November 12, 2021

It’s no secret that there’s currently a skilled labor shortage in American restaurants. The trend began over the past decade, and it’s only been exacerbated by COVID-19. 75% of restaurant operators reported that recruitment and retention of employees was their biggest challenge in June and July of 2021. And the shortage may grow, since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates 25% job growth for chefs and head cooks by 2030.

Part of the trouble may be the traditional school-to-job pipeline. Many people want to get a skills-based education, but they don’t have the option of quitting their jobs to focus full-time on school.

A possible solution? Schools and employers can work together to provide valuable education and work experience all at once. According to Annelise Goger with Brookings, “Earn-and-learn strategies combine work experience and education while simultaneously providing income. They offer a promising solution to overcome the historical segregation of work and learning, but our current earn-and-learn options are outdated and small in scale.”1

Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts is creating innovative solutions to this problem. By partnering with an academic institution, forward-thinking employers may be able to fill their open positions with high-quality, trained employees or train their own in-house employees who are brimming with company loyalty and enthusiasm for the culinary arts.

The Trouble With In-House Restaurant Employee Training

Traditionally, aspiring chefs would enroll in culinary school full-time. They would not begin their career in the kitchen until after they graduated. Then, they would continue to learn from their supervisors and more experienced colleagues. This method still works for some.

But the current skilled labor shortage seems to indicate that this approach leaves many behind. Fewer and fewer aspiring cooks and chefs have the luxury of focusing full-time on a culinary arts program prior to employment. And this is making it harder than ever to find skilled employees.

A chef looks over the stove in a large kitchen while other employees work in the distance

Plus, while there are many wonderful cooks and chefs out there who are willing to train their staff, that doesn’t mean they are adept educators. Teaching is its own unique skill. And an apprentice can only become great if they’re getting adequate training and instruction.

There are, of course, some things that employees must learn on the job, like recipes, standard operating procedures, and specialty techniques. But it can be much easier for an employee to absorb and retain these lessons if they’ve also established a strong foundation of technique and fundamentals. Plus, learning while concurrently working in a kitchen is a particularly unique situation that can allow for putting concepts into practice immediately!

Hire and Train Skilled, Passionate Employees With Escoffier’s Work & Learn Program

For over ten years, Escoffier has been making culinary school more accessible through online degree and diploma programs. Now, the unique Work & Learn program is going a step further to bring passionate cooks together with pioneering employers to everyone’s benefit.

What Is Work & Learn?

What is preventing many aspiring cooks and chefs from getting their education? It often comes down to the practicalities of life. For those who don’t have the option to press pause on life to become full-time students, Escoffier’s online culinary education bridges the gap. The online programs offer the flexibility necessary for working students to do both concurrently. With this framework already in place, the Escoffier Works team is now actively working with employers to help their employees get their culinary training.

When a restaurant (or other food service operation) teams up with Work & Learn, they secure a $2,000 scholarship for each employee who enrolls at Escoffier’s online program.The program asks employers to match that scholarship with an additional $2,000 contribution, but it is not required.

Students can elect to study the program that most interests them. They receive a high-quality, online education with $2,000 to $4,000 in scholarship funding (or more, if the employer chooses). The employer gets a skilled employee who is ready to grow with the company. And since Escoffier is a state licensed and accredited institution, students receive a reputable, reliable degree or diploma without quitting their job or taking a leave of absence.

This program also establishes a culture of learning at the restaurant, and proves that an employer is willing to invest in their team. This kind of giving can earn employee loyalty and spread positive word-of-mouth about company values. It’s a win for everyone.

Tracy Teichman, Escoffier Corporate Partnerships Director“We call it an apprenticeship reimagined, because in so many ways, that’s what it is. The students are picking up skills and bringing those skills right back into their workplace the next day. These newly acquired skills are coming into the kitchen where the employee is needed immediately, rather than waiting 15 months or 21 months until they’ve graduated. There’s no reason for that.”
Tracy Teichman, Escoffier Corporate Partnerships Director

What Programs Are Available for Work & Learn?

Work & Learn students can enroll in the program their employer selects, or choose the program that will be of the most value to their career, whether that’s culinary arts, baking and pastry arts, plant-based culinary arts, or hospitality and restaurant management.

Further, students can choose either to work towards a diploma or for an associate’s degree. According to Tracy Teichman, Escoffier’s Corporate Partnerships Director, most students start with a diploma program. Then they may add the general education courses needed to complete their associate’s degree at the end of their programs.

Access Specialized Skills-Based Education With Customized Training Plans

What if there’s a specific skill that employers want a team or department to learn? Custom training from Escoffier can provide up-skilling opportunities that make employees better equipped to meet the challenges of the kitchen.

Custom training can encourage increased employee engagement and growth, helping the team to feel excited and enthusiastic about their work and the company. Taught by professional Chef Instructors using proven education methods, this type of training can lead to better employee retention and higher-quality food output.

Understanding Custom Training Plans

There are three basic tiers of training plans at Escoffier. But since these are customized for each employer, there’s a great deal of flexibility in designing each program.

Basic Competencies

Training in the basic competencies can help entry-level employees to work at a higher standard. For example, a restaurant that wishes to expand into offsite catering may want to provide training in sanitation, food safety, food storage, and setting up a catering station.

This kind of cross-training can also create the option for station rotation flexibility. A garde manger who is also trained in pastry and the fry station will be of immense value—especially when the fry cook calls in sick or the pastry cook is running behind!

Frank Vollkommer, Certified Master Pastry Chef® & Escoffier Director of Culinary Industry Development“Recently, we launched a pasta and pasta sauce self-guided workshop to thousands of schools across the continental United States as free content. There are several videos in there of us making handmade pasta, handling the doughs, cutting noodles, making sauce sauce, plating techniques, and so on. Upon satisfactory completion, the student will get a digital badge and a printable certificate of completion.”
Frank Vollkommer, Certified Master Pastry Chef®, Culinary Olympics Gold Medalist & Escoffier Director Of Culinary Industry Development

Close up photo of pasta noddles sitting in flour

Advanced Curriculums

For employees who have already progressed beyond entry-level, advanced curriculums can take their skills to new heights. Perhaps a hotel employer partner wishes to improve their overall pastry offerings. Escoffier can create an advanced program to elevate their plated desserts or provide chocolatier training.

White Label and Proprietary Education

The final category of custom training is white label and proprietary education.

What is “white labeling”?

    • “White label” refers to the process by which one company creates a product or service on behalf of another. The recipient company will then rebrand the product or service with their company name and imagery to make it an internal offering.
    • Store brand products are often white labeled, created by one company and then sold under the name and brand of the retailer.

Some employer partners have their own unique processes and methods. Chain restaurants, for example, have their own standard operating procedures and their own proprietary techniques.

Escoffier can bring the employer’s existing methods together with tried-and-true educational expertise for a training program unique to the company. As Frank Vollkommer, Escoffier’s Director of Culinary Industry Development, explains, “If one of our partners has a very specific process that they would like to train their employees in, we would work with that company to actually involve their talent and our production capacity to build custom content for them. The end result could be a short course or a bundle of short courses with their executive chef in the videos representing the techniques that they want to share.”

Why Outsource Training?

Employers know what their teams need to learn. But unless they’re trained educators, they may not know the best way to teach the information for clarity and retention.

As an accredited educational institution, Escoffier is adept at building stackable, competency-based courses. Instead of teaching individual recipes or single processes, this type of training is organized with clear objectives and learning outcomes to work towards. Learning how to do something is helpful today. But learning why it works will create stronger, empowered employees in the long run.

For example, a restaurant could teach its employees how to make a single salad dressing. Or it could provide a custom training program that teaches the science behind emulsification, offers techniques based on batch sizes, explains troubleshooting options, and more—all supported by its own internal dressing recipes.

Chef using a spoon to pour sauce over a plate of food

Escoffier’s custom training plans can also provide mixed multimedia training that aids in knowledge retention. Additional resources like a written narrative, video and audio narratives, photos, diagrams, and slide presentations create a stronger educational experience than a one-dimensional video or written course.

Escoffier is already set up with the capabilities, including a professional production crew and studio, to make high-quality demonstration videos. The crew can travel to the partner facility, or the content can be created in Escoffier’s studio. The resulting courses are sleek and polished.

Finally, Escoffier’s custom training programs are taught by skilled Chef Instructors. With a large roster of specialized instructors to choose from, finding the right person to teach each course is simple. For example, a recent course for the Research Chefs Association was taught by Chef Instructors with a food science and research and development background.

Frank Vollkommer, Certified Master Pastry Chef® & Escoffier Director of Culinary Industry Development“Through a partnership with Escoffier, employers are supporting both their current and future employees. They understand that it’s a great way to not only attract new talent but to improve retention of their current employees.”
Frank Vollkommer, Certified Master Pastry Chef®, Culinary Olympics Gold Medalist & Escoffier Director Of Culinary Industry Development

The Future of Restaurant Employee Training

The old method of employee training works for some. But it leaves others behind. Forward-thinking restaurants and food service establishments will have to look to new ways of filling their kitchens with trained employees if they want to stay competitive.

Instead of fighting with other kitchens for talent, Escoffier’s custom training programs can help food businesses to nurture the talent they already have and attract career-oriented cooks. It benefits the employee, the employer, and the industry as a whole.

Questions? Contact our Escoffier Works Team to learn more about Work & Learn and customized training programs for your employees.

To learn more about restaurant employers and the hospitality industry, try these articles next: