When it came down to lining up her externship, Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts Boulder student Suzanne Armstrong thought outside her comfort zone as to what the most rewarding experience would be for her and her career. Her leap of faith paid off, as she will be joining the kitchen staff in one of Barcelona’s best restaurants, the one Michelin starred Xerta. For Armstrong, this presents itself as more than just a chance to experience the culture and cuisine of a different country but also a way for her to learn and grow as an aspiring chef.
Armstrong took some time to talk with us about how the Career Services department helped with her externship, what she’s looking forward to most and why the Farm-to-Table Experience played such a large part in why she chose Escoffier.
Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts: Why did you choose go to culinary school?
Suzanne Armstrong: Attending culinary school has been a dream of mine for the past few years. I am driven by the creative process and working with food is something I just naturally love. I was ready to learn, grow, and expand my understanding of cooking and ingredients, so culinary school felt like the most natural, next step for me.
AESCA: Why did you choose Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts?
SA: I choose to attend Escoffier primarily because of the farm-to-table program. I was very interested in learning how this model of sourcing ingredients and producing food works. I believe there is room for the food system in this country to evolve and improve on many levels and being part of this change is something I hold close to my heart. I believe in the importance of sustainability and ethical sourcing and hope to grow more familiar with the farm-to-table philosophy.
AESCA: You have your externship lined up with Xerta, a 1 Michelin starred restaurant in Barcelona. Can you talk about why you chose that restaurant/opportunity?
SA: I have been dreaming of traveling to Spain to learn more about cooking for quite some time. Spanish gastronomy is often recognized as some of the most innovative in the world, yet there is also a fabric of history and tradition that gives the food its soulfulness.
Once I began my culinary education, the externship program seemed to me like a fantastic way to make this aspiration a reality. I began looking for an externship opportunity in Spain last fall, knowing it would take time to come together. I set the personal goal of securing an externship in a Michelin starred kitchen for the learning potential. After trying several avenues, Xerta became an opportunity, and I was very excited and grateful to move forward with it.
AESCA: What are you most excited about for your externship?
SA: I am very excited for several aspects of my externship! I am really looking forward to becoming part of a team that is producing incredible cuisine at such a high level. I am looking forward to learning how a Michelin starred kitchen operates, what their values are, and how they approach the process of creating and executing. I am also really looking forward to getting to know Spanish food culture.
AESCA: What are you most nervous about?
SA: I am most nervous about integrating into my job with limited Spanish! Barcelona is an international city, but I believe there is an expectation of basic communication in the native language. I have been making time to improve my Spanish skills and hopefully I can navigate my externship and the city without trouble.
AESCA: How did Escoffier’s Career Services department help with securing the externship?
SA: I worked directly with the Director of Career Services, Susan, and she was immensely helpful. She always had an optimistic outlook on my goal to extern in Spain and encouraged my plans. She connected me with an organization that facilitates externships abroad for culinary and hospitality students. With that contact, I was able to secure my externship at Xerta in Barcelona.
AESCA: What advice do you have for others looking to go abroad for their externship?
SA: I believe that studying abroad can be an incredible opportunity to learn and grow as an aspiring chef. The thought of leaving everyone you know and your familiar way of life can be overwhelming, but the opportunities outweigh the drawbacks, in my opinion. With patience and determination, the right opportunity will come to you and having helpful contacts from Escoffier and the host country can make the transition smooth.