Omnia´s learning environments for cooking students

How we educate our cooking students every day?

The present concept of “learning environment” is wide like sky if we consider that from theoretical pedagogical approach. I try to stay on the ground and describe our concrete learning environments in Omnia: How we educate our cooking students every day?

More than cooking, Teaching Kitchens as learning labs for life skills

At first, we start making the interview called “personalizing” with a new student. Former studies and previous experiences define the continuation of individual studying paths. I do not claim importance of certificates, but the first goal of the cooking student is working as a cook in the real life in the future. Sometimes, depending previous experiences, it can be wise to start practicing straight from the real restaurant. It is also chance to perform all cooking studies in a restaurant company when that kind of studying path seem to be personally useful. Our location in Helsinki metropolitan area allows for our students on-the-job learning possibilities in almost all type of restaurants.

The teaching kitchen

Photo 1. Frying the vendace (Coregonus albula)

However, mostly studies will start from the learning kitchen. Nowadays we do not find it useful to sit down in the traditional classroom to learn cooking. We have several (8) different learning kitchens in our cooking school. Some of these simulate a real restaurant. There is the kitchen for small group suitable especially for students who need a lot of advice and there is also large kitchen which serve as the lunch restaurant for students and staff. Almost all our teaching is based on “learning by doing” method intention to practice knife skills, team working skills using traditional kitchen equipment as well as facilities of the latest technology.

Photo 2. Cutting the Lamb Chop

The Guild School

One of our teaching methods it's called Guild School. The Guild School is a pedagogical model. The Guild School ideology its based on peer learning among students, where mistakes are allowed and understood as positive for learning. As well as information is shared transparently by using defernt sosial media platforms. Therefore, the pedagogical model also has a strong entrepreneurial perspective.

The key benefit of peer working has been that it supports us in learning new things in new way as well as in using our expertise in practice. Therefore, considering a new ways of teaching  can improve the quality of learning.

The master-journeyman-apprentice model has also been implemented with cognitive learning principles. In this learning model, teacher’s role has been to guide and give advice. This provides students with job specific skills that are crucial in today's rapidly evolving in labor markets.

Omnia has had a guild model since 2017.

Our canteen Restaurant Herkku

Photo 3.  Omnias mature student Risto Aakko is working in student canteen restaurant Herkku

Our lunch restaurant Herkku (learning kitchen 8) serve from 200 to 500 lunches every day. It is authentic learning environment for students to cook for “larger” amount of group. A great place to practice timing, teamwork and serial work. The learning in Herkku highlight sustainable way of cooking with minimum waste and maximum amount of organic ingredients. Our loss of food is really small in there because we sell all excess food and every usable leftovers in our shop which is very popular among local people. Certainly, sometimes students may produce something which cannot sell for public. That is the price we must pay that students can make mistakes and learn also trough errors.

Photo 4. Omnia's canteen restaurant Herkku,  served buffet-style with multiple hot and cold dishes of various foods on a table.

Restaurant Henricus serves organic and local food in InnoOmnia in Espoon keskus

Our teaching restaurant Henricus is naturally the following step for our students to fill standards of real life. There we serve real handmade portions of organic and local ingredients for customers outside the school.

Photo 5. Restaurant Henricus

However, Henricus is teaching restaurant and it is possible give students all duties of the kitchen from preparation to finishing. Often it can be impossible to give some duties of the head chef for students in the real restaurant business. There are teachers and assistants of teaching available in our learning environments to guide students. Additionally, there are also permanent chefs in Henricus to ensure action of business.

Photo 6. Restaurant Henricus

Video 1. This video tells about restaurant Henricus. (Video its in Finnish)

Through their studies in Omnia every student has a chance for work base learning in real restaurants in Finland and abroad. Omnia has continuous contacts with the labour market and well-established partnerships with companies.

We plan and piece together these studying periods in versatile learning environments in school and in real world companies to enable personal vocational growth for our students. Because of different leaners, we have the offer flexibility and options to learn for all.

Janne Möhkölä, Senior Lecturer, teacher of foreign and native cook`s in Omnia.