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Quiet kitchens: Culinary Arts among programs on hold this year at Yukon University

Many kitchen lessons —like knife skills and soup-making—will move online in January with the help of video lessons.

Most university classes online this year as COVID-19 precaution

Gene Batten is department head of the Culinary Arts and Food Services program at Yukon University. (Submitted by Michael Vernon)

The kitchens are quiet at Yukon University this year.

The culinary arts program is among the handful of university programs that didn't restart this semester, as it prepares for smaller kitchen crews and online cooking lessons in January amid COVID-19.

The culinary arts program is typically "very hands-on," said department head Gene Batten. Students usually cook lunch for the on-campus bistro, and practice catering for banquets and community events.

But when the program restarts next semester, many kitchen lessons —like knife skills and soup-making—will move online with the help of videos. There will be some kitchen time, but students won't be cooking for others.

The program will also be cut in half. Instead of 16, there will be eight culinary students next semester and only four in the kitchen at a time.

"We have the next few months to prepare and get things ready for online," said Gene Batten.

Most of Yukon University's courses are fully online this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Some labs, nursing and trades courses are in-person with reduced class sizes.

Culinary Arts is one of four programs that have delayed starts at the university, including multimedia communications, Northern justice and criminology, and Yukon First Nations art.

Multimedia communications will start again in January, said university spokesperson Michael Vernon, as they figure out ways to adapt without the campus computer lab.

The cafeteria at Yukon University has been converted into a student services hub this year. (Laura Howells/CBC)

Northern justice and criminology won't restart until September 2021. Vernon said the program does not have full-time instructors who could spend the summer adapting lessons for online, as many of the instructors are working professionals in the justice sector.

First Nations Art—which just started last year at the Whitehorse campus—will be offered at multiple campuses so there are fewer students in each class.

"Given the challenging circumstances of COVID-19 planning, we're pleased to only have four programs with delayed starts and only one delayed until next year," said Vernon. The university has more than 50 programs.

The culinary arts program will start in winter and go into the summer. Batten says the program already taught many of the precautions for COVID-19.

"In this industry, we practice, you know, good hygiene, food safety," he said. "I think with this pandemic, it just reinforces the care and those precautions that we need to keep."

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