January 31, 2014

The Year of the Graduate Spotlight: Cory Lewis, Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas


Cory Lewis, Culinary Arts Student

Culinary Arts student Cory Lewis just landed on the island of St. Thomas. Although the sandy beaches, gorgeous sunsets and blue waters don’t hurt, the real draw for Lewis is the Ritz Carlton. Only a week into his role within its kitchen, he envisions his career ten years out within the company. Proudly giving “110 percent” everyday, he has quickly gained the trust of his superiors who are already sharing secrets to future success. Lewis tells us about applying for externships, why he loves the Ritz and the importance of peer support at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts.

Escoffier: How did you approach finding an externship?
Lewis: I knew I would apply to anything and everything. I applied to 23 internships. My buddy did 25. No matter what my name is going to get out there; they would at least have my resume. My favorite website [for finding job listings] was culintro.com. They post jobs for cooks and food service related jobs located all over the world. It doesn’t matter if you are qualified [for the specific job] or not, just send your resume and say you are looking for an externship. Of the 23 I applied to, I got ten call-backs/emails and five job offers including a two-star Michelin restaurant in San Francisco, Morimoto and the Ritz Carlton.

Escoffier: Well done! How did you choose to go with the Ritz?
Lewis: I immediately took the offer knowing what the Ritz Carlton was about and the great things they could provide for me. With the Ritz Carlton I can transfer anywhere in the world (that has a job opening) and learn. You never leave the company even if you leave your job. As long as you leave on good terms, you are always “part of the family” and go to the top of the list for job interviews. If you give them 110 percent they will always take care of you. So that is what I’m doing now. I’m trying to better myself each time I get on that line.

Escoffier: Can you tell us about your interview with the Ritz?
Lewis: Chef Mark and Chef Greg did a lot for me; they recommended me. And then I had a half-hour long phone interview. The chef told me about the expectations of the Ritz Carlton, which are really high. He asked questions about what would you do in a specific kitchen situation – like if you make a mistake. I said that I will always make mistakes and I would learn from them. I usually do not make the same mistake twice.

Escoffier: How did class prepare you for this externship?
Lewis: One day the Executive Chef was teaching us about food safety. Being fresh out of school, I kept rattling off [facts] and he gave me accolades. Cooking times and how to cook are very important. The Farm To Table® Experience [part of class] was great; I could give something that other people couldn’t such as learning about which type of soil is best to grow things in and respecting your products.

Escoffier: It sounds like there is a lot of opportunity for growth at the Ritz Carlton. Have you thought about your career goals?
Lewis: I have short term goals and long term goals. My three-to-five year goal is to become a Sous Chef, either here or at another Ritz Carlton restaurant. My eight-to-ten year goal is to become an Executive Chef with the Ritz Carlton. I would like to stay with the company. This is not a job; this is the start of a career.

Escoffier: You’ve talked about your goals within the company. What can you be doing now to achieve them?
Lewis: The Sous Chef let me in on a secret about applying for [upward] positions. When I apply for a Sous Chef position, I will have to present a menu to a tasting panel. They look for grilling, sautéing, and other cooking methods. I can start thinking about what I would pair together so when that times comes, I am ready. Already after four days my Sous Chef brought me into a whole new realm of possibilities and secrets of the kitchen! I have nothing but gratitude towards my Chef.

Escoffier: Do you have any advice to share with current students?
Lewis: The number one thing is to go to class. Number two is to be a sponge; put your hands into anything and everything. If you always do pastry, do pasta. If you always do pasta, do sauces. And just help. Be a helpful hand.

Escoffier: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Lewis: Well, I will say this: my class was probably the greatest class I could have had at Escoffier. Our class came in and we just meshed right away and nothing could get in among us. There was trust in the kitchen. We talked and studied together. It was a good time because I knew that we are great friends in the kitchen and out of the kitchen. Anyone can be his or her own cheerleader. But it was extremely helpful to have someone by your side to push you to apply to a few more [places] or give you that encouragement to keep going if you don’t hear back.

___________________________________________________________________________

If you are interested in attending Pastry or  Culinary School, contact our campuses for more information:

1.866.552.2433 Austin Campus

1.877.249.0305 Boulder Campus