Guide to Culinary Externships

So you’ve made it through Culinary School, you’re going to graduate with that sought after Culinary Arts degree, and all the hard work will be worth it. You just have to do your culinary externship.

What is a Culinary Externship?

An externship is basically the same as an internship, only it is in house and always paid. While some culinary schools don’t require one, most of them require that you can prove the skills you have learned in school by working in an actual restaurant or food service environment.  In addition, the externship is still an educational experience, it’s just you’re learning in a professional environment instead of an educational one.

Where Do I Go to Get a Culinary Externship?

Before choosing an externship, you’ll need to decide what area of cooking you want to focus on. If you want to work in fine dining, then a high end establishment is your best bet. For those interested in pastries or baking, a small bakery is a good place to start. You can always change your mind later, but if you can learn what you love from an expert, this is the best route to go.

Ideally, you want to choose restaurants that have a good reputation, as well as a place where you will learn the ropes. Many externs end up working full time for the restaurant after the externship is up, so apply at places where you can see yourself having a future.

Remember, it’s only for a few months, so if you can’t find something perfect, you won’t be stuck there, but you should try to find a place where you will gain some knowledge and insight into the industry, even if it’s not exactly as you had planned.

How Do I Find An Externship at a Restaurant?

Since an externship is paid, it is essentially like finding a job. This means you’ll have to apply just as you would any other job. Submit a resume or fill out an application, wait to be contacted for interviews and proceed just as any other job.

Since you probably have a specific timeframe in which to meet your needs, you need to be thinking about the possibilities well in advance in order to score the best possible externship. Visit restaurants and talk to chefs and hiring managers about externships in advance. Not all chefs and restaurants are willing to do externships; this is a learning experience and they may not have the time or desire to teach you at that time. Don’t take it personal, just wait until you’re done with school, and then reapply for an actual position if it’s a place you’d really like to work.

Your school should be of help, and they should have a placement department that has contacts. Be sure to ask for help early though, as they are responsible for finding externships for everyone else as well. Do not let the placement department bully you into taking a job that you don’t want simply because they are trying to fulfill their obligation. If they offer you something that doesn’t fulfill the promises made, tell them that, and do not settle for less. To avoid having to take a job that won’t benefit you personally, it is best to start your search as early as possible and secure your position before the rush.

What Happens During the Externship?

Once you find a place and are hired on, it will be a job, but unlike a traditional employee, you may be shadowing the chef, doing prep work or other entry level cooking. You’re supervisor will have to keep the school up to date on your progress, so be sure to show up on time, do the best job you can and get the most out of it as you can in the short time you are there. You will have to evaluate the externship as well so that the school can determine if it is a good spot for future externs as well.

Remember, you’ll have to satisfactorily complete the externship before graduating with a degree, so treat it as a job, and act professionally, responsibly and like you are serious about your career.

No matter where you choose to do your externship, it is the start of a long and prosperous culinary career, and can lead to bigger and better things if approached the right way.

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