Robert Eckert

If you’ve ever tried making food from scratch, then you know how there are so many ways it can go wrong. Learning to have time management, taking responsibility for your failures and not giving up are just some of the unexpected skills needed in the kitchen new culinary teacher Robert Eckert hopes to teach students.

Eckert said he wants to teach his students life lessons to take on with them through high school and beyond. Whether it’s cooking or learning any new skill, it is important to have a solid base. 

“Have a strong foundation, and you build tall buildings,” Eckert said. “Same thing with your education. You start simple and you learn the ins and outs of the basics that you can grab and build from there.” 

Eckert attended Morris County School of Technology, and within two years received his certificate in culinary arts. Although he always knew he wanted a culinary-related career, he never planned on being a teacher. 

“Cooking?” Eckert said. “Yes. Teaching? No, that kind of fell into my lap. It kind of came out of nowhere, and I gravitated towards it. And I’ve been happy with my decision since.”

Eckert was looking for a more long-term job opportunity when he came across being a teacher here at West Essex. This year, Eckert is teaching Food and Sports Nutrition, Culinary Arts I and Culinary Arts II. 

“I fell in love with the school immediately,” Eckert said. “The staff was very supportive and that was it.”

Eckert started the school year teaching remotely until he finished at his previous job. He came up with a method to pre-record his lessons which showcased the skills they were learning. The students gravitated toward this method and overall found it to be useful and educational. 

A typical day in Eckert’s culinary classes includes a lecture or a lab based on the science of practicality or what they will be cooking that day. The students utilize the information they learned in the lecture or lab and practice preparing the food taught. Then, at the end of class, students will reflect on their work and any issues they encountered while cooking and try to correct them for next time. 

When Eckert is not teaching, he is spending his time with his two kids. He also loves playing guitar and fishing. 

If there is anything that Eckert hopes his students can take away from his classes, he said, he hopes it is that they learn to make food from scratch and that they learn life skills to take on with them. 

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