Rejecting Fast Food Education

Fast food joints and chain restaurants are ubiquitous on our landscape. New ones pop up all the time, others shut down, and we barely notice.

Why is that?

Because they are dime a dozen, they are the cookie cutters of the restaurant industry, and they are the old-school factory model in an age that increasingly appreciates personalization.

I travel a TON right now…I have a truly crazy schedule. But I also know that I can walk into any (insert the name of any chain restaurant) and get the exact same meal as I did last week in a completely different part of the country. Heck…even in ANOTHER country! Even in their storefront at the airport for god’s sake! They have placed the highest value on consistency and the ability to duplicate and scale their businesses. They have a formula… a recipe to follow…that allows anyone to buy a franchise, plug in the formula, and voilà…instant business. It’s easy! Even the menus and the way the food is prepared have been simplified to the point where you can hire a new cook and easily train them to crank out the same meals as the person they are replacing.

There is a comfort in consistency. A rigid recipe can be reassuring. A formula may not be fun…but sure is easy!

But when was the last time you left a fast food joint raving about how special the meal was that particular time? When was the last time you just had to know who prepared your chain restaurant meal because it was so exquisite? Have you ever heard a story about a short-order cook leaving one establishment to go to another and the customer base moved with him/her? No way!

This happens all the time in the restaurant world, though! What’s the difference?

Simple. There is a huge difference between a short-order cook and a CHEF.

Chefs bring a unique talent, style, flair…a panache to their work. They have a perspective. They have an agenda. They understand the significance of presentation and how to provide just the right balance of everything to create an extraordinary culinary experience to their clients. The menu is more likely to change to reflect growth, newly acquired dishes, and customer feedback. You can’t expect, nor would you likely be happy with, the same meal served and prepared exactly the same each time. There are specialty items that may be available only tonight…just because the chef decided to do something new and different. Tonight is unique.

For far too long we have been serving fast food education to our students.

  • Cookie cutter, scripted lesson plans (Gag reflex)
  • Worksheet packets of drivel
  • Assignments out of textbooks that are so old they have to be dusted off each year
  • Pre-packaged programs and ready-made curriculum from giant publishing companies that know as much about engaging kids as I do about craft beer. (That’s right, the pirate captain has never had a sip of alcohol in his entire life! #oddfactsaboutDaveBurgess)

We need more educational chefs! Thank goodness John Stevens (@Jstevens009) and Matt Vaudrey (@mrvaudrey) have come to the rescue with one of our newest releases, The Classroom Chef: Sharpen Your Lessons, Season your Classes, Make Math Meaningful.

Let’s get your first question out of way right now: “Is this a math book, then?”

Yes and no.

Is Teach Like a Pirate a U.S. History book? Nope! Every single example in TLAP is drawn from my class but the applications are meant for, and used in, classes of ALL subjects and ALL levels from pre-K to adult ed.

Chk3SuaWUAAgXi2.jpg-largeSame thing is true of The Classroom Chef. This is a book about becoming a more engaging and effective teacher. This is a book about powerful pedagogy. It is about the trials, tribulations, and ultimately successes that come from taking risks and seeking something more than short-order recipes in the classroom.

That being said, every single example in the book is drawn from actual math lessons and from multiple levels. Many are straight out of Matt’s and John’s classes giving them the authenticity we all look for…this stuff works! They send MAJOR shout outs to the power of collaboration with their #MTBoS community and there is even a KILLER math lesson about a cookie-eating monster that was contributed by first grade teacher, Jamie Duncan (@jamiedunc3).

There is NO OTHER SUBJECT that I get more questions and comments about as I travel and talk about Teach Like a PIRATE than math. “What does this look like in math?” “I see how this could be applied in social studies and English…but I teach math. My subject is too dry, objective, and skill based for this stuff.”


The Classroom Chef is what it looks like in math!!

Too dry?

How about teaching math with mullets, dropping barbies off high places with bungee cords, ChZUSsUUoAAy3Hgrunning action figures and dolls down epic ziplines, discussing GIGANTIC sharks, delivering life-altering lessons on 9/11, and arguing heatedly about toilet paper…all while delivering curriculum and having students master mathematical concepts.

How about starting a math fight? Get them so wound up about which side they have committed to in masterfully designed scenarios that they are desperate to prove they are right. Uh oh!!! The only way they can win is by understanding and using math! Stevens and Vaudrey are pretty tricky!!!

The book is cleverly organized into chef-themed sections: preparing the kitchen, setting the table, appetizers, entrees, side dishes, desserts, and paying the bill.

Appetizers: Ways to creatively hook students at the beginning of class

Entrees: FULL lessons…with a powerful section after the examples about how to prepare your own entrées.

Side Dishes: Taking lessons from good to great to amazing by adding engaging elements.

Dessert: Thoughts on Assessment

The Bill: A plea for courage and risk-taking in your practice.

There is even a “take-out food” section of resources and links for you to be able to find additional ideas and on-going support as you learn to prepare and season your lessons!!

Oh! And please don’t skip the footnotes! Hilarious and one of my favorite parts!

Matt and John also deliver KILLER workshops, so feel free to contact us about that, as well. OF COURSE, they come dressed in their fine white chef outfits with striking, tall, white chef hats to inspire and work with your colleagues.

Pick up the Classroom Chef right here on Amazon or right here on Barnes & Noble online.

Be a chef! Prepare tasty lessons that your students will LOVE!



Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

3 thoughts on “Rejecting Fast Food Education

    • Sorry for delay…this is intended for a K-12 audience. The concepts apply across the board…they taught more in the middle…but even a whole chapter written by a first grade teacher.

Comments are closed.