What Can You Learn from a Culinary School Externship?

Explore why it’s important to secure a culinary school externship and how it can benefit your future career!

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August 7, 2023 9 min read

Culinary school can be an exhilarating opportunity for students to get exposed to brand-new techniques and modern concepts in the ever-evolving world of food. But when the classwork ends, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and put those new skills into action!

A culinary externship can give you the chance to test your new knowledge in a working kitchen, whether that’s in a restaurant, hotel, resort, or convention center.

But what exactly is a culinary externship, and how is it different from a culinary internship? Why are externships such a critical step in your educational journey? Let’s delve into everything you need to know!

What Is a Culinary Externship?

An externship is a practical, hands-on experience in a working kitchen. Students at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts must complete one to two approved industry externships as the final component of their curriculum before they graduate from their chosen culinary program.

The duties performed by students during their externships will differ widely among different food establishments. Students may perform a variety of prep tasks, or they could be on the line, turning out finished dishes for paying guests. Often, externship students will communicate their interests with the externship supervisor, so they can gain experience that directly aligns with their career goals and passions too!

What’s the Difference Between an Externship and an Internship?

The terms “internship” and “externship” are sometimes used interchangeably, but there is one key difference.

A culinary internship is often (although not always) a longer-term opportunity, at any point in a student’s curriculum. An externship occurs during a shorter, defined time at the end of the program and is part of the actual curriculum.

The shorter length of externships also allows students to do more than one, as well as gain exposure in a variety of kitchens to “sample” different career paths. For example, a student trying to decide between a career in a hotel or in a restaurant may secure short externships in both industries to see which they prefer.

How Culinary Students Can Benefit From an Externship

Escoffier’s externship requirement allows students to gain valuable experience and exploratory insight into the type of kitchen they might like to work in down the line! There are countless benefits to securing a culinary externship. Here are just a few to start.

Escoffier student standing outside in school uniform smiling

Escoffier students can secure externships that allow them to apply the culinary techniques and skills they’ve explored.

Explore Kitchen Hierarchy

Externs may see, firsthand, how the kitchen brigade system works in action. And they can gain valuable insight into the career they may want to pursue after they complete their programs. For example, students might start out as a line cook, fresh out of the “culinary school” gate. But an externship could provide clarity on the next career move. Perhaps it’s stepping into an executive chef or pastry chef position.

Get Invaluable Feedback and Mentorship

Externship students can collect invaluable feedback from a number of seasoned chefs and mentors—helping them practice and hone the skills that they explored in culinary school. Most experienced chefs are thrilled to offer guidance and “give back” to aspiring chefs who are just beginning their thriving careers!

A day in the life of an Escoffier extern.

Accelerate Personal Growth

When it comes to securing an externship, the “world can be your oyster.” Many students choose to venture outside of their comfort zones and complete externships all across the world—which inherently fosters personal growth and development.

For example, at the young age of 18, Boulder Student Oscar Beltran, jumped straight into culinary school, post-high school graduation. He felt slightly intimidated when he saw a few adult students in the classroom, but his Chef Instructors nudged him to “get out of his shell” to participate! Eventually, Oscar went from being the shyest student in the class to the empowered culinary explorer! He left Boulder, CO to complete an externship at Moon Palace Resorts, located off the sandy beaches in Cancun, Mexico, and dove head first into the busy kitchen.

“We would bring all our produce and product to the second-floor kitchen where we began to prepare our mise en place. I would be assigned to a team member to help [with the breakfast service] from 7:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. After that, [we cleaned] for the dinner service. We would wash all the equipment and reserve any product that could be saved for tomorrow. Then I headed back up to work at a hotel café.”*

After a bit of time, Beltran encountered a thrilling opportunity to compete in a contest at his externship—tasked to create a taco al pastor recipe without the use of ancho chile. With the assistance of his mentor, Oscar created his own taco masterpiece, incorporating sour orange juice and star anise into his pork marinade and sweet/spicy strawberry salsa.

Oscar Beltran“The risk I took [doing my externship in] Cancun and joining that competition was amazing. I learned so much and met all kinds of new people and chefs.”*
Oscar Beltran, Escoffier Boulder Culinary Arts Graduate

Beltran went to battle with seasoned hotel chefs during the competition but ended up winning with his taco creation. This victory proved to be a huge milestone for Oscar—especially reflecting back to the start of his culinary school journey at Escoffier.

Needless to say, plenty of students just like Oscar Beltran have experienced much growth through the externship program.

Escoffier student pouring sauce in a kitchen at an immersive farm-to-table event

Escoffier student exploring an immersive farm-to-table experience to elevate his future career.

How Can You Secure an Externship?

Escoffier students are responsible for securing their own externships, but they certainly have support!

Each student will be assigned a Career Services representative as they approach the Industry Externship Course. These reps introduce students to different segments of the culinary industry and encourage the student to define their career goals. They could help you do a bit of self-reflection and explore questions like:

Once the student has an idea of a segment they might like, Career Services may be able to suggest some Escoffier employer partners in the student’s local area that they could consider for their externship.

Susanna Halbrook“Escoffier is my dream come true. I have learned so much that I could not even imagine. I felt capable outside the box, during my externship I had the proof! I was asked to fulfill tasks that made me realize that I did have confidence and knowledge thanks to the Escoffier program and its amazing Chefs. They have taught me so much from different angles. From production to ethics, to sustainability, resources, and much, much more!”*
Susanna Halbrook, Escoffier Online Culinary Arts Graduate

They can also provide resume writing and interview guidance to help the student present themselves in the best way. Kjersti Walker, an Online Pastry Arts graduate, said she really appreciated how Career Services helped create her portfolio, using pictures that Kjersti took for her online courses. That portfolio helped Kjersti to secure an externship at the famous Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.

While the ultimate externship selection and enrollment is the student’s responsibility, Escoffier’s Career Services staff coaches them through the process.

What Happens After Your Externship?

Your externship can be a pivotal stop on your culinary journey. But it’s not the last stop! During the externship, students should assess their experience. Is it exciting? Inspirational? Or is it not what they expected?

For the students who think they’ve found their culinary home, it’s vital to keep the communication lines open with their supervisor. Let them know how much you’ve enjoyed your experience, and that you’d like to become a permanent member of the team. They may or may not have a place for you, but you’ll never know until you ask!

Pastry Arts graduate Stacey Jones started with an externship at Sway. Now, she’s Chef de Cuisine.

So what happens if your externship isn’t the perfect fit? Or if you loved it—but they’re not hiring?

Get Career Assistance

Escoffier students can get career assistance from the Career Services staff. This includes the same resume and interview guidance that externship applicants can rely on. Plus, graduates are able to receive job search assistance through EConnect—a platform from Auguste Escoffier Global Solutions that connects students with employers who invest in the education and professional growth of their employees. There, you can find a wide range of employer partners that may be a good fit. And since your Career Services representative may be in your region, they may also have connections with local restaurants or food establishments that could be an ideal match!

Join the Escoffier Alumni Association

Graduates can also join the Escoffier Alumni Association. This online group provides access to networking opportunities, job boards, and career development events. It’s another valuable resource available only to Escoffier students and alumni.

“It’s a really beautiful process that students go through. They get support the whole way through, from the student Success Coaches, Career Service coaches, and then the Alumni Relations team. What we’re really trying to do is support students even after they leave.”*
Kay Larson, Alumni Relations Manager

Pave the Way to Success with a Culinary Externship

A culinary externship is an invaluable opportunity to explore how a professional food or hospitality establishment operates. And it gives students the chance to practice their skills and explore a possible career path.

Students who have already worked in a commercial kitchen may get the chance to work at a different station or focus on a cuisine they haven’t explored yet.

Needless to say, there are countless ways an externship can broaden your culinary horizons and help you reach your career goals! To explore additional details about Escoffier’s on-campus or online degrees and diplomas, contact us today.

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This article was originally published on July 8, 2016, and has since been updated.

*Information may not reflect every student’s experience. Results and outcomes may be based on several factors, such as geographical region or previous experience.

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