If you’re serious about a culinary career, you probably understand the value of a chef mentor. These experienced culinary pros can help you create a plan for your career, hold you accountable when you commit to taking the next steps, and make valuable introductions to other chefs and culinarians.
However, knowing you need a culinary mentor and finding a culinary mentor are very different things!
Mentors are all around, if you only know where to look. Here are some resources you can access in your search for a chef mentor, both during and after your culinary school education.
Make the Most of Chef Instructors
Culinary school students have an enormous advantage when it comes to finding mentorship, due to their access to experienced, educated Chef Instructors. These experts’ goal is to help prepare you for life after school while they teach what they know about cooking and hospitality.
Some Chef Instructors at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts have decades of knowledge, and they can’t possibly impart it all in a 30-week diploma or 60-week degree program. So they’re often happy to provide mentorship and guidance to students both during their schooling and after.
“What I love most about my job is seeing my students progress week after week, and to share the knowledge I once got from my mentors with my students.”
Chef Cesar Herrera, Escoffier Boulder Chef Instructor
Austin Chef Instructor John Hummel says that a mentorship connection with students happens organically. Still, students need to take the initiative. Ask plenty of questions and show the instructor that you value their input.
Escoffier graduate and U.S. Army veteran Tiffany Moore was encouraged by her Chef Instructors to stick with her education after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Now, Tiffany is in great health and on her way to opening her own farm-to-table restaurant!
“I got my MS diagnosis while I was going through school, and I almost quit. I reached out to one of my Chefs, and she just encouraged me, and she told me of a chef by the name of Paul Prudhomme who ran his kitchen from a wheelchair. My instructor told me that I didn’t have to stop and checked on me all the time through text and email. The support from Escoffier was there when I was going through a life crisis.”
Tiffany Moore, Escoffier Online Culinary Arts Graduate
If you find that you’ve bonded particularly well with a Chef Instructor, ask them if they’d be willing to share their contact info, so you can continue to check in throughout your career.
Join a Culinary Organization
There are dozens of culinary associations that can be excellent sources of mentorship. Any group that gathers chefs and cooks together, either online or in-person, could be a great resource for finding a helpful guide.
The American Culinary Federation, for example, has a structured mentorship program. Chefs must apply and complete mentor training in order to take part.
We also share a namesake with two chef organizations! Disciples Escoffier and Les Dames d’Escoffier International are both networking and philanthropic groups for chefs and other culinary professionals. These invitation-only groups count some of the best of the best among their members – some of whom are also Escoffier Chef Instructors.
There are also specialty organizations that you could join, depending on your field. Escoffier graduate and Research Chef Consultant Chris McAdams has both received and provided mentorship through the Research Chefs Association.
Other niche groups include the United States Personal Chef Association and the American Personal & Private Chef Association. And of course, there are local chef organizations where you can seek mentorship in your area.
“One of the things that’s really helped me in my position is my relationship with the Research Chefs Association, which gives me a whole battery of folks who also work in food development careers, and who are willing to answer questions, support each other, and do things together. No one person can ever have the answer to every problem.”
Chris McAdams, Research Chef & Boulder Culinary Arts Graduate
Look Close to Home
Many culinary school students work in the industry, even while they’re completing their education. And all students at Escoffier will complete an industry externship as part of their curriculum. Is there a mentor in the kitchen with you?
The sous chef or executive chef at your job or externship could be a great fit for this role. Obviously, the executive chef can’t be a mentor to every cook in the kitchen. But some cooks aren’t looking for mentorship or career building. To them, working in the kitchen is just a job.
As a career-oriented cook or chef, you will stand out among the rest of the kitchen crew when you approach a leader on the team for advice and guidance. And if they’re not available, they may be able to recommend another chef in their network.
“I recommend people find mentors and learn from as many people as you can along the way.”
Chef Ben Robinson of the Bravo network hit show “Below Deck Mediterranean
Access the Auguste Escoffier Alumni Association
For Escoffier graduates, the Auguste Escoffier Alumni Association is a prime place to find a culinary mentor.
Students who are preparing for their externship will gain early access to the network. When graduates set up their profiles, they can indicate whether they’re looking to receive mentorship or provide mentorship to new graduates. When students log in, they’ll see a “Mentoring” tab in the sidebar. If they click “Find a Mentor,” they’ll be able to search for mentors among the graduates by job function, industry, company, and location.
Tiffany Moore helps to mentor students in the Escoffier alumni network as they near graduation, helping them to make that final push as they complete their programs and offering advice for next steps. With over 2,600 members as of this writing, there could be many resources for students and graduates to find guidance.
“In the Alumni Association, people tag me all the time with questions like, ‘How was school?’ ‘How did you do this particular thing in class?’ So I’m able to give knowledge as an alumnus to current students…”
Tiffany Moore, U.S. Army Veteran & Online Culinary Arts Graduate
Escoffier is also working on additional mentorship opportunities, including a Mentoring Week and a more formal mentorship program that will be available to graduates.
Is There a Right Time to Find a Culinary Mentor?
The right time is now! No matter where you are in your career, there is always someone who’s been there before. Connecting with these people can help you avoid missteps and make smart choices when you’re at a crossroads.
It’s never too soon to ask for advice, and never too late. To access the mentorship opportunities at Escoffier, start your application today!
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