Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Print Out the Resume and Iron the Chef Coat, Because its Career Fair Here at The CIA

Career Fair here at The Culinary Institute of America is like Disneyland for up-and-coming chefs. Over one hundred employers looking to hire CIA students to travel all around the world and do what they do best: Cook! Employers at the CIA career fair are here to hire externs about to leave for their fifteen-week, mandatory externship or students who are about to gradate and looking for potential jobs. Major companies like The Four Seasons Resort, The Ritz Carlton, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, and many more prestigious companies wanting to hire you!

Nestle Corporation Looking For Externs

The Career Fair is all about marketing and putting yourself out there. Companies love when students like you and me come to their booths and ask questions pertaining to them. I found my externhip at the Spring Career Fair here at The Culinary Institute of America. I will be spending fifteen weeks soaking up the sun in Palm Beach, Florida at The Four Seasons Resort.

Before even showing up to career fair, make sure you:
1. Have at least five professionally written resumes printed out.
2. Have a freshly ironed chef jacket or throw on a tie for business causal.
3. Are ready to be yourself. Companies don't want to hire a fake person. They want someone with a personality who can get the job done.

Students Talking To Future Employers

When I walked up to The Four Seasons booth at the career fair, I stated my name, what program I was in, and how much I knew about The Four Seasons. Companies love when students do history on them before you even step through the doors, it shows that you're dedicated and are willing to put in work to get the job. If I can give you one piece of advice to take away from his entire blog, it is to send a thank you letter. The thank you letter can either make or break the deal, if you send one you look professional and that you care, if you don't then it could show that you're not grateful and do not have time for them. Career fair is exhausting, stressful, and makes you go crazy, but the moment you receive the call from the restaurant, hotel, or theme park stating that you were offered the externship position it is all worth it.

Summer Career Fair 2015 

As I walked around career fair, I interviewed a CIA student, Crystal Mitchel, She is a baking and pastry student who is halfway through her second semester here at The Culinary Institute of America. Crystal leaves for externship the last week of September, so this is the perfect opportunity to find a potential externship site. She had an interview with Walt Disney Theme Parks, and I asked her "How was the interview and what kind of questions did they ask you?" She responded, "The interview was stressful and they asked me how to make crème brulée and chocolate mousse." She also said, "They asked me if I had to create a kid-inspired dessert, what would it be?" The interview process can be stressful and frightening, but just remember to answer every question to the best of your ability and you will be fine.

Chef Egan and I Setting Up The Buffet For Employers 

I thought since I was going to write a blog about career fair, it would be great to know some qualities externship employers look for. So I did some digging and went to many different booths asking the same question: "What do you look for in externship candidates?" I received a lot of different answers:

  • Biltmore Estate looks for good eye contact, good smile, and has done research in the company before coming to career fair. 
  • Royal Caribbean hires baking and pastry, culinary, and front of the house externs. Externs must be strong, be able to work seven days a week, have loyalty, and have passion for what they are doing. 
  • Marta, a restaurant in downtown New York City hires baking and pastry, culinary, and front of the house. Externs must have a positive attitude, willing to learn, and wants to have fun while working. 
  • Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa hires baking and pastry, and culinary students. Externs should be friendly, cooperative, motivated, and want to develop skills to move up the latter.

Jose and I Helping Chef Egan Every Chance We Get

The Career Fair here at The Culinary Institute of America is a global marketing tool that can land you in any city, state, or even country in the world. Take advantage of Career Fair when you become a student at the CIA; it is an opportunity you will not want to miss. I am truly grateful for the CIA and everything they do to help better my future in this amazing culinary world. I would not be externing at The Four Seasons Resort if I was not at the CIA. And, remember three things, print out the resume, iron the chef coat, and write the thank you letters.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Sprouting Garden Education at the CIA

You would think that culinary school students should be running around a hot kitchen to learn about food. The only fresh food they encounter is the storeroom order they pick up and wheel into the dungeon elevator. But the Applied Food Studies students and faculty have been thinking outside of the swinging doors of the kitchens and are creating outdoor classrooms from the ground up.

Garden land grants in universities have been growing since the 19th century. Schools not only in the Hudson Valley, but nationwide have decided to understand food through the soil beneath them. As culinary students, it's simply not enough to know the methods and ratios anymore. We have to think deeper. We have to question where our food comes from, and the best way to start is with a packet of seeds.

On campus, Dr. Deirdre Murphy and other AFS faculty have brought their students to begin planting in the new garden near the Egg. What started as a patch of grass has quickly sprouted into a hands-on learning experience. For some, this is the first time caking their hands with dirt in a garden. Each AFS class has their own designated box. Many of the crops to be harvested are not only edible, but also relate to what the classes are discussing. Even the History & Cultures of the Americas classes have taken part, as the three sister crops are being strategically planted just as they were by the Native Americans centuries ago. It's important that students not only take pride in the end products, but also the ingredients within them. "I think that this garden is a classroom. I don't care that it's outside, it's a classroom," says Dr. Deirdre Murphy. If you walked out into that garden during the first few weeks of planting, you would know what she's talking about. All around me, were other students commenting on how this is what they've been waiting for: the implemented practices of food studies.

Concurrently, my Project in Applied Food Studies class and Dr. Costura have been working off-campus, planning out the restoration of the Roosevelt Victory Garden. Victory gardens were originally created during the WWII era in efforts to relieve pressure from the public food supply. The Roosevelts were huge supporters of this idea. Having a victory garden was also considered to be a morale booster for gardeners who could feel empowered by their contribution of labor and rewarded by harvests. This garden was covered long ago by a parking lot, and now it is but a field of grass. We're changing that.

Each student is focusing on his or her own individual project: some are structuring an apiary to hold bees, while others are researching soil composition techniques or developing lesson plans and activities for future field trips visiting the completed garden. Four students are planning out and executing a picnic lunch (Eleanor Roosevelt held a lot of picnics) to get the local community and businesses involved. I personally am getting the word out through my writing. Despite what project students partake in, each has its own significance. “What I want,” says Dr. Costura, “is for people to feel that their work has meaning and it lasts after the semester.”

This is the first year that the Applied Food Studies major is running. In six months, the degree has flourished into an plot for CIA students to dig for their own forward-thinking ideas with food. Dr. Costura says, “I want people to look at their work to see that this type of learning isn’t theoretical; it just needs to be applied.”

Sunday, June 21, 2015

It's Career Fair Week!

Since the summer career fair was held this past week, I thought it would be fitting to write about externship and the career fair, and everything that comes with it. First of all, if you are not aware of what our externships are, it is a requirement of everyone attending the CIA, unless you are part of the ACE program. Externship is working in the “real-world,” for either fifteen consecutive weeks, or six hundred and sixty hours. This is completed between your first and second years of school, so I will be completing mine between August and January. Receiving an externship is like receiving a job; this involves networking, applying, getting hired, and signing contracts. The school has thousands of approved externship sites to choose from, or you can request a site to be approved for you to complete your externship. I am so happy to say that I will be completing my externship at Walt Disney World Resorts in Orlando, Florida! Choosing an extern site and approaching the process made me a little nervous, but don’t worry, the process makes everyone nervous, but everyone does it, and there are always people here to help you! Below is what to expect from the process, so hopefully these help.
1)   For career fair, the Student Commons and the gym is filled with recruiters of different companies. If you have a smile on your face, even if you make eye contact while walking down the aisles, the recruiters will come to you. They are there because they want to hire CIA students, they are eager to talk to you, so be prepared and eager to talk to them.
2)   While talking to them, schedule an interview, get their business card, hand out a resume, there are usually pens or some type of “free-bee” laying on the table; take anything and everything you can. Remember, they are there for you, they want you; be humble, but take advantage of that.
3)   After talking to the recruiter for a while, an interview opportunity might come up, take it. Career fairs are Tuesdays, then the next day you come back and have your interview; most interviews are the next day (Wednesdays), so this gives you a day to prepare for it in any way you feel necessary. Sometimes though, an interview will happen on the first day, which is what happened with me. The interview times they had for Wednesday did not fit with my class schedule, so they offered to do it on the spot. If this happens to you, take it.
4)   Every interview I had was different. One interview was all knowledge-based on recipes and kitchen practices, one interview was all customer service and past work experience lessons, and one interview was a little of both. Be prepared for any type of interview.

  The two photos pictured below is what the gym looks like on Day 1 of career fair. These are students networking with recruiters that came to the CIA.

Here are some lessons I learned along the way through the process:
1)   Research early. You don’t necessarily have to look up externship sites the night you move into school, but don’t wait until the day before career fair to figure out which recruiters you would like to speak with. Know which sites you would like to apply for, and why. Some offer housing, some pay, consider the location, and opportunities after graduation just to name a few aspects to consider. Pick sites that work for you, and what you are looking for. This is YOUR externship, so make the experience what you want it to be.
2)   Do not wait until the night before to finish your resume, references, and cover letters. This causes you to be frazzled and can lead to errors that would otherwise make your materials strong. Take these documents to Career Services. They know what foodservice recruiters are looking for and what they want. Besides, it is always a good idea to get a professional second opinion, it is their job, they want to help you and see their students succeed. I also advise ordering business cards, you can order those through our career services website. I handed a recruiter my business card along with the usual resume, references, and cover letter; they were SO impressed with the business cards, and it was just enough to make me stand out just enough for them to remember me, after talking to many students that day.
3)   Prepare a “30-second commercial” about yourself, so you don’t appear totally clueless when you approach a recruiter. For example, mine was “Hello, my name is Rebecca Rodriguez. I am a first year baking and pastry student actively seeking an externship between the months of August and January. I am very interested in your company and would love to learn more about the opportunities you have to offer.” Shake their hand, make eye contact, and don’t forget, they are there because they want to hire you; be confident in your abilities and the education you are receiving.
4)   Once you make it though Career Fair Day 1, and got an interview or two, congratulations, you are ready for Day 2! As stated earlier, there are many types of interviews, some all kitchen knowledge based, some all customer service based, and some both, all three of which I experienced. What I gathered from all three is to have a few pieces of knowledge prepared. Be able to describe how to make a dish/dessert. Between all my interviews, I had to describe how to make a genoise sponge and chocolate mousse. I also realized that recruiters want to hear about past work experiences and this always leads the question of “Tell me about a past work experience where you had to figure out a problem.” The problem is not what they care about, they care about what you learned, and how you will apply it for the future. ALWAYS state what you learned, that is what they are looking for.

Hopefully some of these helped, this is what I got out of this experience. The Career Fair was a really interesting event, giving all of us students a chance to meet with employers, and just to get our name and resume out there, and possibly in the hands of our next boss. Be confident, and happy searching!

 Above is a picture of what the gym looks like on Day 2 of Career Fair day. When you schedule an interview, you will receive a time slot and table number, and your interview will be with that corresponding table. I know it looks kind of intimidating, but once you are there, it's not that bad as it might seem. Just keep that smile on your face!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Finding Mr. RightNow

Its easy to agonize about the future. In fact, anxiety about the future almost feels like a right of passage when ambition strikes us. “If it was easy, everyone would do it,” our mind taunts us with the reassuring words that this current pain is worth our potential future gain or pleasure.

I’ve been there. I’m there right now because I can feel the mounting expectations of what’s around the corner. Expectations never cease to amaze me with their ability to take on hardcore tangible characteristics like racing heartbeats, clammy palms, and raw bitten lower lips. These moments, these ideas, these aspirations haven’t even come to fruition and yet our bodies are responding to “the idea” as if we are presently in that moment!

We rob ourselves of the ability to be fully present in our current moments when we are stricken with anxiety for our future. In addition, we render ourselves incapable of leveraging our current power to change a situation by disassociating with the immediate moment and placing ourselves in the future. It’s a vicious cycle.

When I graduated, I found myself searching for a career solution that I could settle down with and build a life. That goal lacked the ability to account for the ever changing circumstances of the dynamic life that I intend to lead. I want to travel. I want to learn. I want to grow. So I quickly realized that I needed to search for Mr. RightNow (MRN) and not Mr.RightForever. What works right now, might be upside down tomorrow.

Mr. RightNow is about:

1. Making Changes

2. Raw Ambition

3. Nothing except this current moment

I chose my current job as a cook at Primo because it satisfied the above three things.

I made a change by moving to a new town with a blue collar spirit, the thick smell of salty sea in the air, and a nurturing community of artists and food lovers.

Raw ambition fueled the e-mails, phone calls, and six hour drive to interview at Primo. The promise of continuing to work and learn at a restaurant inspired by the land, the sea, and the sun fed my desire to return here for my second year.

Enthusiasm, comfort, and possibility tangle in my head each day as I open the kitchen door to start my job. I crave the rush of dinner service and the goosebumps that creep over my skin as I watch the lighthouse blink outside the nighttime restaurant windows.

I found Mr.RightNow and I’m staying right here, because this is the moment that I’ve been waiting for.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Saying Goodbye to The CIA, and Hello to Externship: Interview With Kaitlyn Algarin

Today I was able to interview a great friend of mine right before she leaves for externship. Now some of you might not know what an externship is and that's okay, because by the end of this blog you'll know what it is and some key tips to making your externship experience one you'll never forget. Kaitlyn Algarin is a student here at The Culinary Institute of America at our Hyde Park campus. She is currently enrolled in the Associate Degree for Baking and Pastry Arts and will leave for Externship next week. Kaitlyn has come a long way since she started the CIA on November 10th, 2014. She has had to make it through the 15 week fundamentals class, Cafe Savory, Principles of Design, Basic and Classical Cakes, Individual and Production Pastries, and Hearth breads. The first year at the CIA is an eye opening experience because it’s the first time you step into a CIA kitchen and learn how we operate here. I imagine if someone asked Kaitlyn or any other CIA student they would say their first year here at The Culinary Institute of America has been passionate, exhilarating and the most fun they have ever had.

Kaitlyn & Chef Adams

I started my interview with asking Kaitlyn "Why did you choose The Culinary Institute of America?" and she said "it was an easy decision, it was closer to home which I like because I am really close to my family, the CIA has an amazing reputation for producing well trained chefs, and because all my Chefs from vocational school graduated from the CIA". The CIA has set a standard for the quality of chefs it produces, the employers out in the industry know when they hire a CIA grad or extern; The Culinary Institute of America has trained their students with the right techniques and skills to succeed out in the industry.

Black Forest Cake 

"What is the name of your Externship?" I asked, and Kaitlyn responded "I am doing my externship at the Crystal SpringsResort & Spa in Vernon, New Jersey". I Googled the name of her externship so I could have a better understand of where she would be working and I was blown away by the pictures they have on the front page. The Crystal Springs Resort & Spa is located in the rolling green farm land on the North West side of New Jersey. The 4,000 acre Resort is a vacation getaway for all ages. The Spa is ranked in the top 100 Spa's in the United States and has won several awards for best spa in the state of New Jersey. Since we were on the topic of externship, I asked kaitlyn "why did you choose Crystal Springs Resort & Spa as your externship?" and she replied "they are really focused and driven on farm to table, everything they serve there is fresh and made with simple ingredients and because its only 45 minutes away from home, which my mom loves because we are really close". When making decisions about externship, it’s great to get a Chef's opinion because there is a pretty good chance they know the company and how they operate things. Take this opportunity that the school is giving you to broaden your horizons and step out of your comfort zone. The CIA will let you go almost anywhere in the World, take advantage of that and choose your externship wisely.

Crystal Springs Resort & Spa

I continued my interview with baking student Kaitlyn Algarin by asking her "What will be some daily task for you as an extern?" and she already had an answer ready "I will be making pastries and desserts for the three restaurants on the property and will be making fresh gelato daily for the outdoor bar next to the pool". As an extern it really all depends on how much you want to get out of the experience, I have heard of people saying all they did was scoop cookie dough for five months, and then I have heard people getting to decorate wedding cakes for five months; you'll get as much out of it as you put into the experience. A good idea is to ask the externship site what some of the daily task are for an externship at your company. Ask as many questions as you want, so you know what will be expected and if it will be a good fit for you.

Lemon Curd Tart

Throughout the interview, I asked Kaitlyn "How did you find your externship?" and she answered "My mom, she began looking at places and suggested this beautiful resort to me not only because she knew it was a perfect fit for what I want to do but also because it was close to home and she loves when I am home". As a student at the CIA, you are given freedom to extern anywhere around the World, some people choose to extern at home to be with their family and to save money, others decided to move across the World to a different country; it all depends on your situation and what you want to do.

Externship Site

"Do you think The Culinary Institute of America has better prepared you to go out in the industry and work?” She quickly responded "yes of course, here at school you'll find many different aspects on food, cultures and people from all around the World who have so much knowledge and they are here to share it with us".  With that being said, "What are you looking forward to most about going on extern?”. I am excited to be on my own, here at school there is always someone watching you and making sure you’re doing things the correct way, and externship gives me the opportunity to put my skills to the test and make mistakes first hand and learn from them", she said. The CIA makes every student do a 15 week externship at a CIA approved site, this is because the CIA wants to show their students what it’s like to work out in the industry and put what they have learned their first year to the test.

Individual & Production Pastries Class

My final questions where all about advice, "Any advice for new students coming to The Culinary Institute of America?" and she said "stay on top of things, don't procrastinate and make sure to read recipes and be prepared for class" The workload here is different from any other school, it goes in depth about each topic and will fully make you understand this industry front to back and side to side, but that's why employers choose CIA grads, because they know we are learning all the information for us to be able to succeed. My last question during my lunch interview with Kaitlyn Algarin was "Any advice for current students planning for externship?” and she smiled and said "don't procrastinate and think about it later, externship will be here before you know it, attend multiple career fairs because that is a good way to first handily meet the employer and hand them your resume. and finally apply to more than one externship site because if you only apply to one and they don't contact you back then you’re in a panic to find another one." kaitlyn is going to have a blast working for the Crystal Springs Resort & Spa for five months, she is going to learn a lot and come back to The Culinary Institute of America a better person and a better Chef.