FCNS 320: The Real Ingredients Behind Ellington's
Ellington’s, to our guests, appears to be an elegant, exciting, inexpensive, fine dining restaurant that serves delicious food in a pleasant atmosphere. However, Ellington’s to Nutrition Dietetics, and Hospitality Administration students through the School of Family Consumer and Nutrition Sciences, lodged in the College of Health and Human Sciences, is also a quantity foods lab class, complete with an instructor, course syllabus, course objectives, student assessments (grades!), and course projects, known as FCNS 320. In FCNS 320 the instructor, Joan Quinn, hopes to teach students as much as possible about quantity food production, service, and management through hands-on application of principles and theories of food service management.
The first day of class in each of the six hour FCNS 320 labs begins the intense group project to be known from that day forward as the Management Team Project. Students in each section are assigned to teams of four to six, with each student assuming one of the leadership roles commonly found in a food service operation-that of a General Manager, an Executive Chef, a Sous Chef, a Garde Manger Chef, a Dining Room Manager, or a Marketing Manager. For the first five weeks of each semester, the FCNS 320 students are barraged with information on menu planning, recipe scaling, nutritional analysis of recipes, quantity food service equipment, food production, fine-dining service, procurement of goods, marketing, and everything else that is needed to open and run a restaurant. By the end of week two in the semester, the teams have all written a menu and chosen recipes. By the end of week three they have scaled the recipes, converted the instructions to those of a quantity kitchen, produced written menus, chosen the china, linen and flatware to serve with, and begun the marketing process. Week four is devoted to testing the recipes they have chosen through sensory, product, and menu evaluations, with tweaks made to recipes in small quantities to assure quality products on days of service. Week five students will practice plating and serving in both the front-of-the-house, and the back-of-the-house positions. For by week six, practice is done, and real, paying guests arrive at Ellington’s.
The first service week of the semester, the instructor and the paid staff that works with this class assume the management roles, in an attempt to ‘model’ to the students each of the management roles….as well as giving the students at least one week of experience in the various staff positions before assuming the management roles themselves. By the second week of service one of the student management teams is UP, and they will present their themed menu to our guests. All management teams will present their menu twice during the semester at four week intervals. When not in a management role, students follow an assigned rotation between positions of hot food cooks, cold food cooks, servers, and bussers each week. This semester there are two sections of the class - Tuesday and Thursday - and hence, two days of service. All students from all sections meet on Friday of each week for a Critique session to go over all that was learned from that week’s service days and to turn in written evaluations from their positions of the week. General Managers from each team lead these Friday critique sessions.
Students are assessed weekly in FCNS 320 primarily for performance in the various roles that they assume each week. We look at such things as preparedness, productivity, excellence of service, team effort, and sense of urgency as student performance is assessed. In addition, students do peer evaluations of the management teams, as well as evaluations of the menu, the products, the recipes, the service, the flow of operation, and the marketing and merchandising, This evaluation process should make them think beyond the doing to the critical thinking and problem solving level that we expect that they will achieve.
Management Team Project is assessed on the criteria of planning and organization, quality of food, service and marketing, and follow-up and evaluation of the project through a management portfolio. Most of the assessment is done on the team as a whole, and so it is vital that students learn to work well within their teams. The team members each sign a charter on the first class day stating what the expectations are of each other, and what the consequences will be if team members should fall short of those expectations. Peer assessment is required as well. Team building is a key component of FCNS 320.
Joan Quinn has taught the FCNS 320 class for almost 20 years at both the Chandelier Dining Room location and now, Ellington’s. Terri Mann-Lamb has been in the back of the house sharing her culinary expertise with our students for more than 11 years. Each semester Joan writes and revises the lab manual that runs upward of 220 pages, which details to students everything from job descriptions for each position to forms that are needed for each aspect of the project. The most rewarding part of teaching this class is the consistency with which students come back to tell Joan and Terri that although FCNS is a really hard class, requiring a lot of time and effort, there are few classes where they feel as though they learn more applicable knowledge and skills. Students also cherish the strong team relationships built within FCNS 320 that usually last throughout their college days and beyond.
We hope that you will enjoy the menus that have been written for this semester at Ellington’s. Please remember that our students are really working hard to present the best food and service possible, but also remember that this is a learning experience for them and many are new to these positions. We solicit your constructive criticism through comment cards, available daily as you dine with us. The more specific you can be about what can be done to improve your dining experience the better. Our students are anxious to learn.
Thank you for choosing lunch at Ellington’s. We look forward to serving you.