Evaluation Letter for FCI McKean’s Culinary Arts Vocational Training Program

Evaluation Letter for FCI McKean’s Culinary Arts Vocational Training Program

November 5, 2012
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Office of John Schlimm

October 25, 2012


Mr. Dennis Flatt

Supervisor of Education

FCI McKean


Dear Dennis:

Many thanks for inviting me to evaluate the Culinary Arts Vocational Training program at FCI McKean.  The following is my evaluation after having had an extensive tour of all aspects of the program, including sampling the food.

Mike Henry and his students/staff are to be highly commended on many aspects of the program:

1.  The kitchen, dining area, and all other areas related to the program, including all the equipment, were spotless, showing that cleanliness, organization, food safety, and professionalism are highly valued.

2.  Mike manages the kitchen in an organized, thoughtful, and professional manner.  It was very obvious that every staff member/student not only knows and understands his role in the kitchen, but treats his various positions/roles with utmost sincerity and seriousness.  Furthermore, Mike’s holistic approach to teaching his students with respect and with the expansive breadth of knowledge and experience he brings to the position, demonstrates that he is a fantastic and valued teacher.  This is also evident via the respect shown to him in return by his staff members/students.

3.  The curriculum, including the syllabus, textbooks, tests, extensive database records, and other materials, is impressive and comparable to the first rate training that culinary professionals would receive anywhere else.  In fact, in reviewing the materials, it was easy to forget exactly where this program is headquartered as it could have been within just about any culinary school.

4.  As a vegan, I was especially impressed that the staff members/students were sensitive to this special diet/lifestyle and prepared a veggie lasagna for me as well as an orange/apple juice, which was out of this world – even to the extent that the perfect combination of fresh oranges and apples were used to achieve the perfect sweetness without having to use refined sugar, which is not vegan-friendly. The staff member/student who made the drink understood this restriction and found a solution, using his talent and expertise.  This alone is a strong testament to the success of the program.  The staff members’/students’ curiosity and willingness to learn more about my eating regimen is also an important trait they demonstrated as they will have to do the same in their professional lives outside this program.

As for my recommendations to insure this fantastic program continues to be the outstanding program it already is long into the future:

1.  I suggest that funding be given to allow Mike to transition the kitchen to all stainless-steel with updated equipment, as he sees fit.

2.  I suggest continued, and even increased, funding, as Mike sees fit, for necessary and updated teaching materials, such as textbooks.

3. I suggest additional funding, as Mike sees fit, for instructional materials and special ingredients that would allow the students to learn more about dishes that are part of alternative, specialized eating regimens, such as vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, as skills and understanding in these areas are becoming more and more in demand in the marketplace.  Many restaurants now have sections of their menus dedicated to special eating regimens like vegetarian/vegan, gluten free, etc.

4.  I suggest that the kitchen library continue to be increased with cookbooks and other food-related books and magazines, so the students can stay up-to-date with the current pulse of cooking, restaurant management, and hospitality.  I think many of these books could be accumulated by contacting publishers and requesting donated copies.  I was happy to donate two copies of my newest cookbook, Grilling Vegan Style, for this very purpose.

5.  I suggest that Mike continues to invite professionals from the culinary field, such as chefs, wait staff, managers, restaurant owners, cookbooks authors, and others as guests to speak to his staff members/students, so they continue to get real world perspectives.

FCI McKean is very fortunate to have you, Mike, and such an enthusiastic team of staff members/students in the Culinary Arts Vocational Training program.  This program could easily be a blueprint for other similar institutions to follow in creating their own Culinary Arts Vocational Training programs.

Again, many thanks for the opportunity to visit and evaluate your program.  My tour left me both impressed and inspired by what I saw and the people I met.  I look forward to visiting again in the future.

Best Regards,

John Schlimm

John Schlimm

John Schlimm is a Harvard-trained educator, advocate, artist, and the award-winning author of 19 books on dogs, memoir, entertaining/cooking, history, how-to, and essays.

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