Many college students live on a diet of ramen noodles and trips to the local campus dining halls, but some Ohio State students are learning how to cook healthy and flavorful meals with the help of OUAB chef Marc Dullin.
Dullin, a third-generation chef, teaches “OUAB in the Kitchen,” where every week dozens of students head into the Ohio Union’s basement to the Instructional Kitchen. The OUAB event allows students the rare opportunity to learn to cook a full-course meal from all types of cuisine, all in a high-class kitchen located in a classroom setting, a point Dullin said was why he came to OSU.
“Not only am I doing something that I love doing, but look at this place,” he said, referring to the kitchen. “This is state of the art … I think it’s one of the most unique kitchens you have ever seen in the world.”
The kitchen includes cooking stations that are fully equipped with things like stovetops, fryers, refrigerators, cutting stations and grills.
Dullin, who was born in France, did his culinary schooling in Paris. Although he completed the three- to four-year program, Dullin said this did not make him a chef, only a cook.
“How you become a chef is basically years of working at different places under a lot of other chefs that have a lot of talent,” he said. “You work with people who have a little bit more experience than you, and you pick up from them.”
After working in different restaurants and hotels across multiple countries, Dullin said his career aspirations began to change.
“I was in South America and I wanted to get back into the United States, so I got an offer to be an executive chef in Dayton, Ohio,” Dullin said. “From there, I mean it was just one job to another toward Columbus.”
Dullin found a passion for teaching soon after and began to search for a job that would offer him the opportunity.
“I always wanted to teach, toward the end of my career I always wanted to give,” he said. “My legacy is to give my knowledge to somebody.”
Dullin eventually found his way to the Columbus Culinary Institute, where he taught for nearly three years. After an offer from OSU came up, Dullin left because he felt that the job at OSU was more prestigious.
“Oh, I love it tremendously,” he said. “Not only does Ohio State have so much to offer … I feel privileged to work here.”
Although the cooking class was already around and Dullin said he wasn’t responsible for its start and success, he did help OUAB expand it.
“What I can do and what I am proud of saying is we took this program to another level,” he said.
The level seems to be working very well for the class — every week is packed full and even has a waitlist. Students not only enjoy a free meal that they made themselves, but get to learn different cooking techniques. OUAB committee member and doctoral candidate in earth sciences Melissa Wrzesien said that Dullin might have a lot to do with students returning.
“There are people who come back multiple times and he remembers them and they remember him,” she said. “(The classes) could be very boring and you might just get free food, but it’s a whole evening with him, which is great.”
Dullin said that there comes a hardship when teaching many students who don’t have a wide knowledge of cooking.
“It’s probably the biggest challenge that I don’t know where the skill level is,” he said. “I have a disclaimer that says, ‘Hey, there is so much I can show you and there is so little I can show you.’”
Students shouldn’t feel discouraged if their cooking skills don’t measure up to those on TV cooking shows. Dullin says that the reality TV programs are far from the truth of a real kitchen atmosphere.
“Here is the problem that we have … the chef shows on TV …they are not a reality,” he said. “For example, nobody ever runs in the kitchen … it is against the rules.”
When asked how his personality is in the kitchen is, Dullin said that he can be intense but fun.
“I’m so passionate that sometimes it comes across as being a little stern,” Dullin said, adding that he mixes it up with humor to keep the environment interesting.
“He’s very engaging and tells jokes as he goes along,” Wrzesien said. “He makes it such an event.”
Although he says he feels passionate about teaching others how to cook, Dullin said it’s a little ironic.
“I wasn’t really a scholar and I don’t hesitate to say that,” he said. “I think that it’s funny that I am back into a school after so many years.”
While cooking might have already been in Dullin’s blood, he says he has fallen in love with it.
“I was so attracted to cooking … I was lucky enough to discover my passion … a reason of being. Cooking is such a central part of our social life … cooking surrounds everything we do,” he said. “All my life I have never regretted to be a chef.”