In 2021, the Prairie Research Kitchen team spotted an opportunity to offer an introduction to culinary research to two students in the certificate program during the short gap between the end of classes and the beginning of winter break.
Over the course of three days, the two students were faced with a challenge: to develop an easy-to-serve product incorporating as much lentil flour as they could without changing the sensory characteristics of the product. The students chose to develop two baking items: cheesy focaccia pizzas and pumpkin lentil muffins. In total, they produced 154 delicious muffins and 480 focaccia pizzas, all incorporating 35% lentil flour.
Based on the success of this pilot project, Prairie Research Kitchen is hoping to expand the Introduction to Research course for future years. PRK has proposed hiring up to five students from the SIE Culinary Skills certificate program each December to complete an expedited research project incorporating a novel ingredient into a common recipe, under the supervision of PRK staff and Culinary Skills instructors.
The first day introduces students to research methods, brainstorming recipes, and ingredient substitutions, shows them how to conduct experimental trials based on their research, and teaches them how to record information and observations in spreadsheets and lab books.
The second day challenges students to refine their results based on additional research and discussions, and to standardize the final recipe for scale-up.
The last day is reserved for scaling up production and repeating the results, batch after batch, while maintaining consistent quality. All product resulting from the final day is donated to Main Street Project, a local community organization serving Winnipeg’s most vulnerable residents.
Not only do the students gain paid work experience and culinary research skills, but they also learn how to succeed in a kitchen team environment while making a meaningful contribution to the community.