many of these elements cannot be adequately addressed in a lesson plan. They are more appropriately included through the environment created in the classroom and kitchen.

I thought this might be a great way to start the new year.

We all have an opportunity to learn something new from each other: students from teachers, teachers from students, teachers from teachers, and students from students. If we create an environment where people are open to viewing each day as learning opportunities, then personal and professional growth will result.

It is always important to look ahead, but those who seek to strive for excellence learn early on that focusing on what is directly in front of them must come first. Give every task, regardless of how complex or simple it is, everything you are capable of giving. When washing vegetables; wash them with enthusiasm. When preparing a stock; do so in a caring and methodical fashion. When writing a production sheet for the day; take the time to think it through, understand the players involved, and present the document as if it were a critical term paper for review.

When it is time to execute an idea - to take that production sheet and check off various tasks, dive into a report, offer a cooking demonstration, or set a dining room table for service – know that understanding what needs to be done is shallow unless you execute it to the highest level you are capable.

Doubt is the result of a lack of confidence. Confidence comes from competence. Competence comes from believing you can and then working methodically to acquire the necessary skills. Everyone CAN unless they think they CAN’T.

The sister to competence is determination. If you think you CAN, you WILL as long as you build a plan and stick to it. If a student defines a goal to carve perfect tourne potatoes consistently and quickly and is determined to stay the course, then he or she will commit to turning a 50-pound bag until the goal is reached. If the goal is to develop fluid skills in filleting flat fish, then he or she will study the anatomy of the fish, ensure the right tool is comfortable in the hand and the knife is razor-sharp.

A desire to learn and the commitment to do so leads to personal inspiration, but it is also each person’s responsibility to pass it on. Creating an environment where everyone encourages the person next to them, offers assistance, and celebrates accomplishment is paramount to building a workplace where inspiration is the fuel for success.

A quick way to deflate a team’s success is to over-promise and under-deliver. Teach your students how important it is to promise conservatively, and work like hell to over-deliver. This trait will take them far in life. Always strive to excel, but shy away from building expectations that cannot be reached.

Tomorrow’s leaders will be tough taskmasters who are also empathetic. This is not a contradiction! Leaders “feel” what those around them carry on their shoulders, are willing to listen, and are intent on helping individuals overcome their challenges. But, it is never at the expense of getting the job done.

As teachers, we must create an environment where each person (student and co-worker) is aware of, and supportive of the differences that exist among those with whom we work. Teach your students and coworkers to be aware through your actions, teaching, and enforcement of a positive work environment.

Quite possibly, supporting the innate curiosity everyone is born with is the most important trait we can nurture. It is curiosity that is the food for creativity and problem solving. Encourage others to ask why and at times even challenge what is being presented. Build questioning into your curriculum.

When we find a leader worth following, a person who inspires others to be the best they can be and an individual whose words have meaning, we will find this person has the ability and desire to truly listen to others. There is a difference between hearing and listening and great leaders live this difference. Listening requires you to truly focus on what is being said or asked and do so without preconceived ideas on how you will respond.

Feed into each other’s dreams. Ignite the fire under big, bodacious goals. Encourage and try not to discourage. Create an environment where idea makers discover how to self-assess and come to their conclusions but do so with the tools and support to find the answers. FedEx was an idea that was discouraged by a teacher. There were plenty of people who discounted the thought behind a smartphone. Online education was taken way too lightly for decades. And, online restaurants didn’t make sense to traditional restaurateurs until it was the only option. Encourage peoples’ dreams.

One of the most effective ways to help students grow is to challenge them. Make them push forward, encourage them to jump into the deep end of the pool. When they think they have it all figured out push them to think differently. This is teaching. When we take off their training wheels and give them a push forward, they might just surprise you.

Happy New Year!


Paul Sorgule, MS, AAC, president of Harvest America Ventures, a mobile restaurant incubator based in Saranac Lake, N.Y., is the former vice president of New England Culinary Institute and a former dean at Paul Smith’s College. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..