Collins College switches to virtual restaurant learning experience

The Restaurant at Kellogg Ranch has remained closed along with the Cal Poly Pomona campus since March. In response, the Collins College of Hospitality Management has transitioned to an online format through a restaurant simulation and Zoom cooking demos for students studying hotel and restaurant management courses.

Collins College has been using The Restaurant at Kellogg Ranch in its curriculum since it was built in 1990, but when COVID-19 hit, the restaurant had three days to shut down.

“The good news at the time was that we already went through half of the semester,” said Jason Zhang, lecturer for the Collins College. “So, our students at the time had been through half a semester of operation, so they got to see the restaurant in action and they got to see the training and the lectures come to life basically.”

Recently, the college partnered with the company Knowledge Matters to use its professional simulation restaurant package. It also allows professors to create scenarios and challenges for their students to work through.

“The professors can even set things like the demographics of the community that the restaurant is in, not only from a financial standpoint but an ethnicity standpoint,” said Michael Godfrey, associate dean of The Collins College of Hospitality Management.
In Zoom lectures, professors discuss certain topics and then students apply what they learned in the restaurant simulation.

A look into the restaurant simulator used by students and professors. (Courtesy of Jason Zhang)

Just prior to the pandemic, the Collins College had already been in the process of transitioning its training materials to a digital format, which helped prepare them for when COVID-19 hit.

“I think we were relatively prepared because of what we’ve been doing and how anticipating the change,” said Zhang.

During the earlier stages of the transition to virtual classes, professors that taught the professional cooking labs were able to come to campus and film demonstrations. Most of the curriculum now consists of pre-recorded demonstration videos and Zoom cooking demos.
Because everything is done online and at home, students are not required to cook and turn things in for a grade, but there are some who like to try it out for themselves on their own time.

Samantha Gaytan, a fourth-year hospitality management student, was a student assistant at The Restaurant at Kellogg Ranch before it was shut down. She is currently taking HRT 3830, the food and beverage operations class.

“It’s definitely really different,” Gaytan said. “I think I kind of had an advantage by being a student assistant at the RKR that I got to see what it’s like during service and what it should be like in person.”

While the campus is closed, Godfrey visits The Collins College every other week for general checkups. He ensures that the fridges and freezers are at the right temperature, that the compressor in the wine cellar is working and that the water in the plumbing is being flushed and maintained.

The Collins College Instagram has stayed active and continues to post about online events including an Instagram TV series called Kuarantine Kitchen. Each episode is a “how to” culinary video and stars a CPP lecturer or chef.

Discussing the future of The Restaurant at Kellogg Ranch, Godfrey is unsure about what will happen.

“If we are able to go back, it is likely going to be in a way that we have to control and take fewer people in,” said Godfrey. “We will see and we will wing it as we go, but we will be on the cautious side, but in a very proactive and logical way.”

(Feature photo courtesy of Jason Zhang)

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