Training in Tourism and Hospitality
I entered college very young, at 16 years old. At the time, I had chosen the Tourism course at Universidade Anhembi Morumbi. I don’t remember exactly why I chose the tourism course, but at that age I was certainly very immature, but I chose the university very consciously. UAM was, and continues to be (after all, not so long after I graduated, okay?) A young university, with little academic tradition, but it was the most innovative in terms of new courses. I call the Bachelor in Tourism a “new course” because it is an area of study that has been around for 50 years, different from traditional and well-established courses such as medicine, engineering, law, etc. After all, the university’s infrastructure was impressive. I studied on the downtown campus, which is close to Belém metro station and the university was built in an old factory, Alpagartas. Architecture represents the concept of the university: young and innovative. Besides, it had a wonderful library and many laboratories available to students.
At the time the best options were USP and UAM. The USP course, however, was focused on academic research. My interest was a more practical course, focused on services, that would give me the possibility to quickly enter the job market. At the time, UAM had a Specific Training Program of Short Duration, that is, during the first 4 years of a Bachelor of Tourism, you would have to choose an area of interest that would be studied in depth during the first 2 years and would earn you a diploma. . The areas were Food and Beverages, Hotel Administration, Event Organization and Tourism Agency Administration. I chose to do Hotel Administration and after the first two years I already had a higher diploma of specific training. Several classmates chose to take this diploma and go to the job market. I preferred to finish my bachelor’s degree, which took another two years.
The next two years of the Tourism course were quite repetitive. The subjects had different names, different teachers, but the content was the same. I remember that at the time my colleagues had the same impression and more than half were quite frustrated with the course in terms of “academic knowledge”. However, 80% of my colleagues were already employed in a company related to tourism, most of them in airlines that always insisted on privileging students of Tourism. In fact, very little of what is learned in the classroom is used in the job market. I did an internship at a hotel reception when I was 19 and nothing I learned could have prepared me for the situations I faced and for the practical service itself.
A very interesting event happened at UAM every year, and I happened to know it: the annual recruitment of Walt Disney World, done by the agency STB. Every year they used the UAM infrastructure to give a talk on the work experience, a 2-month work program at WDW Orlando, done during the months of December and January, our school holidays. It was a very popular and popular program and I had the pleasure of participating at the end of my first year of college. The vast majority of interested people were students of Tourism and Hospitality, but there was always one or the other from other areas lost in the middle. I imagine that this program is still being promoted at UAM.
At the UAM school hotel there were always 1 week courses on various subjects, paid for in part. I once did one on Cocktail, and that’s when my interest in drinks started. During the next two years of my training, I then chose to enter the Gastronomy course at UAM, a 2-year training. UAM together with SENAC was, again, a pioneer in the area and in the Gastronomy course we had a generous workload of Oenology and General Cocktail.
Training in Gastronomy
The Gastronomy course at UAM was offered in the morning, afternoon and evening. As I already took the Tourism course in the morning, I took the opportunity to engage the Gastronomy course in sequence, from 1 pm to 5 pm. The infrastructure at UAM was really wonderful! We had a kitchen just for “butchery” classes, plus 8 hot kitchens equipped with industrial stoves, combined ovens, refrigerators and freezers. We also had a kitchen for confectionery and bakery and just one for working chocolates. In addition, the auditorium for lectures with chefs and the wine tasting room. The classrooms had a maximum of 24 students and we always worked in pairs. Each pair made about 4 preparations a day, but that number could vary according to the theme of the class. I really liked this form of work, as it gave everyone the chance to get their hands dirty and participate in all the productions. The course was divided into modules and the duration of these modules also varied widely. We had modules of 1 week and up to 2 months.
Together, Confectionery and Bakery took 1 full semester. And for those who wanted to continue in the area, UAM had just opened the Confectionery and Bakery training in 2 years. For those who don’t know, when you take a gastronomy course, both in Brazil and abroad, the course is generally more geared towards general cuisine, but we always learn the basics of Confectionery and Bakery. Here in France (and I heard that in the USA too), in the past, students who wanted to be pastry chefs or work in bakery needed the general course and the specific course, that is, they studied longer than the others because these areas are much more precise and techniques than the general kitchen. The truth is that both the hot / cold kitchen and the confectionery and bakery require very specific skills and nowadays I know that it is already possible to enter directly into the Confectionery and Bakery, without having to go through the general kitchen. The bases for all modules were classic French cuisine, but we also had short modules on the gastronomy of other countries such as Mediterranean countries and Asian countries.
The Enology module was only at the end of the course and had a 180-hour load. My class was unfortunately the last one that had this workload and the following ones had a nice reduction, they were left with only 80 hours of Oenology (the other hours were divided into new modules inside the kitchen). The course was already run at the time because the subject is quite technical and extensive, and I can’t imagine what it must have been like after the restructuring of the course load.
The chefs at UAM were very demanding, always looking to see if our uniforms were clean, their knives sharp, and whether the “square” (our place of work) was organized and clean. No one should enter the class without having made the “attack plan” at home the day before, which was the summary of our preparations, organized by priority. This organization was very important because at the end of the day, students should present all their preparations at once, that is, everything had to be done together. If we didn’t plan what we were going to do, preparations would be delayed and the class score compromised.
Many students went on internships at renowned restaurants in São Paulo, but very few managed to get a more lasting contract. And when they got a contract, the wages were very low in relation to the proposed workload and the academic investment they had. Most were also unable to reconcile work and studies, as many people ended up working until 2 am. However, the internship was essential for our training because there we would gain agility for work and that “good sense of cook”, impossible to be learned in the classroom. The internship was also mandatory in the training, because if you did not do an X number of hours of internship, you would not earn your diploma. And yet, the internship was our “dose of reality”… after a few weeks’ internship in the kitchen, most realized that it was not what they would do for the rest of their lives.
Finally, I usually say to anyone who asks me that the Bachelor of Tourism should be a 2-year training course and Gastronomy studies should be 4 years old. During the Gastronomy course it is clear how much we fail to learn due to time I enjoy. A well-trained kitchen professional makes all the difference in the job market and has a lot to add to the establishments. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, practice is essential.
The course of ABS – SP
Before graduating in Tourism and Gastronomy, I took the opportunity to ask a professor of the Enology module what was needed to be able to work as sommelier and my teacher recommended the course to the Brazilian Association of Sommeliers of São Paulo. ABS was one of the only places that offered professional training in that area at that time. Today I know that there are many other places, but ABS remains a reference for professionals. To take the ABS professional course, it was mandatory to be working in some establishment in the area, such as importers of drinks, hotels, restaurants, etc. I left college already hired by a restaurant so I was able to easily enroll in the course and the restaurant where I worked at the time was willing to pay the course for me (because the amount was quite symbolic). The course would last one year, once a week, 3 hours of study per day, if my memory serves me correctly. It was like being a graduate student. The course was also divided into modules: one way of introducing wine, one of history and the others separated by countries. At the end of each module we had a test and these tests were eliminatory: anyone who did not reach the average would be removed from the course, having the possibility to start all over again in the next semester. The course was very hard, the tasting was difficult and there was also a mandatory internship at the end, as many people, despite working at an establishment in the area, had no experience in wine service, which was my case. One year of course, with classes once a week, unfortunately there is still little to study about wines. It is a very intellectual subject and requires a lot of dedication and many hours of study to understand the particularities of each grape, each terroir, new production techniques, among others.
Nowadays I know that the ABS course is more competitive than ever and the value now is the price of a college. For non-professional audiences, they also offer faster courses separated by countries, which are also expensive, but quite complete.