JEFF BUNTING: Cooking with flair

In Jeff Bunting’s case, it’s not a matter of which came first, the chicken or the egg but rather the chef or the educator.

Before Bunting, a professional chef,  accepted an adjunct faculty position at Ivy Tech Community College Northeast in 2000, there was no debate on this topic: “I was a chef, first and foremost,” he says.

It didn’t take long for him to rethink his position once he began working with students in the kitchen.

“Teaching became a passion for me almost instantly when I could see the excitement on my students’ faces—when I could work side by side with them and watch them ‘get it’ and ‘do it.’  I was hooked. Now I consider myself an educator, first and foremost,” Bunting says.

Nine years into his career at the college, he ascended to Hospitality Administration program chair. His responsibilities include advising students, teaching and scheduling classes, improving the curriculum, and providing food service and catering for college and public events.

One of Bunting’s greatest joys is watching students grow and improve by electing to teach at both ends of the academic spectrum, from an introductory class or two to oversight during their final course, the internship.

“We see a lot of tears in this department. Students are often frustrated and stressed out about a lesson, their workload, or personal problems,” Bunting says. “A great teacher takes the time to listen to students with compassion and understand what they are going through, then lift them back up and tell them, ‘You’ve got this.’”

Bunting also takes pride in the ways diversity is celebrated in the Hospitality Administration program. “With diversity comes learning opportunities,” he says. “There’s a lot of diversity in the cuisine we prepare. Most of it is based on French technique. But when we start adding in all of these other cultural aspects and ingredients, there’s a lot of learning that comes from that. And we also have a very multicultural and diverse faculty and student body where everyone learns from one another.”

Beyond the cooking and baking experience gained in lab course work and from internships, Bunting encourages his students to get involved in numerous hospitality functions, from planning to catering to staging events.

Many of these options exist as college-sponsored opportunities that Bunting oversees directly. Noteworthy mentions include the spring Mystery Basket Competition, where students showcase their cooking and baking talents to win a spot on a culinary tour in Europe; the spring semester Special Cuisine Series, where select second-year students prepare international dishes for community dining patrons almost weekly; and the fall “A Reason to Taste” fundraising dinner, which generated more than $47,000 for student scholarships last year.