Culinary students’ Cook at Home meal packages are a hit | St. Clair College
Thursday, March 4, 2021
Meal kits have exploded in popularity during the pandemic and St. Clair College’s Culinary Management program has put them on its menu.
Culinary Management student Yanlin Wang finishes off garnishing his plate, made from a stir fry meal kit for two.

Culinary Management students at St. Clair College are serving up meal kits, a food choice that has exploded in popularity during the pandemic.

The Cook at Home meal packages have been so popular that they will likely stay on the menu and be part of student training in the future, said Chef Marc Johnston, co-ordinator of the Culinary Management program.

Since January, students in their final semester of the program have been creating the meal kits and selling them out of Eatery 101 at the College’s South Windsor campus. They produce about 50 of the Cook at Home kits a day. The refrigerated kits are sold for pick up Wednesday to Friday each week.

Since the coronavirus pandemic started, there has been no sit-down dining at the Eatery 101 restaurant, which is staffed and run by Culinary Management and Hospitality Management students.

In the fall, the students prepared takeout menus, took orders and prepared the food for pick up. Keeping each order fresh was a challenge and the service “wasn’t overly popular,” Johnston said.

The Cook at Home kits solved the freshness problem and customers love them, he said. “Whatever we create now, we’re selling them,”

The meal kit project combines a kitchen management class and a final semester internship for 41 Culinary Management students. There’s a rotation that puts three students in charge of each week’s Cook at Home meal packages, with others serving as helping hands.

The students start by coming up with ideas for the meal packages and prepare the week before it’s their turn to produce them. They must price and order the food. Then they make the meals, which are critiqued by their instructors. The students make the revised recipes the next day so they can photograph each step and the final dish. The photos are used for marketing and the instructions included in each package.

“They cost it. They make it. They photograph it. They critique it. They market it, and then they sell it,” Johnston said. “It’s exciting for them. It’s their product, their baby. The quantity of pride they show in this, I like it a lot.”

The Culinary Management students are preparing to enter the job market as the popularity of meal kits sold by companies like Goodfood and HelloFresh are on the rise. Quebec-based Goodfood had 306,000 subscribers in the first quarter of this year compared to 230,000 a year ago. HelloFresh, a global brand based in Germany, saw its orders increase by 109 per cent in 2020 and its active customers grow by 78 per cent.

“It could be a very good educational tool,” Johnston said of continuing with the Cook at Home meal packages. “Someone could very well carry this on and offer this from their own venue after they graduate from the program. That would be really neat to see. I’d like to see that.”

To view this week’s Cook at Home menu go to the Eatery 101 website. To order call 519-972-2726.