From Gastronome to Iron Chef: Reshaping and Transforming the Culinary Experience


North Tower - 2nd Floor Pacific

  • Primary Core Competencies: Design of Educational Facilities
  • AIA CEU: 1. 0 LU
  • Secondary Core Competencies: Educational Visioning


Expectations of the “Food Network generation” both in terms of their food preferences and their interest in the culinary arts are beginning to impact schools in unexpected ways. The Food Network generation has grown up with exposure to multicultural cuisines, non-traditional dining experiences, and food science. As a result, their perspectives on food are far more sophisticated than those of prior generations.  What does this mean for high school food cafeterias, as well as culinary arts programs?  Food service programs now have the opportunity to serve a greater purpose than simply providing lunch. Successful programs are featuring “eat-ertainment” components—putting food prep on display in a theater-like setting, adding made-to-order stations, and more which increases student participation and results in healthier food choices.  Successful applied arts programs are capitalizing on the visibility of Food Network celebrity chefs to spur student interest in pursuing the culinary arts.  Rethought culinary facilities capture the excitement of the facilities they see on television.  This presentation will explore ways in which the design of both food service and culinary arts spaces can be aligned to deliver on both best/next practices and support future academic programming.  Examples of facility changes and their outcomes at four major Chicago area high school districts will be shared. This session will include an in-depth analysis of the visioning process for food service spaces at several midwestern high schools.  Results will include a programming analysis and the planning strategies specific to each school’s unique goals. 

Learning Objectives

OBJ #1  Gain and understanding of ways in which the latest approaches to food service design can impact nutrition, decrease waste, improve delivery speed and increase choice.

OBJ #2  Explore the financial benefits districts can realize by improving their healthy, sustainable cuisine offerings.  Findings will include programs that do, as well as do not receive funding from the National School Lunch Program.

OBJ #3  Discover food service and culinary program planning/design strategies that provoke positive changes in student behavior.

OBJ #4  Become familiar, through a series of case studies, with programs that celebrate the culinary arts with the same excitement as other maker programs, incorporating ties to multiple subjects and entrepreneurial connections.

Wendy Watts, IIDA, Interior Designer, Wight & Company

Sean Carney, Assistant Superintendent for Business, Adlai Stevenson High School District 125

Scott Reitano, Principal, Reitano Design Group

Craig Siepka, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Design Principal, Vice President, Wight & Company