Jane Stern’s Special Topics: Food Writing course was such a hit at Gateway Community College (GCC) the first time it ran, she is returning to teach the course again beginning Jan. 28.
"Having Jane Stern as an adjunct faculty member was an honor, given her stature," Stephen Fries, professor and coordinator of GCC’s Hospitality Management Programs, said. "Our students felt privileged to have Stern, a winner of the prestigious James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award as well as an inductee into Who's Who of Food & Beverage in America, author of 40 plus books and contributing editor to Gourmet magazine as their instructor. She is indeed, one of the most prolific food writers in America.”
Stern said she found the experience an absolute delight. “I am totally in love with teaching Food Writing at Gateway,” she said. “My students were talented and engaging and a joy to work with. Because the range of writing expertise was as broad as the students’ age range, it was a wonderful and lively mix of life experiences, cultures and interests.”
Stern said what she found most surprising was how quickly students’ communication skills improved. “I had some superstars in the class who could teach me a thing or two about the craft of writing,” she said. “And I had other students from vast and varied backgrounds, who were soon on their way to writing cookbooks, blogs, professional resumes and memoirs.”
Students learned food vocabulary, the art and craft of recipe writing and they wrote short essays, menus and reviews. To judge their palates students took part in a blind taste test one evening. Stern also brought in a number of guest speakers. One night two shared their stories—Claire Criscuolo, chef and owner of the popular New Haven vegetarian restaurant Claire’s Corner Copia and author of cookbooks including Claire’s Corner Copia Cookbook, and Adrienne Kane, author of The United States of Pie and the food memoir Cooking and Screaming: Finding My Own Recipe for Recovery. The journeys of getting their first books published were decidedly different, “which is what makes all of this so exciting,” Stern noted. “There’s no right way of doing this. Do it your way.”
Stern encouraged students to express their culinary sensibilities in reviews, essays, blogs, media presentations, cookbook and recipe writing as well as a major project they worked on over the course of the semester. “Because of easy and inexpensive self-publishing, websites and blogging it is now possible for anyone to be a food critic or a cookbook writer, the playing field has been leveled,” Stern said.
Students said they were bowled over by the chance to learn about writing and have their work critiqued by such a well-known writer. “Jane is very interesting, very funny, accessible and informative,” said Patricia Byers, a student who was working on a cookbook while taking the course. “We all arrived with very different goals and she encourages all of us.”
Another student, Charles Culliton, said he liked how Stern encouraged each of them to find their own voice as writers. “And she’s hilarious and very engaging,” he added.
In addition to writing more than 40 books about food, travel and popular culture, Stern has written a memoir, Ambulance Girl: How I Saved Myself by Becoming an EMT, which was made into a television movie starring Kathy Bates. She and her former husband Michael Stern are long-time collaborators. Their interactive website, www.Roadfood.com, averages more than four million page views a month and has been selected as “Site of the Year” by Yahoo.com.
“I think the most endearing quality of Gateway and its students is that there is no `typical’ type,” Stern said. “I love the mix and the level-playing field that throws together people who might never share their views with each other. On a personal level, teaching the class has made me a better writer.”
Fries said he hopes Gateway can develop an online version of the course as well, so the famed food writer and best-selling author can reach aspiring food writers everywhere.
For more information about Special Topics: Food Writing, contact Fries at firstname.lastname@example.org. To register for the course Special Topics: Food Writing HSP198 call the GCC Admissions Office at 203-285-2010.