A cook with ample experience in a professional kitchen will feel prepared when it’s time to enter the real world and go after their dream job. This is what makes internships and externships such an important aspect of culinary school.
Internships and externships are both types of experiential learning opportunities, but they differ in a few key ways. For one, internships typically last longer. These are more general placements that allow students to learn important culinary skills and get comfortable in a kitchen.
Externships, on the other hand, are shorter in length and niche-specific. These allow students to build skills they need for their desired career and focus on the type of cooking they’d like to do after graduating. Both open students to opportunities they wouldn’t have in classes alone and allow them to practice working in operational kitchens.
Externships are part of every student’s experience at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts. In fact, students must complete an approved industry externship as one of their final graduation requirements from all of our programs.
Learn more about how the internships and externships you take part in as a culinary student can enrich your career and give you the confidence and experience you need to pursue your dreams.
Hands-On Experience With Guidance and Feedback
In your culinary classes, your mentors will teach, guide, and encourage you in a controlled classroom environment. However, opportunities to practice and apply these skills in real kitchens are essential to one day becoming the best chef you can be.
Externships afford you opportunities to develop your craft under the direction of veteran culinarians. They will give you feedback to make you a stronger culinarian and work on skills you would like to develop, just as your Chef Instructors do in class. Escoffier Pastry Arts graduate Kjersti Walker, for example, was able to practice her piping during her externship with Biltmore Estate in North Carolina.
“Honing in on the skills [in an externship] is so important. I was able to hone in on my piping … I was able to play with that and delve into [it] and make different desserts.”
Kjersti Walker, Escoffier Pastry Arts Graduate
Before beginning her externship, Walker knew that she had a strong grasp of flavor, but that her piping skills and technique could use improvement. After several weeks at this establishment and plenty of practice, she walked away a more skilled and experienced pastry chef.
This hands-on experience translates to better job prospects, too. When hiring new chefs or cooks, restaurants tend to fill positions with the most experienced candidates. They want to know that you have what it takes to keep up in fast-paced and fluid kitchens. The more time you spend in professional kitchens before graduating, the more prepared you will be to blend seamlessly into a new kitchen after graduating.
What Can You Learn From an Externship?
What exactly you learn from an externship is up to you. You may target any of the following subsets of skills in your placement and more:
- Presentation and plating
- Ingredient sourcing
- Recipe development
- Kitchen and business management
- Use of global flavors
- Improvement of guest experiences
Once you decide what you’d like to specialize in as a cook, you can find a food service operation to extern at that will give you room to exercise and expand your talents within this specialty. Every externship is different—there is no one-size-fits-all — just as there is no single type of chef.
As a student, you’ll have the opportunity to find your own externships that align with your career goals. The Escoffier curriculum is designed to help you start thinking about these goals early on, so that you are prepared to pursue them when the time comes. But if you’re not yet sure what type of job you’d like after graduation, you can explore your options through varied externships.
Opportunities to Explore Your Interests
As mentioned, some cooks know exactly what they want to do before they even enter culinary school, but others need time to choose a path for themselves. Culinary internships and externships can help you gain a sense of direction and purpose.
Externships are great for exploring different interests because they are often shorter than internships and more specific. They can help students visualize what they may want and try on many different hats until they find a good fit.
You may be like Escoffier Culinary Arts graduate Jane Dodson, for example, who knew what she wanted before enrolling in culinary school. With her sight set on becoming a chef on Disney cruises, she accepted an externship with The Disney Culinary Program during her time at Escoffier.
“In January of 2016, I decided I wanted to become a chef on a Disney cruise line. I came to the realization that you have to have a degree in culinary arts to achieve that. I decided to attend school at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts and, little did I know, this school would [work with me to help me be selected by] Disney. Escoffier has set me up to reach for my dreams and, thanks to Career Services, I have accepted an internship with The Disney Culinary Program.”
Jane Dodson, Escoffier Culinary Arts Graduate
Or you may be more like Alex Weis, who completed many fine dining externships before deciding that he wanted to pursue Michelin cooking, eventually securing a position after graduation with a Michelin one-star restaurant.
Even if you think you have a good idea of where you want your culinary career to take you, you may change your mind after shadowing different kitchens and testing out several different options. Who knows what a great externship may inspire you to do?
Chances to Network With Other Professionals
You might not think that networking is important for chefs, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, the food industry is highly competitive, and chefs need to network with other professionals to get ahead.
Escoffier can help pair you with capable mentors during your time with the institute, but there’s no reason you can’t look to other professionals for mentorship. You may meet a chef in one of your externships that you really admire, and you can—and should—ask them as many questions as you can on your path to becoming a better chef.
Sometimes, networking with the right people can help you land the job of your dreams. Take John Hadala, another Escoffier Culinary Arts graduate, for example. After his externship, he was offered a job.
“One of the best parts about Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts is they help you along the way to find externships. I went in and talked to the Sous Chef, and then started going in two days a week to learn prior to my externship. At the end of my externship, my Sous Chef said that if I gave him a few weeks, he could probably get me a job. You have to be patient in small kitchens, and you have to let them know how you feel, too.”
John Hadala, Escoffier Culinary Arts Graduate
Be proactive about not only seeking out excellent placements, but also about making your time in those placements worthwhile. Build relationships with people you meet in your various professional experiences and keep in touch with them. You never know who may help you later on.
Build a Resume to Launch Your Career
Every restaurant you have the chance to work in as a culinary student can have an impact on your career. Each kitchen you work in can teach you something about yourself and about food.
As a chef, your resume starts when you’re in school. A culinary externship can give you a robust skillset. This will make you an appealing candidate to hiring managers, who look for cooks and culinarians that are flexible and quick on their feet.
It’s also important to be able to name what you’ve learned from your hands-on experiences on your resume, as this will help employers to see how your craft has grown and developed. Always think about this every time you step out of a kitchen, and maintain this mindset of continued learning throughout your career.
Escoffier graduates tend to have a competitive edge over their peers, and this has a lot to do with the institute’s emphasis on experiential learning. Hosea Rosenberg, Executive Chef & Owner of Blackbelly and Top Chef Winner; Paul Ferzacca, Chef & Owner of Law Tour; and Josh Hasho, Executive Chef at Omni Hotels & Resorts, among others, have hired many Escoffier graduates over the years and been pleased with their preparedness and dedication.
Think of culinary externships as extensions of your career. If you know that you want to work in a kitchen some day that specializes in cutting-edge tasting menus, give your career a head start by choosing an externship that focuses on skills this will require.
Or if you want to cook strictly vegan cuisine and inventive dishes that put the spotlight on great produce, an externship that gives you experience sourcing fresh and high quality ingredients, coordinating with farmers, and studying ways to cook more sustainably belongs on your resume.
Finding the Right Externship For You
All Escoffier students must secure and complete externships before graduating. And although you have a lot of say in what these will look like for you, you’re not alone in selecting them. Escoffier Career Services staff is committed to helping every student find shadowing positions, whether they attend the school in-person or online.
“Students graduating in the online program are placed in the same types of positions with the same organizations as ground students.”
Miles Mitchell, Escoffier Chief Academic Officer
Turn to your mentors and Chef Instructors as well for guidance when choosing learning experiences outside of school. They will have a good understanding of where you excel, and what you still need to practice, as well as what restaurants and employers look for in culinary school graduates.
When you’re ready to commit to a culinary education, and all of the valuable experiences that come with it, reach out to our team to get started with your application.
Here are a few more articles on the importance of a well-rounded culinary education: