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How York College’s Hospitality Management program is different than culinary school

March 09, 2017
York College Hospitality Management different from Culinary School
From left, James DiGuglielmo, Dr. John Hughes, Hannah McLaughlin, Rachael Nace, Jennifer Taff, Allison Gladfelter, Brittany Little, Brandon Ortiz and Aaron Cook.

We’re often asked what the difference is between Hospitality Management and culinary school.

The short answer: While a traditional culinary program is a great place to learn the inner workings of a kitchen, the Hospitality Management program at York College of Pennsylvania teaches students the skills that take them beyond the kitchen, such as organizing events, managing venues and leading teams of hospitality professionals.  The program emphasizes developing management skills that can be applied to all areas of the hospitality industry.

Dr. Joseph Scarcelli, associate professor of Hospitality Management, says the experience his students gain in his program builds future managers.

“It gives them exposure into how all parts operate and communicate, as well as everything that goes into planning a successful event that serves food,” he says. “It’s crucial to know how things function from all angles.”

Here are a few of the things that make the YCP Hospitality Management program different from a traditional culinary program:

You’ll get your hands dirty and learn some cooking skills, but you’ll learn a lot of other things, too.

Food prep is one thing, but thanks to York College’s kitchen production lab in the Center for Community Engagement at 59 E. Market Street in York, you’ll be well-versed in not only creating dishes but every aspect that goes into hospitality.

“I give students some basic kitchen skills, they learn basic serving techniques and styles of service, and that lays the groundwork,” Dr. Scarcelli says.

“Then, we give them the opportunity to be managers,” he says. “They’re responsible for everything for an event.”

That includes everything from the theme and menu to purchasing and scheduling other students to work the event.

Afterward, the work’s not done.

Students sit down with Dr. Scarcelli and analyze how the event went and what might need improvement.

“Our students will come out of our program, and they’ll have gotten their hands dirty hosting a catered event,” he says. “When they get into situations in their careers, they’ve really got a much better perspective on what’s involved.”

It’s OK to drop food on your professor.

“I throw curves at them as much as I can,” says Dr. Scarcelli. “I’d much rather have you mess up in a controlled environment than actually mess up on the job.”

So if you’ve never carried a tray before, you’re going to learn how – loaded down with china and perhaps some raw eggs. Then you have to walk a maze of tables and chairs. The experience will help you learn balance, physically and mentally.

And it’s OK (really!) if you have a little trouble at first.

“I’d rather a potato end up in my lap in class than a wine glass or coffee cup land on someone else’s during an event,” Dr. Scarcelli says.

You’ll be part of a growing downtown York.

Hosting events in the satellite kitchen production lab means you’re out of the classroom and part of the city, surrounded by York’s vibrant restaurant culture.

“We really want to get downtown as involved with us as we can,” Dr. Scarcelli says, “and we want to get as involved with downtown as we can, too, and give students that exposure.”

In the future, he’s hoping that also involves some guest lectures and demonstrations from local restauranteurs.

“It really hits home when professionals can come in and emphasize the things I’ve been teaching them,” he says.

You might even be one of those professionals.

The hospitality program at York College goes beyond the teachings of a traditional culinary program. Students who have already “been there, done that” are welcome to take another step after culinary school.

“I love getting students who already have a two-year culinary degree and want to continue on to get a Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management,” Dr. Scarcelli says. “I love that they come in with that drive and those skill sets, and obtaining their bachelor’s broadens their career potential.”

They also have plenty of insider perspective to share with fellow students. It adds another layer to the classroom experience, as they share their stories and give insight into life in the kitchen.

“It’s very useful from a learning standpoint,” Dr. Scarcelli says. “What’s great about this class is that students are putting practice into action.”