Hesam Panahi

Hesam Panahi

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Inspiration from the top restaurants in the world: how to make your course a Michelin star experience

Nearly 100 years ago, a tire company launched a travel guide that would forever change the restaurant industry’s ambitions.

Introduced in 1931, the Michelin guide’s original intent was to get motorists to explore France (and use more tires). Restaurants were scored on a zero to three star rating. Today, the Michelin star is one of the most coveted awards in the restaurant industry.

How do you get a Michelin star? By providing consistent, high quality food with a world-class experience.

As an educator, I often find myself looking for sources of inspiration from elsewhere. Here’s how you can use principles from award-winning restaurants to elevate the course experience.

What’s the occasion?

The Michelin star experience begins well before your meal. When booking your reservation, you’ll be asked if it’s a special occasion, any allergies you may have, and other relevant details for your meal.

Usually, the maitre’d, your servers, and others, will find ways to acknowledge special occasions during your visit. They may bring you a special dessert, or simply greet you with a warm “Happy Birthday!”.

Similarly, you should learn about your students before the first day. Send out a survey. Ask them what they’re passionate about. Where do they call home? Why are they taking the course? Do they have any issues or concerns? Gathering that information up front will help you better serve them during the course.

Deliver a unique experience every time

A restaurant will deliver the exact same dishes over the course of an evening or season. Michelin stars are awarded based on consistency, and similarly, you’re expected to deliver a relatively uniform experience across sections and semesters in your courses.

Although you may have been teaching the same course for years, your students will be taking it for the first time. Treat every student with the same energy, enthusiasm, and attention to detail as you did the first time you walked into the classroom.

Design the environment

While the cooking is generally the star of your restaurant visit, the environment matters too. Meals can last hours, so everything from the furniture, to the lighting, to the plates that are used are all carefully considered.

Similarly, the classroom is part of a student’s learning experience. How can you use the space to support your course? Play music before class starts, arrange the furniture in a way that’s optimal for the flow of the class session, and think about what else you can do to enhance the physical experience.

Provide a taste of what’s to come on the first day

Your first course in a fine dining restaurant isn’t usually on the menu: it’s an amuse-bouche. This is the chef’s opportunity to showcase a bit of their artistry and craft. It’s meant to delight the patron and get them excited for the rest of the meal.

Similarly, the first day of class shouldn’t be syllabus day. It’s an opportunity to delight and inspire your students. Give them a taste of the curriculum and what they’ll learn by actually doing it, as opposed to just explaining what to expect.