The culinary and hospitality program at Lane has gone from undercooked and half-baked to a five star meal.
By Kyle Webb and Cameron Ritchey
Wanstall started his career at Lane in 1998, witnessing growth from a dwindling program with a lack of equipment to Oregon’s first jointly accredited program.
At first Wanstall was dismayed by the lack of tools. However, it did not deter him from making the best of his opportunity.
“It was almost demoralizing, except I didn’t care any different,” Wanstall said. Being an optimistic entrepreneur, Wanstall took this as an opportunity to revamp and reinvigorate the program.
“We got some equipment, and I started infusing a little energy into my classes,” Wanstall said.
Wanstall implemented his own philosophy on management.
“Management has to be inspiring to lead the others,” Wanstall said. “Through the years we have developed from fear based behavior into a ‘why-don’t-we-try-this’ behavior; and ‘this-is-what-we-believe-in’ behavior — that is where we turned the corner.”
This top-down approach to reworking the program allowed for a change in the way the program was taught as a whole, not just on an instructor’s level.
“Rather than making them the students we want them to be,” Wanstall said, “we need to be the teachers they want us to be.”
Along with teaching students the ins-and-outs of cooking, Wanstall hopes students learn essential lessons in cooperation and compassion from the program.
“We try to show students to look at the bright side of things,” Wanstall said.
Wanstall’s approach encompasses fostering the relationship with individual students, pacing the environment around them and taking care of them — quite the opposite of Wanstall’s personal experience.
“That’s not how the old-style chefs would do it. They would say ‘if you jump high enough i might not kick you as hard.’ It was very totalitarian — very difficult for students to thrive,” Wanstall said.
Wanstall credits the growth in the program to the skills that Lane President Dr. Mary Spilde has brought to the college. Wanstall said she was able share her vision of what Lane should be, making it clear what his role at Lane entailed.
The growth of the program has allowed for many new developments. The program is developing ways to be cost-neutral to Lane by implementing sustainable practices in the kitchen, developing and redesigning their own program to be more accessible to students throughout the year and looking into Career Pathways certificates to broaden their offerings.
The sustainability movement is rapidly growing in Eugene, making Lane a prime location to implement the idea in the culinary arts.
“I have a dream that we will be able to have a dinner where the student who is serving the food to the guest can say ‘Everything on this plate, I grew,’” Wanstall said.
Dean of Conference and Culinary Services Brian Kelly has worked with local farmers in Washington, Southern Illinois and Oregon to integrate their products into colleges and universities. Kelly’s sustainable approach has been implemented here at Lane.
The culinary program uses the learning garden and herb gardens located around campus.
Wanstall hopes that the growth of the program continues in the direction of sustainability. Wanstall joked that by the time he is gone “students will probably be cooking with nuclear ovens.”
Hospitality instructor Joe McCully said the culinary curriculum is under redesign to allow students to join the program throughout the year. The hospitality management curriculum was redesigned for the same purpose in 2004.
According to Kelly, Lane enrollment is down this year, while this program’s enrollment is up.
The culinary side of the program accepts 72 students per year while the hospitality side has open enrollment.
McCully attributes the growth in the program to the interaction instructors have with students and the culture of the college.
Career Pathways certificates give students the option to focus their culinary or hospitality skills in specific areas such as baking and pastry, restaurant ownership, convention and special events manager, according to Special Projects Coordinator for Conference and Culinary Services Julie Fether.
“Lane’s program is up to exemplary status,” Kelly said. “The program is strong and getting stronger.”
Among other schools with a culinary and hospitality program, Lane has a rare dual accreditation by the American Culinary Federation Foundation Accrediting Commission and the Accreditation Commission of Programs in Hospitality Administration.
Kelly said culinary schools everywhere will teach you the basic fundamentals of cooking, but Lane’s culinary program is unique in that it looks into sustainability practices at every opportunity and maintains its value in the community.
“We live in the Willamette Valley and (work with) food — how lucky are we?” Kelly said.