By Paige Bodine
In 2019, Allison Hoop, 20, packed up all of her belongings and made the voyage from Jackson, Michigan to Grand Rapids.
“I knew that I wanted to stay in-state,” said Hoop. “I toured Grand Rapids Community College and really enjoyed the atmosphere and the city of Grand Rapids.”
Pre-pandemic, culinary students would spend hours upon hours in the big industrial kitchens learning how to run a restaurant, prepare dishes from all over the world, and artistically frost cakes. The labs lasted five hours which allowed the students to take the classes in seven weeks instead of 14. In March, when the school shut down, the first session of classes had just completed.
“About two days into the second session, campus got shut down,” Hoop said. “The culinary staff got together and ultimately decided that the labs could not continue through the end of the semester. I had to rethink everything and reevaluate my schedule.”
In addition to her classes, Hoop’s summer internship at a summer camp and a school study abroad trip to Italy were all canceled. All of the cancellations were a sudden change that would make any person feel discouraged. Hoop’s perspective and work ethic remained strong and hopeful. During the shutdown Hoop focused on her passion which was her love of baking. She even started to post her delicious treats on her foodie Instagram account Ginger Foodie.
As the summer came to a close, the culinary program had to make decisions for the fall semester. Although having all in-person labs would be ideal, it was not realistic. Thankfully there was a solution that allowed the students to have some hands-on experience.
“Over the summer the faculty worked really hard,” Hoop said. “They made the classes hybrid. I was initially a little scared about how the hybrid would work for a culinary student. It went so much better than I would have hoped. If you can learn how to do the stuff that they are teaching you in class with all of the regulations and the pandemic then you are going to be ready to take that experience into the real world.”
The hybrid version of the culinary labs included two days of in-person and then two days of online work. Online class meant dedication to keeping up with the work and a willingness to try something new. Also, the online portion included a hands on approach called a “lab in a bag.”
“You get sent home with the tools and equipment you need and you would do the recipe and we would share a video of the finished product and send it to the class,” said Hoop.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic shook the culinary world the program at Grand Rapids Community College is working hard to help local foodies, such as Hoop, reach their dreams and goals.
“The teachers and the whole culinary program staff went above and beyond,” Hoop said. “I didn’t know what to expect. The level of work and dedication that they put into the program to make it worthwhile has truly shown and I have learned so much.”