By Laura Denby—Student, School of Culinary Arts
As a culinary student with a graduation date looming in the not-too-distant future, securing my externship has recently been at the forefront of my mind. Luckily, I was able to secure a placement at Tasting Table—an amazing food media outlet—that I cannot wait to start. However, making that choice wasn’t easy. With so many different culinary career options, picking an externship site that fit my personal goals, schedule and experience level was an arduous task. Below are some tips that I learned along the way:
Do Your Homework
If you’re looking for an externship in restaurants, for example, research different restaurants, chefs and styles of food. Visit restaurants that you’re interested in and sample some of the menu items. By taking time to understand the chef’s style and perspective, you’ll get a better understanding of the restaurant as a work environment.
Use Your Resources
The chef instructors at ICE have worked at some of the best restaurants in the country and know the ins and outs of NYC’s most prestigious culinary employers. Who better to ask for advice than the people who know the industry best?
Trail, Trail, Trail
There’s no better way to determine if an externship site is a good fit for you than to spend a day in their kitchen. Especially if you’re just starting out in the industry, trailing is a unique way to network and test your skills. Observe, listen and taste everything. Work hard and be prepared. Even if you aren’t looking for an externship, trailing at a company you admire is an invaluable way to gain insight into the different ways professional kitchens and other culinary businesses are run.
Just because an externship site feels comfortable doesn’t mean it’s a good fit. The purpose of an externship is to hone your skills in a professional environment and experience the culinary world outside the classroom. Push yourself. Aim for the most prestigious placement you can get and learn to operate at their level of professionalism.
In the end, only you can determine whether an externship site is a good fit. Take time to understand exactly what you’re looking for and focus on sites that meet your criteria. Strive for the most ambitious placement you can get, but make sure you are deeply interested and willing to work in that environment—don’t just work for a famous chef or hospitality group so that you can put the name on your resume. Take my experience as an example: if you follow the steps described, you are bound to find an externship that is as fulfilling and rewarding as the months you spent in the classroom at ICE.
Click here to learn more about ICE’s externship program.