School may look a little different this academic year for students across the nation. Online learning, adjusted days or hours, and physical distancing are all measures implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19.
New circumstances require creative learning opportunities. Well ahead of the coronavirus threat, Erickson Living, a national leader in developing and managing continuing care retirement communities, has been offering innovative educational programs to support employee development.
Its newest program, the Erickson University School of Culinary Arts, launched in January. “We were looking for a way to develop our culinarians,” says Philip Maloney, corporate director of the culinary program for Erickson Living. “It’s an opportunity to build their skill sets and advance their careers.”
The self-paced program uses Rouxbe, an online learning platform, to cover Culinary Foundations I and II. Combining online classes with practical application in the kitchen, the program is designed be completed in four to six months. “The program is recognized by the American Culinary Federation, so graduates can use these courses towards accreditations they may be pursuing,” says Maloney.
Excellence in the kitchen
Amanda Cunha, line cook at Brooksby Village, an Erickson Livingdeveloped and managed senior living community in Peabody, Mass. is the first dining services employee across the Erickson Living enterprise to graduate from the Erickson University School of Culinary Arts. Cunha began her career at Brooksby eight years ago, while she was a student at Peabody High School.
“I learned of Brooksby from a family friend,” says Cunha. “I worked as a student server for about five years before I applied to be a prep cook. About a year ago, I was promoted to line cook.” Cunha’s supervisor Executive Chef Michael Rene told her about the program and encouraged her to pursue the opportunity. Each student has an individual proctor at the community level who provides side-by-side instruction to complement the online classes.
Chef Rene served as Cunha’s administrator. “There’s a lot of depth to the program,” says Rene. “When I went to culinary school, it costs $45,000 to $50,000. Now, it can run as high as $75,000 to $80,000. A lot of the skills and information I learned in culinary school are taught through this program. It’s an innovative approach for a community to offer this kind of opportunity to keep cooks fresh and moving forward in their careers.”
Over 200 enrolled
The program is open to all employees in dining services, with over 200 students currently enrolled from Erickson Living managed communities. “A lot of people across the enterprise were involved in making sure this program came to fruition,” says Maloney. “The support we’ve had from senior leadership [at Erickson Living] has been tremendous. The foundation we’re laying for our culinarians will benefit our communities both now and in the future.”
To honor those who complete the program, Erickson Living-managed communities have the option to purchase a customized knife set for their graduates. “The knives have the Erickson University logo etched into the blade, and the words ‘Integrity’ and ‘Inspire’ on the handle,” says Maloney.
Corporate Executive Chef Michael Ayers, Chef Rene, Brooksby’s Campus Executive Chef Brian Santos, and Director of Dining Services Stephen Slicis were on hand to present the knife set to Cunha. Ayers, who worked at Brooksby Village before he joined the corporate dining team, praised the program and its first graduate. “It’s important for us to invest in our culinarians,” said Ayers. “Amanda maintained an incredible grade point average throughout the program and took such pride in her work.” Speaking directly to Cunha, Ayers offered words of encouragement.
“I’ve known you since you were a member of our wait staff, and your commitment and skill set continue to grow,” he said. “Your potential is limitless. Keep working hard. The future is yours.”
About Brooksby Village: Brooksby Village is one of 20 continuing care retirement communities developed and managed by Erickson Living® and is situated on a scenic 90-acre campus in Peabody, Massachusetts. The not-for-profit community, located in Essex County, is home to 1,700 residents and is governed by its own board of directors, affiliated with National Senior Campuses, who provide independent financial and operational oversight of the community. Additional information about Brooksby Village can be found at BrooksbyVillage.com.
Written by Sara Martin