A new mas­ter’s in ap­plied nu­tri­tion and mind­ful eat­ing:

At a course in IT Tal­laght , stu­dents take a prac­ti­cal ap­proach to every­thing from por­tion con­trol to mind­ful eat­ing

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Front Page - Marie-Claire Digby

Im­prov­ing hospi­tal food, re­duc­ing obe­sity lev­els through por­tion con­trol and us­ing mind­ful eat­ing to im­prove our re­la­tion­ship with food are just three of the top­ics ex­plored by chefs who have grad­u­ated from the first MSc in ap­plied culi­nary nu­tri­tion pro­gramme at the In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy Tal­laght.

The two-year part-time course was the first of its kind in the world when it was in­sti­gated in 2015, ac­cord­ing to An­nette Sweeney, culi­nary lec­turer and pro­gramme co-or­di­na­tor, in that it was de­signed specif­i­cally for chefs.

“The in­spi­ra­tion for the mas­ter’s pro­gramme were fore­casted con­sumer trends in the health and well­ness space and the need to en­able prac­tis­ing chefs to meet those needs com­pe­tently and con­fi­dently,” she says. The pro­gramme has chefs Do­mini Kemp, Neven Maguire and Derry Clarke as its pa­trons.

The course has a strong prac­ti­cal rather than the­o­ret­i­cal fo­cus. “As an ed­u­ca­tor, I am pas­sion­ate about the power of ex­pe­ri­en­tial and ap­plied learn­ing, par­tic­u­larly in teach­ing the science of cook­ing, which in IT Tal­laght we do in the kitchen as op­posed to the­ory only, in the class­room,” Sweeney says. “All mod­ules link the science and the­ory to pos­si­ble ap­pli­ca­tions in the work­place.”

This fol­lows through to the re­search project com­po­nent of the pro­gramme. “Stu­dents use their knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence to iden­tify a gap in their in­dus­try and in­ves­ti­gate a so­lu­tion and make rec­om­men­da­tions for an ap­plied out­put that will help in­dus­try meet cur­rent and fu­ture health and well­ness needs of con­sumers,” says Sweeney.

Three of the seven re­cent grad­u­ates had a strong el­e­ment of mind­ful­ness in their cho­sen re­search topic, an out­come Sweeney be­lieves came in part from the course de­liv­ery and con­tent.

“Chefs’ strengths are in the prac­ti­cal as­pects of most pro­grammes. Aware of the dif­fi­cul­ties some may have in aca­demic writ­ing and ap­proach­ing re­search, the pro­gramme takes an in­no­va­tive ap­proach to teach­ing re­search stud­ies, us­ing prac­tices such as mind­ful­ness, jour­nal­ing and deep lis­ten­ing.

There are last­ing ben­e­fits from this ap­proach, Sweeney be­lieves. “These as­sist in con­nect­ing stu­dents with their creativ­ity, with re­search idea gen­er­a­tion, to build con­fi­dence in aca­demic writ­ing and en­gage them in deep per­sonal learn­ing that trans­fers to life and pro­fes­sional en­vi­ron­ments.”

Feed­back from stu­dents men­tioned that as well as break­ing down bar­ri­ers to writ­ing, this also af­fected their ex­pe­ri­ences of work-re­lated stress and in­ter­ac­tions within their kitchens.

“The mind­ful­ness as­pect res­onated very strongly with three of the stu­dents, so much so that they be­lieved that the ap­pli­ca­tion of its prin­ci­ples to the pro­fes­sional kitchen and to health and well­ness should be fur­ther ex­plored,” Sweeney says.

The mas­ter’s pro­gramme at IT Tal­laght is de­signed for chefs, who are pri­ori­tised at the ap­pli­ca­tion stage. How­ever, one of the first seven to grad­u­ate is a na­tional school teacher, who has a keen in­ter­est in nu­tri­tion. The sec­ond in­take, who be­gan their stud­ies in 2016, in­cludes in its class of 13 the dean of hospitality and culi­nary arts at a col­lege in Toronto. “She par­tic­i­pates weekly via Skype and at­tends in per­son once a se­mes­ter,” Sweeney says.

There are 11 stu­dents un­der­tak­ing the first year of the pro­gramme, in­clud­ing two lec­tur­ers from the Army school of ca­ter­ing and two home eco­nom­ics teach­ers.

Ap­pli­ca­tions are now open for ad­mis­sion to the pro­gramme in Septem­ber 2018.

In­ter­views are held in April or May, and a three-day prepara­tory course is of­fered in June.

Fur­ther in­for­ma­tion is avail­able from An­nette Sweeney, an­nette.sweeney@it-tal­laght.ie, 01-4042826.


Ex­ec­u­tive chef, Black­rock Clinic Ka­vanagh worked in restau­rants and ho­tels be­fore tak­ing up the po­si­tion of ex­ec­u­tive chef at the Black­rock Clinic in March of last year. His mo­ti­va­tion in em­bark­ing on the mas­ter’s was to “un­der­stand all ar­eas of food, from its chem­i­cal make-up to how our bod­ies use it and an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of food’s ben­e­fi­cial po­ten­tial”.

His re­search topic was Mind­ful­ness-based Ap­proach to Train­ing Se­nior Chefs in Strate­gic Health­care Food Pro­vi­sion to Ben­e­fit Pa­tient Care.

Per­sonal mind­ful de­vel­op­ment, mind­ful­ness and work­place per­for­mance and team­work de­vel­op­ment through mind­ful lead­er­ship were key ar­eas he ex­plored. “Re­search has linked the mind­ful­ness of lead­ers to the per­for­mance of fol­low­ers and helps cre­ate a work­place cul­ture in­fused with mo­ti­va­tion, pur­pose and mean­ing,” he says.

“I have al­ready noted im­proved ar­eas of my own work­place per­for­mance through my project re­search and the use of se­lected mind­ful­ness ex­er­cises. I have no­ticed im­proved mo­ti­va­tion based on a new sense of pur­pose as a chef in the health­care sec­tor, and a greater sense of job sat­is­fac­tion based on the pro­vi­sion of pos­i­tive nu­tri­tional pa­tient care.

“My fu­ture goal would be – given the re­sources and sup­port – to cre­ate train­ing mod­ules to pro­vide per­sonal sup­port and aca­demic knowl­edge to im­prove the role that se­nior chefs play in the pro­vi­sion of nu­tri­tion­ally fo­cused, ap­petis­ing food in the health­care sec­tor.”

The pro­gramme has chefs Do­mini Kemp, Neven Maguire and Derry Clarke as its pa­tron

Doug Har­ring­ton Culi­nary skills in­struc­tor and con­sul­tant head chef

Har­ring­ton teaches pro­fes­sional cook­ery at Bray In­sti­tute of Fur­ther Ed­u­ca­tion and Cliff Academy at Cliff at Lyons, A ho­tel and cook­ery school in Co Kil­dare. His re­search in­ves­ti­gated how much nu­tri­tional knowl­edge chefs had and raised ques­tions about “the role of the mod­ern, ed­u­cated chef in the health sys­tem of the fu­ture”.

His find­ings, based on the re­sults of a ques­tion­naire, pointed to a very in­con­sis­tent level of knowl­edge of nu­tri­tion among work­ing chefs. “Some chefs scored higher with only pri­mary school ed­u­ca­tion than qual­i­fied diploma chefs,” Har­ring­ton

notes. “I was sur­prised at the lack of ba­sic un­der­stand­ing of calo­ries, specif­i­cally the en­ergy con­tained within food.

“An ac­cept­able in­dus­try stan­dard of fo­cused nu­tri­tional ed­u­ca­tion and re­fresher cour­ses could im­prove the nu­tri­tional value of chefs’ meals and in do­ing so im­prove the di­ets of the cus­tomers eat­ing them.”

In his teach­ing ca­reer, Har­ring­ton says, “I try to en­cour­age my stu­dents to not just look at the food as a meal but also to think about what hap­pens once that food is con­sumed.” The ap­pli­ca­tion of his re­search could in­volve set­ting up “a nu­tri­tional ed­u­ca­tional pro­gramme for chefs”.

Bríd Tor­rades Chef /pa­tron Osta Cafe & Wine Bar, Sligo

“There is a lot of ‘nu­tri­tion’ in­for­ma­tion in cir­cu­la­tion – I wanted to be able to spend time re­search­ing the science be­hind old wives’ tales and sep­a­rat­ing fact from fic­tion,” Tor­rades says of her ini­tial in­ter­est in the pro­gramme.

She chose as her re­search topic Should the Ca­ter­ing Sec­tor Be Recog­nised as an Im­por­tant Player in an In­te­grated Pub­lic Health Strat­egy?

“Non­com­mu­nica­tive diseases such as obe­sity and di­a­betes, 21st-cen­tury so­ci­etal is­sues, have a huge fi­nan­cial and psy­cho­log­i­cal im­pact on us all. I wanted to es­tab­lish how the ca­ter­ing in­dus­try can im­pact, pos­i­tively and neg­a­tively, on pub­lic health,” she says. “I wanted to un­der­stand how much of an im­pact chefs or ca­ter­ing man­agers could have, based on their in­gre­di­ent choices.

Her re­search find­ing are is al­ready be­ing ap­plied in in­dus­try. “I have been work­ing as a con­sul­tant to other restau­rants, re­view­ing nu­tri­tional con­tent, por­tion sizes, calo­rie count and cost­ings. It’s en­cour­ag­ing to see health­ier menus, and even fi­nan­cial sav­ings for the restau­rants.”

Re­turn­ing to ed­u­ca­tion has also prompted Tor­rades to pur­sue fur­ther re­search in her field of in­ter­est. “I am fas­ci­nated with the area of gut health and be­lieve that we all need to eat more cul­tured foods. And I want to keep in touch with all the ex­cit­ing new re­search in this area.”

Cian Irvine Sous chef , Ara­mark, Croke Park Meet­ings and Events

Irvine, who com­pleted his pri­mary de­gree in culi­nary arts at IT Tal­laght, has been work­ing as a chef for 25 years . His re­search topic was Por­tion Dis­tor­tion: How Much Re­spon­si­bil­ity Should Chefs Take in Por­tion Con­trol and Overeat­ing?

“Por­tion sizes in restau­rants, on av­er­age, have steadily and sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased over the past cen­tury. An ex­pec­ta­tion of large por­tions is still preva­lent among some of the pop­u­la­tion, de­spite re­cent trends in the food in­dus­try and a shift to­wards a health­ier diet,” he says.

His study “ex­plored the con­nec­tion be­tween a con­tem­po­rary chef’s role in por­tion con­trol and if they have a role to play in ris­ing obe­sity lev­els”. He dis­cov­ered that “con­sumers are aware of the need for por­tion con­trol, but per­cep­tion of por­tion size varies”.

How­ever, chefs are not to blame, he con­cludes. “Both the con­sumers and the chefs in­ter­viewed be­lieved that re­spon­si­bil­ity for por­tion con­trol was that of the con­sumer.”

Ap­pli­ca­tion of his re­search find­ings to in­dus­try would in­volve a chef ed­u­ca­tion pro­gramme that links nu­tri­tion and menu plan­ning.

MichaelLi­uYim­ing Sous chef, the Westin Dublin ho­tel

Yim­ing, who is orig­i­nally from China, has been work­ing at the Westin ho­tel for 13 years. “I wanted to use the course to learn how I could drive and lead in­no­va­tion within the culi­nary com­mu­nity,” he says.

His re­search pa­per was Can Health and Well­ness Mind­ful Din­ing Ex­pe­ri­ences Meet the Needs of Busi­ness Cus­tomers of Five-star Ho­tel Groups and As­sist Ho­tels in Dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing Their Prod­uct Of­fer­ing?

Mak­ing healthy-eat­ing op­tions avail­able to reg­u­lar trav­ellers, who might want to fol­low a par­tic­u­lar di­etary regime but ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fi­culty do­ing so away from home, was one strand of Yim­ing’s re­search.

He also looked at mind­ful din­ing, and sur­mised that ho­tels and their clients could ben­e­fit from “a re­lax­ing, med­i­ta­tive din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence along­side the fa­cil­i­ties they al­ready pro­vide for health-con­scious trav­ellers, such as gyms and spas”.

“My short-term goal is to es­tab­lish a pop-up Health and Well­ness Mind­ful Din­ing Ex­pe­ri­ence to test my the­ory on a larger scale. My ul­ti­mate goal would be to see this im­ple­mented into more ho­tels to help them in­crease their busi­ness, but also their cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion.”

GarethG­lynn Head chef, Ara­mark, at Or­a­cle

Glynn has worked as a chef in Ire­land and abroad, in Aus­tria and Croa­tia.

He was al­ready prac­tis­ing mind­ful­ness be­fore em­bark­ing on the mas­ter’s pro­gramme and set­tled on Can Mind­ful Eat­ing in a Com­mu­nity Din­ing Set­ting In­flu­ence Peo­ple’s Re­la­tion­ship with Food? for his re­search project. This ex­plored the pos­i­tive ben­e­fits of be­ing more aware of what, how and where we are eat­ing. “The prac­tice of mind­ful eat­ing can help us to be­come more aware of our own ac­tions, feel­ings, thoughts and mo­ti­va­tions,” he says.

“One of the mod­ules in the course re­quired us to cre­ate a restau­rant. I de­signed a restau­rant where mind­ful­ness, yoga and med­i­ta­tion would be prac­tised in the build­ing while hav­ing the eat­ing area as the cen­tral hub. I would like to try and get that off the ground.”

Kathy Coyle Na­tional school teacher

Kathy Coyle teaches se­nior in­fants at St Mary’s Ju­nior Na­tional School in Bless­ing­ton, and has a strong in­ter­est in what she de­scribes as “the ex­tremely close con­nec­tions be­tween the food we eat and the health we en­joy”.

Her re­search project was Can Early, Sus­tained In­ter­ven­tion at School Im­prove the Veg­etable-eat­ing Habits of Young Chil­dren? and in­volved ob­serv­ing her pupils’ habits around eat­ing veg­eta­bles. She found that “chil­dren’s di­etary choices are strongly in­flu­enced by those around them”, that chil­dren learn to eat by re­peated ex­po­sure to foods”, and that “chil­dren’s eat­ing habits track through in adult­hood”.

Coyle is work­ing on the de­vel­op­ment of a “Veg­gie Mo­ment” train­ing pack for the ju­nior school class­room.

Non­com­mu­nica­tive diseases such as obe­sity and di­a­betes, 21st-cen­tury so­ci­etal is­sues, have a huge fi­nan­cial and psy­cho­log­i­cal im­pact on us all. I wanted to es­tab­lish how the ca­ter­ing in­dus­try can im­pact, pos­i­tively and neg­a­tively, on pub­lic health

Doug Har­ring­ton

Cathal Ka­vanagh

Gareth Glynn

Kathy Coyle

Cian Irvine

Michael Liu Yim­ing

Bríd Tor­rades

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