Training Restaurants – Are practical classrooms the way of the future?

Traditional teaching methods are changing. I write this piece as a student of journalism, for a student led paper that is published online. While yes, there are many theory based lectures, it seems that practical classes and alternative classroom environments seem to be the way of the future.

Grangegorman LUAS Stop. Photo credit: Jack Massey

How people learn is forever changing. When I was in junior infants nearly sixteen years ago, we had books and if you were lucky, there was a few battered computers in the back of the classroom circa 1994. By the time I left, every classroom had an interactive whiteboard, and there were modern computers in every class and access to tablets if needs be. 

Another example of an alternative classroom environment are the Training Restaurants on the Grangegorman Campus of Technological University Dublin. The restaurants are run as part of modules for culinary students in TUD. Described as ‘working classrooms designed in a restaurant setting’, these restaurants are ‘The Liberty’ of the culinary world.

The Grangegorman campus in Dublin 7 welcomed its first batch of students in 2014, and then welcomed 10,000 students in 2020, after a complete revamp. The campus, which originally was the location of a psychiatric hospital, now boasts two large Quads, student residences, a gym and many other facilities. It is easily accessible via both the Green and Red Luas lines.

 Mya Adams, a Culinary Entrepreneurship student in TUD spoke to me about her experience working in a student run restaurant.  

“There’s two training restaurants,” said Ms Adams.  “The Musgrave Marketplace Restaurant Lab and The Ballymaguire Foods Restaurant Lab. Anyone can attend with a TUD email.” I will admit that when I began this story I believed that the restaurants were open to any members of the public, however on learning that it is solely facilitates for TUD staff and students, I was disappointed. However, it is still an interesting concept.

I did hope to get first hand experience of eating in the Training Restaurants. Unfortunately, according to their website, ‘The Training Restaurants are now fully booked for the rest of this semester and the restaurant team are not taking any further bookings.’  Obviously this initially distressed me, but perhaps you will see something of a ‘sequel article’ in October, in which I rate and review the training restaurants. I am certainly curious to try it now after learning about its operations.

“The menu changes around.” Ms Adams assured me. “At the moment we (second year Culinary Entrepreneurs) are just doing a general menu with three options. Other courses are doing tasting menus.”

For culinary arts students, once they reach third year a new level of pressure is added. “In third year they (culinary arts students) run the restaurant completely by themselves. They pick a theme and run with the theme. Some groups went with Asian food, some French”.

“It’s a good experience. You do six weeks in the kitchen and six weeks on service, you learn about having to take orders and things like that”. This running theme of practical learning seems to be becoming the norm for students these days. More courses are doing practical modules and work placements in recent years.

With lunch priced at €20 and dinner at €35, (paid only by card), it can be expected that the food at the Training Restaurants would be of good quality. I look forward to (hopefully) dining there later in the year.

And so with this alternative classroom environment proving to be a success for many years, perhaps it is time for this type of learning to be introduced sooner. Looking back on secondary school, I could think of a number of classes that had they been taught in a more practical manner and not via a textbook, I might have actually paid more attention.

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