Culinary school is an exciting opportunity for students to get exposed to new techniques and ideas in the world of food. But when the classwork ends, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and put all those new skills to work.
A culinary externship gives 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 they so important, and what can you learn?
An externship is one of the most exciting parts of culinary school, so we’re going to dive in and share 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 an approved industry externship as the final component of their curriculum before they graduate from their Culinary Arts or Pastry Arts 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.
Escoffier students find tremendous value in working alongside other professionals. They’re able to get feedback from a number of different chefs and mentors – helping them practice and hone the skills that they learned in school.
Externs may also see 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.
How is an Externship Different from 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 shorter, defined time at the end of the program and is part of the actual curriculum. Escoffier’s externship requirement allows our students to gain valuable experience and insight into the type of kitchen they might like to work in long-term.
The shorter length of externships also allows students to do more than one and 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 with a cruise line may secure short externships in both industries to see which they prefer.
How Do I Secure an Externship?
Escoffier students are responsible for securing their own externships, but they have help.
Each student will be assigned a Career Services representative shortly after they enroll. These reps introduce students to different segments of the culinary industry and encourage the student to define their career goals. Are you looking for flexible hours? A steady 9-5 job? Do you want to constantly travel or stay in one location? Do you envision working in fine dining? Farm-to-table? Resort or cruise? Career Services can help you map out your ideal career path.
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.
“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, Line Cook, Il Posto; Culinary Arts graduate
They can also provide resume writing and interview guidance to help the student present themselves in the best way. Kjersti Walker, 2020 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.
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What Happens After the Externship?
Your externship is an important 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 communicate with your 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!
What happens if your externship wasn’t the perfect fit? Or if you loved it — but they’re not hiring?
Escoffier students get career assistance from the Career Services staff. This includes the same resume and interview help that externship applicants can rely on. Plus, graduates are able to receive job search assistance.
Escoffier has a wide range of employer partners that may be a good fit. And since your Career Services representative will be in your region, they may also have connections with local restaurants or food establishments.
Graduates will also be able to 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 grads.
Of course, some students enjoy their programs so much that they want to take their culinary education even further! After her externship at the Biltmore, Kjersti was offered a permanent position. But she decided to come back to Escoffier to take one of our online Culinary Arts programs instead.
The Importance of a Culinary Externship
A culinary externship is an invaluable opportunity to learn how a commercial kitchen runs. And it gives students the chance to practice their skills and explore a possible career path.
For students who have already worked in a commercial kitchen, they may get the chance to work at a different station, or to focus on a cuisine that they haven’t explored yet.
There are countless ways to use an externship to broaden your culinary horizons! Escoffier’s Boulder campus is the only accredited* culinary school in the U.S. offering 100% online degrees and diplomas with required industry externships. Those educational opportunities can vary in length, depending on the program.
To learn more about Escoffier’s on-campus or online degrees and diplomas, request more information today.
Enjoyed this article? Here are a few more to check out.
- What Does It Take To Be A Line Cook?
- What Makes A Good Sous Chef?
- Different Types Of Chef Jobs In The Brigade De Cuisine
*Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts – Boulder is accredited by ACCET – A Partnership for Quality®. ACCET is listed by the U.S. Department of Education as a nationally recognized accrediting agency.
This article was originally published on July 8, 2016 and has since been updated.