When you attend culinary school, your fellow students, chef instructors, alumni, and co-workers at your externship give you a head start as you build those connections and make friends in the industry.
Here’s how a culinary education can help students to get a jump start on their own food-focused communities for opportunities, advice, and camaraderie — and why it’s so important.
Get Mentorship from Chef Instructors
At culinary school, students will meet other cooks and culinarians at all different places in their careers. The most advanced will be their Chef Instructors. The faculty at a reputable, accredited culinary school like Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts are the student’s greatest resource. These industry experts have been there before you and know not only how to cook, but how the industry works.
Many students have found long-term mentors in their Chef Instructors. These professionals hold students accountable and challenge them to reach their full potential as they unlock the mysteries of the kitchen. In an industry that often hires based on word of mouth, a great chef mentor can be invaluable for future career opportunities!
Chef Instructors also often have extensive industry networks which may provide the connections students need in the future. Some Chef Instructors at Escoffier are members of organizations like the American Culinary Federation, Disciples d’Escoffier, and World Chefs Association, so they have access to a wide range of chefs and industry professionals both in the United States and internationally.
Escoffier Chef Instructor John Hummel tells students, “If I can do anything for you going forward, do not hesitate. Job recommendations, advice — do not hesitate. And several [students] have taken me up on that.”
Build Relationships With Your Peers
The bonds students can make during their school days are unlike the bonds they form at other times in life. Fellow students are on a learning journey together, and that can lead to lifelong friendships and collaborations. Boulder Culinary Arts graduate Chris McAdams still talks to one of his Escoffier friends every week, several years after they completed their programs!
You and your peer network will be navigating the industry at the same time. You’ll face similar challenges, and it can be helpful to have a group that understands the industry for encouragement and feedback. There may even be opportunities for you to help each other in the future.
Don’t overlook the importance of community. A culinary school class can form a tight, unique bond. Some Escoffier students have even gone on to start businesses with their fellow students!
Get Resume Building and Connection Opportunities
The networking opportunities of culinary school extend beyond the classroom. All Escoffier students will complete an industry externship as part of their culinary school curriculum. This not only gives you some work experience to add to your resume, but it provides another avenue for meeting new peers and mentors.
In your externship, you’ll work side-by-side with cooks and chefs who may be more advanced in their careers. Beyond the educational experience, these connections could lead to future friendships and employment opportunities.
It’s never too soon to start building your group of industry contacts. This work experience while you’re still finishing your degree or diploma program lets you get a head start on your connections and resume before graduation day.
“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 set me up to work with Disney. Escoffier has set me up to reach for my dreams…I have accepted an [externship] with The Disney Culinary Program. It has definitely been a true blessing.”
Jane Dodson, Culinary Arts graduate and former Disney extern
Access to Alumni and Professional Organizations Post-Graduation
Escoffier graduates aren’t limited to networking with their own former classmates. All former students will gain access to the Escoffier Alumni Association, where they can keep in touch with over 2,000 fellow grads, meet current students, look for employment opportunities, and seek advice and mentorship from those who went before.
Former students can indicate what kind of help they’re willing to provide to others, like sponsoring externships, offering mentorship, or opening the doors to possible employment at their companies. The platform also features an exclusive job board where former students can share opportunities or look for new positions.
Online Culinary Arts graduate Tiffany Moore checks in often on the Escoffier Alumni Association website, where she’s happy to help students with their questions as they approach graduation and the job market. And she’s received help as well. When Tiffany applied for a grant to help fund her own farm-to-table restaurant, she reached out to the alumni network to get the votes she needed. She won the grant, and she’s now one step closer to owning her own business!
“In the [Escoffier] Alumni Association, people tag me all the time with questions like, ‘How was school?’ ‘How did you do this particular thing in class?’ So I’m able to give knowledge as an alum to current students…I really enjoy educating people on the process of [Escoffier’s] online program.”
Tiffany Moore, U.S. Army Veteran & Online Culinary Arts Graduate
Professional culinary organizations are also a great place to make connections after culinary school. Groups like Disciples Escoffier International and Les Dames d’Escoffier are prestigious chef organizations that require sponsorship from current members to be admitted. Your network of fellow students, graduates, and chef instructors may help you find sponsorship into these esteemed organizations.
Take the Next Step
Culinary school provides much more than just technical proficiency in the kitchen. It’s a gateway to the food industry and the people in it.
Take the next step in your culinary career. Contact us to learn how a culinary education can get you one step closer to achieving your dreams!
Other articles about the value of culinary education that you may find interesting:
- College Not For You? Try Culinary School.
- How to Become a Chef: The Complete Guide
- 4 Things to Know Before Enrolling in Culinary School
This article was originally published on August 26, 2019, and has been updated.