Collen Engle

Culinary Management

Culinary Instructor
The Art Institute of Pittsburgh — Online Division

Online Culinary Instructor Collen Engle

To stay vital and current in our industry, you have to challenge yourself to learn something new every day. Collen Engle , Culinary Instructor , The Art Institute of Pittsburgh — Online Division

Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

I was in college—not studying culinary—and working for a high-end catering company that arranged parties for exclusive clients. I was so impressed with the food quality, the presentation, and the enjoyment of the people eating food in a social gathering, that I really began to think this could be my career path.

How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?

Relating my own industry experience as a cook, chef, consultant and restaurant owner makes me seem more "real" to students, and helps them relate classroom learning to the real world. I also provide a bio that details my experience and opens students’ eyes to opportunities available to them as graduates.

What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?

The class that resonates most with me is Management by Menu—specifically the creation of a restaurant-ready menu. Using my experience as a restaurant owner, teaching menu classes, and having seen examples of menus from all styles of restaurants for the past 20 years, I encourage my students to use their creative skills and personal experiences to create the kind of menu that they’d want to be handed. I want them to be proud of their work, and to use the menu as a tool for helping design and implement their own business concept.

What are the benefits of teaching an online course?

I’d say convenience and flexibility, a richer teacher-student experience, and the chance to get to know each student better. There’s more exchange between students—not just the ones that typically speak up in an on-ground class. Every student is treated equally, and the online environment encourages students who are more shy to speak their mind and contribute. In addition, I find that I can add value to the class at any point during the week.

What are the benefits of an online education for students?

Again, I’d say convenience and flexibility, along with being able to continue your career while still attending school. You’re a part of a community of learners who are engaged from all parts of the world, being exposed to a variety of skilled teachers with a wide range of of experience.

What are the most student-friendly features of an online education?

Online students get an enhanced classroom with video, storyboards, and links to material. They can showcase their talents through projects including facility design, menu creation and virtual tastings. They can express themselves in their own voices by writing assigned papers, as well as sharing their videos, links, photos, drawings and other material.

How does collaboration contribute to students’ success?

The discussion threads and the assignments allow for open dialogue between students so they can learn from each other. I encourage them to go beyond the "good job" comment, to add something substantial to the discussion that contributes to further learning—whether it’s a video, a web link, a personal experience, or constructive criticism.

What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?

Never stop learning. I believe the education we give them is just the beginning. To stay vital and current in our industry, you have to challenge yourself to learn something new every day.

What’s the most critical advice you would offer any student embarking on a creative career?

To be successful, you have to be well-rounded. Creativity comes naturally for most students. They need to embrace other life skills in order to succeed—English, math, computer and social networking, writing and public speaking.

Anything else you’d like to share?

All of my industry experience allows me to relate to the online student...both their difficulties and their successes.