Brian Knirk, the American River College department chair of hospitality says the culinary department is in a rebuilding year as it makes a slow return to campus after being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Knirk says lab classes have returned to campus this semester and lecture classes remain online.
“Class sizes are a little smaller this semester, allowing for social distancing in the classroom. Masks are worn at all times and sanitizer is available at the entrance to the building,” Knirk said in an email to the Current. “Tasting protocols require students to be more than six feet apart when lowering their masks to taste and immediately putting the mask back on.”
There is a need for the skills taught in the program. Knirk says the hospitality industry was devastated by the pandemic and is desperately looking for employees.
“Employees are recognizing their value and forcing the industry to increase pay – which is something that I think is of value,” Knirk said. “Because we have not offered lab classes in over 18 months, we are offering a few more intro classes and of course finding that advanced courses are limited.”
In a “normal” semester, Knirk says he would be teaching his classes and also working with students who run ARC’s bakery and café, which are usually open to the public.
“This semester the campus remains “closed,” so we don’t offer the café to the general public and the bakery has very limited offerings,” Knirk said. “Additionally, I teach only one in-person class and a number of online courses—so I am on campus three days a week and working from home two days a week to keep up with the online classes.”
Knirk says he tells all students to find something that they love to do and turn it into a career.
“If cooking is a passion, we can help you prepare for a professional career. But, we are honest. This is a hard career, the hours are long and the initial pay isn’t great,” Knirk said. “Those who have a passion are very successful and we have helped launch the careers of a number of chefs in Sacramento and pastry chefs in the region.”