How are cooking and hospitality schools living the effects of the pandemic? Let's find out firsthand by talking to three renowned cooking schools: Le Cordon Bleu (Madrid), the Hofmann Hospitality School (Barcelona) and the Aiala Hospitality School (Zarautz), as well as the Association.
More than two hundred schools in Spain offer studies related to the hospitality and catering sector in one way or another - kitchen, living room, sommelier, management… - and to varying degrees, from university students to training cycles. Training is key in a sector that in recent years has been committed to professionalism decisively. A bet that has occurred from the education and business sector and has received a great reception among the younger population.
The good reputation of the Spanish hotel and hospitality sector, as well as the media presence of renowned chefs has meant that many young people have chosen to orient their professional careers towards the hospitality industry. The data corroborate this trend: among the degrees of Vocational Training, those of the family of hospitality and tourism are among the ten most in demand in recent years. And in the midst of the rise of these studies and degrees, a health crisis erupts that is especially fueled by the professional market to which all this training effort is directed.
How are cooking and hospitality schools experiencing the effects of the pandemic?
"Operating normally within what is possible." That is the tone now in cooking schools - although we would dare to say that it is the tone of the country - and that we are corroborated by the directors of the centers with which we have spoken.
Schools were the first to close when the first wave of the pandemic broke out and, instead, are now among the most respected to ensure the continuity of their educational work, a situation that gives them some leeway, but not total peace of mind. "We have almost half of the enrollments we had in 2019," confessed Rosario Barrios, director of Le Cordon Bleu, the legendary cooking school in Madrid. Enrollments have been reduced not only "because the population pyramid is narrowing more and more and there are fewer possible students for training centers" -as pointed out by Raúl González, director of the School of Hospitality Aiala de Karlos Arguiñano-, but also because international students have not arrived this year. Spain is a common destination for thousands of foreign students who choose catering as a career. The reputation of Spanish gastronomy and chefs is a strong claim for many of these young people, "mostly South Americans" who decide to train in our schools. "These students have not come this year. Only those who were already here and have been able to fix their documentation have opted to stay, "admits Barrios.
Also in Barcelona, at the Hofmann School of Hospitality, they have seen a reduction in the number of international registrations, but instead our director, Silvia Hofmann, assures us that “the local student is committed to training at the moment” and “some modalities they have had even more demand than usual. ” They agree with this assessment from the Association of Hospitality Schools (AEHOS) who say that "training has been the opportunity for many who did not see short-term employment options."
Safer than ever
Masks, hydroalcoholic gels, safety distance and anti-Covid protocols have become part of the scenario in cooking schools but, according to Rosario Barrios, the change has not been as drastic as some of the measures that have become widespread in our society because of the Covid-19, “such as continuous hand washing, are not so different from those we applied previously in our sector that by their own characteristics already required many hygienic measures, some even higher than those now tax ”. In the face of so many measures, the director of Aiala welcomes the response of students "who fully understand what we are doing and respect the new measures imposed on the school."
And as a general tone, it must be said that the measures are working. "Fortunately, the incidence of positive cases in schools is, in general, very low," says Irina Naranjo, technical secretary and member of the Board of the Association of Hospitality Schools, who attributes this low incidence to the fact that the centers are they have prepared in advance during the summer, implementing Contingency Plans and security measures to minimize possible contagions for the return in September. A preparation that aimed to be a priority for all schools: to keep face-to-face classes to the maximum. "Hospitality is a profession with a certain theory but in need of practice," argues Raúl González; an opinion with which Rosario Barrios agrees, for whom it is “very difficult to move to online education, if not impossible. In the kitchen you can't replace the face-to-face class. "
Despite that prioritization of face-to-face classes some schools.
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