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Jonathan Deutsch

Professor and Director

Food and Hospitality Management and Drexel Food Lab

Jonathan Deutsch, PhD, CHE, CRC, working in a kitchen with Drexel University Food and Hospitality Management students.

Solving Systemic Issues with a Fork

Sustainability isn’t something that can be ignored by culinary professionals. Professor and director of the Drexel University Food Lab Jonathan Deutsch, PhD, saw what’s at stake and moved to do something about it. “It's not an optional conversation and should be infused in everything we do,” Deutsch cautioned. Pointing to the already visible supply chain challenges, price increases and shortages of what’s available at grocery stores, he confirmed that, while COVID contributed, climate change plays a far bigger role. “Our food system is climate dependent. If our food system goes down, we all go down with it,” Deutsch stated.

CNHP’s Food and Hospitality Management (FHM) curriculum is different in this respect, and Deutsch noted that we are well ahead of other institutions who are still taking a traditional recipe-based approach to culinary education. “Yes, we want you to learn the same skills that you would in a traditional culinary school, but we want you to apply them to solve systemic problems in the food system,” he acknowledged.

Food is at the heart of every human experience, and Deutsch noted it’s next in line after breathing and water as a biological necessity. He sees beyond the mere enjoyment of a meal to how it affects health and wellbeing—is it restorative, welcoming and healthful? “We think about health, equity and wellness in terms of food access and food behavior,” he observed. These connections between diet and health are explored, which often leads to discussions about mindfulness. “We talk a lot about what goes into our bodies—mindful eating—and the potentiality of ingredients—mindful cooking.”

In the Food Lab, students often take time to be creative in their approach to problem solving and innovation. Students, faculty mentors and clients work collaboratively to develop products and recipes that address sustainability, health promotion and food access. “My greatest thrill is seeing something I would never have dreamed of or thought possible carried forward by student energy and ingenuity,” Deutsch explained.