Training the Next Generation

A few times a month, I will post articles from my monthly “Food Consulting” Newsletter.  Click here to receive the newsletter by email.

Every time I run into Chris Douglas, chef/owner of Tavolo and Ashmont Grill in Dorchester, he’s talking about one of the great Future Chefs interns he has working for him.

The value of internships is clear for the student: they are a great tool in exploring new careers, building resumes and garnering experience.  This is especially true for high school and college students.

As Toni Elka, director of Future Chefs explains:

“Lots of young people and career changers go into debt for culinary school.  Taking an unpaid apprenticeship in a high end restaurant can be a very effective way  of discovering if the field is a good fit and of building skills under a teaching chef without going into debt.  We recommend it for some of our students and two of them have done short unpaid apprenticeships this year in a small high end kitchen, one was recommended to Hungry Mother and is valued, paid staff there and the other is returning to NECI with invaluable experience under his belt and an impressive recommendation that will open doors.

“This is particularly useful for talented inner city kids who need experience out of their comfort zone and a chance to show what they can do with someone whose willing to help them make the transition to unfamiliar territory.  For young people who are eager to learn and don’t think they are one step away from being famous because they’ve been to culinary school this arrangement can be a win win for the apprentice and the chef/owner.”

In return for taking a grateful young person under their wing and giving them the experience they need to move up, the business gets tangible benefits as well.

First and foremost, business owners have a low-cost opportunity to recruit and measure talent in the next generation of workers.

“The organization has the opportunity to observe the student at work and review work habits, technical ability, interpersonal skills, and adaptability before making a full-time commitment,” wrote Larry Crumbley and Glenn Sumners in Internal Auditor.

It’s not uncommon to pawn off the menial tasks on the intern, but it is equally important is to pepper them with some of the more exciting jobs to keep their enthusiasm strong. I recall my own internship at Bix Restaurant where my regular jobs were chopping onions, garlic and cleaning lobsters.

And perhaps the most overlooked benefit of interns:  The fresh set of eyes and questions prod the manager out of the day-to-day business to think differently and more creatively about operations.

For more insight into hiring interns:

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Reference for Business

Do you use interns? What strategies do find work for the most effective relationships?

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