What do you get when you make pizza, pumpkin-chocolate chip muffins, and ice cream all on a Saturday? Plates and bowls of deliciousness plus an introduction to college-level science, if you are a lucky high-schooler who attended a virtual cooking class hosted by Washington State University’s Office of Academic Engagement and the School of Hospitality Business Management. For three hours, dozens of OAE student participants across the state followed along in their own home kitchens while three HBM instructors in chef’s whites worked in front of cameras set up throughout Todd Hall’s commercial kitchen in the Carson College of Business.

A half-pepperoni, half-pineapple, ham, and jalapeño pizza prepared by Jamie Callison, Hospitality and Business Management executive chef.PULLMAN, Wash.—What do you get when you make pizza, pumpkin-chocolate chip muffins, and ice cream all on a Saturday? Plates and bowls of deliciousness plus an introduction to college-level science, if you are a lucky high-schooler who attended a virtual cooking class hosted by Washington State University’s Office of Academic Engagement (OAE) and the School of Hospitality Business Management (HBM).

For three hours, dozens of OAE student participants across the state followed along in their own home kitchens while three HBM instructors in chef’s whites worked in front of cameras set up throughout Todd Hall’s commercial kitchen in the Carson College of Business. OAE is part of the Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement (DAESA) in the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President.

The HBM instructors infused science into all aspects of the event. They demonstrated everything from knife safety to nutrition to the dough-expanding chemical and biological reactions of leavening agents. The students—many of whom had never cooked before—learned about and experienced such things as thermodynamics, as in how heat and energy turn gooey batters into tasty treats.

“All of the high-school students loved the experience and so did their families and us mentors,” said Gisselle Verduzco. The senior human development and psychology major works with students at Bremerton High School and Hudson’s Bay High School in Vancouver as part of OAE’s College Access Programs (CAP).

“The class was a big success. It gave everyone a different perspective on how learning can take place at a university.

“When they think of college, they might imagine core subjects being taught in big lecture halls. This Saturday experience from WSU showed them that, literally, science happens every day and that it can be fun—even in something as routine as preparing food from scratch.”

Ingredients for Success

The primary audience was high-schoolers from five schools who participate in Cougs Rise, a federally funded OAE TRIO program that works with low-income, first-generation students as they prepare to transition to college. Through WSU student peer mentors like Verduzco, Cougs Rise provides them with support to finish high school strong and start their higher education journey successfully.

“We thought that preparing food together would be a novel way to introduce college-level STEM topics while also showing how WSU classes—in this case hospitality—give students science lessons in some unique and hands-on ways,” said Jamie Callison, HBM executive chef and director of the Marriott Foundation Hospitality and Culinary Innovation Center.

Chef Callison demonstrated building a great pizza, including proper use of rolling pins and pizza pans.
Ray Acuña-Luna, Project Director of the Cougs Rise program in the Office of Academic Engagement.
Ray Acuña-Luna.

“Each semester, we host at least one experiential learning adventure for our Cougs Rise students,” said Ray Acuña-Luna, OAE CAP director. “We decided this spring, since we are not meeting in person due to COVID-19, to focus on telling our high-schoolers—who are all prospective WSU students—what science can look like at a major research institution like WSU.  The idea to partner with the HBM chefs was the perfect recipe for success.”

Jessica Murray, Hospitality and Business Management Ph.D. student and teaching assistant.
Jessica Murray.

The idea for the virtual spring class came together months ago. Acuña-Luna had crossed paths last summer with Jason Butcherite, HBM chef de cuisine who is experienced in culinary arts and nutrition. They took the idea to Callison; joining the team was Jessica Murray, HBM Ph.D. student and teaching assistant who contributed knowledge from her WSU undergraduate and master’s degrees in food science education.

OAE and HBM worked closely together to plan the class. OAE’s Acuña-Luna and Cougs Rise coordinators Cesar Munguia, Araseli Solorio, and Dani Neeld discussed best ways to engage students and fine-tuned project and learning goals. HBM crafted recipes, detailed a lesson plan, and assembled necessary items. Butcherite boxed 41 sets of pre-measured, pre-packaged dry ingredients for the food plus cooking utensils and pans, and shipped them to the homes of the high-schoolers and Cougs Rise mentors. James Cathey, WSU Global Campus video producer and writer, volunteered to create an orientation video and managed the live demonstration.

Developing a Taste for Science

Jason Butcherite, Hospitality Business Management chef de cuisine.
Chef Butcherite explained the role of infusing air during ice cream prep, and the role of salt on ice in the freezing process.

“We came up with a menu to show that everyone is engaged with science every time they cook something,” said Butcherite. “We also tapped into the aspects of nutrition in this real-time experience.”

The science of leavening agents in baking was a big part of the lesson. They cause expansion of doughs and batters by the release of carbon dioxide and gases within mixtures. Yeast in the pizza dough, baking powder and soda in the pumpkin muffin batter, and air infused into the cold ice cream mixture proved the team’s points.

“There was a lot of chemistry and physics and microbiology talk going on in this class,” said Murray. “Energy. Hot and cold temperatures. Gluten contraction and structure. Fiber impact on gut microbiota. Macronutrients and calories.

“And, then, in the end, everyone got to eat the products of the lessons.”

Acuña-Luna said the cooking class was such a success that OAE and HBM are looking forward to future collaborations. Some CAP students visiting campus in summer might be surprised, he said.


Media contacts: Ray Acuña-Luna, director of College Access Programs in the Office of Academic Engagement, 509-335-2980, ray.acuna@wsu.edu

Jamie Callison, executive chef, Hospitality Business Management, 509-335-7426, jcallison@wsu.edu

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