By: Kathryn Dwyer, Culinary Arts Student
I suppose I’m not your average culinary student; I never had aspirations of becoming a chef or owning a restaurant, neither had I worked in a kitchen nor cooked professionally. I just love food – I love to cook and talk about ingredients, love to think about recipes and menus, I love to read about restaurants and fantasize about foodie adventures. I came to culinary school to fulfill a dream, to expand my own knowledge and immerse myself in the world of food I’d only just peeked in on through my home kitchen. I chose Auguste Escoffier looking to put something solid behind my most passionate pastime and build my future career.
The externship portion of the culinary program is probably as important as the time in the classroom. It is your chance to take all the skills you’ve picked up and apply them in the real world and it will most likely be your first reference and jumping-off point of your culinary career. Beginning the process of finding an externship is something that should be done early and with vigor. It is important to have it set up so you can begin and finish on time. I wish I could say I’d done it all correctly, but I totally procrastinated. To be honest, the whole thing greatly intimidated me. I had literally no culinary experience to speak of (outside of school) and I wasn’t interested in working in a fast-paced, competitive restaurant; I didn’t know where to start. But, help is always to be found at Auguste Escoffier and a meeting with my career advisor set me straight. Chef Pamela Palmer at the Boulder campus assessed my apprehensions and what I needed and made the connection. He gave me the name and number of a meal service company that specialized in organic, locally sourced ingredients. “Back to Basics Kitchen”, owned by two very cool women, needed someone ASAP. It was perfect.
I interviewed with Back to Basics Kitchen, we talked about my experience (they were happy I liked to bake) and about how they ran their meal service (sourcing all the ingredients themselves, as well as catering to special-needs diets), they went over their crazy schedule (three 10ish hour days a week) and after seeing my work that afternoon, we decided I’d be a good fit. The first few shifts were intense; I’d never chopped so many onions in my life. I went home mentally and physically exhausted, reeking of whatever we’d been cooking, blisters on my hands; but I loved it. The feeling of accomplishment in breaking down 25 chickens, of trimming an entire flat of green beans or rolling 250 enchiladas left me wanting more.
At Back to Basics Kitchen we cook healthy, wholesome food with local and organic ingredients, we focus on special diet requirements like gluten or dairy free and paleo diets. Each week a menu is posted on their website and customers can go online and order, there is no subscription or requirements for what you buy, it’s all al a carte and the menu changes every week. There are a few products that are available all the time, such as paleo apple-almond cookies and a popular gluten-free Brazilian cheese bread they call “ponjoo”. We package the food in eco-friendly containers and it is either delivered or picked-up at one of several locations around Boulder County. My job has been to prep ingredients, help cook and package the food. In three days we do it all and each week it’s an adventure to see how it all comes together.
The part of my externship that has been my favorite, the most important to me, has been working with such intelligent, thoughtful, open-minded and wonderful women. To see how they are building their business, to witness how they are expanding, making decisions, planning their future all while creating completely from-scratch, nourishing food has been the most educational part of my externship. They inspire me to widen the horizons of my aspirations.
At Back to Basics Kitchen, I have really been welcomed in, my opinion matters and my ideas are heard. I felt very honored they asked me to help with their social media and it has been really fun to contribute photos to their Instagram account. They want to know what I think about a menu idea, they ask for my opinion on techniques, I feel like they value me and what I have to contribute. I’ve even approached them with recipe ideas and in the last few weeks we have been testing and costing out one of them for an upcoming menu. Recipe testing is one of my favorite tasks, I feel a lot of responsibility in documenting everything correctly but it is so much fun to try out an idea and through brain-storming, tweaking and trial and error, getting it just right. It is the respect they have for my abilities, coupled with the positive environment and common goal for quality food that has made my externship so rewarding.
I was incredibly nervous about my externship, but there are more choices following culinary school than working on the line in a restaurant. My externship turned out to be one of the best experiences of my culinary school program; I’ve learned so much about business, work dynamics, about ingredients and food production. Something I didn’t expect to internalize, however, is that I am totally capable. I am good with food, my ideas are valid and needed, I have a palate and I am creative. The experience with Back to Basics Kitchen has made me feel confident, useful and above all proven to myself that with food is where I belong. I am so grateful for the opportunity, for Chef Mark and Boulder campus career services for getting me the position and for the experience at Auguste Escoffier that brought me on this fundamental and exuberant journey.
If you are interested in attending Pastry or Culinary School, please contact our campuses for more information:
1.866.552.2433 Austin Campus
1.877.249.0305 Boulder Campus