Rob Hansen: Well, I came to BJU as a student, and when I came culinary arts as a major did not exist. But I had the opportunity to be one of the first students in it and get my degree in culinary arts and then in restaurant management. And then the opportunity came to stay on campus and work in food service. And after a couple years the opportunity came to start teaching as well. And that has been almost 18 years ago now, and I’ve been doing it ever since and really love what I’m doing and view it as a great opportunity.
I enjoy teaching culinary because it’s multifaceted and it’s always changing. What I taught 18 years ago isn’t the same thing that I’m teaching now. The students that I’m teaching now aren’t the same as they were back then.
I think one of the things that makes our program unique is the close-knit family bond that we have. And it might seem a little weird for a college to have a family atmosphere in a major but because we’re together so much we really get to know each other really well. And that’s one of the things that even after graduation, as a graduate they’ll come back to town or they’ll call us or message us somehow and just see how we’re doing. And we’ll ask them how they’re doing. And we have a prayer group page that we’re able to communicate with current students and graduates. And it’s really encouraging to have kids that have been out for five, ten years letting kids know that are current students, Hey, we’re praying for you guys. And we know where you’ve been and where you are right now. And we survived, and you can do it, too. And so there’s that bond that we really enjoy as a major.
It’s a biblical thing, too. Hospitality, food, sharing—all that stuff really ties together. And it gives us an opportunity to use a profession, cooking, to share the Gospel, to share love, to show things that people that would never come to church. I get an opportunity to share the Gospel with them while I’m working and doing what I enjoy. We had a graduate who I was able to go on a mission team with. And we went to Austria. I got to visit some missionaries we were friends with for a good long time. We were able to use our culinary skills. They had a group come to their backyard for a cookout, so we were able to put together some kebabs and cook some sausages. And that was just a really special time with one of the graduates that we together got to be involved in ministry to great help for the missionary that we were visiting with.
Obviously, in teaching, I’m teaching a group of students, but I’m also working in the community and sharing the Gospel with the people that I work with. It’s not like you’re going in every day and, you know, quoting Bible verses with them. But over the course of time, you develop relationships and then that leads to conversations. And it’s not easy sometimes. It takes intentionality to guide the direction of the conversation to be something that is towards the Gospel. But then when it gets there, you really have an opportunity to open up and share because these are people that you’ve been through the fire of cooking—quite literally. And so they understand that this is who you are, that this isn’t just a show or a facade, that this is something that’s real in your life. And they really respect that.
So many different students and each student is unique, just seeing them grow and mature both in their culinary skills personally but also spiritually so that we can see that they are being successful. We want them to be in the community, we want them to be in their profession sharing the Gospel. It’s definitely my goal for the students. You know, we tell them from the very beginning that, Yes, you are training to be a chef, but you’re also training to be a missionary to the food service industry. And it’s a huge industry. There’s millions of people who work in it, and without us sharing the Gospel with them, many of them will never hear. So by being involved, by doing what you do and doing what you love, you still get the opportunity to share the Gospel.