With pandemic, cooking class goes home and online for hospitality students

Hotel, restaurant and tourism management majors share dishes, show families expertise in their kitchens
Abbey Goers | May 8, 2020

Donned in his chef’s toque and double-breasted jacket, Phil McGuirk would typically be preparing his students for their final exams in late spring. Shifting from kitchen station to station, correcting a knife hold here, a sauté method there, some of his favorite teaching moments have been in the hotel, restaurant and tourism management labs at University of Wisconsin-Stout.

With more than 40 years of teaching experience, McGuirk has taught all of the food classes in the university’s Cedar Café Corner III lab, including Catering, Haute Cuisine, Quality Food Production, Restaurant Operations and Principles of Foodservice Operations.

But when UW-Stout moved to alternative learning methods due to COVID-19, the 80-year-old faculty member needed to find a way to continue to give his students hands-on lessons in the culinary arts without access to the labs.

From the Cedar Café to their own kitchens

McGuirk adapted his Principles of Foodservice Operations course into an online format, ensuring the delivery of his expertise to his students. But not having taught an online course before, he didn’t know what to expect

Photo of Phil McGuirk, HRTM faculty member.
Phil McGuirk, in his chef’s toque and double-breasted jacket. / UW-Stout

“I was so in love with the lab setting and being able to visit the students on their stations in the kitchen or dining room, giving them individual attention,” he said. “But the transition to online went better as we went through the semester. I was up for the challenge.”

At the start of the semester, the class met for four hours each week at the Cedar Café lab in Heritage Hall, learning dining room service, restaurant operations, basic cooking principles and management concepts.

These lessons prepared HRTM students, from UW-Stout’s School of Hospitality Leadership, for their last six weeks of class when they created six entrées, one per week. Normally completed in Cedar Café, students instead cooked at home in their kitchens and submitted the written aspects of their assignments to McGuirk via email.

Delving into their culinary skills to create a sandwich, a salad, chicken, fish, beef and pasta dishes, students documented their cooking process with photos or videos.

“We chose any recipe or preparation of the food item in the category, and we standardized the recipe we chose. After the cooking process, we evaluated how our meal turned out and submitted it to Phil,” explained Rayne Holmson, a first-year student in the HRTM program.


HRTM student Rayne Holmson in her kitchen at home.
Holmson in her family's kitchen. / Rayne Holmson.

For three of her dishes, Holmson, of Wausau, created a warm venison salad with fresh raspberry vinaigrette, miso ginger cod and a BLT sandwich, complete with homemade bread and lemon garlic mayonnaise.

“The transition from learning in the campus labs to learning from my home kitchen was interesting to adapt to,” Holmson said. “I have learned that I work best when I can interact with my teachers and peers. Not having Phil to teach in person has been a struggle. The cooking part has been fun, however, because I am able to share the end product with my family.”

Holmson chose HRTM because she wants to learn how to create impactful experiences for others. This semester, she brought that experience to her family in their dining room, creating lasting memories with homemade meals.

“It is incredibly important to me to be able to make people feel valued, taken care of and, above all else, happy. Being an HRTM major is the perfect way for me to be able to achieve that,” she said.

Impacting others through hospitality

With four decades at UW-Stout under his belt, McGuirk has inspired countless hospitality graduates. Stout University Foundation Development Program Manager Jennifer Rudiger describes McGuirk as a “military-style instructor who accepts nothing less than perfection from his students in their cooking labs.” 


Jen Rudiger
Jen Rudiger, with Stout University Foundation Development. / UW-Stout

“But Phil loves his students, and his alumni love him,” Rudiger added. “He is pretty passionate about his students and proud of how he and the students have quickly transitioned to online teaching and doing their lab assignments.”

McGuirk feels his students responded well to the transition to an online course. “I saw great creativity within my students as they learned how to cook or prepare meals at home. The best part about teaching virtually was evaluating how much each student learned.”

He’d like to tell his graduating students that the sky is the limit, with the sage advice of always having a plan in mind. “You can be what you want to be. All you have to do is figure out how to get there. Just always try to do your best,” he said.

Hotel, Restaurant & Tourism Management

All Hotel, Restaurant & Tourism Management News
More than 100 outstanding students recognized at annual Leadership Awards ceremony Featured Image

More than 100 outstanding students recognized at annual Leadership Awards ceremony

Wood Medallion recipients Charest, Timm share experiences in service on and off campus
PHOTO ESSAY: An Un-Belize-able Venture into the Neotropics Featured Image

PHOTO ESSAY: An Un-Belize-able Venture into the Neotropics

Discover what Environmental & Conservation Science students do on location in Belize in our Natural History of the Neotropics class.
UW-Stout students’ roles in associations prepare them for careers in real estate, hospitality Featured Image

UW-Stout students’ roles in associations prepare them for careers in real estate, hospitality

Casper, Dahl and Jacque honored to be elected, awarded