In the culinary arts, success requires a unique blend of training and talent. As dean of the culinary arts program at Kendall, the students I work with are at the very beginning of their journey into the industry. It is our responsibility at Kendall to create an environment that provides training and nurtures talent so that these two factors come together in marketable, ready for the world graduates. After many years of mentoring students along this journey, I have learned that an early indicator of success in the culinary industry is this: drive. Here is why.
The rigors of the culinary industry are tough; the hours and pace of a kitchen are intense. The competition is fierce. The feedback, both positive and negative, is constant. A strong personal drive for the industry, for service and creativity, and for bringing people together with food makes the rewards of this profession unmatched, even when compared with the hard work required. That is why at Kendall, our priority is to provide a curriculum that allows driven individuals to get a taste of “real world” of culinary arts and become better prepared to enter this thriving industry. A few tangible examples come to mind:
Stress—working in food can be stressful. That’s why we require our students to gain professional experience while in school through internships, stages and volunteer opportunities. These experiences help students learn the skills it takes to be successful and thrive in these environments. For example, by working in each of Kendall’s three student-run restaurants on campus, students experience firsthand the normal stressors of a fast-paced environment.
Feedback—in the restaurant and food industries, your customers are your critics. Even the best chefs receive criticism. That’s why at Kendall we uses a constructive feedback model to make sure our students know that feedback is one of the best tools for learning. In kitchen labs, on exams and in discussions, our faculty members are committed to providing real-time feedback and acting as mentors to our students. This is one way we ensure that our students are prepared to handle feedback in the real world.
Competition—despite the breadth and depth of the culinary industry, often, our competitors are our colleagues. As professionals advance and move around the industry, they get to know one another, either personally or by reputation. One of the best ways to network and build skills as a student and young professional is to participate in culinary competitions. Not only do you improve your skills, you also learn how to be more than a strong competitor; you grow into a respected one.
While it is impossible for us to handle stress, feedback and competition for our students, we can certainly provide an environment that closely emulates the “real world” so that Kendall students, from day one, are being prepared to enter this industry. And, for those individuals with a true drive to excel, the training they acquire in school and through professional experiences provides a structure in which their talent and creativity can thrive.
Chef Dina Altieri, MS, CEC, CCE, CHE, is the dean of the Kendall College School of Culinary Arts